Background: The Royal Horticultural Society is best known for its annual flower shows at Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Park, but it also funds international horticultural research, advice and training. It is largely funded through financial support from its 330,000 donors, and is currently looking to generate extra channels of income to help extend and improve its existing services.
In Memoriam fundraising, a new scheme launched by marketing agency Whitewater last year, is designed to generate long-term income for charities through establishing a commemorative fund in honour of a deceased supporter. Relatives and friends can donate money to the fund in memory of the deceased, which will be used to support the work of the charity.
Aims: Traditionally, In Memoriam fundraising has only been thought effective for medical charities, but the society wanted to test reaction to a tailored In Memoriam campaign that would play on its supporters' love of gardens.
At a time when the charity was also looking to expand its fundraising channels, it also hoped that the campaign would bring in a new group of supporters.
How it worked: The society launched its first In Memoriam appeal at the end of April 2003. The campaign was called 'A lasting memory for all seasons' and focused on remembering a loved one through a lasting tribute in a garden that was particularly special to them.
The charity encouraged members and garden visitors to make a straight In Memoriam donation in memory of a deceased society member. It also asked supporters to raise funds from friends and family towards a memorial project placed within the deceased's preferred garden, either Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon, Hyde Hall in Essex, or Harlow Carr in Yorkshire.
After an initial donation, the name of the deceased was written into a book of remembrance at the chosen garden. If money raised in memory of an individual exceeds £2,000 in one year, the charity pledged to erect an engraved commemorative plaque dedicated to the deceased.
Whitewater designed leaflets to promote the campaign that were distributed at the society's gardens. The leaflets were also sent to funeral directors as part of a wider In Memoriam campaign. Any unsolicited donations from visitors to the gardens were followed up with more information about the scheme and a thank-you note from the charity.
Results: The charity hoped that the campaign would generate £20,000 in 12 months. In the first five months alone, income from this initial In Memoriam appeal has already exceeded £18,600. The charity is now considering stepping up its In Memoriam fundraising activities, and possibly extending the appeal to more of its gardens.
"Given that it's the first time we have focused specifically on developing In Memoriam giving, we're very pleased with the initial results of the campaign and the positive feedback," says Natasha Lees, donor development manager at the society.
"We're confident that the opportunity to celebrate someone's love of gardens and gardening as a special way of remembering them will prove very attractive to our supporters and these initial results seem to confirm this."