Vote of confidence
In celebration of the Freemasons’ Tercentenary year, the public was invited by the MCF to vote for their favourite charities. John McCrohan, Head of Strategic Development & Special Projects at the MCF, explains the rationale behind this initiative
Tell us about your role…
I support the CEO and Board to bring together the activities of the four legacy charities that were amalgamated into the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to ensure they continue to meet the needs of both the masonic community and the wider community through our non-masonic grant-making. In January 2011, I started working for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, one of those four legacy charities, as Grants Director and Deputy CEO. I held the post until the consolidation of the MCF in April 2016, when I took on my current role. As well as respecting the legacy of the four charities, it’s also my job to focus on the future and think about how we can do things differently – and better.
What are the Community Awards?
The full name is the MCF Community Awards –Tercentenary Fund. These are 300 grants totalling £3 million that acknowledge the 300-year anniversary of UGLE. The Awards were created in part to raise MCF’s profile within the masonic community, but also externally. This initiative was our first large-scale, public-facing activity, and was designed to let the wider public know about the good work that happens as a result of the generosity of the Freemasons. We typically spend up to £5 million a year supporting UK charities and responding to disasters and emergencies, both here and abroad. But to celebrate the Tercentenary, we wanted to do something in addition to that, which is where the idea for the £3 million Community Awards came from. We also wanted to celebrate the formation of the MCF.
How do the grants work?
They were for either £4,000, £6,000, £15,000 or £25,000, depending on how many votes a charity got. The grants were spread across all of our Provinces, and we allocated either four, six or eight grants to each depending on size. London got 26 because of its size. It was important that the charities we supported were operating, and helping people, locally. We wanted the grants to reassure masons that the MCF is pushing money back to their communities, to see that the money they give doesn’t get swallowed up in a black hole here in London. And, of course, we wanted to show that we apply good grant-making practice and observe good due diligence.
How did you decide who would qualify for a grant?
Firstly, I went to Provinces and said, ‘We’ve got money for you, we’ll be giving grants in your region, but we’d like you to tell us which charities are close to your heart.’ We then asked each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to compile a list of their chosen charities, filtered down to their allocated number. The shortlists came to us and we carried out initial due diligence to make sure charities were eligible, that they weren’t already an active recipient of a grant, and so on. We then confirmed shortlists with the Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge and began contacting charities, inviting them to formally apply for a grant. They still needed to complete an application, though by this stage they were guaranteed at least £4,000 – but could potentially get as much as £25,000 if they got the most votes.
What types of charities were nominated?
We had charities in every sector – from financial hardship, social exclusion and disadvantage through to health and disability, education and employability. We had community centres, initiatives reducing isolation and loneliness for older people and complementary emergency services – things like blood bikes, for example, which take blood supplies around a county.
And how did the general public phase of the vote work?
People voted primarily online – we promoted the vote on our website, and through our social media and masonic contacts. Having spoken to some charities that had already worked with the public on that kind of scale, however, it became clear that to really make the voting work, we needed the charities themselves to lead the promotion – on their own social-media sites and during public events. To do this, we provided them with materials showing masonic iconography and branding that they could use. And, of course, the competitive element of ‘more votes equals a bigger grant’ really spurred them on.
What were the responses like?
We ended up with 177,801 votes, which really blew away our expectations. Almost 160,000 of those votes were made online, with another 18,000 cast at local events. After people voted, there was an optional short survey of just two questions. One asked if the initiative had improved the voter’s opinion of Freemasonry. Some 57% of those who completed the survey – 36,000 people – said that it had improved their perception of Freemasonry. We believe that’s pretty strong evidence that the initiative really worked.
What did you learn from the project?
We’d never done anything like this before so we were all on a massive technological learning curve. We were very exposed, so the pressure was on – we only had six months to develop the project before it went live. We were still testing the voting pages, making sure the images were right and the copy was okay the day before launch. That was a bit stressful. It was all worth it when the charities, and public, told us they didn’t realise we operated on this scale or supported so many people in this way. Given that raising this awareness was one of our key drivers, I think we’ve been really successful. Going forward, we’ll be able to do something like this much more easily because all our building blocks are now in place.
What happens next?
We are going to monitor the projects throughout the 12 months that the grants last, and do a full evaluation at the end. We want to make sure that what we have done with this grant fund has made a real impact. In a year’s time we’ll go back and see what has worked, what hasn’t worked so well and what lessons have been learned. We’ll see how we can improve, if we do something like it again in future.
Find out more - click here.
Around the world
Four charities that have benefited from the Community Awards
Social Exclusion and Disability: Veterans in Action
Veterans in Action (VIA) helps armed service veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition back to civilian life difficult. For the past six years, VIA has been organising walking expeditions that have needed support vehicles – Land Rovers and minibuses – which are now ageing and require maintenance. The funds from the MCF grant will be used to fund a new project called the Veterans Restorations Project, which aims to restore and upgrade the existing vehicles.
Financial Hardship: Centrepoint North East
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity working with homeless people aged sixteen to twenty-five. It supports more than 9,000 people a year, 800 of whom are from the North East. The grant will be used for its Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (RDGS), which aims to increase the supply of affordable rented accommodation to disadvantaged sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds and those at risk of homelessness. As part of their acceptance on to RDGS, the person agrees to save with Centrepoint so they can afford their own cash bond as and when they move tenancy. This will enable them to have a secure base from which to build their future.
Education and Employability: Romney Resource Centre
Romney Resource Centre (RRC) was founded in 1999 and has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence, being the only provider of careers and skills advice, training, education and employment support in Romney Marsh for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds and adults. Due to significant cutbacks in adult skills at the Skills Funding Agency, there is little further-education funding available for Romney Marsh communities – a critical situation if they are not able to upskill or attain updated qualifications. As a consequence, RRC is now seeking grant-funding support in order to continue its mission.
Health and Disability: HUTS
Now established for more than two decades, the Help Us To Survive (HUTS) Workshop supports individuals suffering with mental-health issues and learning disabilities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The therapeutic arts-based centre currently has more than 100 active members attending its workshop. The MCF award will go towards maintaining a full-time qualified ceramics and silkscreen-printing support worker. They provide support for members to explore creativity, gain confidence and to reduce isolation and deprivation within the rural community.
Thanks to a donation from Durham Benevolence, and the support of brethren from all around the Province, the Durham Branch of the Masonic Fishing Charity hosted its very ﬁrst event at the Aldin Grange ﬁshing lakes, near Bearpark, in Durham, on Saturday 23rd September
On this bright autumnal morning, the Branch Chairman David Grey, along with Graham Snell, Deputy CEO of the Masonic Fishing Charity, greeted 11 pupils, together with three staff from The Oaks, a large, local authority secondary school, based in Spennymoor, which caters for young people with special educational needs from across South West Durham.
The weather conditions were ideal, apart from a slight breeze; however, they all needed some luck to start catching. This came, surprisingly, in the form of the Provincial Grand Master Eric Heaviside who had come along to support the event. Shortly after Eric’s arrival, the students were into their ﬁrst catch which continued at an erratic rate, depending on where Eric was standing. The enthusiastic shouts of ‘got a ﬁsh!’ continued right up until it was time to break for lunch, by which time 10 of the students had caught ﬁsh.
After the ﬁnal cast of the day, all the participants retired to a barn to attend an awards ceremony where David Grey and Eric Heaviside presented special trophies, medals and certiﬁcates of achievement to each youngster. In response, Harry Wilkinson, the teacher in charge from The Oaks School, thanked everyone concerned for the time given voluntarily by all those who organised the event to bring an interactive ﬁshing and countryside experience to all of his students who had attended this very memorable day.
The Durham Branch held another event more recently at Aldin Grange ﬁshing lakes, which was a recruitment and training day for participants identiﬁed from within the Province. Once again, the venue was kindly provided by Brian Hodgson from Agricola Lodge No. 7741.
To find out more about the Masonic Fishing Charity click here.
A golden and unique Masonic evening took place on 22nd November, at the always welcoming Derwent Lodge No. 4250 in the village of Chopwell, which saw over £10,000 donated to the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS)
This was achieved through the collective charitable efforts of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and Durham Benevolence, as well the efforts of Derwent Lodge itself.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master John Watts was in attendance to firstly recognise the charitable efforts of Derwent Lodge and proudly presented Ken Cook, the Lodge Charity Steward, a well-deserved Gold Award on behalf of the Province for meeting their Durham 2021 festival five-year target in only 22 months.
Durham Freemasons and, in particular, Derwent Lodge have a strong charitable association with the GNAAS and upon closing the Lodge, Ben McWilliams of the GNAA then gave a short presentation in the Lodge room regarding their work. He played a specially recorded video where the Director of Operations at the GNAAS thanked Derwent Lodge and Durham Freemasons for their ongoing support towards this crucial service.
John Watts then had the privilege, on behalf of the MCF, to present Ben McWilliams with a £4,000 grant as well as an additional £1,000 on behalf of Provincial Grand Lodge Durham to contribute towards the next generation of motor vehicles, to assist them with their life-saving work on both land and in the air.
Keith Walker, Derwent Lodge Treasurer, also presented GNASS with an additional £5,300 which had been raised through the support of Lodge members and friends at the annual Derwent Lodge Barbeque. This special event has increased in attendance from 37 to 141 people in the five years that it has been in existence and is now widely supported by the Lodge members, other local Freemasons and the business community.
Nearly 1,000 Freemasons and their families gathered for a special evening of thanks and celebration in style in the world heritage site that is Durham Cathedral in September, as the Province of Durham marked the United Grand Lodge of England’s Tercentenary
As well as brethren and their families from all corners of the Province, the Provincial Grand Master RW Bro Eric Heaviside was honoured to have as his special guests HM Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, Mrs Sue Snowdon, His Worship the Mayor of Durham, Councillor Bill Kellett, the Dean of Durham, the Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett and the Assistant Grand Master RW Bro Sir David Wootton.
With the cathedral near to capacity, the service was conducted with precision and splendour; tributes associated with any formal Provincial Masonic occasion and with Durham Cathedral. Looking across the cathedral, the rows of pews were awash with gold and masonic blue. The evening was further enhanced with hymns from both the Cathedral Choir and Durham’s very own Masonic Choir, conducted by W Bro Paul Debenham.
In the middle of the service, the Dean of Durham handed over proceedings to the Provincial Grand Master who conducted a special award presentation from Durham Benevolence, distributing £100,000 in community support grants to 10 local charities and organisations who support children or young adults in need.
Award Recipients included:
- Sunderland Minster – £25,800
- Friends of Carlton Camp (Hartlepool) – £10,000
- Enter CIC (Ferryhill) – £10,000
- Cheesy Waffles (Durham) – £10,000
- Home on the Range (Spennymoor) – £10,000
- Heel & Toe Children’s Charity (Chester-le-Street) – £10,000
- 2505 Squadron RAF Air Cadets (Bishop Auckland) – £10,000
- Co Durham Young Farmers Clubs (Durham) – £7,000
- Kayaks (South Shields) – £5,000
- Hug In a Bag (Durham and Darlington) – £5,000
After the presentation, the Dean delivered his sermon, in particular paying tribute to the charitable giving of Durham Freemasons and went on to commend the very foundations on which Freemasonry is built – a respect for one another, kindness, honesty and trust.
Once again, the Province of Durham showed that when they do something, they do it in style. A wonderful evening was enjoyed by all who attended, with the Tercentenary celebrated in a ﬁtting manner and local worthy causes supported for the future.
Sunday 10th September saw the annual pilgrimage of runners and fundraisers ﬂocking to the North East to take part in the largest half marathon in the world – the annual Great North Run
This spectacle is watched and participated in by people from all over the world and encapsulates the human spirit with many dressing up in outrageous fancy dress before pounding 13.1 miles of pavement – all in the name of charity.
This year, amongst the 57,000 participants, an orange glow was visible amongst the Batmen and Robins, dinosaurs, women in wedding dresses, cavemen, munchkins and even a man carrying a full-size race bike… on his back!
The orange glow was coming from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) shirts worn by 28 Durham Freemasons running for that very cause. Many had just taken up running for this occasion and had worked for months in preparation for the big day.
It all paid off though as the group managed to raise over £39,000 towards their 2021 Festival, in aid of the MCF.
The efforts of Dorset Freemasons, with the support of Freemasons across the country, have given over 200 children a free adventure holiday for a week
This project, conceived in Dorset, was a unique way for Freemasonry to work for the benefit of the wider community, as well as providing an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry in England. The Masonic Province of Dorset was delighted to host 209 deserving children for a Jurassic Coast Youth Adventure holiday.
122 children from Dorset schools were joined by a further 87 from 14 other Provinces as far afield as Durham and Cumberland and Westmorland at a cost of £500 for each participant, which was funded by Freemasons.
At the beginning of their stay, each child was given £20 pocket money, two specially designed t-shirts and a matching baseball cap as souvenirs. One of the organising team commented: ‘All the young people and many of the leaders on arrival were overjoyed and amazed at what Freemasonry had provided for them. Several children were moved to tears at not only being presented with t-shirts and a cap but pocket money as well. You could see on many faces that they were experiencing something beyond their imagination and dreams.’
One of the highlights of the week was the visit by the Assistant Grand Master and former Lord Mayor of London Sir David Wootton who, in the company of Dorset’s Provincial Grand Master Richard Merritt and the organising team, spent the morning watching the delight of the children dragon boat racing and raft building at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
After joining the children for lunch at Osmington, he witnessed a host of activities including abseiling, fencing, aeroball, the giant swing, archery, a sensory trail and a beach walk. Following the children’s dinner, and before the evening camp fire, he had pleasure in presenting children with a group photograph and certificate in memory of and testament to their exciting stay.
The free holiday was organised by Dorset Masons and was entirely funded by many Masonic Lodges and their members across England and Wales.
A day of festivities at the Raby Gala
The Gala was officially opened with the X Company Fifth Fusiliers band marching into the main arena followed by a horse and carriage transporting Provincial Grand Master Norman Heaviside, Festival Director John Thompson and MCF Chief Operating Officer Les Hutchinson.
Great North Air Ambulance director of charity services Deborah Lewis-Bynoe received a cheque for £4,000 from the MCF. Norman presented Les with a cheque for £250,000, bringing the total donated, just six months in
to the Festival, to £1 million.
14 September 2016
An address by the RW Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence
Brethren, I am delighted to see so many of you here today and I hope you have all had a suitably refreshing summer. I am particularly pleased to see a large number of younger masons amongst us, especially the delegations from the Provinces of Cambridgeshire and Durham, members of the Universities Scheme and especially those of the Apollo University Lodge in Oxford.
Many of you will be aware of the excellent work undertaken by the Membership Focus Group over the last two and a half years. I hope that you are all still referring to the UGLE strategy, which was a significant development resulting from the group’s work.
We have now moved to ensuring the timely implementation of the strategy and the Membership Focus Group has been superseded by the Improvement Delivery Group. This group will, rather like a well- known wood treatment product, “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Its remit is to facilitate the delivery of change throughout the Craft in order to secure a successful future for Freemasonry by meeting the needs of “modern man” while retaining our traditional standards; it is chaired by the Assistant Grand Master, the Third Grand Principal is Deputy Chairman and the membership is drawn from London and all the regional groups of Provinces.
This group will be “bedding in” for the next year, but will be reporting to Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication in September 2017. There is a considerable amount of work to do and we wish them all well in their endeavours.
Brethren, the Tercentenary celebrations have already begun and I am very pleased to see the variety and breadth of events that are planned to mark this significant milestone in our history. Events are being planned throughout the English Constitution.
So far well over 100 events are scheduled ranging from Cathedral Services, Race Meetings, and Classic Car Rallies; Family Fun Weekends, supporting Youth Activities, to Dinners and Balls, including “The Grand Ball” which will take place here next September and will see this Grand Temple converted into one of the largest dance floors in LondAs the premier Grand Lodge it is appropriate we also celebrate this achievement with the other Sovereign Grand Lodges around the world, which we will do with the event at the Royal Albert Hall. I very much hope there will be a full cross section of our membership, including Master Masons, from London, Provinces and Districts and elsewhere overseas attending the meeting at the Royal Albert Hall.
As you are all aware 2017 will start with the broadcast in January of the Sky observational documentary. I have been fortunate enough to have been part of the small group that has seen all the programmes and whilst, for confidential reasons, I am unable to say more about their content, I can assure you our privacy has been respected entirely for those matters that ought to remain private for our members.
Brethren, it has become very noticeable that the times in which we live are described with some use of either uncertain or uncertainty, or a variation thereof. Uncertainty is used to describe many aspects of our national life almost as a default mechanism. In many ways our predecessors who were there at the foundation of the Grand Lodge would have felt a certain affinity and seen possible parallels with their own time, although they would probably have used the word turbulent to describe the second decade of the eighteenth century.
In their case the uncertain times included significant change with a new ruling dynasty following the accession of King George I in 1714, a significant rebellion from supporters of the old dynasty defeated in 1715 and an incipient share scandal with the South Sea Bubble gently inflating until the spectacular bust. In those and, indeed , in the intervening uncertain times of the subsequent three hundred years, the principles of the Craft have withstood the test of time and are as relevant today as they were then.
We may now restate them in more modern language as integrity; honesty; fairness; kindness and tolerance, but their essence is unchanged and we should all be justly proud of them and, needless to say, act in accordance with them.
To finish, I will quote King Frederick II, or The Great, of Prussia who said his support of the Craft came from its objectives being, “ the intellectual elevation of men as members of society and making them more virtuous and more charitable”. I do not think that his view can be bettered.
Durham masons preview cathedral sponsored stones
Durham masons who had been generous sponsors of Durham Cathedral’s Great Kitchen project, which is part of its Open Treasure development venture, were among a group of special guests invited to the cathedral.
Two years ago the Province set out to raise £100,000 for a new stone floor in the 14th-century kitchen by asking lodges and chapters to make a small donation, and by providing the opportunity for individuals to sponsor a stone. Through the initiative, Durham masons raised £136,000 in just 12 months, with individuals able to mark out the position of their stone.
The special preview visit culminated in the 14th-century Great Kitchen, where sponsors were able to view and photograph their stone.
Musical night in Durham for festival launch
The Sage Gateshead, the world-class music venue on the banks of the River Tyne, was the stunning location to launch the Durham 2021 Festival in aid of the RMTGB. More than 1,000 tickets were sold to brethren and their families for the musical extravaganza, which was opened by community theatre group Enter CIC. Under the direction of Andrea Flynn, 30 children aged 13-20 provided songs from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival show ‘The Wind Road Boys’.
Festival Director John Thompson and Durham PGM Eric Heaviside welcomed RMTGB President Mike Woodcock and CEO Les Hutchinson. The PGM then presented a cheque for £250,000 towards the Festival target of £2,712,768, which follows a previous instalment of £500,000 in November 2014.