Wallace Monument – the historical face of Crowd Funding

194525.5439515457e89-2Crowd funding, the new way of raising funds, perhaps has historical roots with the Wallace Monument built by communal giving dating back to 1861!

The initiative to secure funding from individuals has resulted in some well-known brands, including Brew Dog, raising funds for new products and expansions and has gained a lot of media attention in recent years. Last week (8th June) tennis champion, Andy Murray has even recently invested in crowd funding firm, Seedrs.

Similarly, the National Wallace Monument, built in 1861, became a reality because of an initiative that, similar to crowd funding, connected audiences to funding the building of the Monument – no government money was secured.

With the 154th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone approaching (24th June), the National Wallace Monument is looking back on how it all started with their very own “crowd funding” in 1861.

Designed by Edinburgh-born Glasgow architect J. T. Rochead, the commemorative monument for William Wallace was built between 1861 and 1869 and funded by Scots all over the world.

The National Wallace Monument was funded and built by contributions from people from all walks of life and all over the world, including large donations from wealthy individuals. These contributions were made from, what was known as, ‘subscribers’.

An appeals office was set up in Glasgow and after a slow start; a great deal of money was donated. Due to the nature of the monument, timing was not an issue, so the construction could be continued as the money was raised. This meant fundraising efforts could be focused to reach all segments of the community far and wide.

Well-known political reformer and influential Glasgow proponent John McAdam persuaded Kossuth, the Hungarian nationalist Garibaldi and Mazzini of Italy, and the socialist reformers Karl Blind and Louis Blanc, who were all household names in Scotland, to ‘subscribe’ to the monument by writing letters which would be displayed to encourage others to subscribe. While they did not donate any money themselves, McAdams did on their behalf, their letters were influential in attracting funds from subscribers.

The letters were written in March-May 1868, framed in the Wallace oak and later exhibited in the Wallace Monument. They included pleas to potential subscribers and showed the men’s support of William Wallace and Scotland.

In his letter Garibaldi, famed for uniting warring Italian provinces, wrote “William Wallace, Scotland’s noblest hero, sheds as bright a glory on his valourous nation, as ever was shed upon their country by the greatest men of Greece and Rome”.

In another letter, from the French socialist Louis Blanc, he stated, “Death makes no conquest of this conqueror, for he now lives in Fame, though not in life.”

Unlike crowd funding campaigns, subscribers were offered little reward apart from being part of a movement that reflected their passion for Wallace. Prominent subscribers’ names were published in The Scotsman Newspaper.

The building of the National Wallace Monument in Stirling was the ultimate master-class in fundraising, from using influencers to encourage donations to ‘special appeals’ suited to different society groups.

Celebrate Scottish heritage and visit the National Wallace Monument on 24th June. There will be presentations of ‘Scotland’s National Hero’ by costumed actors; the first performance will be at 11.15am, and the final one at 4.00pm.

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