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RHASS’ £2m fundraising campaign to secure future gathers pace

By David Porter

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Six months since the cancellation of the 2020 Royal Highland Show and the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland’s (RHASS) £2 million fundraising appeal is gathering momentum.

Over £70,000 has been raised in just four weeks since the appeal’s launch, with RHASS’ members donating generously to secure the future of the Society, and that of the Royal Highland Show (RHS).

Royal Highland Show
Royal Highland Show

This is the first stage of an ongoing fundraising campaign which will include appeal mailings to RHASSS members followed by a digital campaign targeting past show visitors.

The Society’s future, and that of the RHS, was called into question following the substantial loss of income due to mass cancellation of events as a result of the pandemic.

This follows years of investment in showground infrastructure, including a new multi-million pound members’ area.

A root and branch review of income and expenditure was instructed by RHASS Directors with across-the-board cutbacks implemented, including senior management salary cuts and a significant number of redundancies, mainly across the Society’s events team.

Taking advantage of Government support, RHASS took part in the furlough scheme and were successful in securing a Scottish Government Resilience Grant.

Furthermore, in an unprecedented step for the Society, RHASS directors approved a £2 million fundraising campaign in a bid to raise additional income streams.

Commenting on the campaign, RHASS chief executive, Alan Laidlaw said: “It is the right thing to do: we have a responsibility as a charitable organisation with thousands of supporters and stakeholders, to do all in our power to make sure both Show and Society survive and that we increase our charitable impact for the next generation and for Scotland’s rural industries.”

With funding being generated by the appeal, RHASS is now beginning to prepare for next year’s Royal Highland show, albeit against a backdrop of reduced visitor capacity and increased costs due to additional social distancing measures.

Alan added: “We are committed to hosting the 2021 Royal Highland Show in whatever capacity we are able to do so, however, we also want to be able to celebrate the 200th Show in 2022.

"It is likely that the income generated next year by the Show, upon which the Society relies, will not reach the level of a normal year.

"This campaign therefore is about more than 2021, it’s about securing RHASS’ future and the next 200 years of shows.”

RHASS Chairman, Bill Gray, concluded: “We have been heartened by the response to the campaign, but it is early days yet and there is a long road ahead of us.

"RHASS Directors thought long and hard before embarking on this appeal, however we are convinced it is the right thing to do.

"This appeal will not be a one-off.

"As a charity, like any others want to give those who care about rural Scotland, ongoing opportunities to support us through regular giving if they wish.

"In doing so they help the Society to promote innovation, to support rural mental health and the next generation, and ultimately to grow RHASS’ charitable activity.“

RHASS’ charitable activities began in 1784 with the founding aim to support and promote Scottish agriculture and rural communities.

The goal is that the money raised in the fundraising appeal will allow the Society to continue to provide financial assistance to RHET, enabling it to maintain its support for Scotland’s primary schools through the curriculum and teacher training, and to launch new virtual activities while farm visits remain off limits.

For RSABI, it means the charity can continue to run its outreach services, funded by RHASS, for those experiencing isolation or financial difficulties.

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