The National Trust was founded in 1895 and incorporated in 1907 as a charity with the purpose of ‘promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit of the nation of lands and tenements (including buildings) of beauty or historic interest and as regards lands for the preservation (so far as practicable) of their natural aspect features and animal and plant life.’ This has been abbreviated to the motto ‘For everyone, for ever.’
125 years after its founding, the National Trust now owns a very wide range of properties, covering historic houses, parks, gardens, farmland, and swathes of coastline, and a collection which contains, as Purkiss put it, everything ‘from teaspoons to Turners, rat traps to Rembrandts’.
But for people interested in business and organisations, a perhaps more fascinating aspect of the Trust is the way in which it harnesses so very many different activities in pursuit of its purpose, and the additional unintended benefits that accrue to different stakeholders.
Most obviously it is a heritage business and membership organisation, deriving income from its almost 6 million members, who each pay a membership fee, and from the entrance fees it charges non-members. As a charity, it receives money in gifts, donations, and grants, and is supported by over 65,000 volunteers. It is also a landlord, leasing properties and farms to tenants; a holiday company providing accommodation and conservation-focused working holidays; a caterer, running 350 cafes which make and sell 11 million hot drinks and 2 million fruit scones each year; and a publisher and retailer, selling books and heritage-themed products in a chain of National Trust shops and online.
In addition, every year people who would not consider visiting a historic house or eating a scone benefit from the 30 parkruns hosted on National Trust land; and the organisation’s volunteer schemes have earnt it membership of the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services in recognition of its work for the personal and social development of young people.