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Fellow now sits on board

Ian McDonald, a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellow, has been appointed to the board. PHOTO/MARY ARGUE

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You are not alone if you have never heard of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust [WCMT].

However, the appointment of a Greytown man and trust fellow to the board is only one reason to become acquainted with it.

In honour of Winston Churchill, in 1965, Aotearoa joined other Commonwealth nations to establish the WCMT.

New Zealand trust chairwoman Joy Tracey said the WCMT was designed to allow ordinary citizens to travel overseas, exploring areas of work and research that would benefit their business or community upon return.

She said each year, nine trustees appointed by the Governor-General reviewed close to 60 applications and distributed about 12 $6000-$10,000 grants.

Tracey said the spirit of the trust was to help everyday New Zealanders “pursue their passions”.

She said successful applicants must conduct their research within a year and return a report about what they had learned.

Tracey was on the board in 2018 when Greytown’s Greyfriars Motel proprietor Ian McDonald applied for a fellowship.

At the time, McDonald was working at Baseball New Zealand and had applied for a grant to research his two great loves: baseball and communications.

He had connections at the Major League Baseball [MLB] offices in New York and the Diamondbacks baseball team in Arizona.

“I remember his application and his report well,” said Tracey.

“[He had a] completely different application. He had so much passion and so much commitment to what he was attempting to achieve.”

McDonald said it was a surprise to learn he was one of 14 successful applicants that year.

“[The grants] are given for all these amazing things – dirt samples in Patagonia, researching polar bears.

“I was a 55-year-old researching baseball. When I got the call, I was just beside myself.”

He said studying communications in baseball management in New York was eye-opening.

“It was like going back 15 years.”

His report found that communications and PR in sport, done well, went a long way to running a successful organisation.

He said proactive communication and building a solid relationship with media helped an organisation have a “positive relationship with all stakeholders”.

McDonald remembered his three weeks in New York as “crazy”.

“There is the same number of people on the street at midnight as midday.”

He said his experience motivated him to apply to become a board member at the WCMT.

“I emailed them about a year ago to say I was interested, purely because of what I got out of the fellowship.”

After a rigid application process, McDonald said he received a letter this month from Governor-General Cindy Kiro congratulating him on his appointment.

Tracey said she was delighted to have McDonald, “an amazing man”, join them and that the new board would meet in March 2022 to determine the dates for the next funding round.

Like all organisations, she said covid restrictions had demanded flexibility from the WCMT and applicants but hoped overseas travel would resume soon.

McDonald said his advice for applicants was to give as much information as possible and “be passionate”.

  • Applications for a fellowship can be made through the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust webpage: https://www.communitymatters.govt.nz/winston-churchill-memorial-trust-fellowships/

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