Membership has been at the front of my mind this week. Firstly, I spent the morning at the National Trust (London and the South East) Regional Membership Conference on Tuesday. Emily and I ran a stall at the Marketplace, during the networking sessions. I wasn’t sure what to expect but in fact it was a good chance to showcase INTO’s work to property membership teams. Many already knew about the Trust’s reciprocal visiting arrangements because they had seen overseas membership cards at their properties. It became clear however that more information and clarity was needed. There was some confusion about why the relationships existed and who they were with. While the Member & Visitor Care Manual was fairly clear on card validity, things were less definitive when selling membership. Recruiters suggested a list (perhaps a bookmark?) of the Trusts involved might help. More about that later …
The day was held in Toynbee Hall in Aldgate, East London. I love the City as it’s so full of history and our venue was no exception. Friends of National Trust founder, Octavia Hill built Toynbee Hall in 1884. Samuel and Henrietta Barnett created a place for future leaders to live and work as volunteers in London’s East End. The idea was to bring them face to face with poverty, and give them the opportunity to develop practical solutions. It was certainly an inspirational place to think about the ambitions of our movement and relevance today!
Later that evening, I joined a reception at the House of Commons for the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund. Another inspirational setting! And a great chance to find out more about some of the projects protecting heritage at risk in the Middle East. Good to see the World Monuments Fund Britain‘s work in Iraq and Jordan, where they are working with INTO Members, the Petra National Trust, highlighted. To meet other practitioners and to hear the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis MP, speaking about the programme in such glowing terms.
Lastly, as many of you know, momentum has been building behind INTO’s reciprocal visiting programme. This is something we have talked about as a movement for a while now. And something the Board are very keen to resolve. Under Natalie Bull’s leadership (Executive Director of the National Trust for Canada), we surveyed the INTO membership earlier this year. The results gave us a good picture of the enthusiasm (high!) for clarifying reciprocal visiting amongst INTO member organisations. Furthermore, our membership definitely thought there was a strategic role for INTO in co-ordinating and managing the programme.
This week, we held the first of our webinars on reciprocal visiting with the INTO membership. The response was deeply encouraging. Everyone seemed eager to tackle this Gordian knot. They thought it was “really worthwhile” and had “potential to bring us closer together”. There was enthusiasm for ensuring no one was disadvantaged. Moreover an altruistic generosity for supporting the smaller, sister Trusts. And promoting INTO and the NT movement more widely.
For me, the conversation underlined the value of our Family and Growth strategies. Connecting with the INTO membership in this way was also just really refreshing and reinvigorating. Sometimes it can be easy to get stuck in ‘Planet INTO’ so talking directly to our members is really important. And so beneficial to do this as a focus group format. Apart from the desired outcomes for reciprocals and how we take this forward in Bermuda then, another upshot of this process is a commitment from me to hold more of these member events. The technology is now so good and we’re all much more comfortable with it. There really is nothing stopping us (apart from time and energy …)! Talking of which, I’m on holiday next week recharging the batteries on the ski slopes. More to come in March!