U.K.’s National Trust Hits Major Membership Milestone

The charity group, which conserves and maintains venues and other notable elements of British history, just topped 5 million members for the first time—just six years after the National Trust hit 4 million members.

One of the United Kingdom’s most prominent nonprofit conservation organizations just hit a major milestone. And it’s one that reflects broad support for its mission.

This week, according to the BBC, the National Trust hit 5 million members, a dramatic leap from the 278,000 members it had when it first started tracking membership numbers in 1970. It’s even more dramatic in light of the fact that the group only had 4 million members just six years ago. (It only hit 1 million members in 1981, 86 years after its 1895 founding.)

In a news release, National Trust Chairman Tim Parker emphasized that the group’s success reflected a broader surge of interest in conservation.

“We now have more members and visitors than at any time in its history, with a million people joining in just the last six years alone,” Parker said in a news release. “That suggests the country’s love affair with its heritage and great outdoors has never been stronger. In the busy, noisy world we now live in perhaps it’s never been more important to escape to the peace, beauty and inspiration of our places.”

With the cost of membership £64.80 per year ($86.95), the revenue brought in with that member count is not insignificant. According to the group, it had raised £522 million ($700 million) in income last year alone, much of that going back to maintenance and improvements for historic places in Britain.

The organization in recent years has grown in prominence, but it has from time to time found itself in the middle of the culture wars. In particular, the group has attempted to highlight LGBTQ history in Britain in ways that have raised the ire of critics. Parker has pointedly defended the group’s approach, including a decision to discuss a man’s sexuality publicly nearly 50 years after his death.

“We have always looked after historic houses, gardens, and beautiful landscapes,” Parker told The Times. “People accuse us of becoming this campaigning organization, but we only campaign for one thing and that is conservation: We are not a campaigner for gay rights. My job is to make sure that what we pass on to the next generation in the next 50 years is in better condition than when we found it.”

But even with the criticism, the organization’s offerings have remained popular with the public. According to the group, 96 percent of visitors to Trust-maintained venues scored their visits as “enjoyable,” with 56 percent saying they were “very enjoyable.”

Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s director-general, emphasized that the group would avoid becoming complacent.

“We know some properties can become crowded over certain key weekends in the year, which can affect visitor enjoyment, and we know that people’s expectations continue to grow,” she said in a news release. “We’re working hard to address these issues, but we’re confident that the Trust is in good health and the figures show that the overwhelming majority of people enjoy visiting our places.”

(Duncan Parkes/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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