Now it's one million Friends by 2025 – unless that's typo?

June 2017 - A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that C&RT has abandoned its long-term target of recruiting 100,000 Friends by 2022, Allan Richards reports.

Just a month ago, The Floater reported that one of its longest serving trustees, John Dodwell had told the Staffs & Worcs Canal Society on March 13, that it was still the Trust's aim to recruit 100,000 Friends over its first ten years of operation ( Will C&RT ever have100,000 Friends? ).

However, C&RT now says that its ambition is to recruit one million Friends over 13 years! This, despite only having recruited about 20,000 Friends over its first five years of operation.

When C&RT failed to publish documents relating to its 9th National Users Forum in early April, a Freedom of Information request was made. This resulted in the release of the information two weeks later.

The notes and presentation slides confirmed the figure of 20,000 Friends as previously given by John Dodwell. However, the notes indicate a revised 13-year target period rather than 10 and a tenfold increase in the number Friends.

Notes of the Fundraising Update given by marketing, communications and fundraising director, Sophie Castell (SC), and her direct report, individual giving manager, Andrew Sarson (AS) read -

“... AS explained the Trust's individual giving fundraising activities on towpaths adding that although this was initially outsourced it is now carried out in-house. Since it was launched, inhouse relations with local communities has improved. AS further explained that the behaviours and values expected from fundraisers is based on the Trust's value framework.

“Looking ahead, AS stated that the Trust's ambition is to recruit 1,000,000 Friends by 2025. AS talked through the Friends and individual giving programme noting that the immediate priority is to increase towpath recruitment of Friends, as well as developing memory and legacy giving ...”

C&RT, certainly needs to accelerate the recruitment of Friends. Last year, they increased the number of Friends by less than 5,000. This was down on the previous year's figures.

How is C&RT going to increase that 5,000 to the 120,000 a year needed to achieve one million by 2025?

Of course, it might be that one million should have been 100,000 and C&RT has just tried to slip in a three-year extension to its previous long-term target without anybody noticing.

One million or 100,000, it was clear from the meeting notes that C&RT had little idea how Friends recruitment could be improved as they held a workshop which asked for suggestions regarding 'turning visitors into supporters'.

This only came up with three suggestions, two of which were already implemented. Of course, C&RT did not let on that it not only missed its 2016/17 Friends target of 22,500 but also missed its visitor number target as well.

Turning to Sophie Castell, a month ago The Floater exclusively revealed that she was no longer with the Trust (although an announcement has yet to be made). It was suggested that poor performance in recruitment of Friends was the reason for her departure. ​

With a lack of advertisements for her replacement, one has to ask if C&RT has taken note of criticisms regarding the number of directors it has. Before her departure, chief executive, Richard Parry, had no less than eight executive directors working for him. His predecessor, Robin Evans, had just five.

Photos: (1st) One million by 2025, (2nd) Individual giving manager, Andrew Sarson, (3rd) Post vacant and not advertised, (4th) Sophie Castell - The Floater exclusively revealed that she was no longer with the Trust, (5th) Visitor number target.

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