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 Cost 2018
Available for
Available for
  £m £m £m £m
Membership subscriptions & donations 51.2 (10.6) 40.6 40.9
Legacies 30.4 (1.1) 29.3 33.7
Grants, corporates and trusts 26.7 (4.1) 22.6 16.6
Trading 22.4 (21.4) 1.0 2.6
Land income and fees for services 7.1 (0.0) 7.1 4.1
Gain on disposal of fixed assets 0.5 (0.0) 0.5 0.1
Net Operating Income 138.3 (37.2) 101.1 98.0
Financial income and investment gains 1.0 (0.1) 0.9 6.5
Total net resources available for charitable activities 139.3 (37.3) 102.0 104.5


Net Operating Income grew by £3.1 million to £101.1 million. Total net resources available for charitable activities fell by £2.5 million with the prior year benefiting from an exceptional stock market performance which boosted the value of our investments by £3.0 million and a one-off sale of a long-held investment property for £3.0 million.

  • Membership subscription and donation income was steady at £51.2 million. The support of our members is key to the successful delivery of our charitable work and the way in which we communicate with our members is an essential part of that relationship. In May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation was introduced and we committed to a programme of communication with our members and supporters to encourage them to “opt-in” to continue to receive communications from us. The campaign was well-received, with 91% of respondents choosing to opt-in.
  • Legacy income fell by £4.3 million to £30.4 million. Given the nature of legacy income to fluctuate year-on-year, some reduction was to be anticipated following a record year in 2017. However, looking forward, underlying legacy income remains very strong, with the value of legacies notified to us but neither received or included in this year’s income increasing to £24.0 million from £17.8 million at the end of last financial year.
  • Grants, corporates and trust income grew by £5.9 million. This includes a gift of land in the New Forest with a value of £3.5 million. The balance of the increase reflects the funding profile of large multi-year grants which can fluctuate from year to year.
  • Trading income was £0.5 million lower, due to the closure of the Loch Lomond retail operation and the ending of our birdcare supply contract with Sainsbury’s. This was partly offset by the strong performances of both Mail Order, with sales up £0.5 million, and catering at Arne, South Stack and St Aidan’s, also with sales up £0.1 million. The cost of income generation increased by £1.1 million due to a combination of higher operating costs and investment in a new e-commerce platform to support the development of our mail order operation.
  • Land income and fees for services increased by £3.0 million, including funding from Nottinghamshire County Council of £2.0 million in respect of the new Sherwood Forest visitor centre.


Expenditure on charitable purposes

  2018 2017
  £m £m
Managing RSPB nature reserves (38.2) (36.5)
Research, policy and advisory (36.6) (36.7)
Education and inspiring support (18.4) (21.3)
Supporter care (6.2) (4.4)
Total expenditure (99.4) (98.9)
Surplus 2.6 5.6


The Surplus arises after charging depreciation of £4.0 million but excludes the acquisition cost of nature reserves, visitor facilities and other assets of £10.7 million. Treating the cost of these assets as an operating expense would result in a deficit of £4.1 million, rather than a surplus of £2.6 million, and some of our financial reserves have been utilised to fund this deficit. Whilst free financial reserves are lower as a result of the deficit, they remain well within the acceptable range set by RSPB Council and the appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that such reserves remain within this range.

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:

  • Our management plans protect and enhance habitats and protect species across all our nature reserves. The £1.7 million increase in nature reserve expenditure reflects the investment being made in the new Sherwood Forest visitor centre.
  • Our world-class conservation work is rooted in sound science and evidence. We lead partnerships and encourage policy-makers to take the right decisions for nature – to have impact at scale at home and overseas.
  • We inspire and enable everyone to do their bit – especially our members and supporters – because the challenge is too big to overcome alone. Expenditure in this area was £2.9 million lower reflecting a scaling back of our investment in brand raising awareness to allow for increased investment in the membership Opt-In campaign.
  • We look after our million-plus members and other supporters, keeping their personal details secure and up to date and informing them about our work. The Opt-in campaign undertaken to ensure that members have control over how we contact them was the main driver behind the £1.8 million increase in Supporter Care expenditure.
Conservation Science: Research Biologist Mark Eaton analysing data from the Big Garden Birdwatch

Assets and liabilities

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

  2018 2017
  £m £m
Nature reserves – land and buildings 202.7 196.3
Equipment 4.3 4.1
Total 207.0 200.4
Pension liability (73.6) (90.3)
Cash and investments 25.2 35.8
Stock, debtors and creditors 15.4 11.2
Total representing Available financial reserves 40.6 47.0
Total 174.0 157.1


  • Protecting land by acquiring it is one of the best ways of protecting the long-term security of habitats for nature. During the year we added 832 hectares to the land under our protection via £4.0 million of land acquisitions and a generous gift of land and buildings at Franchises Lodge worth £3.5 million. We now manage 218 nature reserves covering an area of 158,283 hectares.
  • The Pension liability relating to the defined benefit pension scheme that was closed in March 2017 continues to fluctuate – at year-end, the liability had fallen from £90.3 million in 2017 to £73.6 million in 2018. This reduction was driven by a small increase in interest rates and a reduction in inflation which reduced the value of the pension scheme liabilities and also included £5.0 million of deficit payments. The RSPB Trustees have agreed a long-term deficit recovery plan with the Pension Trustees which minimises the impact on our conservation work. The Pension scheme operates a Liability Driven Investment strategy to match returns from assets to the underlying pension liabilities. This is underpinned by an agreement with the Pension Trustees that in the unlikely event of the RSPB being unable to meet its obligations to the scheme, specified land with a value of £57.0 million would pass to the Pension Fund.

Amount held for future purposes

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

  2018 2017
  £m £m
Available financial reserves 40.6 47.0
Held for specific purposes (11.8) (13.8)
Free financial reserves 28.8 33.2
Representing future expenditure cover of 14 weeks 16 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.
  • Our financial projections anticipate that we will maintain “free financial reserves” at a level representing future expenditure cover of between 8 and 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.