The beginning of the year saw WCT in robust financial condition following the portfolio returns of 2018/19 which both grew the fund and allowed for a healthy donations budget.
In the second quarter, the board considered an application for a significant commitment to UKSA over two years, with possible further support in year 3, to partially fund a major redevelopment programme for accommodation and facilities that would modernise the campus and position the academy at the forefront of the maritime training sector. The trustees felt strongly that its response to this application and any resulting donation should not have any detrimental impact on our usual grant making activities. Having established we had adequate reserves to accommodate the application and our regular donations budget, the proposal was approved in January 2020. In the year, WCT made grants and charitable commitments of 378,164 which is the highest ever.
The onset of the Covid 19 pandemic and the attendant economic uncertainty led the board to suspend our normal charitable process for the short term to protect our endowment which fell by some 15% in a matter of days. It would also have been impossible for applicants to confidently propose initiatives given the unknown scale of lockdown measures imposed by the government and therefore our application criteria could not be reliably satisfied. However, we recognised that some charities, especially smaller ones, would experience immediate financial hardship that could threaten their very existence, so we quickly set up an emergency fund based on the outstanding budget balance for the year with an abridged application process to get funds in place quickly where needed. In the event, no such applications were made. Some organisations who had received grants from us to support programmes, now cancelled owing to the lockdown, requested and were granted permission to repurpose restricted funds to help their organisations get through the emergency. We resumed normal business with the easing of lockdown, combined with a partial recovery of our investment funds and have since considered and awarded several grants.
Before cessation of applications, the Survey Monkey application system instigated last year has been a great success for both applicants and the reviewing trustees. On behalf of the board, I thank the tireless donations secretariat of Alison Chipperfield and Dave Febry for this valuable work. Our gratitude, as always, to our diligent accountant, Chris Wilde.
It is usual to offer words of praise and support for those many individuals who selflessly operate the charities we help. We are mindful of the difficulty they have faced this year and the fog still ahead that may bring further hardship. We commend their fortitude, commitment and innovation and fervently hope they all get through the months ahead. The main detriment has been to those many deserving beneficiaries who have had life enhancing experiences suspended for the time being and it is to be hoped that the effect on their health and wellbeing is minimal. The Whirlwind Charitable Trust remains committed to helping wherever possible and looks forward to better times ahead.