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W.Bro. Geoff Tuck talks to Insight about his role in the Freemasons’ Grand Charity (FGC):
Q: We know you best as one of our Assistant Provincial Grand Masters and Appeals Director for the 2016 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. How did you come to be involved with the Freemasons’ Grand Charity (FGC)?
A: The journey started in 2006 when I was invited to serve as one of our provincial representatives on the “Group 9” of the Rulers Forum. Originally under the chairmanship of RW Bro Harry Barnes, I was later asked to become Secretary and served for some years under the chairmanship of our then PGM RW Bro Brian Bellinger. During this time, I was appointed Provincial Charity Steward and, when a vacancy became available on the Board of Trustees of FGC, I was nominated by to become their elected member.
Q: How long were you elected to serve?
A: Each elected trustee serves for a period of three years but can be re-elected for up to two further three year periods. I have recently commenced my third period in office.
Q: What are the duties and responsibilities of a trustee?
A: During the first year each new trustee serves in rotation on the three main committees of the FGC: finance, relief grants and non-masonic grants. During this time he also receives instruction on the legal responsibilities of a charity trustee, charity law, and the rules and guidelines associated with grant giving. After the initial twelve months, I was asked by the President which committee I preferred and felt could provide the most help. I considered that my duties as Provincial Charity Steward provided me both with the knowledge of those non-masonic charities our brethren felt most worthy of support, and also those which were effective and most in need of funding, and opted for the non-masonic grants committee. The finance and non-masonic grants committees meet quarterly, whereas the relief grants committee meets every month. Each quarterly meeting, held in the morning, is followed by a full council meeting on the afternoon of the same day.
Q: How are grants determined and awarded?
A: Relief grants for masons, their dependants, widows etc are for those in real need and are calculated after those benefits due from government sources, private or service etc health schemes have been assessed and awarded. Applications are normally made to the FGC by the Lodge Almoner, often through Area Almoner and the Provincial Almoner. Around £3 to 3.5 million is expended annually, helping those in need through the FGC. Apart from those grants awarded annually, totalling around £200K to air ambulances and £600K to adult hospices, non-masonic grants are normally by application direct to FGC. These are predominately awarded to national charities for specific projects or initiatives. The charities where most help is given are those for medical research including all major cancer charities, and those for young people/youth opportunities and vulnerable people. Small grants are also awarded for religious buildings when considered of national importance. Grants are also given from time to time in cases of national or international disaster, the latter normally being via the Red Cross or an aid agency working in that country. When combined with numerous minor grants, up to £3M is donated annually in the form of non-masonic grants.
Q: How are non-masonic grants processed?
A: All grant applications are checked by the staff in the non-masonic grants section of FGC. They will look at the mission statement of each charity applicant; governance and fundraising costs; reserves etc; the purpose and cost for which the application is made, together with other associated factors including whether the charity has received a grant from us during recent years, and if so, the feedback obtained. This information is then passed to members of the non-masonic grants committee. Personally, I check out each
charitable organisation on the charity commission website and also look at those thousand or so charities supported by lodges in this province. I then record my comments and recommendations against each application in order that I may speak with some knowledge and authority at the meeting. Our recommendations are put to the full council of the FGC for approval and then published.
Q: How does the FGC raise its money?
A: Primarily through the charity levy each of us pays within our annual subscription, through the festival system, legacies and income from investments.
Q: What does being Vice President of the FGC entail?
A: In addition to the quarterly non-masonic grants and full FGC council meetings, I am now a member of the Executive Committee and Risk Assessment Committee, which normally meet the day before the quarterly meetings and entail an overnight stay. However, during this time of review of our four national charities, these meetings are increasing in frequency. I also attend and am involved in meetings of the FGC when held in the provinces, the most recent being at Norwich in the Province of Norfolk. You may recall that we in Hampshire and Isle of Wight held one in Bournemouth.
Q: Can you share some highlights with us?
-Representing freemasonry at the official opening of Tedworth House Help for Heroes Recovery Centre and talking to our servicemen .... and oh yes a brief conversation with Prince William. Proud to say that we helped pay for the raised gardens at this and three other recovery centres which help our guys so much.
-Delivering the keynote speech to delegates at Parkinsons UK Conference at the Ark Conference Centre in Basingstoke after the FGC awarded them a grant of £250K. Afterwards hearing the uplifting comments about freemasonry from many in attendance.
-Meeting the Princess Royal again at Tedworth House at the opening of the large, beautiful cedar greenhouse, when she asked me to convey her thanks to us all for our support in paying for the building.
Q: Do you enjoy it?
A: Tremendously. We all participated in the same ceremony when we were initiated and we all remember promising to give freely to charity. I am fortunate that in retiring early, I have been given the opportunity by others, and can give freely of my time and expertise in the name of freemasonry, and in the cause of the needy. I feel that I can still actively contribute to society and our wonderful masonic organisation. Some will learn about us from friends, some through social media and the internet, and some from us as ambassadors for our fraternity. In my view, the way forward also involves our charitable work in, and contributions to, our community. What better way can there be for the public to hear of our ideals and principles than through those charities and individuals we are helping? To know that whatever we do and however much we donate, although it’s nice for us to be acknowledged, those who deserve that appreciation the most are those experts in their respective fields; those in medical research; the staff in our hospices; those helping the young, the sick and the elderly, and especially those volunteers who give the most precious commodity of all ... their time.
Geoff Tuck - @gwtuck - @TheGrandCharity 3
Insight • Issue 9

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