Business partner: The Churches Conservation Trust and Emma Bridgewater Pottery

The company produces branded merchandise for the charity

The pottery company produced a branded mug for the charity. The charity is the second largest preserver of historic buildings in the charity sector after the National Trust and has 342 sites in its care, but the Churches Conservation Trust has, for its first four decades, rarely been in the limelight.

However, with celebrations under way to mark its 40th anniversary this year, the trust is seeking more exposure. The first real attempt to market its brand is a partnership with Emma Bridgewater Pottery to sell a Churches Conservation Trust mug.

The partnership was forged when Matthew Rice, the pottery firm's chief designer, joined the trust's committee to coordinate its anniversary celebrations. An English-made pottery mug fits well with its work, he says.

The trust, which is dependent on grants from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Church Commissioners that have been frozen since 2001, is aware that it needs to diversify its income base.

"We get four million visitors a year and have more than a thousand regular volunteers," says Crispin Truman, chief executive of the organisation. "They are supportive, but they don't give an awful lot of money, so we are trying to encourage them to become donors as well."

The trust receives 20 per cent of the profits - about £3 - on sales of each mug, available from the firm and the trust. More than 800 have been sold so far.

But the main reason for producing the mug is to raise awareness of the trust's existence and work among opinion formers and policymakers. The charity has bought a number of the mugs and is giving them away to journalists and MPs as a promotional gift so, according to Truman, "they are on important people's desks."

Rice says it is difficult for a charity without a retail arm to come up with merchandise that is specific to the cause and has an intrinsic value.

"It's very difficult to justify doing a large run of something if you don't have a way of selling it," he says. "You need to tie into a commercial operation."

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