Our work could not continue without our super supporters who give financially to help us achieve our vital mission. With the charity’s work growing, so too are the reasons for people wanting to donate to and fundraise for us.
Game-changing grants to accelerate growth
We were delighted to build on the progress and momentum of our Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF) win in the previous reporting year with further grant and trust successes across 2021/22. Support such as this from trusts and grant-giving organisations enables us to deliver more of our vital mission, sooner and at scale. We have been really encouraged by the growing emphasis on conservation and the environment from philanthropic grant-giving organisations, and in particular, we celebrated securing a second GRCF grant of £249,700. The ‘Growing Future Forest Guardians’ project will help us establish a flagship site for young people in an area of the Forest close to Redditch.
Foundations and frameworks to further fundraising
Much behind-the-scenes work has taken place across the financial year to improve our systems, processes and policies across the fundraising functions and income streams. This is to support growth and ensure we provide the very best donor experience that we can. As the charity grows, awareness increases, and we work to secure more funds to help deliver and secure our mission, it is vital that we have invested in key foundational elements such as our donor database, case for support, and fundraising policies. We are looking forward to building on these foundations to secure increased and sustainable funding for the charity.
2021/22 was a fantastic year for Forest Fundraisers. After the limitations caused by the pandemic, we were delighted to support and get to know some amazing fundraisers doing brilliant things to raise money for us. Fundraisers like Lizzie and Jess who took part in the virtual London Marathon, running through the Forest and being cheered on by some of the Forest team, raising £1,174. We also had a number of generous couples who chose the Heart of England Forest to donate to in lieu of wedding gifts, and community groups who either donated or fundraised to help the Forest grow.
Year in Review
2021/22 was a positive year of progress for fundraising at the charity. We spent time focusing on setting, establishing, and reviewing key foundational elements to help us be thorough, efficient, effective, and ready for growth. As part of this work, we have rolled out our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database across all fundraising functions and provided training and support to tailor income streams. We have reviewed and updated, in collaboration with the wider charity, our privacy, fundraising acceptance, and fundraising complaints policies. We have also formalised a robust due diligence process and checklist to ensure consistency in our approach.
Building foundations for growth
We were pleased to welcome a new part time Development Manager to establish and grow our first major donor programme. They have researched and developed an initial action plan to launch and nurture this income stream in the coming years. Whilst their arrival bolstered the team, we remain a relatively small group of fundraisers, equivalent to three full time staff, working across Individual Giving, Major Giving, Corporate Partnerships, Legacy Fundraising, Grants and Trusts, and Community Fundraising. Because of this our fundraising is often reactive, meaning we need to be agile and flexible to respond to the charity’s needs, exciting opportunities, and approaches.
The foundation and planning work achieved during 2021/22, together with more staff resource agreed for the new financial year, will help us move to a more proactive fundraising approach in 2022/23.
It was fantastic to welcome some new corporate supporters during this reporting period, many of which are businesses local to the Forest. We enjoyed hosting visiting and volunteering partners once the limitations of the pandemic lifted, and it certainly seemed that for so many companies, a chance to come together as a team in a beautiful outdoor setting was much appreciated and very overdue.
We have had some successes with our new corporate giving programme. New partners opting into this mutually beneficial way of working together included Triton Showers as a ‘Woodland Wonder’ and Incorporatewear as a ‘Growing Guardian’. We also continued to develop bespoke partnerships with companies, too, such as Socitm Advisory who are supporting our work with a particular focus on helping us to connect communities within the Forest through volunteering; and Vectric who are keen for engagement opportunities throughout the year for their team to support and connect with the Forest.
We are particularly proud of the exciting progress made with community fundraising. Much groundwork has been done to raise awareness of the charity locally, and the need for support. Individuals, couples, and community groups have become ‘Forest Fundraisers’ via a number of ways, including taking part in challenge events, collections, charity of the year nominations, and giving in celebration. We are hugely grateful to all those who have been so generous with their time, enthusiasm, and support, and we look forward to continuing to build this important income stream for the charity.
Not only are the funds that are raised helping us deliver our objectives, but Community Fundraisers also help raise awareness and engagement within their local networks – meaning more people know about the Forest and all the benefits it can bring to them and their communities.
We are still a relatively small team, and we have struggled to optimise every opportunity due to resourcing and capacity. This is always frustrating, but by investing time and effort in our foundations and frameworks, we are building efficient and effective systems to grow from. Additionally, we will welcome more fundraising resource in the new financial year that will help support capacity and hopefully ensure we can maximise all funding and donor opportunities for the charity.
The Year Ahead
After working on many of the foundational elements within the fundraising function, we want to build on these, to not only grow donors and donations across all income streams, but also to ensure we provide the best supporter experience we can. The Forest is an incredible place, resource, and legacy, and we want the individuals, businesses and communities who support our work to feel valued and to understand their impact.
We will be offering more opportunities to connect supporters to the Forest through updates, video, events, and visits, to help bring the scale, opportunity and wonder alive.
We will be working hard to increase corporate support through new partnerships, our corporate giving programme, and volunteering. We are particularly looking forward to developing meaningful, long-term relationships with innovative and forward-thinking organisations who share our belief in protecting and investing in our natural environment. We are keen to move the ‘tree planting’ conversation on so companies understand the importance, value and climate change benefits of establishing and enhancing all the rich mosaic of habitats that make up a Forest, as well as supporting the long-term protection and management of the Forest to ensure that it survives and thrives, benefiting the environment, wildlife, and people for generations to come.
We are also focusing on building on our previous grant successes, partnering with new funders and securing new grant opportunities to deliver innovative and valuable projects for the charity. The grant and trust application process is led by the fundraising team but developed through a cross-charity collaborative process to identify needs and opportunities.