We launched our London Road Tree Planting Appeal in February, aiming to raise £10,000 to fund the creation of a 300m2 micro-forest alongside the A205 South Circular road, one of London’s busiest routes.
The project, which includes 90 trees, 200 shrubs and more than 2,000 bulbs, aims to create a green buffer between the road and the Horniman Gardens. Part of the Horniman’s actions to meet its climate and ecology manifesto pledges, the micro-forest is designed to improve biodiversity and reduce both air and noise pollution.
Almost a year into the pandemic, the Horniman Museum had been closed more than it had been open. Our Gardens, however, had been open throughout each lockdown, for local residents to take their daily exercise, find time and space to reflect, and to enjoy nature. We knew how loved our green space was, and how much our visitors valued being able to access it during lockdown.
But in uncertain times and amid a mass furlough scheme, we couldn’t be sure what reception our fundraising efforts would get. So we set a conservative target figure, and gave ourselves three months to achieve it.
Donation points were set with a range from £15 for bulbs, plants and seeds up to £300 for five trees. The appeal was championed by garden designer, TV presenter and Horniman ambassador Joe Swift, who provided a supporting quote and recorded a personal video at home, encouraging people to donate.
We ran the appeal on our website, promoting it via our social media channels and in targeted media coverage achieved on BBC London 94.9FM, timeout.com and the Southwark News website. We also invited our members, benefactors and e-newsletter subscribers to support the appeal.
In just seven days, we met our initial goal of £10,000 to pay for the trees, shrubs, and planting – so we set a stretch target of double that, to help care for the new planting in its first five years.
The final amount raised by 30 April was £24,833 including Gift Aid, and the additional funds will be used for general garden year-round care and maintenance.
Our appeal achieved over 3,000 views of its webpages and a reach of well over 80,000 via our social media channels, plus a media circulation total of more than 220,000. We received a total of 257 donations, with three gifts over £1,000 and an average gift of over £82.
Interestingly, 86% were first-time donors to the Horniman so we have activated a whole new prospect base.
As well as supporting us financially, our donors have helped us refine our plans. Silver birch trees, noted for their carbon capturing abilities, featured prominently in our initial designs and communications but feedback from donors highlighting issues with birch pollen allergy has led us to reshape our planting scheme to diversify the native tree species we will use.
The London Road Tree Planting plan has been highlighted by Garden Design Journal and Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, and groundwork and planting is scheduled to begin this winter. Donors will continue to receive updates on the project and those who donated £300 or more will be invited to the Horniman to meet the gardens team during planting.
The public response to this appeal was wonderful – not only for our fundraising, but for staff morale. The resounding show of support for the Horniman and what we are trying to do to benefit our visitors and our environment came when we needed it most, reaffirming our plans and bringing us potential new regular donors to support our future as we recover from the financial impact of the pandemic.
The contrasting low response to our general appeal for support, as we reopened the museum in May this year, shows how much more successful fundraising is when you can focus on a specific issue and tap into your supporters’ emotional connection, at just the right time.
Sarah Cook is head of fundraising at the Horniman Museum and Gardens