Trustees' report and accounts

The RSPB's finances, expenditure, accounts and trustees' reports.

RSPB accounts in context

The accounts are presented here in a format that gives the reader
an insight into the main numbers with some explanatory comments.

Raising money for charitable purposes:


  Income Expenditure 2019
Available for
Available for
  £m £m £m £m
Membership subscriptions & donations 52.1 (8.2) 43.9 40.6
Legacies 36.7 (0.9) 35.8 29.3
Grants, corporates and trusts 26.2 (3.3) 22.9 22.6
Trading 20.7 (19.7) 1.0 1.0
Land income and fees for services 6.3 (0.0) 6.3 7.1
Gain on disposal of fixed assets 0.6 (0.1) 0.5 0.5
Net Operating Income 142.6 (32.2) 110.4 101.1
Financial income and investment gains 2.0 0.0 2.0 0.9
Total net resources available for charitable activities 144.6 (32.2) 112.4 102.0


Overall income grew by 3% to £142.6 million. Legacy income grew by 20% to £36.7 million but this was partly offset by an 8% reduction in our trading income reflecting the impact of the new General Data Protection Regulations on our mail order operation.

Overall membership subscriptions and donations increased by 2% to £52.1 million. There has been a small increase in our adult membership retention rate to just over 88%. Despite this the number of members we had at the year-end was slightly down at 1,199,419. This fall was due to a reduction in the number of new members recruited with operational changes being currently implemented to increase the effectiveness of the membership recruitment operation.

Legacy income increased by £6.2 million to a record £36.7 million including one large bequest of £2.2 million. Whilst a crucial component of the financial support we receive, legacy income also gives a strong message from our supporters of the need to invest in conservation for the benefit of future generations.

Grants, corporates and trusts income fell by £0.5 million to £26.2 million. Grant income increased by £3.2 million with funding received for a range of new projects including the EU funded Conservation across Borders for Biodiversity which aims to bring about the recovery of protected habitats across Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. This increase in grant income was offset by a £3.6 million reduction in Gifts In Kind income with the prior year benefiting from a £3.5 million gift of land in the New Forest as part of a settlement agreement between the previous owners and HM Revenue and Customs.

Commercial trading income at £20.7 million was £1.8 million lower than last year. This includes a £1.3 million reduction in Mail order income with the new General Data Protection Regulations reducing the number of customers we are able to contact. Trade sales were £0.3 million lower as a result of general commercial pressures including the introduction by Sainsbury’s of their own brand of bird food. Retail and Catering sales were in line with last year and benefited from sales at the new award winning Sherwood Forest visitor centre.

Fees and grants for services income reduced by £0.8 million to £6.3 million. This was due to the completion of the Sherwood Forest visitor centre project and a consequent reduction in funding received from Nottinghamshire County Council.

Expenditure on charitable purposes

  2019 2018
  £m £m
Managing RSPB nature reserves (41.3) (38.2)
Research, policy and advisory (35.2) (36.6)
Education and inspiring support (18.2) (18.4)
Supporter care (4.9) (6.2)
Total expenditure (99.6) (99.4)
Surplus 12.8 2.6


We were able to maintain our expenditure on charitable activities at £99.6 million, together with a further £7.1 million of capital expenditure including land acquisition and investment in visitor infrastructure of £4.4 million.

The four categories of expenditure describe how we approach the delivery of conservation work and engagement. For more information on our activities, please see the Achievements, challenges and future plans section of our Trustees’ Report and Accounts, our Annual Review and our website:

We have over 200 nature reserves across the UK, home to over 16,500 species, of which more than 3,000 are rare, scarce or threatened. The amount spent on managing these nature reserves increased by £3.1 million to £41.3 million. This includes an additional £1.6 million of expenditure in respect of the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project in Essex and represents the final phase of the largest coastal wetland project in the UK. Also completed during the year was the award winning Sherwood Forest visitor centre with expenditure in the year of £2.3 million.

Research, policy and advisory expenditure at £35.2 million was £1.4 million lower reflecting work underway to re-focus our resources where we can make the greatest impact. We work in the four countries of the UK, in the UK Overseas Territories and in the Crown Dependencies. Internationally we focus on the East Atlantic Flyway and the game-changing species and landscape scale projects where we can make a substantive difference. In this regard, preparations continue for the non-native mouse eradication project on Gough Island in the South Atlantic with a further £0.7 million of expenditure in the year.

The activities we undertake to educate and inspire support significantly increase the scale of our conservation impact. Whatever category our supporters fall into – members, volunteers, politicians, grant funders, trusts, partners and so on – we need to encourage their continued support. Consequently, we have maintained expenditure in this area at £18.2 million as we continue to develop and focus our digital communications capability as well as offering a wide range of supporter engagement activities.

Supporter care expenditure reduced by £1.3 million to £4.9 million following the completion of the successful membership opt-in campaign undertaken in 2017/18 to ensure that members have control over how we contact them.

Assets and liabilities

In addition to generating income and spending it on important conservation work, we are also responsible for these assets and liabilities.

  2019 2018
  £m £m
Nature reserves – land and buildings 204.8 202.7
Equipment 4.8 4.3
Total 209.6 207.0
Pension liability (64.4) (73.6)
Cash and investments 29.9 25.2
Stock, debtors and creditors 20.0 15.4
Total representing Available financial reserves 49.9 40.6
Total 195.1 174

The deficit in respect of the defined benefit pension scheme that closed to future accual in 2017 decreased by £9.2 million to £64.4 million due mainly to strong investment returns. This decrease has helped increase our available financial reserves to £49.9 million. The deficit recovery payments in respect of this liability are determined by triennial valuations undertaken by the pension trustees.

Amount held for future purposes

'Available financial reserves' are held for the following purposes.

  2019 2018
  £m £m
Available financial reserves 49.9 40.6
Held for specific purposes -13.6 -11.8
Free financial reserves 36.3 28.8
Representing future expenditure cover of 18 weeks 14 weeks

We are committed to putting income and financial reserves to work as soon as possible. “Free financial reserves” are held at a modest level to maximise the funds available for immediate conservation needs.

Free financial reserves at 31st March 2019 were £36.3 million representing 18 weeks’ future expenditure. Our financial projections over the next three years anticipate that Free financial reserves will return to the required Council range of 8–16 weeks.

Grants awarded

Research, policy and advisory includes grant payments amounting to £6,555,574. Grants were awarded to 139 (2018: 191) organisations; no grants were made to individuals.