Staffordshire Archive Service

Working with the Friends of Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service (FoSSA)


This case study outlines the importance of a close working relationship between the archive service and the friends group in supporting fundraising.

Whilst this relationship is beneficial for supporting volunteering and advocacy for the archive service, this case study focuses on how this relationship enables the friends group to maintain its membership income and to target their grants effectively.


The Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service is administered under a Joint Agreement for Archive Services and is jointly funded by Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council. It manages record offices in Stafford, Stoke and Lichfield.

The Friends of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service is a registered charity. The aims of the charity are: ‘to advance the education of the public by the promotion, support, assistance and improvement of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service through a programme of visits, fund-raising, assistance with the purchase of collections and equipment by the service, and improving the accessibility of collections’.

It was founded in 2003 and it currently has around 100 members.

Member benefits include a twice-yearly newsletter, opportunities to volunteer within the archive service, invitations and reduced rates to events and visits organised by FoSSA, priority booking for events organised by the archive service, and discounts on publications sold in the record offices.

Membership fees are currently (2013) fixed at:

  • ordinary membership – £8.00 p.a.
  • joint membership (two persons at the same address) – £12.00 p.a.
  • corporate/society membership – £15.00 p.a.
  • life membership – £100.00

FoSSA has a committee of 11 trustees, including a Chair, Vice-Chair, Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer. The Head of the Archive Service is an ex-officio member.

In the Year Ending 30 Sep 2011 (most recent published info) FoSSA earned just over £3,000 and expenditure was £2,300.

Budget and funding sources

The most recently published income figure was slightly higher than the average over the last 5 years (£2,800) and slightly lower in terms of expenditure (£2,600). In general terms FoSSA donates around £1,000 a year to the archive service to fund microfilming, as well as using a separate document purchase fund to enable them to help the archive service with occasional acquisitions.

FoSSA’s main source of income comes from its membership fees. These rates were fixed by comparing membership fees for other local societies and friends groups. Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service also has a relationship with the Friends of William Salt Library which has the same membership fees. Members who pay income tax are also encouraged to complete a Gift Aid Declaration form which means FoSSA currently gains an additional £1.60 for every ordinary membership fee.

Challenges and opportunities

Fundraising is at the heart of of FoSSA. The County Archivist helped to set up FoSSA as part of a major fundraising campaign to enable the archive service to purchase and make accessible the Sutherland Collection.  By 2006 this campaign successfully had raised over £2 million, with the archive service receiving a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, alongside financial support from a range of trusts and local organisations.  FoSSA’s key role was to encourage individual giving to the campaign, raising approximately 1.4% of the total project costs – almost £28,000.

The challenge for FoSSA was to capitalise on the success of its initial fundraising campaign in maintaining both the group and its support for the archive service. As with all Friends groups, the working relationship with the archive service needs to be mutually beneficial. The group was initially developed with the support of staffing resources from the archive service, as part of the wider Sutherland fundraising campaign. However, the archive service does not have the resources to provide on-going administrative support for the Friends group. In addition the archive service is conscious that it should not take on a management role in relation to FoSSA, but rather should be seeking a balanced working partnership.

Responding to the challenges and opportunities

The archive service feels that is has been successful in creating a good working relationship with FoSSA. There has been a continuity of membership amongst the Friends, with many founder members still part of the group, and by having the Head of the Archive Service as an ex-officio member of the FoSSA committee there are on-going opportunities to share information between FoSSA and the archive service.

FoSSA has made efforts to both retain and attract new members. It has recognised that many potential Friends might also be members of other local groups or historical societies so all member benefits have a strong archival focus, for example visits to private country houses will include the opportunity to look at archival material, not simply the interiors. An upcoming event is typical of this, being advertised to members as an opportunity to ‘see the restored 16th century building known as the Wrinehill Medicine House and there will be a short talk on the apothecary’s records.’

Other events have been used to generate additional income by attracting more well-known speakers, e.g. Jenny Uglow. These events are also open to non-members for a higher fee and are used as opportunities to encourage those non-members to join. In addition the Archive Service supports the membership offer through priority event booking and discounted publications. It seeks to encourage new members by providing a display area to FoSSA in the record office, as well as offering FoSSA opportunities to promote the group at other events, such as having a stand at Staffordshire History Day.

What were the outcomes?

As FoSSA reaches its tenth anniversary it has around 100 members and has continued to play an active and effective role in supporting the work of the archive service across its record offices. Over time FoSSA has also developed an additional advocacy role for the service and is a key stakeholder in archive service consultations.

FoSSA’s support in funding microfilming has enabled the archive service to continue its preservation surrogacy programme, which can no longer be funded from core budgets. Recent purchases supported by FoSSA include records of a solicitors firm (Challinor and Shaw) supplementing archives already held by the archive service and the Friends have also provided funding to improve reader visits, through purchase of camera stands and document cushions.

What went well? What didn’t go quite as well?

The role of the Chair of the Friends’ Group is critical. The Chair needs the time to commit to the post, a good understanding of the aims of the archive service and have a good working relationship with the Head of the Archive Service.

All members of the FoSSA committee are also users of the archive service. This helps to give them an understanding of the needs of the service. The archive service proposes areas that need funding and although these are fully discussed, FoSSA allows the archivists to take a lead in identifying funding priorities. For its part the archive service does not dictate to FoSSA what its fundraising techniques should be, leaving this to the members to decide. This leads to a good supportive balance in the partnership.

How will this work be developed in the future?

To increase income, more could be done to capitalise on wider initiatives such as Local History Month as part of a membership drive. Following a recent bequest, FoSSA might also look at developing a legacy-giving programme.

One possible development in how the archive service benefits from FoSSA’s fundraising will be to look again at how FoSSA’s grants might be used more effectively as match-funding for bids to other funding sources, and support larger scale work, such as was done with the Sutherland Collection campaign.

Find out more about Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service.

This case study complements The National Archives’ guidance note ‘Using Friends Groups to support fundraising’.