WORKSHOP: Case Study - Conservation takes direct mail route

Nandini Chatto


Background: The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust aims to create a better future for the wildlife of the three counties.

Its work includes motivating people to take action for wildlife, creating and managing nature and conserving the habitat in the countryside and urban areas.

When Chimney Farm, a 500-acre wildlife haven, was put up for sale on the open market after losing its 'site of special interest' status, the trust felt compelled to preserve the land. Located near Bampton in west Oxfordshire, the trust felt sure Chimney Farm would either be built upon or over-farmed. It had secured pledges of £1.1m from national and local charitable trusts, but needed to raise a further £100,000 to buy the land.

Aims: The trust wanted to use the money to buy the flood meadow and transform it into a nature reserve. Already a sanctuary for wildlife such as curlews, snipe, dragonflies and orchids, the plans included creating wildflower meadows, flooding ditches and riverside areas to attract wading birds, and building holts to encourage otters to breed. The project would also involve surveying and monitoring the species found at Chimney and creating accessible walks and bird hides around the site. The trust's head of marketing and communications, Philippa Lyons, said: "Our wish was to help develop the site into a place that people could enjoy for generations."

How it worked: In September 2003, the trust launched an urgent appeal to raise the necessary funds. It sent a package containing a colour site plan of the land and the planned wildlife conservation works to its 20,000 members. The mail-out was designed to stimulate members and show them the beauty, size, and environmental and historical significance of Chimney Farm. The campaign conveyed the message that a prime piece of countryside was at risk of being lost forever, and that if the trust was able to reach its target by 30 September, local and national grant-making bodies would release a substantial proportion of the funds needed to acquire the site.

Results: Within two weeks, the £100,000 target was broken. By 10 October the appeal had topped £200,000. Lyons said: "We had a deadline of 30 September before the land went back onto the open market, and we were thrilled that people in our region responded so generously. To have this special piece of land ploughed up to make way for arable crops would have been unthinkable."

While the £100,000 was required to purchase the property in the first instance, because the site is at least ten times as big as the trust's average nature reserve, it also had to find at least £100,000 more to develop the land to its full potential. "This amazing response will allow us to do both and the trust would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our appeal," said Lyons. "The money raised will help to do all this and more."

Fundraising manager Kim Chester added: "It really has been a peach of a campaign."

Everyone who donated money to the appeal has been invited to an event in May 2004 to see the reserve for themselves.

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