Hundreds of members of the National Trust for Scotland have responded to a personal plea from managers to help shore up the 80-year-old organisation’s finances.
They were asked to consider contributing at least £15 to help meet the cost of looking after properties such as Culzean, Brodick and Crathes castles.
Trust chiefs have revealed that the appeal has become the fastest-grossing in its history, with more than 3,000 donors coming forward, nine of whom gave more than £1,000.
Chief executive Kate Mavor, who had written personally to the trust’s members, hailed the “fantastic” response to the appeal, which generated an average donation of £35.
The long-running body, which has had well-publicised cash problems in recent years, had painted a picture of a “nightmare scenario” for its castles, country houses and palaces unless it received additional help to meet the “eye-watering costs” of keeping them up to scratch.
Members were told that some sites faced crumbling away or being turned into graffiti-ridden “hulks”.
Ms Mavor said: “This is a fantastic response and shows just how passionate Scottish people are about their heritage.
“We’re really grateful that in these tough times our supporters felt moved to make a donation. Thanks to their generosity, we will be able to carry on with the vital conservation work that takes place at every one of our properties day in, day out.”
The charity issued the rallying call for support in November, saying it was unable to meet the full costs of the “sheer scale of its responsibilities”.
The campaign was launched just months after the trust declared that it was to become more commercially minded and wanted to shed its traditional image as a charity.
Part of a new long-term strategy involves trying to get other heritage organisations and bodies to share responsibility for historic attractions currently under NTS’s control.
Although its main focus is on 130 flagship sites, NTS is also responsible for 200,000 acres of countryside, 46 of Scotland’s Munros, seven nature reserves, 248 miles of coastline and 16 remote islands, including Canna and St Kilda.
The trust has just over 300,000 members who already pay up to £47 a year. The trust said the money raised would go into “maintaining, conserving and restoring” its sites.
Henk Berits, NTS’s director of marketing, said: “Caring for Scotland’s heritage is an expensive business, and the bills just keep getting bigger and bigger. Every penny of this appeal will go into conserving and promoting our heritage for the benefit of the nation.”
The Scotsman revealed in August that NTS was planning a series of high-profile campaigns to put the organisation on a sound footing over the next few years.
Tens of millions of pounds more will be needed to pay for “signature projects” at some of its most popular sites, as part of a strategy to overhaul the charity in its 80th year. It is hoped these will emulate the success of the multi-million-pound new attractions at the birthplace of Robert Burns in Ayrshire and Culloden battlefield in the Highlands.