Find out how Norfolk Hospice Tapping House collaborated with local commercial tulip farmers to generate over £100,000 of income in the past two years.
About this innovation example
In early 2020 the fundraising team at The Norfolk Hospice Tapping House were approached by PS and JE Ward, a local commercial tulip farmer, about a potential fundraising event.
PS and JE Ward cultivate the only outdoor tulip fields in the UK. In order to be commercially sold, tulips have to go through a bulb-strengthening process where they must bloom twice – once outdoors and once in a greenhouse. This means there is a period of time each year when the tulip fields are in full bloom, but the flowers themselves won’t be harvested for sale.
The farmer believed people would pay to visit the colourful fields. With development from the fundraising team, this idea evolved into the ‘Tulips for Tapping’ event.
The initial event in 2021 attracted 5630 visitors and raised £21,525 for the hospice, despite ticket sales being restricted due to social distancing rules.
Following this success and armed with knowledge from the first event, the team were able to expand ‘Tulips for Tapping’ the following year. They welcomed more visitors, partnered with more local businesses, and gained corporate sponsorship. The team were even able to sell licenses to photographers so that they could reserve a section of the field for use with clients.
Overall the team welcomed approximately 10,000 people to the second event and raised £93,392 over the 10 days that the fields were open.
‘Tulips for Tapping’ has now become an annual event for the Norfolk Hospice.
In 2022, The Norfolk Hospice was awarded with the Innovation in Income Generation Award at the Hospice UK National Conference for their work on the ‘Tulips for Tapping’ event.
Facilitators, challenges and advice
Local businesses were keen to provide facilities in exchange for having a presence at the event. They also advertised the event in the local area, which drove up ticket sales.
PS and JE Ward advertised the event via their own social media channels, even creating video content specifically to market the event. This was especially helpful as the company has quite a large social media following.
COVID-19 posed a problem for ‘Tulips for Tapping’. Planning for the first event got underway in early 2020, but was stopped in its tracks by the pandemic, leading it to be delayed until spring 2021. Some COVID restrictions were still in place which meant the hospice had to ticket the event. This was actually helpful - the number of ticket sales indicated that the event was going to be more popular than expected, allowing the team to adjust the number of volunteers and facilities they provided. Without the social distancing rules, the hospice might not have thought to sell tickets.
The ticketing service that was used during the first event took a large chunk of the ticket money as commission. This left the hospice team with less profit than expected. The team is now using an alternative software for ticket sales.
An event like this is unique, as the whole thing is reliant on plant growth cycles. Flower growth is not an exact science, so the farmers don’t know exactly when their tulips will bloom. This means the hospice doesn’t know when the event will be held until about 10 days beforehand, in which time they need to book trade stands, arrange volunteers and sell tickets.
To navigate this, the team creates anticipation about the ticket release by marketing the event on social media and in local press. This buzz around the event means tickets are bought up quickly once released. The team keeps volunteers and potential trade stands informed about the window of time when the event is likely to happen, so they have an idea of times they should keep free.
Crops need to be rotated regularly, so the event must be held in a different field each year. To avoid any confusion around this the fundraising team make sure each new location is clearly advertised to attendees. The team also has to arrange new facilities each year, such as a nearby car park for visitors and easily accessible toilets.
Tips and advice
Pace yourself – hosting a smaller event at first allows you to get a feel for what you and your team can handle.
Make sure you have a way to keep track of how many people are coming via ticket sales or mandatory registration. Research your ticketing service to make sure it has the functionality you require (e.g. capacity for additional ticket release) and that you are not unnecessarily losing money to commission.
Consider cultural holidays when planning your event – this may affect visitor numbers. For example, during 2022 Eid fell during the event, which led to a vast increase in visitors on that particular day.
Make an FAQ page on your website to avoid being overloaded with enquiries by email or phone.
The Norfolk Hospice is already hard at work planning for the next ‘Tulips for Tapping’ event, which they plan to make even bigger and better! They plan to welcome even more visitors and are exploring other ways to generate income from the tulips, such as hosting photography courses in the fields.
Examples of innovation
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