English Heritage has appointed an external agency to launch a membership recruitment drive as it prepares for a transformation that will involve part of the non-departmental public body becoming a charity.
The purposes of the existing charity, the English Heritage Foundation, will be broadened from April 2015 to include managing the more than 400 sites looked after by English Heritage.
The government’s public consultation on the new model, which closed earlier this month, assumed membership would grow from 700,000 in 2012/13 to 1.3 million by 2026/27 – an increase of 5 per cent a year. Membership has grown by an average of 7 per cent over the previous nine years.
Luke Whitcomb, marketing director of EH, said membership was a key part of the transformation and the goal was "achievable but stretching".
With the exception of a minor campaign about 10 years ago, the organisation had never before recruited members off-site, he said. "We would have been doing this in any case regardless of the proposal because it was the obvious next step," he said.
Whitcomb said that the agency Bray Leino, which was appointed on a three-year contract after a competitive pitch, would be handling off-site "below-the-line" marketing, such as inserts, direct marketing and door-drop campaigns.
Public-facing membership sales teams "have always been and will always be" made up solely of in-house teams that have more expertise and understanding of the operation and members, Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb, who spent eight years in various roles at the National Trust, said the two organisations had very different business models. He said market research had consistently shown that the difference between the two brands was that "the National Trust is driven by beauty, and English Heritage is driven by bringing history to life".
EH members generally pay £48 a year, or £1,050 for life membership. The National Trust’s four million members pay an annual membership fee of £55.50 or £1,350 for life. English Heritage is currently at the first-pitch stage of its search for a designer for the charity’s new website. It will retain its name and logo in the new model.