… unpacking the Cape Wine Auction Trust with Mike Ratcliffe

At a time when South African education is in crisis and donor fatigue is on the rise, the Cape Wine Auction Trust is now more important than ever. Based on a giving model, one which focuses on maximum impact and long-term sustainability, the Trust benefits 22 beneficiaries which have been strategically selected for the role that each plays within the holistic cycle of education.
 
Funds for the beneficiaries, all of which are located in the Cape Winelands and assist towards the education of the workers’ children, come from the annual Cape Wine Auction, a two-day event which raises millions of rands for this worthy cause.
 
Cape Wine Trustee Mike Ratcliffe provides more insight:
 
Can you please tell us briefly about the Cape Wine Auction Trust? How long has the Trust been running and how successful has it been?
The Cape Wine Auction trust was founded in 2014 and has, to date, contributed more than R70 million to the noble ideal of supporting education in the South African winelands.
 
What is your role?
I am a trustee and work together with an inspirational board of trustees. We ensure corporate governance and focus on making sure that our funds are spent wisely and intelligently. I like the concept of “venture philanthropy” where we leverage every possible innovation to ensure that every cent raised works really hard to support the mandate of the trust.
 
How much of the monies raised at the CWA goes to the beneficiaries?
We are extremely proud to have built a model where 100% of all monies raised at the Cape Wine Auction goes to the beneficiaries. We pride ourselves that all admin is supported by sponsors.
 
If all the monies raised at the CWA goes to charity – how is the CWA event financed and run?
Both the Saturday main auction and the Friday evening barrel auction are sponsored, allowing all the money raised to go to supporting education in the South African winelands. The Cape Wine Auction is honoured to have partnered with Nedbank Private Wealth on the Saturday auctions and American Express on the Friday night barrel auctions for the past few years – a partnership which we have recently renewed. We value these sponsorships, not only for the financial backing they provide, but also for the values and vision we all share for a better future in this part of South Africa. We have also welcomed AON as a core sponsor of the Cape Wine Auction trust and finally PWC as our long-term sponsor for corporate governance and audit purposes.
 
How are the beneficiaries chosen?
The CWA Trust accepts proposals from registered NPOs during March and April each year. There are certain criteria that the organisations must meet in order to be considered for funding, the most important being that they fulfil the Trust’s mandate of supporting education in the South African winelands. The shortlisted organisations are then matched against a matrix of criteria, and each proposal is debated at length by our board of very involved trustees. Each trustee brings their particular experience and acumen to the discussion, so the proposals are thoroughly assessed – sometimes for hours on end! Each project or organisation fits into an impact model which the Trust has developed along with some of the best education experts in the country. The number of projects that the Trust supports is directly related to the amount of money raised at that year’s auction.
 
What system is in place to ensure there is no overlap?
We avoid overlap by selecting who we believe are the best service providers to achieve a particular outcome in set education categories. The categories are based on the National Development Plan and include Early Childhood Development, Grades R to 7, Grades 8 to 11 and Grades 12+. Within those categories we support not only what happens in the classroom, but also fund projects which address barriers to learning such as nutrition, psycho-social support, after-care, transport and access to digital learning. Our model is holistic and supports the whole person – from cradle to career.
 
How accountable are those beneficiaries to the Trust?
The Trust pays in two tranches – one in June after the initial approval of the proposal, and another in January. The January tranche is paid once a mid-cycle report is received in December, ensuring that the funding has been properly used according to the approved proposal. Another report is submitted at the end of the 12-month funding cycle. The Trust Facilitator is in constant contact with the beneficiaries and visits the projects throughout the funding cycle, so any challenges can be proactively managed if they come up.
 
R17,5 million was raised at the CWA 2018. How much are you hoping for at the end of next year’s two-day event?
We would love to double that!
 
Is there a cap on the number of beneficiaries the Trust will support?
The Trust prides itself on being flexible and has no set cap on the number of beneficiaries or projects it will support, but we prefer to avoid excessive fragmentation of effort. We have a small, lean team and would rather support fewer beneficiaries with our full attention for the duration of the funding cycle, rather than spreading ourselves too thin and not being as actively involved.
 
Can you give us one or two feel good stories that have come about as a result of the CWA Trust?
There are so many, but the most recent was from a school we support in the Franschhoek area called Wemmershoek Primary School. The school sent their Grade 3s to take part in the inaugural Franschhoek Spelling Bee. All the primary schools in the area took part, including a very privileged private school, and Wemmershoek Primary took both first and second place! The principal was bursting with pride, and as our Trust has a focus on literacy at the crucial Grade 3 level, so were we!
 
Another highlight is our long-term support for the Lunchbox Fund school-feeding scheme where we provide a meal every day to about 4595 primary school learners in wine country and have provided around 750 000 meals in 2018 alone!
 
 We have an amazing number of stories and would invite you to follow our social media channels on Instagram – @capewineauction, Twitter – @capewineauction and Facebook – @thecapewineauction

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