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.
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
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