Celebrating 300 years

Grand organ rings out again

The final part of the renovation of the Willis organ in the Grand Temple has been completed, with the front panel of the console now in place. The refurbished organ was played for the first time at the two Investiture meetings in April.

The organ was renovated at the Harrison & Harrison workshop in Durham before being reinstalled in the Grand Temple in January 2015. In the meantime, the new case was built over the console on the east wall. Project Manager Charles Grace thanked the craftsmen who worked on the organ and said: ‘I hope it will be used for many recitals in the years ahead.’ The inaugural concert will be given by the celebrated organist Thomas Trotter on 30 September.

Tickets for this event are now sold out.

Published in More News

Helping with sight loss in the uk

Hampshire and Isle of Wight PGM Michael Wilks presented a cheque for £50,000 from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to the Macular Society to roll out the Daily Living Champions volunteer scheme across the UK. Daily Living Champions demonstrate high- and low-tech equipment that can help people affected by sight loss to complete tasks that others take for granted. 

Age-related macular degeneration affects central vision and is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK. The Macular Society helps anyone affected by central vision loss, and its 15,000 members make it the largest patient group in the sight loss sector.

Properly prepared

When it comes to retaining members, results from the latest Membership Focus Group survey point to a need for the recruitment process to better communicate what Freemasonry is really about

More than 8,000 members are now signed up to assist the Membership Focus Group (MFG) by completing its surveys, the latest of which looks at the challenges faced in retaining members. Gathering detailed input from 30 Provinces and one District, the survey concludes that there is a strong link between the way in which someone comes into Freemasonry and the enjoyment they get from it. Retention is considerably improved when the initial recruitment process is of a high standard. Conversely, if a lodge rushes the introduction process, the consequences can be disastrous. 

Going forward, the MFG recommends developing candidate interview procedures that ensure transparency about what Freemasonry is, its vision, mission and beliefs. Candidates should also be provided with an overview of all the costs involved, ensuring that they are aware of the need to support lodge social and charity activities. In addition, the lodge should only select members who maintain and raise quality standards.

The value of support

It was not surprising to learn that the single most important influencer in retaining new members and meeting their expectations is the quality of mentoring in lodges. The support of the Provincial or Metropolitan mentor and the provision of training for both lodge and personal mentors were found to be vital. An initiate’s guide was also seen as an essential resource for new members. 

Members need to feel welcome, with their personal and business time pressures understood. Lodge mentors and almoners also need to be proactive in noting attendance, following up on why members are not attending and looking out for early warning signs of a potential resignation.

Whether it’s attracting new recruits or mentoring and retaining them, membership is not a numbers game. An increase in the organisation’s membership will only be achieved by improving members’ overall experience of Freemasonry – helping them to embrace the way in which it adds value to their lives.  

When a candidate is presented for initiation the ceremony includes the words: ‘…a poor candidate in a state of darkness who has been well and worthily recommended, regularly proposed and approved in open lodge and now comes, of his own free will and accord, properly prepared’. The question that has to be satisfied is to what extent is he properly prepared? 

Retention – Key findings

· The support and involvement of a spouse/partner is crucial for all new prospective candidates

· The questions asked at the interview, and the manner in which it is conducted, are of vital importance and should conform to a standard

· There is a need to be open and honest about full membership costs at the interview stage

· A personal mentor has an essential role to play and should be actively involved from the period leading up to the candidate’s initiation

The next MFG survey to be published in Freemasonry Today will look at how the United Grand Lodge of England attracts new members and their experiences in joining the organisation. By including more comments boxes in the survey it is hoped that members will have a greater opportunity to have their say on what worked for them, as well as what didn’t. 

If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please register at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg 

Published in Membership Focus Group

Pride in membership

When it comes to new candidates, first impressions count. Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes urges lodges to embrace the mentoring scheme

 The last issue of Freemasonry Today covered the results of a Membership Focus Group (MFG) survey seeking members’ views on many aspects of Freemasonry including friendship, masonic ceremony and charity work. 

With 5,265 members taking part in the survey, I will let you read the full results, but I wanted to highlight the following four areas that scored highly. Having respect for others came first, closely followed by being with people who respect others, then meeting people with integrity, followed by the ethical and moral ethos of Freemasonry. I have said often in the past that it is no surprise that Freemasonry is such a remarkable fundraiser for charity, because of our code of conduct. 

I suggest, brethren, that these responses simply endorse that view.

This and future surveys support the MFG’s aim of ensuring that any decision about Freemasonry draws upon the views, talents and ideas of members at all levels – not least at lodge level. I take this opportunity to stress the continued importance of the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Mentors’ role.

I know that the majority of lodges have now appointed a mentoring coordinator but I still remain concerned that, in many cases, no personal mentors have been selected. Here there is a skill in matching the right personal mentor – that is to say, with the best personality characteristics and appropriate knowledge – with each candidate. This relationship will be ever-changing as the candidate develops his understanding.

There can be no doubt that the early days of a candidate’s membership are the most impressionable. It is therefore important that the right personal mentor is assigned as early as possible after the interview stage and, at any rate, from initiation onwards. Pastoral care will always be a vital part of this relationship and it is at this early stage that the candidate should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry and, indeed, be encouraged to do so, particularly as he becomes more experienced. In addition, they should demonstrate pride in their membership to their family, friends and acquaintances.

The Metropolitan, Provincial and District Mentors have played a significant role in the running of the mentoring scheme, and I look to the lodges to support them in their important task of helping develop and retain membership at lodge level.

‘Candidates should be told that it is perfectly acceptable to talk about Freemasonry.’

Published in Membership Focus Group

Good companions

Thanks to support from the Grand Charity, Dogs for the Disabled was able to launch a groundbreaking scheme that has profoundly changed the lives of children with autism and their families

When Dogs for the Disabled first approached the Grand Charity in 2010, requesting support for a pilot scheme they had devised aimed at assisting children with autism, no one knew for certain if it would work. 

But the project has become so successful it is now a global export, with programmes operating in the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Australia. Through the PAWS Service, families learn how to train a pet dog to support and help a child with autism, and receive advice on choosing the right dog for their child’s needs. To date, more than 600 UK families have benefited from PAWS, and its 2016 workshops, to be held countrywide, are already filling up fast.

It has been observed that there is a special chemistry between dogs and children with autism. A dog can have an incredibly calming effect when a child becomes angry or anxious, enabling the parent or carer to take control of a situation. While for some there will always be a need for a fully trained assistance dog, a well-trained pet dog can also have a hugely beneficial impact.

Paws and effect

Life was becoming difficult for Karen, mum to 10-year-old Ben, who has profound non-verbal autism: ‘When Ben had his total meltdowns he would hit and bite me, and he has pushed and pulled me into the road. Because of his size and strength, I struggled to keep him safe, and he was endangering me too.’ 

Thanks to PAWS, Karen and Ben have now welcomed a bright, friendly Labrador named Murphy into the family. It’s taking time, but already Murphy is helping Ben and his family immensely by providing assistance on trips outside the home, as well as comfort and reassurance. Ben reaches out to touch Murphy and also tries to say his name; both actions are considered big breakthroughs. 

‘Everything about PAWS is fantastic,’ says Karen. ‘Murphy is gentle with Ben and is naturally interested in him. He often sleeps next to his bedroom door or waits at the foot of the trampoline while Ben has a bounce.’ 

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity provided £25,000 in 2010 and again in 2012 to support the PAWS Service through its initial three-year pilot phase. The scheme was deemed a success and another £25,000 donation from the Grand Charity was awarded in 2014. Peter Gorbing, chief executive of Dogs for the Disabled, said: ‘We are immensely grateful for this ongoing assistance. This latest grant will help us maintain and extend this vital service, making it even more accessible to children and their families.’

Through its grant-making, the Grand Charity seeks to support projects that provide valuable assistance to the people who need it most. In donating towards the PAWS Service, Freemasons have helped many autistic children to communicate better with their families, and to experience a safer, happier life thanks to the comfort and companionship of a pet dog.

Letters to the Editor - No. 31 Autumn 2015

Masonic benevolence

Sir,

I was very pleased to read the two articles regarding Dogs for the Disabled and the generous donations made to PAWS. I am a socialiser with the puppies for Dogs for the Disabled, and my last two puppies are involved with this scheme. One is now with an autistic child and the other is just being placed with a child.

It is very rewarding training the pups and you do get a little bit upset when they leave you, but the charity keeps you in touch with the progress of the dog. You also get a replacement quite quickly, so the disappointment is short-lived. Once again, thank you so much for your welcome support of Dogs for the Disabled. 

Ray Beckingham, Wraxall Lodge, No. 9011, Nailsea, Somerset

Published in The Grand Charity

Touching a nerve

By identifying a protein that is vital in nerve development, Professor Roger Keynes and his team hope they might help to cure spinal cord paralysis. Imogen Beecroft reports on how Freemasons are supporting this groundbreaking research

A promising gymnast since the age of eight, Josh trained six days a week to fulfil his ultimate goal of competing in the London 2012 Olympic Games. When Josh was 16, a fall ended this dream and left him paralysed from the chest down. 

Of the 20 people a day who sustain a spinal injury in the UK, three are told they will never walk again. There is currently no effective medical treatment for the 50,000 people in the UK and Ireland living with spinal cord paralysis, meaning that people like Josh face a lifetime of round-the-clock care. 

The figures are so high because the nerves connecting the brain and the body are commonly damaged – or even severed – in a spinal cord injury, destroying this vital communication link.

However, after decades of research, a spinal cord injury may no longer result in a life spent in a wheelchair. Two Cambridge academics, Professor Roger Keynes and Dr Geoffrey Cook, have identified a protein that has the potential to aid recovery after injury, possibly even helping nerves to regrow and self-repair. 

Funding boost

In November 2014, The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) donated £42,000 to the International Spinal Research Trust (ISRT), which is supporting the project. Despite being the UK’s leading charity funding research into medical treatment for spinal cord paralysis, the ISRT team operates on just £2 million of donations a year. 

ISRT trust manager James Clark says: ‘Given the size of the charity, this is a really significant donation. The project costs about £90,000, so the MSF and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity are effectively funding about half of it.’ Specifically, the masonic donation has helped to fund one of the ISRT’s PhD studentships. These three-year projects will identify the researchers of tomorrow – those who will go on to play a central part in the development of treatments for spinal injury. 

Professor Keynes speaks highly of the studentship, emphasising that it not only provides his team with a PhD student, Julia Schaeffer, to assist them, but also gives her a great education. ‘It’s absolutely essential that we have a student to work with,’ he says. ‘Julia is learning lots of different techniques, and her input, ideas and skills at the bench are absolutely critical as these are very tricky experiments.’

‘The professors have worked for two decades to identify a protein that performs a vital function in the early stages of development.’

Patterning proteins

Calling these experiments ‘tricky’ might be something of an understatement: the professors have been working for two decades to identify a crucial protein that performs a vital function in the early stages of development. It is an inhibitor, stopping the growth of nerves where necessary and controlling the pattern in which they develop. 

Humans are able to move and feel because they have a patterned system of nerves connecting the spinal cord with muscles and skin. In order to make this connection, nerves must navigate through the vertebrae that surround the spinal cord and it is this specific protein that allows them to do so.

Professor Keynes now hypothesises that the body expresses more of this protein following a spinal cord or brain injury, which could inhibit nerve development and prevent recovery. ‘The protein’s normal function is to steer nerves out of the spinal cord,’ he explains, ‘but we believe that it is also expressed at an injury site, preventing the nerves within the spinal cord from regrowing.’ 

The idea is being tested at the Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair in collaboration with Professor James Fawcett. If it is possible to stop this protein from functioning in such a way after injury, the damaged nerves might be able to regrow. 

It might seem far-fetched, but, as Clark notes, ‘When we started the ISRT in 1980, people thought the things we were working on were a waste of time. They believed that once someone had been paralysed it was impossible to repair their central nervous system. Work over the past 30 years has proved that wrong – you potentially can.’

Progress has only been possible because of donations like the one made by the masonic charities, as the ISRT receives no government funding. Ian Sabin, MSF trustee and research committee member, explains the decision to donate to this particular project: ‘This charity was thought to be well worth supporting. The research will provide another piece of the jigsaw and contribute towards the understanding of nerve-growth-blocking factors and spinal cord regeneration. It will hopefully help to show the way forward in the development of new treatments for spinal cord injury.’

‘We’re convinced by the potential importance of what we’re doing, so charity funding is critical.’ Professor Roger Keynes 

Barriers to research

As a consultant neurosurgeon, Sabin is well aware of the difficulties facing medical researchers in the UK. ‘Medical and scientific research in the UK is handicapped by a relative lack of funding. Doctors are choosing not to go into research posts for all sorts of reasons but the difficulty in obtaining research grants is certainly one of them. The fact that we [the MSF] can provide some funds is very important – it’s a shame that as a country we don’t take scientific research more seriously.’

Professor Keynes echoes Sabin’s point about the importance of research funding. ‘It has taken us a long time to get this far, and it’s not easy to keep funding going if you’re not producing vast amounts of publications. But we’re convinced by the potential importance of what we’re doing, so this sort of charity funding is critical.’

If their ideas are correct, and yield successful results, what will this mean for those suffering from spinal cord injuries? ‘If we are right,’ says Professor Keynes, ‘and this protein is blocking nerve growth in damaged areas, and we could stop this, then regeneration could take place.’ 

Professor Keynes notes that regeneration has always been possible in nerves of the arms and legs. ‘If they are damaged they can regrow, self-repair and wire up reasonably well. The problem is that nerves in the brain and spinal cord don’t do this, so the hope is that if we can identify the brakes on these nerves and what they’re due to, they too could self-repair.’

While perhaps still a long way off, this research could open up a whole world of hope and opportunity for those paralysed after a spinal cord injury. As Professor Keynes says, ‘It’s not impossible, put it that way.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 32 Winter 2015

Sir,

I read with personal interest your article titled ‘Touching a Nerve’ [in the summer edition of Freemasonry Today] regarding the Masonic Samaritan Fund’s donation to the spinal injury research by Professor Roger Keynes and Dr Geoffrey Cook.

As the result of a motorbike accident, my son is paralysed from the upper chest down with a spinal cord injury. There is no cure other than surviving day to day with available medication and regular visits to the hospital.

I would like to thank Ian Sabin, MSF trustee and research committee member, for his support in the donation to this research. The funding for medical research is lacking in the UK and it is nice to know that Freemasons and Freemasonry really do care.

Don Williams, Lodge of Philosophy, No. 6057, Redcar, Yorkshire, North and East Ridings

Published in Freemasonry Cares

The Freemasons' Grand Charity has donated £50,000 to the Red Cross in response to the earthquake that has devastated Nepal this weekend

So far it has been reported that over 3,700 people have been killed and over 6,500 are injured. The earthquake, the worst to have hit in 81 years, measured 7.9 on the Richter Scale and struck the Kathmandu Valley at 6am on 25 April. More than 70 aftershocks have been felt and are still continuing, with further damage still a threat. It is estimated that 2 million people have been affected and 1.6 million displaced.

As search and rescue efforts continue, hospitals in the capital continue to function but are stretched to the limit. The humanitarian situation in towns and villages closer to the epicentre and beyond the Kathmandu valley is a major concern. Accessibility to and information from remote affected areas are major challenges, hampering search and rescue and relief efforts.

More information about the Red Cross relief efforts: http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/News/2015/April/After-the-earthquake-appeal-launched-for-Nepal 

Published in The Grand Charity

The members of the Lodge of Concord No. 343 celebrated the bi-centenary of its consecration

The lodge was honoured by the attendance of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, accompanied by other distinguished brethren, including the Provincial Grand Master, Tony Harrison who was supported by his Provincial team. Also in attendance were 130 members and visitors.

After welcoming the assembled brethren, the lodge was opened in due form by the WM, Ray Thompson, following which, the dispensation calling the meeting was read by the lodge secretary.

Following transaction of the normal business, the lodge was raised to the third degree. The PrGDC, Keith Kemp entered the lodge to announce the attendance of the PrGM, Anthony Harrison. Tony, accompanied by an entourage of acting Provincial grand officers, was admitted and formally welcomed into the lodge by the WM. Salutations were then given under the direction of Keith Kemp.

The Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies, Stephen Blank entered the lodge to announce the presence of the Deputy Grand Master, Jonathan Spence, who entered the lodge accompanied by a Provincial escort of distinguished brethren and other grand officers. Salutations were then given under the direction of Stephen Blank.

The lodge returned to the first degree before lodge member, Melvyn Carter, rose to give a short history of the lodge. The presentation proved both interesting and informative and was well received by the brethren.

Stephen collected the bi-centenary warrant from the secretary’s table and presented it to Jonathan for confirmation of its validity. The brethren were invited to rise as the warrant was read to the assembled brethren by the Assistant Grand Secretary, Shaun Christie, who concluded by returning the warrant to Jonathon for him to make the official presentation to the worshipful master. Having accepted the warrant, Ray was then presented with a centenary jewel embellished with the bi-centenary bar.

There then followed a captivating oration, delivered without notes, by the Acting Grand Chaplain, Rev Harry Ross. He began by referring to his school motto, translated as: “Look to the past, look to the present and look to the future.” He reminded brethren that many things change with time and we as individuals should look to avoid repeating the bad things that have happened in the past and seek to improve on the good things that have also occurred. What we do today sets things for the future. Harry concluded his oration with solemn prayer.

The WM then had the pleasure of presenting Tony with a cheque for £2,343 in favour of the West Lancashire Freemason’ Charity. He commented that the cheque was the culmination of a number of years of charitable collecting and giving in the name of that charity that has been carried by the lodge since it announced its intention to begin planning for the bi-centenary. Ray continued by saying that during the last 10 years the lodge had become a Grand Patron of the 2010 Festival donating in excess of £22,500 to the WLFC and, in addition, had passed monies to the Preston Masonic Fellowship and the Masonic hall. A further £7,200 had also been donated to non-Masonic charities that included the North West Air Ambulance, the Girl Guide Association and the Rosemere Cancer Foundation. In summing up, Ray announced that, excluding the cheque that had just been presented, over the last 10 years the lodge had collected and dispersed a grand total of £31,700 to worthy causes.

Ray then announced that although the lodge charitable giving was complete for the evening, the lodge donations were not. He understood that the Masonic hall was about to launch an appeal for funds to help cover the cost of a major and necessary refurbishment of the hall roof. He then invited the Masonic Hall chairman, Terry McGill, to step forward and accept a cheque to the value of £1,000 as the starting donation for the appeal.

At the risings, prior to the formal closing of the lodge, Jonathan responded on behalf of the grand officers, Tony on behalf of the Provincial officers and the WM of the Setantia Lodge of Installed Masters No 7755, Bob Poole, responded on behalf of all the visitors all, of whom commended the lodge on its achievements over the last 200 years.

Later in the evening at the celebration banquet, in response to the toast to the grand officers, Jonathan began by relating some of the events occurring in 1814, the year of the lodge’s consecration; a year when the Times of London was first printed on steam driven presses. He went on to say that this was his first visit to West Lancashire as a ruler in the Craft. He also congratulated Shaun Christie for the excellent manner he had read and delivered the contents of the warrant. Thanks also went to Stephen Blank for his control of the proceedings as the Acting Grand Director of Ceremonies and to the Rev Harry Ross for his extremely powerful and thought provoking oration.

Jonathan continued by reminding brethren of the need to get younger men involved in Freemasonry and that lodges need to recognise and be sympathetic to the demands placed on young men as they develop their working careers. He emphasised that there is no such thing as a Masonic career. As members progress they may be asked to take on a responsibility that they would hopefully carry out to the best of their ability. This may lead to further opportunities within the Masonic community that should in no way be considered as a career path.

Jonathan concluded by saying he was delighted to be with Tony and his Provincial team on this auspicious occasion and wished him and the Province of West Lancashire well for the future. He closed by proposing a toast to the health of Tony that was followed by sustained applause from the brethren.

In his response, Tony thanked Jonathan for his kind words saying he was pleased to welcome him to West Lancashire. He thanked Jonathan and his colleagues, Stephen and Shaun for sparing the time to travel to Preston to attend and take part in the ceremony, a ceremony that represented a special day for the Lodge of Concord.

Tony continued by saying the brethren in 1814 could not have foreseen the future leading to this bi-centenary event. He congratulated the lodge on its achievement thanking the lodge for the support it has given down the years and continues to give to the Preston group today.

He suggested that, in this age of electronic communication, all Freemasons should communicate with Grand Lodge with suggestions and ideas to enable Freemasonry to keep up with the times.

He went on to thank the lodge members for the charitable donation made in the lodge and thanked the Provincial team for their support and attendance.

Tony concluded by wishing everyone all the best for the future and above all to continue to enjoy their Masonry to the full. He closed by proposing a toast to the Lodge of Concord No 343.

In his response, Ray, as the WM, thanked Jonathan for his attendance and the Provincial team for their support with particular thanks to the Provincial Grand Secretary, Peter Taylor, for his response to the numerous lodge requests for information during the build up to the celebration.

Turning to the lodge members he expressed special thanks to Bob Dickinson who, despite recently retiring as the lodge secretary, continued his work in organising the event. He reminded brethren that, excluding Setantia, Concord is the largest lodge in the Preston group and concluded by thanking all the visiting brethren for their attendance.

During the banquet proceedings, to serve as a memento of the occasion, hard backed bound copies of the 200 year lodge history were distributed to all those present.

The evening closed with the Provincial Grand Tyler, Frank Kennedy, proposing the Tyler’s toast.

 

Praise for local masons over Somerset floods help

The dramatic floods on the Somerset Levels early last year continue to affect the local community, with some residents still living in temporary accommodation – many in caravans or some distance from their home. 

The Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) has distributed more than £1 million to help alleviate financial hardship, with local masons raising over £200,000 to establish the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund for the Foundation.

SCF chief executive Justin Sargent praised local masons for their work: ‘It was with the support of the Freemasons that we were able to swiftly provide the necessary funding to increase the number of Somerset Village Agents to work in flood-affected areas. 

At a time when many communities were ripped apart, they have been providing an essential signposting and support service, providing reliable and independent eyes and ears on the ground for us.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Charitable support

Sir,

I was pleased to see the article in the spring issue of Freemasonry Today referring to the fantastic support from Freemasons for those affected by the floods in Somerset. Your article stated that some £200,000 was raised by local masons, but I should point out that more than £89,000 of that total came from Essex Freemasons in response to an appeal by our Provincial Grand Master, John Webb.

This in no way detracts from the massive support given by Somerset for such an unparalleled disaster and I should emphasise that Essex masons were delighted to be part of such an incredible initiative, which has clearly made such a difference. 

Colin Felton, Leigh-on-Sea Lodge, No. 4708, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

Creating a new charity for Freemasonry

Helping together

In an open letter, the presidents and chief executives of the four masonic charities explain how combining their efforts under a single entity will enable better support for masons, their families and the wider community

‘The future of the charities is fundamental to the existence and success of Freemasonry,’ commented then Assistant Grand Master Lord Cornwallis following the 1973 Bagnall Report into the work of masonic charity. 

Cornwallis’ statement remains as true today as it did then, and it has been firmly in the minds of the presidents, trustees and chief executives of the four central masonic charities as they have undertaken a further major review. 

The charities each offer a specific area of support to Freemasons and their families. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity supports Freemasons and their dependants in financial need; the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys helps children and young people from masonic families in distress; the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution provides residential care; and the Masonic Samaritan Fund offers access to a range of health-related services.

Change and cooperation

Throughout their long history, the charities have supported hundreds of thousands of Freemasons and their families. They have also demonstrated their willingness to embrace change as both society and Freemasonry have evolved. 

Since co-locating to Freemasons’ Hall, the divisions between the four charities have lessened. However, the presidents remain focused on considering a more effective way of providing the best possible support to the Craft. 

Following an extensive review, the presidents are proposing that all charitable activities should be consolidated to form a new, single charity to support Freemasons, their families and the wider community. 

The charities have a positive record of working closely together. They have already aligned some of their charitable support activities, and created a unified advice and support team to assist those seeking help. The amalgamation of many administrative functions has also reduced duplication, creating a more streamlined service for beneficiaries and donors without compromising their full range of support. 

Despite increased cooperation and cross-charity initiatives such as Freemasonry Cares, the continuing existence of four separate organisations – each with its own distinct processes for providing support – has hindered the development of a truly joined-up and consistent approach. This causes problems for those who need to apply to more than one charity, as they may be required to meet differing criteria and receive separate payments for each type of support. 

The presidents’ recommendation for a single charity will further reduce duplication and move towards the provision of a ‘whole-family, cradle-to-grave’ approach. Freemasons and their families will continue to benefit from the current full range of assistance through a simpler and more readily accessible process. 

The presidents and trustees are committed to maintaining the valuable contribution that the charities make to the wider community. Collectively, millions of pounds are awarded each year to a huge range of local, national and international causes, yet masonic generosity remains a largely untold story. Combining the non-masonic activities of the charities would enable a more effective way of demonstrating that Freemasons care about the wider world.

Fundraising impact

The presidents also considered the impact that a single charity would have on fundraising. Through successive generations, support has been received from masonic donors, Festival Appeals and in many other ways, such as legacies. The charities continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for the majority of their income and are extremely grateful for every donation. 

Maintaining four separate charities, however, means that funds are ring-fenced for individual charitable purposes. For example, funds raised for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys can only be used to support children and young people. A single charity with a combined, wider remit could channel support to where it is most needed. 

The recommendations confirm that Festival Appeals will continue to be the principal mechanism for raising funds. Appeals concluding up to and including 2021 will continue to benefit the existing charities. Festivals concluding from 2022 onwards will benefit the new single charity and its wider remit. 

As Festival Appeals are typically held for five years, a period of transition will be necessary with appeals for the existing charities and the new charity running simultaneously. Donors can be reassured that all donations to the existing charities will continue to be used solely for the purpose for which they were originally given. 

As reported by the Pro Grand Master at the Quarterly Communication in December 2014, the Grand Master and Provincial Grand Masters have received a comprehensive briefing on the review. The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal. The next step is for each charity to invite their members to consider the proposals. 

Over the coming months, each of the charities will make its own plans to ensure that its members are fully consulted on the proposals. The presidents and trustees hope that members of their charities will share the enthusiasm for the proposed way forward. 

The presidents are determined to retain the involvement of members of the Craft in governance arrangements. The final membership structure is yet to be confirmed, but the vision includes an effective means for the Craft to play a part in the future of the charity. 

Should the proposals be approved, it is envisaged that the new charity will become operational during 2016, beginning a new chapter in the long and proud history of masonic charity. 

The proposals: a singular vision

· The presidents of the central masonic charities have recommended that the charities be consolidated into a new, single organisation. 

· The new charity will provide the full range of support currently available to Freemasons and their families. 

· A new name (yet to be determined) will be given to the consolidated charity, which will support both masonic and non-masonic giving. 

· The new charity will become operational in 2016. 

· All Festivals concluding in 2022 and beyond will support the new charity, with existing Festival Appeals continuing as planned. 

· A single president, trustee board, chief executive and staff will administer the new charity, with members of the Craft included in its governance.

‘Throughout their long history, the charities have demonstrated their willingness to embrace change as both society and Freemasonry have evolved.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Charitable support

Sir,

I found the initiative [the proposal of a single masonic charity] of the presidents and chief executives of our four charities very encouraging. As a fumbling almoner, I have struggled from time to time deciding as to where I should be directing my enquiries. I have always found the staff very helpful, but I am sure that an efficient single enquiry channel must be of benefit, not only to us, but to the cause of efficiency within the organisation.

We all love our charities and will, I am sure, continue to support them in whatever form they eventually finish up, but times change and we have to change with them. 

I wish the charities a happy and successful outcome to their deliberations.

Peter Dodd, Old Epsomian Lodge, No. 3561, London

Published in Freemasonry Cares
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