RSPB beats recession to raise a record 28m pounds

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THE ROYAL Society for the Protection of Birds has forecast that its income will soon be bigger than that of the Government's official conservation watchdog, English Nature.

The RSPB has defied both recession and compassion fatigue to increase its income by 26 per cent. The society's annual report, to be published later this month, will show that its income last year was pounds 27.8m, an increase of pounds 5.7m on the previous year. English Nature gets pounds 36.6m.

David Gordon, the RSPB's marketing director, said: 'We're planning to continue growing very fast, and unfortunately I fear the Government is not planning to increase English Nature's funding very fast.' Although membership has remained static at 850,000, the report shows increases in every income category.

Legacies, for instance, provided pounds 7.15m, a quarter of the total. Mr Gordon said larger legacies were often in the form of property but some houses had been unsellable. 'Even though the legacy figure is up pounds 1.7m, it would have been up even more if it had not been for the state of the housing market.'

He dismissed compassion fatigue as a cliche. 'The RSPB's record income in a recession has to have something to do with the fact that people care passionately about the threats to birds and the natural world,' he said.

'The feedback we get from our members is that if something is not done then we are heading for something pretty horrible.'

Mark Latimer, a senior researcher at the Directory of Social Change, said: 'The RSPB has done remarkably well . . . A survey two months ago showed that giving by the public was static.'