Our performance

Discover the impact our work has made this year – from how we’re looking after places in our care to how we’re creating experiences that move, teach and inspire. 

Find out more

Read how we've performed against the five aims of our strategy in 2016/17. Our strategy sets out our vision for the National Trust until 2025, and outlines how we can meet the environmental challenges of the 21st Century, whilst growing our support and inspiring people to enjoy nature and explore our historical places.

During 2017/18, we'll be agreeing how we're going to measure our ambition to restore a healthy, beautiful natural environment. We'll also begin to evaluate the outcomes of the projects we're working on to help look after places where people live.

We're introducing new measures for our ambition to create experiences that move, teach and inspire. We're moving from using visitor enjoyment as our only measure of experience and will instead focus on two areas – service, and emotional and intellectual engagement.

Looking after the places in our care

Our conservation work

Our first responsibility is looking after what we already own on behalf of the nation – conserving what makes them significant for our own and future generations to enjoy.

How we measure our performance

Our Conservation Performance Indicator (CPI) identifies and ranks the conservation significances of our properties, establishing measurable objectives for them and assessing progress against those objectives each year.

The CPI tells us whether our overall conservation performance is improving or declining and enables us to monitor trends against a range of asset categories. Our principal performance measure is the percentage of properties with a CPI score that is either maintained or improved compared with the previous year.

Each year we produce a CPI national report which summarises performance across the National Trust. This shows that 2016 was a good year for conservation in the National Trust. For the first time every region met or exceeded our KPI target of 85% of properties achieving a static or improved score. Our overall score was 87%, demonstrating a continuing positive trend.

Highlights from 2016/17

Gardens and parks performed particularly well, with 94% showing a static or improved score. The reasons for this are improved plant health care standards, better replanting and repairs, and good conservation management planning.

Our celebration of ‘Capability’ Brown’s tercentenary also helped, as has our increased investment in gardens consultants, now with one in every region and country.

Our buildings performed least well, with 84% showing a static or improved score. Our backlog of repairs is one reason for this, but the reviews do show that our major programme of investment in our residential let estate and our major building projects are producing good results.

These include Knole in Kent where we opened the Gatehouse Tower, the first domestic area to go on show at Knole, and our refurbished and extended Brewhouse Café, both providing views across the seventeenth-century parkland, and at Dyrham Park near Bath where we completed our project to re-roof the property and protect its collection.

Our score of 84% is up on the previous two years, when we scored 81%. However, there remains much to do with our massive built estate constantly exposed to forces of change and decay, with cyclical expenditure being the key to preventing backlog recurring.

Potential issues

Last year, we assessed whether increasing visitor numbers were having an adverse effect on conservation condition. There were some instances of this, but it was not widespread.

There were also good examples of the beneficial use of our Conservation for Access guidance for properties – helping property staff to identify, monitor and remedy potential damage. This is likely to be an increasingly important area.

" What we do to the land, we do to ourselves."
- Wendell Berry, American poet, writer and environmentalist

Reducing our environmental impact

Land – with all the natural services it provides – is in fixed supply. Yet the demands that society, all of us, are placing on it are growing exponentially. Food, energy, water, buildings and transport are amongst some of the most basic of human needs.

Somehow, between us all, we must find sustainable ways of providing them. This means limiting unnecessary consumption, avoiding waste, and harvesting our natural assets, not mining them. We need to live off the interest of our natural capital, not deplete the capital itself.

Our tactics

Adopting an environmental management system (EMS) enables us to make well-informed choices as we go about our day-to-day activities.

Reducing the amount of energy we use even though our properties are getting busier; generating more energy from renewable non-fossil sources; ending or reducing oil as a form of heating at our mansions and avoiding the risk of oil-spill pollution; and measuring our water consumption, waste production and business miles travelled to help manage our reduction of all of them. All are helped by our Green Dragon8 accredited environmental management system.

Success story: Felbrigg Hall

Felbrigg Hall provides a good example of the progress being made across the National Trust. The property now has a greener heating system, following the installation of a biomass boiler that will be fueled from wood chip, sustainably harvested from this National Trust estate.

The new boiler, which replaces five oil fired boilers and current electric heaters, will save us around £11,000 a year in fuel costs as well as creating an income of over £4,000 a year for 20 years from the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, funds that can be reinvested in conservation projects.

Our progress

We're making good, measurable progress against our primary initial environmental indicator: energy use and generation. We're on course to achieve our target, against a 2009 baseline of an 11% reduction by March 2018 and a 20% reduction by 2020/21.

In 2016/17, we achieved an 8% reduction in our energy consumption despite significant growth in visitor numbers/opening hours and higher energy demand since our baseline year. We produced nearly a third of our heating through renewable energy, and we are on target to generate 50% of our energy use from our renewable energy sources by 2020/21.

 

Green Dragon is an environmental standard that is awarded to organisations that are taking action to understand, monitor and control their impacts on the environment.

Restoring a healthy, beautiful natural environment

Nature and wildlife 

We will take a nature-first approach, restoring the countryside and making it again healthy, beautiful and rich in wildlife.

The natural environment is under pressure. Wildlife is in decline and our soils and water are often not in the best of health.

During the year, as well as continuing with practical activity on the ground to address these issues, we have been preparing to launch a major new programme of activity in the spring of 2017.

A joined-up approach to nature

This is based on the ‘better, bigger, more and joined-up’ approach for nature called for in a Government-commissioned report by Professor Sir John Lawton. We've agreed a number of objectives, with actions to support delivery, to be achieved by 2025:

  • The creation or restoration of an extra 25,000 hectares of top-class nature conservation habitat on our own land, representing 10% of our total ownership.
  • At least 50% of our farmland will be ‘nature-friendly’ by 2025, with protected hedgerows, field margins, ponds, woodland and other habitats allowing plants and animals to thrive.
  • All of our land to have achieved a minimum specified standard of ecological condition by 2025. 
  • The improvement of our most important nature sites.

Our long-term aim is that we want all our land to be permeable to wildlife, so that we see nature thriving across the landscapes rather than confined to patches of habitat. We want all our soils and water to be in healthy condition, and wildlife to be abundant and diverse.

Access is also important because it enriches people’s lives, and we will be improving the welcome and experience across all our sites. Our measures for achieving this will be baselined in 2017.

Our projects

We have already started work across the National Trust in places such as Pentire Farm on the north Cornwall coast where the creation of lowland meadow is underway; yellow rattle seed was introduced on 10 hectares of pasture in the summer of 2016. Our management is also conserving the arable weed flora and particularly benefiting farmland birds.

On the Sizergh estate in Cumbria, 27 hectares of priority reed-bed and fen habitat were created in 2015 and are now becoming established.

This will benefit wildlife populations of waterfowl, shore birds, herons and warblers around Morecambe Bay as part of a wider habitat network.

Farming

Farming remains vital to the National Trust’s approach to countryside management. We will work in partnership with tenant farmers to support them to deliver nature-rich, productive, fertile landscapes which are good for wildlife and good for farming.

Many of our 1,800 farm tenants are already farming in a way which benefits wildlife. We will discuss with, listen and learn from them and other groups as we explore how nature-friendly measures could be introduced or enhanced across all our farmed land.

This will be particularly important following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, with the challenges facing farm incomes.

" Supporting sustainable farming will be crucial for the plans to succeed. The future of farming and the environment are inextricably linked – they are reliant on each other to succeed, and both need to thrive."
- National Trust Annual Report
Helping look after the places where people live

Looking after local heritage and green spaces

Budget reductions and increased pressure on housing means that local historic buildings and green spaces are more at risk than ever.

These are the everyday spaces that provide our most frequent connection with nature and heritage – our municipal parks, the countryside on our doorsteps, the historic character of our market towns and villages, the urban and industrial fragments of our more recent past.

Their value to quality of place, to community cohesion, to physical and mental health, and to ecology and biodiversity is often unrealised and untold.

We want to play our part in strengthening and empowering the wider heritage sector to cope with and even thrive with reduced funding. Working alongside key partners, our ambition is to identify solutions for the safeguarding and conservation of everyday heritage and green spaces.

Our projects 

We have 20 exciting and innovative projects across the country, designed to test different ways to support and influence the historic and natural environment in our towns and cities.

The Roundhouse, Birmingham

For example, in a joint venture with the Canal & River Trust we have acquired a lease for The Roundhouse in Birmingham. This Grade II* horseshoe-shaped Victorian municipal building beside a canal in the city centre will be used as a base for walking, cycling and canoeing tours of the area as well as for telling the story of the place.

Moseley Road Grade II* listed Edwardian baths

As part of another project, our experts are advising community action groups and local heritage organisations on options for the sustainable future of many threatened and often derelict buildings of significant interest.

These include the Moseley Road Grade II* listed Edwardian baths in Birmingham. The baths are still open for public swimming but are due to close in 2017. The building’s importance stems from the social history reflected in the ‘slipper baths’ and its segregation between class and gender.

While our support for this and other places is driven by a threat, the opportunity to benefit a broader and more diverse range of people than currently visit our properties is of equal importance.

Parks and green spaces

We're also playing our part in protecting outdoor places at a time when local authority budgets for their care are falling. During 2016, we worked with Newcastle City Council to develop a proposal for a new model for the funding and management of the city’s parks and green spaces – a parks charitable trust.

We will help them through in-kind support and advice as they look to establish the charitable trust, which will be funded by endowment and enterprise. 

We'll share what is learnt from this project with other local authorities and aim to build a national coalition to co-create a framework to enable local authorities to explore different options for the care of their parks.

Edge City

In July 2016, we partnered with Croydon Council to deliver ‘Edge City’. This project explored the town’s recent history, celebrating why Croydon matters and encouraging people to look after its past, present and future.

The project aimed to challenge public perceptions of the National Trust by embracing a broad definition of what constitutes national heritage, which extends well beyond country houses and includes post-war architecture. 

Heritage Open Days

Our support for the hugely popular Heritage Open Days is another way we are reaching beyond our boundaries to engage people with heritage through properties we do not own.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations and more than 40,000 volunteers across the country to celebrate England’s rich and diverse heritage. Every year on four days in September, places of every age, style and function, welcome visitors in free of charge.

In 2016, around three million visitors from across Great Britain took advantage of the festival’s estimated 5,000 events.

This programme is hugely successful in engaging people with their local heritage with 80% of the visitors in 2016 saying their experience had inspired them to visit more heritage and/or cultural sites in future and 30% wanting to become involved with a heritage organisation/place.

Heritage Open Days

  • The festival brings together 2,500 organisations
  • In 2016 around 3 million visitors took part
  • and 80% of visitors said the experience inspired them
Creating experiences of our places that move, teach and inspire

The importance of creating meaningful experiences

The Experiences Programme is about creating richer experiences that move, teach and inspire our visitors.

Wherever we can, we want to give people more chances to learn, to be inspired by the beauty and the stories of our places and to become involved – as well as making sure they have the freedom to relax, reflect and explore in their own way.

We know that authenticity, superb presentation, attention to detail and interaction with our people are all things that people value most about visiting National Trust places. So we have to keep hold of all of these.

But we also know that there’s much more we could be doing to keep up with the changing expectations of people who visit – and the people who aren’t visiting.

Engaging visitors 

People come back again and again to our gardens and to the outdoors. But all too often, they’ll visit a mansion only once. How can we keep refreshing our offer, so that we encourage people to keep coming back to explore the full richness of these places?

That could include more exhibitions, changing displays or new ways of telling our stories. We also know that, indoors and out, people are looking for more active visits – they want to be more involved and learn new things.

Helping visitors to feel part of our conservation work

We could be doing more to connect more people to our conservation work. For example, we could give them the chance to try new things and develop new skills, to engage their children or simply help them to delve for themselves into deeper layers of information.

Finally, we know that many people derive more from their visits when they can make connections with their own lives, and to issues that matter to people today.

All of this applies equally to the outdoors – people want the freedom to explore and be active under their own steam, but they also want to learn about the natural environment and find out how they can be part of our work.

" How do we help people to feel closer to nature and become more active outdoors, without disrupting the uncluttered beauty and the tranquility that they value so much at our outdoor places?"
- National Trust Annual Report

Our projects

Over the last year, we have been responding to these challenges with more imaginative programming. Through exhibitions and new installations, for example, we're helping visitors to explore our stories in more depth.

Passion and Possessions at Tyntesfield 

At Tyntesfield, the Passions and Possessions exhibition focused on more than a hundred objects to throw new light on its Victorian owner, Antony Gibbs. 

Commemorating the Somme at Powis Castle

At Powis Castle, a powerful commemoration of the Somme, where the family’s eldest son Percy Clive was fatally wounded, included the creation of a First World War trench.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter

In the Lake District, we created a major programme of events for the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter, including a Children’s Book Festival at Wray Castle.

Collaborating with artists

Other ideas – often in partnership with contemporary artists – have helped our visitors to see places and collections in imaginative new ways. At Croome Court in Worcestershire, artist and ceramics expert Bouke de Vries created a remarkable Golden Box to house the returning porcelain collection.

Berrington Hall in Herefordshire won a Hudson’s Heritage Award for Genius Loci, working with environmental arts group Red Earth to create new perspectives on its ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. Berrington Hall was one of a series of places offering new programmes and interpretations to mark the 300th anniversary of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s birth.

Europe and us 

We began to explore new approaches to contemporary issues through National Public Programming, with a series of events, special events and podcasts on the theme of Europe and us, including the ground-breaking Mount Stewart Conversations in Northern Ireland during a weekend of debates and cultural events.

Exploring the slate industry at Penrhyn Castle

Our properties have also been exploring more challenging stories, working closely with visitors, volunteers, local communities and other partners. At Penrhyn Castle in North Wales, artist, Lisa Heledd Jones, has taken as her inspiration local stories of the slate industry’s controversial past.

Creating new experiences with technology 

At other places, we've been using new technology to deepen the experience and to help connect visitors to our stories in new ways. At Red House in Bexleyheath – the Arts and Crafts house designed by Philip Webb for William and Janey Morris – A Poem of a House is an innovative new projection which tells the story of Red House’s inception and describes the struggles of the Morrises as they attempted to realise their idyllic rural dream. 

At Petworth in West Sussex, the Park Explorer uses a series of Wi-Fi hotspots in the park and pleasure grounds to transfer detailed information to smartphones and tablets.

These new experiences are built on a foundation of solid research and we've been working with academic partners to deepen our knowledge base. 

Our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Oxford University 

In 2016, we launched our first Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Oxford University. Over two years, the Trusted Source programme will see Oxford academics working with the National Trust to find ways of using research to improve visitors’ enjoyment of and engagement with historic places.

The wealth of data amassed in the project will be consolidated into pithy, easily understood articles about history, culture and the natural environment.

The information will then be shared throughout the National Trust to be used in staff and volunteer induction training, by room guides in houses, for interpretation at our places and in guide books. It will also be shared on the internet for everyone to access.

Trust New Art

In 2016, we celebrated our largest contemporary arts programme to date, with 24 events and exhibitions across England and Wales inspired by our places. From Mat Collishaw’s optical illusions at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal in North Yorkshire, to Christiane Löhr’s delicate dandelion sculptures at Gunby Estate, Hall and Gardens in Lincolnshire, our Trust New Art programme has enabled visitors to see our places from a different perspective.

Literary and soundscape projects

We’ve gone beyond visual arts, bringing writers back into places such as Agatha Christie’s Devon holiday home, Greenway, and transforming the Sounding Chamber at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire with a sound installation by Scanner. We’re grateful to Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales, whose support makes the programme possible.

Our partnership with Sport England 

We also want more people to be moved and inspired by our outdoor places. An important part of this is creating more opportunities for people to become active and explore our sites in new ways.

Our long-running partnership with Sport England helped us to engage more than 400,000 people in outdoor activity last year, through running programmes like Nightrun, Parkruns and Trust10 and through the Summer of Sport initiative that involved thousands of people in everything from tennis and archery to paddleboarding.

Also with support from Sport England, we began construction on ten new beginner multi-use cycle trails due to open in 2017.

Growing support for what we do

We are delighted to report that during 2016/17 more people became members of the charity and visited our properties than ever before. We could not carry out our purpose without the support we receive from our members, visitors, volunteers and all those who donate and leave us legacies.

Their support, time and generosity is what enables us to look after the beautiful houses, gardens, countryside and coast that have been entrusted to us for the nation. Thank you.

Membership

Membership numbers have continued to grow strongly and we now have 4.8 million members. A large part of this success is down to the work of our property teams who recruited more members than ever before and provided engaging and inspiring experiences to make them want to stay with us longer.

Income from membership subscriptions was over £200 million for the first time – money that enables us to carry out our work as a conservation charity. These figures not only suggest that we are good value for money, but also that people choose to support the places we look after and enjoy the experiences they have in our houses, gardens and countryside.

Our communications with members and supporters

This year we've been working hard to improve the quality of our communications with our members and supporters. Our members’ magazine was recognised in the annual Professional Publishers Association Independent Publisher Awards as membership ‘magazine of the year’.

Our supporter services call centre has made some changes to provide a better service – we introduced webchat across longer opening times and launched ‘MyNationalTrust’ which is our members’ self-serve online platform where they can access and edit their details online, with over 100,000 members registering within the first six months.

For the first time we ran a competition for supporters to provide the image for the front cover of the 2017 handbook – more than 2,500 people entered and the winner was Paul Rook with his photo ‘on the beach at Burton Bradstock’.

Promoting our cause

Our cause is rooted in the vision of our founders – to look after places of historic interest and natural beauty for ever, for everyone. We can only do it with the help of our members and supporters and we want to encourage more people to enjoy these places, value them and join us in looking after them.

In 2016/17 our marketing and communications focused on building that sense of engagement and commitment to our cause so that more people feel it matters to them personally. For the first time we used advertising on television to communicate that we are a conservation charity.

We've carried out a lot of work to understand better what our supporters want to hear from us, shaping our communications to fit people’s interests and locations, to give them a better day out or understanding of our work.

Our partnership work with broadcasters continued to develop with a landscape artist series with SkyArts and a walking series with ITV. We partnered with the BBC for Countryfile Live – a major new countryside show staged at Blenheim Palace over a weekend in August and visited by over 125,000 people. We will be joining them again in 2017.

Fundraising: supporting our cause

Donations, gifts in wills and grants are all critical to looking after the places in our care and providing access to them for the public. Through the generous support of individuals and organisations we raised over £91 million this year. This represents 15% of our overall income.

Gifts in wills continue to provide invaluable support to benefit our houses and collections and to care for the coast and countryside. We received £61.7 million in legacies and a further 250 supporters let us know that they plan to leave us a gift in their will, helping to support the future of the National Trust for the long term.

Success story: the Chartwell appeal

2016/17 marked 50 years since Sir Winston Churchill’s family home, Chartwell in Kent, was opened to the public. In this anniversary year we launched a £7.1 million campaign to reinvigorate Churchill’s legacy and secure Chartwell’s future. 

We received tremendous public support including: more than £680,000 from our appeal to members and visitors at Chartwell; a £3.45 million grant from the National Lottery; and major pledges and gifts from The Royal Oak Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Linbury Trust.

Funding from grants

Major grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, a fund set up by the late Hon. Simon Sainsbury and a bequest from Mrs W E Hooper enabled us to secure permanently a miniature portrait of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, for the nation at its historic home, Powis Castle in Powys.

We were delighted to receive grants from the Arts Council England to enable us to work with artists and community groups and bring our places to life in new ways through dynamic arts installations and contemporary programmes. Major support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery is helping to fund the Heritage Open Days festival in 2017.

The impact of our supporters

Supporters have also helped as we do more to ensure that the coast and countryside are protected and nature can thrive. More than £350,000 was donated to help repair the damage caused by Storm Desmond in the Lake District, while in Cornwall over £280,000 was raised to help care for Trevose Head following its acquisition this year with the help of a legacy gift.

Throughout the year we received numerous gifts from regular donations in response to campaign appeals and donations in property collection boxes. Every gift, whatever the size, makes an important contribution to our work to keep places special and open to everyone – thank you all for your support.

Fundraising: code of fundraising practice

We're committed to employing a transparent and ethical approach to all our fundraising activity. Supporters are always in charge of what we send them and can manage their preferences online via ‘MyNationalTrust’ or by calling our Supporter Service Centre.

We're registered with the Fundraising Regulator and abide by the Code of Fundraising Practice and the Fundraising Promise. Also, we're organisational members of the Institute of Fundraising and support the professional development of our staff in relation to excellent fundraising practice.

We do:

  • send appeal letters and emails to selected supporters and, if supporters call our Supporter Services Centre, we sometimes tell them about our current appeal
  • undertake major donor fundraising, on-site fundraising activity at properties, online fundraising via our website and other giving platforms, and operate a national and property raffle
  • operate a rigorous contact planning process that limits the number of communications supporters might receive
  • respect our members’ wishes if they do not wish to receive fundraising information

We do not:

  • sell or pass on our supporter or customer details to any other organisation
  • make phone calls to supporters asking for donations
  • buy lists of other charities’ donors
  • use agencies to fundraise
  • engage in street or door-to-door fundraising

In 2016/17, we received 100 complaints relating to our fundraising, none of which was in relation to any breach of the Code of Fundraising Practice. These complaints were handled promptly and within our published complaints handling guidelines to customer satisfaction.

As part of our practice of continuous improvement to reduce complaints and improve our customer service, we've introduced a new customer satisfaction survey to capture how our supporters feel that their complaint has been handled. The feedback helps us to improve our customer service and develop our training.

Volunteering

In 2016/17, over 65,000 volunteers gave more than 4.7 million hours of their time to support the National Trust. As ever, this wonderful support was a major contributor to our success. We're extremely grateful to all our volunteers.

During 2016/17, volunteers supported us in more than 500 roles. As well as the familiar ones of house guides and countryside rangers, we also welcomed volunteers as researchers, trainers and translators and in project management, events organisation and as specialist advisers.

Volunteering as a family

There were more opportunities for families to volunteer together, and we created more short-term opportunities, providing ways for people to volunteer on a drop-in basis, perhaps as part of their visit or for a particular event. Christmas volunteering was particularly popular in 2016 and helped a number of properties during very busy times.

Annual volunteer survey results

Our annual volunteer survey helps us understand how best to support volunteers. In 2016/17 96% of volunteers told us they would recommend volunteering with the National Trust (an increase of 1% on last year) and 64% of these said they would ‘strongly recommend’ volunteering with us.

Although we narrowly missed our ‘strongly recommending’ target of 65%, 134 of the 263 properties that took part in the survey did meet that target.

We continued to support our staff to develop their skills and confidence in working with volunteers and to measure this through our annual staff survey. This year was the third year of improvement in this area, with 95% of staff agreeing they felt confident and 50% strongly agreeing.

Growing support in 2016/17

  • We have 4.8 million members
  • We received £61.7 million in legacies
  • over 65,000 volunteers
Visitors at Tarn Hows

Our performance: facts and figures 

Download our performance table from the 2016/17 Annual Report to see how we've scored against the aims of our strategy.

The Conservation Performance Indicator (CPI) is used to measure how well we are putting conservation into practice at our properties. Objectives are defined and prioritised for the particular conservation needs of each property. Progress is assessed annually. For the CPI we measure how many properties report an improved or static score. To date we have also been measuring the percentage of properties that complete a review but as the process is now well embedded this will no longer be one of our KPIs. In 2017 we are introducing common objectives to our CPI model so scores are being re-baselined and there is no target.

2 We have set an ambitious target to reduce our energy consumption by 20% by 2020/21 of which 50% will be fossil-fuel consumption. These targets are relative to energy usage in 2009.

3 Actual number of members at the end of the year was 4,828,187. These are the number of members that make up our household memberships.

4 Our volunteer recommendation score is the percentage of volunteers that would strongly recommend the National Trust as a place to volunteer.

5 Operating Margin is total ordinary income less total ordinary expenditure, expressed as a percentage of total ordinary income. In previous years this has been measured as Net Gain.

6 The score for staff satisfaction is a percentage based on the proportion of respondents ‘strongly agreeing’ with the relevant statements in the staff survey.

In 2016/17 Operational management satisfaction switched to measure the proportion of respondents strongly agreeing with the relevant statements in the staff survey. In previous years it has reflected total agreement. This will not be a KPI going forward.