WHAT IS MASONIC CHARITY?
Masonic Charity is organised charitable support within Freemasonry – caring and spending time and not just money – freely and confidentially given by every able Brother in aid of the sick, aged and needy.
HOW DO MASONS GIVE TO CHARITY?
Every Mason is encouraged to give generously within his means and without detriment to himself or his family, through alms collections, gift aid etc. Unlike many other organisations, Freemasons never ask the general public for money; do not make street collections or public appeals.
At each Masonic meeting there is normally a collection. This will be given in accordance with the directions of, and by prior announcement by the Master (WM). This may be for the benefit of and shared between several chosen charities or worthy causes, may be for a Festival Appeal, an Almoners Fund or a Lodge Benevolent Fund. There may also be a raffle at the dinner following or in some cases prior to the meeting, the beneficiary being announced beforehand. The Lodge Charity Steward may also organise a collection or other special fundraising activity for a Festival or other authorised purpose. There are planned giving schemes available to the individual Mason, which the Lodge Charity Steward will be pleased to explain.
WHAT IS THE FIRST THING A NEW MASON SHOULD DO ABOUT CHARITY?
Brethren should talk to their Proposer and Seconder, to understand the Masonic principles of charitable giving, which is a founding principle of Freemasonry. Then they should consult with the Lodge Charity Steward as soon as possible after joining to gain a high-level understanding of Lodge charitable aims and the national and provincial Masonic Charities and their aims; any queries which he cannot answer immediately will be referred to the Provincial Grand Charity Steward through the Provincial Office.
TO WHAT CHARITABLE CAUSES DO MASONS GIVE?
Many deserving causes, both Masonic and non-Masonic. In 2016 four Masonic Charities were amalgamated into one umbrella charity at national level, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). This charity comes under the auspices of The Grand Lodge of England.
THE MASONIC CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
Funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country.
Most of the support provided by the MCF takes the form of financial grants to individuals and families to assist with daily living costs. It can also award grants to provide specific items or services.
A range of health and care needs, including medical and dental treatments, counselling and mobility aids or home adaptations are supported, with funding also available for respite, residential, nursing and dementia care.
Its professional Advice and Support team offers confidential and practical guidance about the support available from the MCF and many other organisations.
In addition to the support it provides to Freemasons and their families, the MCF awards millions of pounds each year to local and national charities that help vulnerable people, advance medical research and provide opportunities for young people.
It also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contribute to worldwide appeals for disaster relief. In total, its support helps to improve the lives of thousands of people every year in England, Wales and internationally.
The MCF brings together the work of four national Charities which had been operating separately under various names since the early 18th Century. The work of the MCF includes:
Support of individuals and non-Masonic charities
This continues a commitment to charitable support that began in the earliest days of organised Freemasonry. It provides relief for Masonic petitioners their families or dependants who are experiencing hardship as well as mobility equipment, assistance to other Masonic Charities and grants to major or national non-Masonic Charities. National and international emergencies and disasters are relieved by making significant grants for assistance and there is a programme of support for hospices.
Caring for elderly and infirm Freemasons and their dependants
The MCF provides a level of care, support and assistance appropriate to individual needs and is committed to ensuring the individual’s right to dignity, respect, choice and control over their own lives. It offers a range of high quality care options including residential care, dementia support, nursing and respite care. It also provides sheltered accommodation, holidays and even annuities and home improvement loans for the sick and disabled. It runs 17 Rest and Nursing Homes across England and Wales, and has been caring for older Freemasons and their dependents for over 160 years. There are two Masonic Homes which are in or close to our Province. Zetland Court at Bournemouth and Shannon Court on the Surrey / Hampshire border at Hindhead.
The MCF provides financial support for needy, sick and infirm Freemasons, their wives, children or dependents or the widows, children or dependents of deceased Freemasons who are unable to obtain the appropriate treatment on the NHS without undue delay or hardship. The interests and needs of each applicant are paramount in determining how and where relief may be granted.
Whilst many of the conditions funded may be associated with advancing years – hip and knee joint replacements, cataracts and prostate problems – funding can be available for everything from scans to major heart surgery including complaints which are not necessarily life threatening but are distressing, reduce the quality of life in the sufferer and may involve a long wait on the NHS.
The MCF relieves poverty and advances the education and preparation for life of the children of deceased and distressed Freemasons. Whether a case is accepted due to the death, disability or desertion of a parent, or financial distress experienced by the family as a whole, each brings its own unique heartbreak and turmoil. The MCF helps relieve this distress through the provision of grants and financial assistance and, where funds permit, extends its help to children not connected with Masonic families, in particular by continuing to offer bursaries at cathedrals and choral foundations.
THE RELIEF CHEST SCHEME
A Relief Chest is a simple, cost-effective scheme for managing charitable giving. The MCF provides charitable accounts known as ‘Relief Chests’ which offer a range of benefits for donors. Any Lodge, Chapter or other recognised Masonic group can open a Relief Chest – all donations, payments and disbursements are then processed by staff at the MCF.
In the summer of 2017 there were 4,645 Relief Chests holding funds which total £23.3 million.
Every Lodge is encouraged to join. It was set up to help the Craft give to charity easily and tax-effectively. It offers individual “Relief Chests” which can be used to accumulate funds collected by a Lodge or other Masonic organisation for charitable purposes. The MCF holds the money on behalf of the Lodge or other Masonic organisation which retains control over the disposal of the money.
The Chest Holder uses the funds in its individual Relief Chest to make donations to any non-Masonic or Masonic charity. A highly favourable interest rate is earned on the funds and interest is paid gross of tax. Eligible donations may be Gift Aided and are therefore tax efficient, thereby maximising charitable giving.
How to open a Relief Chest
Setting up a Relief Chest is easy and only takes a few simple steps. The Application Pack provides you with all the necessary guidance notes.
- The Lodge is the ‘Relief Chest Holder’
- A resolution must be passed in open Lodge. Subject to the by-laws and practice of each Lodge, prior notice of motion is not required
- An application form must be completed and signed by the Secretary or other Officer of the Lodge.
- A Relief Chest Application Form is available to download or can be obtained by contacting the MCF Relief Chest Department on 020 3146 3333
- An application can be submitted at any time
- The Relief Chest will become active of the first day of the month following the receipt of the application
Operation of the Chest
The Relief Chest is usually operated by the Charity Steward or Treasurer. This role is known as the “Relief Chest Representative”. The Representative is appointed by the Lodge and is responsible for contact between the Relief Chest office and the Lodge/other Masonic organisation. If the Representative is unobtainable, The MCF will write to the Lodge Secretary or equivalent. For full details on operating a Relief Chest, please download the Relief Chest guide.
Legacy gifts make an important contribution to the funding of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Every gift, large or small, can help to make a difference to the charity and people assisted through the grant-making programmes. If you would like to donate by this method it is important that the name and registered charity number is quoted correctly in your Will. If you would like to support the future work of the MCF by remembering the charity in your Will, you are urged to seek legal advice from your solicitor or another suitably qualified professional. For further information, please contact the MCF direct or through its website where a useful guide is available – ‘Leaving a Legacy’.
The MCF would be most grateful for any support given in this way.
WHAT ARE PROVINCIAL CHARITABLE FUNDS?
The Masonic Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight operates a number of charitable funds for the relief and benefit of Freemasons, their wives and widows and dependents who are in need or distress by reason of poverty, sickness or old age.
Assistance may be given to Brethren to remain in their own homes, for medical and hospital treatment and equipment, holidays, loans, grants and indeed a variety of purposes. Care is taken to ensure that funds are not used to duplicate help, which might come from elsewhere and speed of relief in urgent cases is paramount. Financial assistance may also be provided to the necessitous children of Freemasons of the Province whether the father of any such child be living or dead, financial assistance in times of distress of Freemasons and Widows of Freemasons of the Province and assistance to the Funds of any of the Masonic Charities as may be approved by the Provincial Grand Lodge. Applications should be made to the Provincial Grand Secretary.
Our Province’s Provincial Comforts Fund provides extra comforts to Brethren of The Province or their Widows/dependents who may be in need. It is not a registered charity but a Fund of Benevolence. The income is solely derived from donations from Lodges, Chapters, Masonic Associations and Individuals. It is hoped that all Lodges will make an annual contribution. The application forms, which are yellow, are issued to Lodge Secretaries in September and returned by November by The Lodge Almoner. Basic information is required, name, age, date of last visit and reason for assistance. This fund relies on the generosity of the Brethren. Donations from the Fund are usually by way of a Christmas distribution and in addition Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution annuitants of the Province receive a fuel grant. Applications to the Provincial Grand Secretary.
The Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Masonic Grand Charity (The Tom Langton Fund) Brethren are requested to identify suitable non-Masonic charitable and needs groups, not individuals, in this Province who would benefit from a donation from the Fund. The ideal organisations to be targeted are small self-help groups with limited resources, especially those whose activities involve children where a modest grant would make a significant difference to their work. Applications should be made to the Group Charity Representative ~ contact details in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Masonic Year Book.
LODGE CHARITABLE FUNDS
Many Lodges choose to administer their own charitable funds, including any legacies, in a Lodge Benevolent Fund. The Fund may be kept under the direction of the Lodge Treasurer and/or Charity Steward, in a bank or building society account. However, if the amount invested should exceed one thousand pounds, the Charity Commissioners will need to know about it in accordance with current Charity Law, and Trustees will need to be appointed from within the Lodge.
Alternatively, these funds may be deposited in a Lodge “Relief Chest”.
WHAT DOES THE LODGE CHARITY STEWARD DO?
The Lodge Charity Steward is appointed by the Master of the Lodge. It is his responsibility to ensure that the Brethren are informed of the charitable activities in their Lodge and this Province as a whole. He should assist the W.M. and the Lodge in all matters relating to charity; as well as assisting the Brethren with the completion of their Gift Aid forms and other specialised forms of giving.
He should keep accurate records for himself and the Lodge Treasurer and ensure that the Lodge and brethren comply with Charity law and all relevant Masonic regulations at all times. He should also communicate with the Provincial Grand Charity Steward and / or the Area Charity Steward as and when necessary, addressing any general charitable queries for his attention, initially through the Provincial Office.
Every Lodge Charity Steward is expected to be pro-active at fund raising within his Lodge and to be able to offer guidance and support to the brethren whenever he is approached about any charitable matter.
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING:-
(Most literature mentioned here can be obtained through the Lodge Secretary or Lodge Charity Steward).
FOR ALL BRETHREN
The “Giving” page of the UGLE website, provides details of the main Masonic Charities administered by Grand Lodge, including the MCF.
“Masonic Year Book for the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight” produced annually by the Provincial Office with up-to-date details of all Provincial Lodges and Charities, Trusts, etc.
FOR LODGE CHARITY STEWARDS
“Grand Charity Relief Chest Operating Manual and Rules “
“Relief Chest Application Form”
“Gift Aid Envelope Verification Form” and
“Gift Aid Envelope Flow Chart”
all available direct from the MCF or by downloading from The Masonic Charitable Foundation website
“Guidance for Almoners and Charity Stewards” produced by The Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight. Copies have been circulated to all Lodge Almoners and Charity Stewards and should be passed on by their successors. Further copies available from the Provincial Grand Charity Steward via the Provincial Office.
Various Guides for Trustees and those who manage Charity Accounts including updates on the Charities Act” produced by the Charity Commissioners
“Charitable Trusts Model Charity Trust Deed” available from The Charity Commissioners or by downloading “Model Charity Trust Deed” for Lodges wishing to set up a Trust.
Grand Lodge administers several other Charities. Full details are contained in the Grand Charity booklet “Information About Masonic Charities” available free from Grand Lodge.
Similarly, the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight administers various other Charities and Trusts. Details on these and any Provincial Festival can be found in the Provincial Yearbook available from the Provincial Offices.
85 Winchester Road,
Tel: (023) 8026 1555 – (023) 8026 1555
This brief insight into our charities has been produced in response to requests from Lodge Charity Stewards and is aimed at introducing the newly initiated Brother as well as established Masons to the subject of Masonic Charity and the contribution we are all pledged to make.
It is not the intention that this guide should replace or unnecessarily duplicate information that may be obtained elsewhere. It is intended literally “to guide” every Brother in the right direction and to help him understand the importance Freemasons attach to charitable giving in general and to charitable support within this Province in particular.
Giving to charily requires a personal commitment and it is up to each of us to decide how regularly we give, and even how much, to any charity. Nevertheless, giving generously in aid of charity is an honourable sentiment, which is reinforced during every Initiation ceremony.
Freemasonry has an enviable record of providing regular and consistent financial support to individual charities over long periods, whilst at the same time making thousands of grants to local charities, appeals and projects each year. It teaches us to be concerned for others and to care for and help those in need and less fortunate than ourselves.
The personal generosity of the Brethren of this Province and the collective fundraising efforts of over 250 lodges will continue to determine the contribution we make within our local communities and the level of support given to our Masonic Charities.
As a final thought, there is an inscription still to be found in Buckfast Abbey, Devon which is as relevant to a Freemason’s conduct today as it was and is to the Benedictine Monks who continue to follow the teachings of St. Benedict (c4480 – 550).
Let nothing be put before the work of God –
Take the greatest care of the sick, of children, of guests and the poor –
Let all things be done in moderation.
Sincerely and fraternally,
W.Bro. Kevin D. Head
Provincial Grand Charity Steward