A letter from Julia Weston

Chief Executive at the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

Our history and purpose

The Trust was founded with the proceeds of a national fundraising campaign – launched on the death of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 – to recognise his contribution to the nation. A total of £2.8m was raised from the people of the UK – with large sums raised through an early door drop appeal! – equivalent to £48m today. These funds formed an endowment that has given men and women the opportunity to undertake ‘Churchill Fellowships.’ The original purpose of these Fellowships was to support ordinary people who wanted to find solutions to practical challenges facing their communities – be it food poverty, poor housing conditions or ill-health. They would be funded to travel to countries of their choosing to learn from global practice and return to the UK inspired with practical ideas and an energy to create positive change.

Throughout the Trust’s history we have funded Fellows from all backgrounds and levels of society who have shown personal leadership and a desire to help others. Our criteria are not high education levels and a proven track record but rather potential and a great idea combined with the commitment and passion to deliver it. In investing in such people, the Trust recognised the characteristics of Churchill – leadership and service – and honoured his contribution to the Nation. To date we have granted over 5,700 Fellowships.
We believe our work is critical. The UK faces a plethora of social challenges during a time of significant change, and at the same time a declining sense of civic responsibility. We know we need to look globally for solutions, to find people with the vision to improve, enhance or transform their particular field or profession, people who want to develop their own personal leadership and in doing so create positive social change.

We invest in leadership and innovation to strengthen the UK

Today, the Trust grants c.150 Fellowships per year to UK citizens from all backgrounds, aged 18 to 70+! The average grant is for £7,000 and Fellows usually travel for 6-8 weeks, defining their own area of investigation and desired outcomes and planning their own itineraries.  On their return they are asked to report their findings so a powerful body of knowledge is created.

Our Fellows explore issues as diverse as: improving care for patients receiving oral chemotherapy, new models of independent living, inclusion of migrant families at preschool level, scaling upcycling for sustainable living, building entrepreneurship in not for profits, peer support in modern day policing, mental health and wellbeing in Universities, foster care for adolescents, creative careers for people with disabilities and how to tackle school holiday hunger.

Our Fellows return to the UK inspired to create change. Many influence and change practice in their professions and communities, some create new organisations or charities, some publish their work, still others influence at a policy level and create national change.  Collectively the Fellows are an incredible force for good and the Trust seeks to strengthen their impact by collating and distributing their findings and making beneficial connections. Our Fellows’ stories speak for themselves, I’d encourage you to explore them on our website.

Our evolution as a fundraising organisation

The Trust was founded as a grant-making organisation but ran appeals for the 25th and 50th Anniversaries of Churchill’s death in 1985 and in 2015. These Anniversary Campaigns were professionally planned and executed with the support of senior volunteers and influential Ambassadors. Income was secured primarily from generous gifts from Trusts & Foundations and HNWI’s. The Trust raised £1m in 1985 and £8m in 2015, demonstrating donors’ belief in the values that Churchill embodied and the value of personal leadership in creating social change. Between 2010 and 2012, the Trust also tested fundraising from its beneficiaries – our Fellows. We invested in short-term fundraising resource and surveyed our Fellows, making a direct debit ask and running a small telephone legacy marketing campaign.

In the Anniversary Year 2015 our objective was to grow Fellowship numbers by 50% to 150 per year.  Our endowment of £42m (at 2017/18) is not sufficient to fund 150 Fellows a year though income dividends alone. The endowment generates c.£1.6m p/a and £2.2m p/a is required. We are looking to our new Development Director to help us close this gap.

The challenge today

The Board and I are now committed to developing fundraised income, embedding fundraising in the organisation for the long-term and maximising the income potential of our cause. Our goal is to maintain the value of our capital endowment and diversify our fundraised income.

We invite you to consider joining us to take on this challenge. You will be actively supported by myself, the Director of Communications, the Board (which is led by Jeremy Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill) and an influential group of advisors and senior volunteers.

You won’t be starting from scratch, we’ve already made some good progress. We have:

  • a clear purpose and case for support
  • a Board approved overarching fundraising strategy ready for implementation
  • a small team and fundraising-friendly culture
  • an active and very creative communications function
  • a Fellowship base of over 3,500 with great stories and case studies
  • a qualified legacy prospect list of c.650
  • strong Trust relationships, a model for multi-year Trust partnerships and a profiled list of Trust prospects for £25K+
  • a supportive group of Ambassadors from which to leverage HNWI giving
  • an informed and influential Advisory Board

I hope this sounds like an attractive challenge. If you think you can help us convey our compelling case for financial support and be both a strategic thinker, senior relationship director and manage the hands-on delivery of our fundraising, we’d very much like to hear from you.