National Trust looks to the future

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has, by all accounts, had a tough year.

Yet the Trust’s General Manager, Frank Balderamos, believes there are more positives than negatives, especially looking forward.

The departure of a number of members of staff had complicated fundraising operations for the organisation. However, three of the four positions that were left vacant have been filled, with the fourth and final person taking up her position in early January.

Mr. Balderamos admits that the staff can make more money in the commercial world than they can at the Trust, and that the temptation is always there to take up a position elsewhere. However, he believes this has a beneficial effect as well.

‘In the commercial world, people are often there to take what they can while they’re there, while at the National Trust we’re lucky in that people are here to give as much as they can for as long as they can,’ he said.

Although filling the positions has not been quick or easy, Mr. Balderamos is positive that the Trust has managed to find people with the right skills to take the organisation forward.

The economy is a source of concern for organisations like the Trust that rely on donations from businesses and the public to supplement their coffers. The preceding economic boom may well have lulled not-for-profit organisations into a false sense of security, as money was much easier to come by. Mr. Balderamos sees the current climate as an opportunity for the Trust to change the way it does things.

‘The dangers are there for everyone to know, but it is the opportunities that are harder to spot,’ he said.

Yet even in the tough times, the Trust has found support.

‘Cayman is lucky in that we have a large number of organisations that take the view that corporations have to become involved in the community, whether that be through time or through money,’ Mr. Balderamos said.

‘We have been lucky that in the last few months, as word has gotten out about our challenges right now there have been companies that have stepped up and offered to help.’

The Trust has a great need for volunteers as well as financial assistance, according to Mr. Balderamos.

‘For those companies that don’t have the cash, you do have time, you have expertise, you have staff that have wonderful skills in something, and they can help out in the community,’ he said.

Part of the Trust’s funding comes from a government grant. With government finances having been in the news quite often lately, Mr. Balderamos was quick to point out that the Trust takes great care how it spends its budget.

‘I am fully confident that we have made efficient use of the funds that we get from government and I am fully confident that it is being used wisely,’ he said.

According to Mr. Balderamos, 2010 will see the Trust focussing on different aspects of its mission.

‘I think in 2010 you’re not going to see major projects coming out of the Trust. There are certain projects out there that, for much less money and much fewer man-hours, we can get done… [showing] the wider community that we are actually doing something,’ he said.

Although the Trust did a lot of work in 2009, the organisation’s general manager said that much of it took place behind the scenes, with the result that the public profile of the Trust may have slipped.

‘In 2010 we realise we have to complete and initiate programmes that the public can see,’ said Mr. Balderamos.

One of the more important missions that the Trust will be focussing on next year is to make people aware of the importance of the properties protected by the Trust.

‘We really have to find a way to tie the properties to people’s everyday lives,’ he said.

‘It’s not just about saving a tree – it is about how we connect that to people. What does that tree mean to people in Cayman?’

According to Mr. Balderamos, protecting the natural and cultural heritage is a big mission of the Trust, but if the public fails to understand the importance of protecting this heritage, the Trust has ultimately failed.

‘We understand that the property has a connection to people, but if we don’t go out and explain it, nobody else is going to get it,’ he said.