A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures

storyThe National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (NTSUSA) is a non-profit organization that raises funds to help protect heritage properties, countryside, artefacts and other gems cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. One of the ways the NTSUSA garners support is through A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures, its annual New York City gala. Recently, we spoke with the Chairman of the NTSUSA, Helen Sayles, CBE, a native Scot who now calls America home, to learn more about what’s happening April 9th at NYC’s Metropolitan Club.

Tell us a little bit about the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA.
It was set up originally by the National Trust in Scotland by calling on people in the United States who had an affinity for Scotland or who were Scottish and also who were interested in historical architecture and architectural preservation. Since the U.S. Foundation was formed in 2000, we’ve raised over $7 million for the National Trust in Scotland.

What kinds of projects do the funds support?
Every year, the National Trust in Scotland sends us a comprehensive listing of projects. We try to get a little bit of something for every interest, and there is a wide range of prices. So when we go and talk with prospective donors,  they can see projects that might fit their particular interest.  For example, I’m from the county of Ayrshire, which is the county where Robert Burns came from, so I would be typically be interested in funding projects like the re-thatching of Souter Johnnie’s Ale House in Alloway, Ayrshire, or the Burns Memorial. One of the projects that we have right now might interest a wealthy foundation who has an interest in renewable energy. Others might be interested in people-related projects, so stone masonry or crofting and other kinds of traditional Scottish skill training programs might appeal to them. If people are interested in islands, we have magnificent islands, like St. Kilda and the Island of Canna. If people are interested in birds—we have several bird sanctuaries…and so on.  We have a wide variety of properties in our portfolio.

What is your annual fundraiser, A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures, like?
It’s a really lovely evening. We have fine food, we have wonderful guests and then after we have eaten, drunk a little, bid on auction items and had a lovely time with each other, we do Scottish reels in the great hall of the Metropolitan Club, which is always interesting to watch and enjoyable to participate in! It’s really good fun. It’s a lovely evening. While the primary goal is obviously to raise money—it is our principle fundraiser of the year—it really is also a “friend-raiser” and we get people who come back year after year because it’s more fun than your normal, stuffy fundraiser. We’re able to invite people who may not be familiar with what we do and they have the opportunity to have a good time, to buy lovely auction items, but also to learn a little bit more about what we do, and thereby we get extra connections that we might not have had otherwise.

What is the Great Scot Award that you will be presenting at the gala?
Every year we honour someone by giving them the Great Scot Award. So last year, for example, the Great Scot was The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry [Richard Scott], who was a past president of the National Trust for Scotland. The Duke of Buccleuch feels quite passionate about historic preservation and he led the National Trust for Scotland in a time that was quite difficult for them financially, and they really had to do some organizational transformation and turnaround. So a couple years after he retired from that position, we thought it would be lovely to honour him. Past honourees have also included Alexander McCall Smith, the noted author, and Alan Cumming, the great Scottish actor based in New York…so we’ve had some very noted people who have been Great Scots. And this year, we are terribly excited about Billy Connolly being our Great Scot awardee. I think it’s fair to say he’s passionate about Scotland and a great ambassador for the country!

For those who cannot attend the gala, how can they show their support to the National Trust?
There are all sorts of ways people can participate. We have wonderful auction items that people can bid on – even remotely via a bidding form on our website.  And of course, donations of any size are always welcome.   While people can give directly through the National Trust in Scotland, but if they become members or choose to donate through the US Foundation, it’s much more tax effective for American donors because we’re a 501(c)(3), and any donation they make would be tax deductible to the extent that’s allowed by the IRS. So it’s a very tax efficient way to give money back to Scotland.”

A Celebration of Scotland’s Treasures
April 9, 2015
Metropolitan Club, New York City