Communications: Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust (AVCT)

Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust looks after a natural conservation area and and heritage site with 31 Grade II listed buildings and monuments in Bristol. It is not your typical cemetery: it is a complex offer to explain! My work as Development Manager was to maximise opportunity of the Heritage Lottery Fund's 'catalyst' matchfunding pledge during the last of a 4-year period. Professional, open and consistent communications were a huge help in raising twice the amount of the previous three years' average during my year's contract.

AVCT: Re-branding the matchfunding appeal

With barely any resource the fundraising campaign hadn't been well communicated. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) programme is called the Catalyst Endowment Challenge – this name meant little to the target audience, and 'endowment' has a negative connotation to anyone who remembers mortgage mis-selling. The CEO suggested a logo incorporating the organisation's existing logo that also indicated the time-limit on the challenge. "For a Lifetime" was chosen to rebrand the appeal – the more that could be raised for the charity's endowment fund the more it could ensure the site would remain open in perpetuity. 

Before and after:

brand communication charity third sector


AVCT: On-site messaging

The on-site communication, when I started work, gave a confusing message: misleading banner headlines began "£500,000 has been awarded..." before clarifying that this money was a matchfunding pledge reliant on AVCT raising the same amount. I created on-site messaging to position the cemetery as a valuable, inclusive and welcoming community resource (donors are more motivated to give to people more than to things!) – much of the original appeal focused on the Cemetery's earlier rescue and restoration need.

charity communication, fundraising, development,

These posters appeared on-site at the same time as new signage that included a suggested donation to enter the free site. Donations in the on-site donation boxes increased by 30% in the first two months.

One donor, who gave £1,000 to the appeal, said she had done so as a response to the A1 posters shown above (which were displayed near the café). To thank her, I invited her to a 'breakfast bacon-butty tour' – she later encouraged two of her siblings to donate a total of £1,500.

AVCT: Social media

Fundraising efforts gained impetus in the final two months of the campaign. In May, I posted a stories about donations made with the donor's motivations. In June I ran a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter. With 'Cemetery Trust' added to the standard logo to emphasise charitable status, I created a series of 12 facts about AVCT's status, social enterprise activities, gratitude to our volunteers and supporters, need for fundraising and 'the ask', signposted to our Virgin Money donation page – the results show increased donations and engagement.


[screen shot taken 13 July 2016]

AVCT: Re-framing the ask

Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust had been born out of a resolute community campaign to save and restore dilapidated historic site which was re-opened to the public in 2010. Arnos Vale was developing its business model and community relationships, yet its local importance had not been recognised in AVCT's case-for-support communications, which still concentrated on the original campaign slogan "saved but not safe".

The cemetery is: heritage, architecture, history, education, nature conservation, local park, café, arts venue, working cemetery, wedding venue and activities for children and the community. The common thread was the people to whom the site had meaning. With Arnos Vale situated in a deprived ward, I put them at the centre of our funding applications, and case-for-support brochures, using more engaging language; emotive images and infographics to tell the story.

Case-for-support document
A double page spread from an application to a grantmaking gives quantitative visitor information, emphasised by the inforgraphic, lists achievements (funders often look favourably on organisations who are working to help themselves) and illustrates community engagement.

grantmaking trusts, funding application, case for support, charity communications, bristol

Special interest case-for-support document
The Cemetery safeguards a memorial to the 'father of modern India' Rajah Rammohun Roy. This case-for-support document was written to build awareness within the Indian community, and historians. Copies were sent to the Indian High Commissioner who after his visit to attend the annual commemoration ceremony. A donation of £3,500 was received from a prominent British-Indian businessman to whom the document was sent.

Raja Rammohun Roy, chattri, arnos vale,bristol, India, Brahmo Samaj