The Donkey Sanctuary’s Trustees' Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2016 have been prepared in accordance with Accounting and Reporting by Charities: Statement of Recommended Practice 2005. The following provides the charity's financial position for 2016.

In 2016 The Donkey Sanctuary’s financial performance was very positive, with consolidated total income reaching £38.3m (2015: £35.1m), an increase of 9%. We increased total expenditure, including capital, to £38.8m (2015: £33.3m), an increase of 17%, and ended the year with free reserves coverage of 14 months of 2017’s planned expenditure. This represents a sound financial footing for the charity as we look to develop a new five year strategic plan, and look to expand our international work and increase our global impact.


The Donkey Sanctuary continues to be reliant on the kind generosity of its supporters and the voluntary income they donate to help our work. In 2016 our voluntary income from donations and legacies grew by 10% compared to the previous year, and we are extremely thankful to everyone who continues to support us. In the year, our donation income grew by £0.6m (6%). During the early part of the year we completed are Get Better hospital campaign, which helped to raise much-needed funds towards our new facilities to treat more sick donkeys more efficiently. During 2016 we responded to the outcomes of the new Fundraising Regulator, and began planning for the new General Data Protection Regulations which are due to come into force in 2018. The charity is embracing the new regulations as an opportunity to further enhance our relationship with our much valued supporters. In 2016, we maintained the momentum of our adoption scheme, as well as continuing our strategies to promote regular giving. We worked hard to not only introduce new supporters to the charity but also to ensure we maintain our engagement with existing supporters through fundraising and communication activities aimed to inspire support and increase awareness of the impact of our work across the world.

Legacies continue to be an important source of income for us and we are extremely grateful to all who have remembered us in their will. In 2016, legacy income grew to £24.8m (2015: 22.5m) an increase of 10%. A significant proportion of this increase occurred towards the end of the year, helping to contribute towards the surplus for the year, and we will be utilizing these funds in reaching our objectives for 2017. This figure includes income generated from all group entities including The Elizabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys and The International Donkey Protection Trust.

Income generated from other trading activities increased to £2.5m in 2016 (2015: £2.3m). As we continue to attract higher numbers of supporters to our Sanctuaries and centres across the UK and Europe, the resulting increase in visitor numbers helped to grow the income from our trading and fundraising activities, including our restaurant and catering facilities and the sale of souvenirs from our visitor centres. During the year we introduced some new products to our mail order and retail offerings and we opened our second charity shop, which will provide another great opportunity for us to engage with new audiences to promote our work. All profits from our trading activities are donated back to the charity to further our objectives.


Total expenditure for the year, including investment in capital projects, grew to £38.8m (2015: £33.3m).

In 2016 operational expenditure on our charitable activities increased by 11% to £26.7m (2015: £24.0m), with growth across many areas of activity.

During the year our rescue and rehoming strategies to ensure the donkeys in our care benefit from an environment rich with variety, progressed very well. Donkeys are intelligent, curious and resourceful animals and we aim to ensure their surroundings, and the level of interaction they receive with humans is as fulfilling as possible; whether as part of the resident herds in our sanctuaries and assisted therapy centres or as directly rehomed animals in private homes, schools and other institutions.

  • We allocated resources to promote our rehoming scheme and the identification of donkey guardians who can offer caring homes for two or more of our donkeys.  Our investment in 2016 helped to increase the number of donkeys in private homes, schools and other institutions and worked towards our objective of increasing the number of rehomed donkeys to 3000.
  • We also provided support to owners through behavior and husbandry training, providing expert advice, and helping people find new homes for their donkeys when they could no longer care for them.
  • The number of donkeys in our sanctuaries and assisted therapies centres increased to 6,921 by the end of the year, with a resulting increase in our sanctuaries expenditure in 2016.  It has been heartening to see the rate at which donkeys are relinquished into our care reducing over the last 12 months and we are actively reducing the number of donkeys in short-term livery and other holding bases as we develop our rehoming scheme.

Our activities involving donkeys in the community include many aspects of our international projects and during the year our expenditure increased by 17% to £4.1m. During 2016, we extended the scope of our collaboration activities with other like-minded organisations, moving towards a more integrated and sustainable approach where we engage with communities that depend on donkeys and help them build their own infrastructures. Activities in 2016 included expansion of projects in Tanzania, Sri Lanka and Egypt and meant that we were able to reach approximately 1.6m donkeys and mules worldwide.

In 2016 we saw a small increase in expenditure on human-donkey interactions, reflecting a period of transition as we reviewed our approach to activities across our assisted therapy centres and outreach programmes. Our new strategy will see our children and adults with additional needs, learning through experiencing and discovering things about the donkeys through hand-on interaction. This will provide more opportunity for a connection between donkey and child on an emotional as well as a physical level.

Against a backdrop of increasing fundraising and data protection regulation, it is encouraging to report the continuing success of our fundraising strategies. It is testimony to our supporters’ commitment to The Donkey Sanctuary and their understanding of our work and values, as well as the skill and commitment of our fundraising teams, that we have seen growth in a number of areas of income in 2016. The trustees recognise that, in order to continue the future success of the charity, there is a need to continue to invest in both new fundraising activity as well as keeping in touch with our existing supporters. This is reflected in the increase in expenditure on raising funds (including trading costs) to £7.2m in 2016, excluding capital (2016: £7.0m) The proportion of our expenditure attributed to raising donations, legacies and other fundraising income remains low at 16.8p (2015: 18.1p) for every £1 of total expenditure.

By closely monitoring our fundraising campaigns we are well placed to direct our resources into our most successful fundraising activities, and we are pleased to report that progress during the year accorded with trustees’ expectations. The trustees have recognised the risks associated with the changing landscape of fundraising and data protection regulation and the potential for reduced levels of income in 2017 and beyond. Through our well-established and robust financial and other internal measures, the trustees, executives and senior managers are able to closely monitor the charity’s fundraising activities so as to mitigate this risk and take suitable action as required.


The trustees operate a reserves policy which they consider appropriate to ensure, barring unforeseen circumstances, the continued ability of The Donkey Sanctuary to meet its objectives. The trustees are increasingly aware of the potential volatility of income levels and the significant proportion of our total income from legacies. As far as it is possible, we aim to maintain reserves to cover at least one year’s expenditure.

In terms of our total assets, £29.9m relates to fixed assets, most of which is land and buildings to care for donkeys across our sanctuaries. £2.9m relates to funds earmarked by their donors for specific purposes, leaving a general fund of £43.4m, which is equivalent to 14 months’ projected expenditure for 2017 - this is slightly above our goal and is due to some delayed capital expenditure. Our aim is to maintain a reserve sufficient to provide sanctuary and support for 6,921 animals across resident herds in our sanctuaries, centres and through our Rehoming Scheme. The reserve also enables the trustees, executives and senior managers to effectively manage the many risks and uncertainties that the charity may face such as the potential reduction of future income referred to above.

It is important to note the impact of the very welcome increase to our 2016 legacy income, being concentrated in the last two months of the year, as well as the exceptional unrealised gain on our listed investments, with both of these events contributing to the surplus for the year. This net income will contribute towards our expansion plans within our strategic plan for 2017 and beyond. This includes the relocation of our veterinary hospital, visitor facilities and restaurant, which is due for completion together with other committed capital projects in 2017.

Construction of the new facilities commenced towards the end of 2015. Our new veterinary hospital will provide much-needed new facilities and equipment to further improve our veterinary care for donkeys and mules in the future, enabling round-the-clock care, state of the art facilities to reflect advances in veterinary medicine and technology, and enough space to treat larger donkeys like our Poitous.

Relocating the hospital to a new site will have a big impact on our Sanctuary in Sidmouth and we plan to use this opportunity to improve the visitor experience. As well as introducing more donkeys to the heart of the sanctuary, we will be introducing an interpretation centre to show supporters and visitors what we do around the world, and we’ll also have a better gift shop and restaurant from which proceeds support our work across the world.