Membership Director Tom North looks back on a year like no other, and thanks supporters for staying with us throughout. It’s meant the Trust could keep on caring for the nation’s precious places, securing them for future generations, and was able to welcome many members back following a spring closure.
I’m immensely proud and grateful that so many of you remained members throughout the year. Your membership keeps us going, protecting the places you love. For that, on behalf of the Trust, I’m hugely grateful.
Who could have imagined 12 months ago we’d be where we are today? Our places were beautifully decorated for Christmas and we were just a month away from celebrating with our members a major milestone in the Trust’s history – our 125th anniversary.
I know this year has been so tough – for you and your loved ones. Thank you for remaining with the National Trust through some changes and tough times for us too. In March the pandemic forced us to close our houses, gardens, shops, cafes, holidays and cancel all our events.
We reopened everything we could as quickly as we could, but changing restrictions sometimes made it impossible for some of you to visit. So, we brought as much of the Trust as possible into your home.
Episode 86: Behind the scenes of reopening
After one of the most challenging six months, we're all adapting to the new normal. Join us as we take a look at the events and people who have made welcoming you back possible.
Bringing the National Trust to you
From virtual tours of spectacular rose gardens to watching the wildlife as creatures settled into unusual places while visitors were away, a new sense of community started to develop online, with members sharing their experiences, lockdown images and recipes. That is one good thing that came out of the year – seeing people enjoying their National Trust in new ways. We know from the letters we received that it has meant a lot to many of our supporters and helped them feel less alone.
With exclusive access to a new members-only area online, so many of you logged on to our site from the comfort of your homes during lockdown that at some points we were receiving two million visits a day. We were so sad to cancel the planned Garden Party, generously hosted by our President, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, at Buckingham Palace. But delighted when thousands of you joined His Royal Highness and our Director General at a virtual tea party in the absence of the real thing. We also had our first online members’ broadcast after our AGM was cancelled.
Reopening the places we care for
In May, as soon as we were allowed, we started unlocking gates, padlocks and doors. To keep you safe we had to introduce a booking system to allow social distancing. You booked in your millions, and it was all new and a little overwhelming for everyone. I saw many of the letters and social media posts you sent us: some delighted that we were able to open and grateful as to how safe you felt when visiting; others frustrated at being unable to get tickets.
Thanks for your patience – we’ve made lots of improvements and there are more to come. After starting with a handful of properties and 70,000 tickets each week we quickly ramped up our reopening. I’m pleased to say we’re now offering well over half a million tickets a week at more than 130 bookable places.
Our members' handbook
Beyond visiting, the effects of the pandemic have been felt in other areas of our work. We’ve had to make important changes to the ever-popular members’ handbook. You’ll receive your handbook as normal next month, but it has been affected by the challenges this year. The handbook takes us the best part of a year to produce and the continuing uncertainty meant we couldn’t guarantee that some of the important details, such as opening times, wouldn’t change due to the pandemic and changing restrictions. Rather than print wrong information, we’d like to ask you to use our website to find the very latest details next year.
It’s a one off for 2021 only – rest assured we’ll go back to including these details the following year. Thank you again for bearing with us and understanding.
How you've helped us
Not only have you stuck by us as members; many of you kindly wrote to us recognising that while the pandemic has stopped many things, our conservation work in houses, gardens and countryside would continue long into the future. Unlike some organisations, we didn’t launch a coronavirus crisis campaign, but we did make it easier for you to donate, and you did just that, to the tune of more than a million pounds. Some donations were inspired through your determination to ensure that the nations’ treasures survived this crisis, and others after seeing our Everyone needs nature campaign. The work we do on your behalf is critical, and our finances have been severely hit, so we value your support more than ever.
This is a year none of us will forget and, like so many organisations, we have been in the media spotlight, with lots of discussion and debate, generating lots of feedback from members. It’s feedback we welcome, listen to and use to truly live up to our promise of being for everyone, for ever.
The whole team here at the Trust can’t wait to fully open once more and welcome the return of life, people and activity to all our places. I can’t thank you enough for your loyalty and support through this challenging year and I’d like to wish you and your family a happy Christmas, and a good start to the New Year.