A new vision for Seafarers UK grant-making

March 14, 2018

During 2017 Trustees of Seafarers UK carried out a Strategic Review of the organisation’s operations, priorities and future aims. The objective was to ensure that the charity is effective and fit for purpose as it heads into its new century, and that it will continue to maximise the impact it achieves for its beneficiaries and those individuals they support, in particular from its grant-making.

This internal strategic review has been supported by an external review of Seafarers UK’s grant-making strategy by the Directory of Social Change (February 2018), and builds on the recent Maritime Charities Group report, ‘Navigating Change: A Review of the UK Maritime Welfare Charity Sector’ (October 2017). Some key conclusions of these two reports are provided in the ‘Notes’ section below.

There are a number of key recommendations by Trustees of Seafarers UK that the charity will be taking up over the coming year. Whilst grants will continue to be awarded on the basis of their impact on seafarers’ quality of life, Seafarers UK will strive to be more pro-active in seeking out new opportunities to increase its impact. In doing so it recognises that sometimes it will need to take risks by pump-priming new activity, with the result that occasionally some grants may not achieve their intended outcome.

Deborah Layde, Grants Director at Seafarers UK said: “We are looking to balance the immediate needs of seafarers with more support in the way of prevention and capacity-building. We also want to encourage grant applicants to have high ambitions even where there is a risk, and we will give grants where there is innovation and new ways being shown to support seafarers in greatest need. At the same time we will be more insistent with our beneficiaries on the need for monitoring, measuring impact and reviewing and evaluating results.”

“We want to encourage grant recipients to have high ambitions even where there is a risk.”

Seafarers UK will also aim to do more to understand beneficiaries’ finances and to make appropriate judgements about their financial security and the organisation’s needs. Where existing funds are supporting existing activity for extended periods, the charity will take a more cautious approach to its grant-awarding.

Moving forward, the charity will be less likely to give grants to projects or beneficiary organisations where other funders are better positioned to support them. This is likely to affect the military side of Seafarers UK’s funding more than other areas due to the greater amount of funding currently available in this space. The charity will continue to work closely with the Naval Service in terms of representing the overall picture of the ‘UK Maritime’ and it will also continue to use two of its restricted funds specifically to support RN and RM causes.

Seafarers UK currently spends more each year than its investment income and the funds it raises. This means it is slowly running down its endowment. This is a reasonable strategy given the MCG’s ‘Navigating Change’ report’s predicted reduction in the number of individuals needing support from maritime charities by 2050. Going forward, the charity’s main grants expenditure will now be about £2m per year in order to achieve a halving of its endowment within the next 20-25 years. This does not include any additional grants each year from Project Fundraising or via the Merchant Navy Fund. The charity will routinely review this decision.

Lastly, Seafarers UK will continue to support and promote collaborations, partnership working and mergers wherever possible and appropriate for Seafarers UK, our beneficiaries and the wider maritime charity sector.

Additional notes:

  • Through its charter Seafarers UK remains committed – as a ‘wholesale’ charity that gives grants to service providers – to addressing the greatest need for UK and Commonwealth seafarers and their dependants, including potential and ex-seafarers.
  • Currently the charity’s grants are funded partly from its endowment (built to support the longer term needs of future generations of beneficiaries), and partly through its fundraising work.
  • The charity is aiming to improve the efficiency of its fundraising and a new Fundraising & Campaigning Trustees Sub-Committee has been set up in support of this, chaired by Paul Butterworth (Partner at Odgers & Berndtson’s and Head of its Maritime & Shipping Practice).
  • Research for the MCG ‘Navigating Change’ report revealed that the population of seafarers is larger and declining more slowly than previously thought, and is predicted to fall to 52% of its current number by 2050.
  • The ‘Navigating Change’ report also identifies seafarers as needing support over the next 10-20 years with financial issues, loneliness, isolation, dementia, limitations with daily living and long-standing illness. It highlights that collaboration and cooperation will be key to tackling future needs, and that Maritime Welfare Charities must embrace impact measurement more fully.
  • The MCG research also highlighted that whilst more support will need to be focused on the older population over the next 10 to 20 years, there are some new and younger populations of seafarer emerging (e.g. professional yacht crews, cruise ship crews and smaller workboats serving offshore energy providers).
  • The MCG report identifies that preventative measures will help to reduce beneficiary need, and that there is an increased requirement for case workers and multiple-charity support packages to encourage longer-term financial independence for beneficiaries.
  • Some key points from the DSC ‘Seafarers UK Grant-Making Strategy Review’:
    • Loneliness, isolation and ageing are key issues for seafarers.
    • Beneficiaries who provided feedback for the research suggested that Seafarers UK should: invest more in commissioning research about the needs of seafarers; promote data sharing, and provide further information about available funding as well as the tools and resources available in the sector (such as monitoring and evaluation tools).
    • Other suggestions included: a more active role for Seafarers UK as a networking agent within and outside of the maritime charity sector; more support from Seafarers UK in helping to standardise grant application and monitoring & evaluation processes with other maritime funders, and the potential for a greater advocacy role in actively campaigning on issues that affect seafarers.
  • The DSC report also recommended that Seafarers UK give consideration to the permitting of multi-year funding to ensure viability of those projects and services funded.