Our Mission is to make a difference

The Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust was founded in 1963 to create a formal structure for Ernest and Joan Kleinworts’ philanthropic interests.

Alongside their wish to make a difference to people in need in their home county of Sussex, Ernest and Joan were also passionate about the conservation of wildlife, worldwide. These interests remain core areas of activity for EKCT today.

Joan and Ernest Kleinwort 1973

Our Impact


Grants to good causes since 1978


Grants to good causes worldwide in 2021-22


To projects in Sussex in 2021-22


To conservation work in 2021-22


To reproductive health work in 2021-22

Our History

Ernest Kleinwort was a partner and former Chairman of the banking house of Kleinwort, Sons & Co. Today the bank is part of the Société Générale Group and is known as Kleinwort Hambros.

He played vital roles during the formative years of both the Worldwide Fund for Nature, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. He assisted with their development, serving on the advisory panel of what became WWF-UK, and both he and Joan served as Council Members of WWT.

For his services to nature conservation, Ernest was made Commander of Order of the Golden Ark in 1974, a Dutch Royal honour. He worked closely alongside the late HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and the late HRH Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands on many key conservation initiatives.

Ernest married Joan Nightingale Crossley in 1932.  Joan became the Women’s Voluntary County Organiser for East Sussex, a Justice of the Peace, and a Deputy Lieutenant of West Sussex. She was a passionate and active champion for the care of disadvantaged people. Working alongside other influential philanthropists in Sussex, she played a significant role in the formation and growth of many charities including the Disabled Housing Trust and Little Black Bag Housing Association. Joan served as President of the South of England Agricultural Society, Patron of Age Concern West Sussex, and she was invested as a Member, Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.). for her charitable work.

Ernest died in 1977 and Joan continued the work of EKCT until her death in 1991. Their legacy has been continued by subsequent generations of the Kleinwort family, with Ernest and Joan’s grandchildren appointed to the board of Trustees today. 

Since records began in 1978, EKCT has donated over £50 million to charitable causes.

Kleinwort Coat of Arms
Members of the WWF Management Committee at Soestdijk Palace 1978 (L to R) Sir Peter Scott, H.R.H Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Mr. Ernest G. Kleinwort, Jonkheer Mr. John H. Loudon and Dr. Samuel Schweizer.
Ernest Kleinwort 1975
Joan Kleinwort DL, opening the Norfolk Pavilion, South of England Showground, Ardingly, West Sussex – credit: Equestrian Services Thorney

EKCT Today

The board of Trustees is made up of members of the Kleinwort family and independent Trustees, invited to bring a breadth of interests, skills, and experience to the board.

There have been three Chairmen since inception, Patrick Pery, 6th Earl of Limerick (deceased), Sir Simon Robertson and the current Chairman Lord Chandos. With the serving Trustees they have ensured that the original wishes of the founders to support the good causes in the County of Sussex and the conservation of wildlife worldwide, have been maintained to this day. 

The Trustees have wide discretionary power to promote and support charitable purposes and activities, and choose to be exclusively grant-making, funded by their investment returns with no fundraising or operating activities.

The Director and Administrator of EKCT oversee governance and administration. 

In 2021 the Trustees decided that it was appropriate to change the legal structure of the Trust from a traditional Charitable Trust to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).  This change was purely administrative and there have been no changes to the Trust’s objectives or grant making philosophy.