Focus: Fundraising - Case study - Trust saves Wales's ancient woodland

Hetal Sheth-Pathak

The Woodland Trust conservation charity protects more than 1,000 woods in the UK. It aims to restore native forests, improve biodiversity and help people enjoy woodlands and forests.


Wales's largest ancient woodland site, Wentwood Forest near Newport, south Wales, came under threat when put on the market by its private owner.

The charity said the sales particulars were "worryingly" aimed at the commercial forestry sector, so it launched a campaign to buy a large section.

It had to raise £1.5m to beat the commercial bidders.

How it worked

The integrated campaign included direct mail, community fundraising and a PR campaign.

A direct mail pack appealing to people to "Save Wentwood Forest" was sent to 114,000 of the charity's members and supporters throughout the UK, with a follow-up mailing eight weeks later.

The trust aimed to raise £100,000 through a local appeal - launched at a public meeting in Wentwood attended by more than 300 people - and £300,000 through the national appeal. The charity hoped to make up the rest from trusts and foundations.

Campaign leaflets claiming "we need to act now before it's too late" were distributed, and a dedicated microsite, was set up.

The leaflets, which included maps, fundraising appeal targets and information on the woodland, read: "Ancient woodland is our equivalent of the rainforest and is the richest wildlife habitat in the UK."

Local paper the South Wales Argus supported the campaign by regularly printing pledge forms in the newspaper. Dame Judi Dench, meteorologist Sian Lloyd and author Bill Bryson were among celebrities backing the campaign.


The trust's purchase of 870 acres of the forest was completed in January.

More than 30,000 responses to the mailings, ranging from £5 to £10,000, raised £1.27m, and the local appeal raised £119,000 after Gift Aid. The balance was raised from various charitable trusts, including the Tubney Trust.

Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said: "The Save Wentwood Forest Campaign has been the most successful campaign the Woodland Trust has run. The strength of the local support made a huge difference."


When the largest ancient woodland site in Wales came under threat, the Woodland Trust needed £1.5m to outbid commercial foresters.

It responded with a campaign that was, in the words of the trust's chief executive, its "most successful campaign to date".

The success of this campaign could be attributed to its highly targeted approach - pursuing 'warm' audiences such as locals and existing Woodland Trust members and supporters.

The trust worked hard to gain local support. A meeting was held with locals to raise the cause's profile, with regular pledges then published in the South Wales Argus to ensure momentum was maintained. English and Welsh versions of the mailer were created. The public endorsement of Wales's favourite weather girl, Sian Lloyd, helped the cause too.

On a national scale, Woodland Trust members and supporters also responded to direct mail. The mailer focuses on both the eminent past of the forest and its potential future as a broadleaf woodland. Maps and references to specific flora and fauna are aimed at an audience with existing knowledge of the subject, but this seems entirely appropriate given the recipient base.

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