The Impact of Covid-19 on CCMI – Current and Expected
15th October 2020
Current Impacts of Covid-19
The shut down of international borders in March 2020, in the Cayman Islands due to the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in an immediate and unexpected financial loss of USD$295k in international education and visiting research cancellations (March-June) at CCMI.
The first quarter of 2020 however, had been financially strong, with education sponsorships and grants being extremely successful, as well as renewals for research, alongside a new US National Science Foundation Award to support the Reef Ecology and Evolution lab. In August 2020, we also secured a grant from the R3 Foundation for USD$30k. This programmatic funding success has helped CCMI withstand the impacts of Covid-19 thus far. In June 2020, we held a successful World Oceans Day fundraiser which brought in USD$50k, thanks to key sponsors such as Butterfield Bank, Dart and Aureum Re. We also managed to secure several key unrestricted grants to bolster the organisation, thanks in the main to emergency grant from the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation (USD $50k) and a donation from the Bill Wyman 2020 Auction (USD $40k).
Despite our efforts, we still have financial pressure due to the loss of earned education revenue, but to date, this is being offset via strict budgetary controls. CCMI has always maintained a mixed-revenue model to help create long-term sustainability, and whilst we have had to adapt in 2020, our business model stands us in good stead and has proven to be effective in withstanding disruptions to funding streams.
Expected Impacts of Covid-19
Q4, CCMI’s strongest fundraising period, remains uncertain in 2020, given the global financial climate. Our unrestricted fundraising activity is currently being planned and will be delivered by mid-November. Whilst we do not expect to bring in as much as a usual ‘Festival of Seas’ Gala year, we have cut event costs considerably in a bid to improve net outcome from the event. Unrestricted fundraising is critical to us, as this funding can be used for operational repairs, project seed money and costs that cannot be included in project budgets.
We hope to finish 2020 with a revenue of circa USD$1.5million. Whilst this is less than the USD$1.8 million originally budgeted for in 2020, our projects remain supported and cost control has been tight. Despite Covid-19, we have ploughed forward in developing and delivering all our research, conservation and education goals, including a robust scholarship and internship programme for local students, publishing scientific papers and the local restoration programme, which indicates an 80% success rate for outplanted corals. Our operational reserves remain intact and will not be utilised in 2020, ensuring we go into 2021 in a strong financial position, poised for a difficult year…but operationally stable.
Open borders and therefore free flowing international travel to the Cayman Islands during the first half of 2021 is in doubt. We expect that our earned revenue opportunities (visiting research and education) for the first half of 2021 will therefore be negatively impacted by USD$310k in comparison to a ‘normal’ research and education season at CCMI. Residential education courses are intense and are costly to run (especially food, boat fuel and utilities at the station), so cost savings by not running these courses are an immediate and realistic measure. We hope to increase domestic programming and grant opportunities to help mitigate this loss in earned funding, as maintaining the facility in Little Cayman requires constant cashflow.
Foundation support and grant opportunities for 2021, for the moment, seem to be less impacted by Covid-19. However, competition amongst grant applicants will be high, so we will go into 2021 aware that projects need to be well managed financially and funding renewal cannot be assumed. CCMI has a team in situ and can continue working despite lockdown and international flight interruptions, so our projects remain extremely active and stable, and we expect this to be the case for the foreseeable future.
Unrestricted fundraising, which for CCMI is linked (in the main) to the international markets and the buoyancy of the financial sector in the Cayman Islands, is an area of uncertainty in 2021 and this is vitally important to our revenue outlook. We have adapted our fundraising mechanisms since Covid-19 and thus far, we are still raising funds but have a conservative budgetary outlook for the next 18 months. We also need to grow our funding opportunities where possible, as we go into the next calendar year with Covid-19 still causing disruption and uncertainty.