To mark the 25th anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund the charity is donating £1 million in grants to medical research projects
The fund now invites every Freemason to nominate one proposal from an agreed shortlist of five research projects, based in or near their Province. You can make your voice count by voting on the MSF's website at: www.msfund.org.uk/research
The doctors, consultants and care experts that make up the MSF's Trustee Board have identified the shortlist of research projects which are all high quality and worthy of your support. With only £1m of funding available through the Silver Jubilee Research Fund, there is an obvious need to make some difficult decisions – and we need your help!
Whilst most of the MSF's trustees are Freemasons, this is the first time in their 25-year history that the fund has invited the wider membership to support a specific research project or cause in their communities.
On the fund's website a summary of each research project has been provided with sufficient detail to enable you to make an informed decision. You will have the choice between five research projects based in, or near, the Province. You can cast your nomination by simply clicking the 'vote now' button.
Only Freemasons, or their widows, are invited to nominate a project so you must provide details of your full name and email address, Province and lodge name and number in order for your vote to be verified and registered.
What research study do you wish the MSF to support in our region? Make your voice count at: www.msfund.org.uk/reseach
The silver shortlist
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF), the trustees are making available £1 million in support of medical and care research projects
The MSF is planning to award grants of up to £100,000 in 10 regions across England and Wales. Its Silver Jubilee Research Fund originally received 62 grant applications, seeking nearly £9 million in support. However, with only £1 million available through the fund, the charity will need to make some difficult decisions.
Since 2011, the MSF has supported research projects that aim to improve the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and care available for illnesses and disabilities that affect masonic families and the wider community. Nearly £2 million has been awarded to large and small research organisations such as Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Carers UK and the A-T Society.
Several research projects funded by the MSF have achieved significant success in their field. A £181,000 grant awarded to Alzheimer’s Research UK has helped to develop a new blood test that, it is hoped, will predict whether someone with early memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year. Two grants totalling £75,000 awarded to RAFT (the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust) have helped to develop a working prototype of a bionic arm fit for human trials, in a bid to compensate for the loss of a limb. A grant of £34,000, presented to Prostate Cancer UK, has helped Dr Hayley Whitaker and her team to identify that the presence of a specific protein can distinguish prostate cancers that are aggressive from those that may never seriously harm the patient.
For further details about the Silver Jubilee Research Fund and the research studies shortlisted for a grant in your Province, please visit www.msfund.org.uk/research
Consulting for consolidation
The 2015 MSF members’ meeting was hosted at Freemasons’ Hall in March and marked the start of the formal process of consultation with the charity’s members regarding the proposal to consolidate the four central masonic charities.
The proposed consolidation seeks to ensure that the full range of support currently provided by the central masonic charities will continue to be available to all eligible applicants and will be delivered in the most cost-effective manner.
Throughout the transition process and beyond, health and care grants will be accessible for eligible beneficiaries seeking treatment, care and support without undue delay or expense.
Full details of the information provided by the MSF president and CEO are available at www.msfund.org.uk/news.php
The consultation will conclude at the next members’ meeting on 29 October 2015. For further information on the consolidation of the charities, see www.masoniccharities.org.uk/review
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.
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.’
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
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
The Provincial Grand Lodge meeting in May provided a fitting occasion to celebrate the finale of the West Kent 2015 Festival in aid of the Masonic Samaritan Fund
In front of a packed Grand Temple the PGM, RW Bro Jonathan Winpenny presented a cheque for the magnificent sum of £3,252,148.
RW Bro Willie Shackell, MSF President, offered his sincere thanks for such a generous contribution towards the work of the Fund. 'Your generosity will make a tremendous difference to so many people waiting to receive the treatment and care they need.'
At the Festive Board RW Bro Jonathan Spence, Deputy Grand Master, congratulated all present for their generous, energetic and innovative fundraising throughout the six years of the appeal.
A motorbike ride to Dar es Salaam, raft races on the Thames and a walk to the 1066 battlefield all helped to retain the fun in the Festival fundraising and achieve such a fantastic total. A further 'Howzat' event, for all the family, will be held on 28 June at the Warren in Bromley when even more members of the West Kent Provincial family can enjoy the extended celebrations.
Elliot Mason’s father, Robert James Mason is a London Freemason from Perfect Ashlar Lodge No. 1178.
Elliot said: 'I came to support the MSF through my dad, who is incredibly passionate about the work the charity does. I wanted to raise awareness and money for the fund because people with a health and care need require immediate treatment and support. The charity also provides grants to medical research charities which can help improve healthcare around the world, helping groups of people whose complex needs are often overlooked and underfunded.'
At the 19th mile, Elliot took a short break to get down on one knee and propose to his longterm girlfriend. After celebrating together, Elliot raced the remaining seven miles to complete the course in three hours fifty minutes. So far he has raised over £300 for the charity and donations are still accumulating on his online fundraising page.
The Paris Marathon starts on the Champs Elysees, and runners pass historic sites such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Bastille and the Eiffel Tower before finishing in sight of the Arc de Triomphe.
With half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimer’s, the Masonic Samaritan Fund and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity have been united in their desire to support groundbreaking research that will help identify new targets for treating the disease, with a staggering donation of £175,000 to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The expert research team, led by Prof Clemens Kaminski at the University of Cambridge, want to understand the chain of events that occur right at the beginning of the onset of the disease. The scientists hope the knowledge gained from this vital research will offer new clues for treatment.
Freemasons from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Cambridgeshire presented the generous donation at a cheque presentation in Professor Kaminski’s laboratory.
Ian Wilson, Director of Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Research UK who accepted the £175,000 donation said: “We are delighted that The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have chosen to support Alzheimer’s Research UK’s fight to defeat dementia.
“Research holds the answers to find ways to prevent, diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, but it is massively underfunded. This huge contribution will fund two years of pioneering research at the University of Cambridge. As an independent charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK is completely reliant on the generosity of donors and this marvellous donation will take us all closer to a world free of dementia.”
Alzheimer’s disease, which affects memory and thinking, is characterised by the build-up of two toxic proteins – amyloid and tau. These protein clumps cause damage to nerve cells and lead to the symptoms experienced by those living with Alzheimer’s. But it is still not fully understood how these clumps of protein inflict damage on nerve cells. This generous support from the two Masonic charities will help Dr Kaminski and his team quite literally shine a light on the initial stages of Alzheimer’s.
Peter Sutton, Provincial Information Officer for Cambridgeshire Freemasons, said: “We are delighted to support Alzheimer’s Research UK in its mission to undertake pioneering research that brings us closer to a treatment for this cruel disease.
“Alzheimer’s is a disease that touches so many of us, family, friends and colleagues. All Cambridgeshire Freemasons look forward to following the progress of Professor Kaminski and his team as they strive to understand the fundamental basics underlying Alzheimer’s disease. Freemasons throughout the country are proud to be part of the fight against dementia.”
Fight for sight
A grant funded entirely through donations made by Freemasons and their families will aid pioneering research that could restore sight
The Masonic Samaritan Fund has provided a grant of £91,500 to eye disorder charity Fight for Sight. This will fund pioneering research that could restore vision for thousands of patients affected by degenerative eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The grant will support research for three years at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, which is investigating ways to restore the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye that are lost in conditions such as AMD and inherited retinal diseases. The research explores advances in stem-cell replacement therapy, in which photoreceptors at an early stage of development are transplanted into a degenerating retina.
Dr Dolores Conroy, director of research at Fight for Sight, thanked Freemasons for contributing such a generous amount. ‘Sight is the sense people fear losing the most. It’s an exciting time for eye research and we are delighted to be the UK charity leading the way.’
John McCrohan, MSF Grants Director, added, ‘Each year, we provide grants totalling £100,000 to people affected by eye conditions such as macular degeneration and retinal disease. This project gives us the opportunity to fund cutting-edge research with the power to develop truly effective treatments and ultimately preserve the sight of millions. It’s a valuable cause that Freemasons and their families are delighted to support.’
Twenty-five years of dedication
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Masonic Samaritan Fund. Established in 1990 with the working title of New Masonic Samaritan Fund, it continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of eligible beneficiaries.
Over the years, the Fund has benefited from careful stewardship by trustees who gave freely of their time and experience. A similarly dedicated staff team have ensured that its original ethos remains as strong as ever.
In its two and a half decades, the Fund has awarded 17,700 grants totalling more than £64 million on behalf of over 11,500 individuals. This remarkable achievement has only been possible due to the hard work and dedication of all those who have so generously supported the Fund, enabling it to help those in need. On behalf of the trustees, staff and, more importantly, beneficiaries, the MSF offers its sincere thanks.
Meeting of minds
Thanks to the research of Professor Susan Short, doctors could be using a common cold virus to shrink deadly brain tumours within five years. Sarah Holmes finds out how the Freemasons are supporting this groundbreaking work
There are six hundred and fifty kilometres of blood vessels in the human brain. If unravelled from London, they would stretch just short of Glasgow, yet coiled they fit into an organ just fifteen centimetres long.
This incredible network keeps the brain’s one hundred billion or so nerve cells supplied with oxygen and nutrients. For decades, researchers have been investigating ways of using these blood vessels to administer life-saving treatments for complex diseases, including brain tumours.
The current anti-cancer armoury relies on invasive treatments of brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can cause debilitating side effects in patients. They range from hair loss and vomiting to the development of cancer in healthy tissues that have been exposed to radiation.
By contrast, the pervasive network of blood vessels in the brain could allow doctors to send cancer-killing agents directly to the site of the tumour. It’s a targeted approach that could cut down recovery times significantly, but the treatment possibilities have remained underdeveloped as brain cancer research struggles to attract funding.
Last year, however, new hope was instilled at the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology. During a clinical trial of twelve NHS brain tumour patients, Professor Susan Short successfully delivered a commonly encountered, non-toxic virus capable of killing tumour cells, without harming healthy ones, directly to the brains of some patients.
‘At present, the survival rates of brain cancer are not only disappointing, but the treatments themselves can also be harmful and invasive.’
It was a major breakthrough that brought the possibility of non-toxic brain cancer treatment one step closer to reality. Shortly after the clinical trial, Professor Short and her team were awarded a five-year grant worth £3 million, half of which came from The Brain Tumour Charity. Included in this was a joint contribution of £100,000 from the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) and The Freemasons’ Grand Charity – a sum that enabled Professor Short to hire two more post-doctoral researchers.
‘The research was recommended to us by distinguished cancer surgeon Charles Akle,’ says Richard Dunstan, Chairman of the Non-Masonic Grants Committee.
‘We were fortunate enough to have him on our deciding committee and he spoke very highly of Professor Short, so that greatly boosted our confidence in her research.’
At present, the survival rates of brain cancer are not only disappointing, but the treatments themselves can also be harmful and invasive, explains Richard.
‘If successful, this project could provide non-invasive and non-toxic forms of treatment that are an all-round safer option for brain cancer sufferers. In our view, that constitutes research of the utmost importance.’
For John McCrohan, Grants Director at the MSF, the fact that the project was being carried out in Leeds, away from the usual centres for funding, gave it extra significance. ‘It proves that not all high-quality research happens in London or Cambridge,’ he says. ‘We were eager to show the masonic community that our funding could be helping research happening right on their doorsteps.’
‘In Professor Short’s research, a harmless household pathogen is used, producing mild, flu-like symptoms at worst.’
The funding gap
It’s not the first time the Grand Charity and the MSF have combined to support a medical research cause, with previous contributions benefiting work with both prostate and ovarian cancer. This latest award, however, will help to find desperately needed treatments for a cancer that has been nationally overlooked for the past decade.
Between 2002 and 2012, brain cancer research received just £35 million in National Cancer Research Institute funding compared to the £351.5 million spent researching cures for breast cancer. As a result, survival rates have not changed much in the past forty years.
In fact, recorded cases of brain cancer have increased since the 1970s, rising twenty-three per cent for men and twenty-five per cent for women. Despite accounting for just one per cent of cancer diagnoses, brain tumours are responsible for three per cent of all cancer deaths each year. Such damning odds have driven development of The Brain Tumour Charity’s latest research strategy, A Cure Can’t Wait, which aims to secure at least £20 million of investment over the next five years. The hope is to attract more people like Professor Short into the field.
‘I worked with patients suffering from brain tumours very early on in my career,’ says Professor Short. ‘I enjoyed it, but it was very obvious that more research was needed to improve the outcomes of their treatments. So when I started my PhD, I decided to apply the work to glioma.’
Glioma is a primary form of brain tumour made up of cells resembling the supportive glial cells in the brain and spine, and the focus of Professor Short’s latest research.
It is one of the most aggressive and fastest-growing tumour types, with patients usually surviving for between twelve and eighteen months after diagnosis, depending on how advanced the tumour has become.
Over the next five years, Professor Short’s work will look at how harmless viruses can be used to help attack and diminish these primary tumours, as well as secondary metastatic varieties. Called oncolytic viruses, these parasitic agents can preferentially infect and kill cancer cells.
‘The aim is to develop a non-toxic form of treatment that can be used in conjunction with the traditional methods to increase the number of tumour cells that we kill,’ says Professor Short. ‘In theory, the viruses would be injected into the patient intravenously before being carried through their bloodstream to the brain where they could act on the tumour cells.’
The success of this theory has already been proved in the earlier clinical trial, and it’s an outstanding feat given the numerous biological obstacles that have developed to protect the brain from foreign agents – even if they are cancer-killing viruses.
The most complicated is the blood brain barrier, a unique protection system that prevents harmful pathogens from infiltrating the brain’s bloodstream.
The second is the body’s own immune response against the virus while it is in circulation.
‘We believe that at least some of the virus is carried intracellularly through the bloodstream and released only at the tumour site,’ explains Professor Short. ‘The immune cells, which are derived from bone marrow, protect the virus from antibody attack so that it can’t be neutralised before it reaches the brain.’
Professor Short theorises that once in the brain, the virus invades the tumour cells, causing them to explode and die. ‘There are two ways that the virus could act on the tumour cells,’ she explains. ‘Firstly it could be a direct toxic effect of the virus, which stops the tumour cells from being able to divide and grow so they die. The second is that the virus triggers a response from the local immune cells. This would encourage the immune cells to break down the tumour cell along with the virus.’
Known as immunotherapy, this form of cancer treatment is particularly advantageous for brain cancer sufferers because it lacks the painful side effects of conventional treatment. In Professor Short’s research, a harmless household pathogen called reovirus is used, producing at worst mild, flu-like symptoms in the patients.
Ultimately, Professor Short hopes that the treatment will be available for all brain cancer patients through mainstream healthcare, although she estimates that this would be unlikely to happen for another two to three years. First, she aims to improve her understanding of how the virus attacks the tumour cells, before opening it up to more patients through clinical trials.
Alongside this main tranche of research, Professor Short’s team will also be investigating ways to stop tumour stem cells from reseeding after radiotherapy, as well as improving their understanding of the cell-based delivery system of the virus. It’s early stages yet, and although the team can’t confidently calculate the impact the research will have on patient survival rates, Professor Short remains optimistic.
‘One of the nice things about this study is that it’s a completely new treatment option,’ she says. ‘So many other approaches to treating tumours haven’t worked, but this gives patients hope. It’s another positive step towards overcoming brain cancer.’
The case for research
Tim, forty, was diagnosed with a grade IV brain tumour in February 2011. The prognosis was not good, and he was told he probably wouldn’t survive beyond eighteen months.
Even so, he went through the usual treatment process. Four years later, Tim is still here. ‘Nobody knows why I’m still around, and in a sense that makes it harder,’ he says. ‘There’s such a lack of understanding about the disease; even the treatments all seem a bit random. There’s no guarantee they will work. I have friends who were diagnosed and died within a year. Nobody can tell what’s going to happen, and that is what’s most frustrating.’
Tim hopes that with more essential research, brain cancer patients can someday be given the same odds of survival as other cancers. ‘When you don’t understand what’s happening inside your mind, it’s impossible to go forward. That’s where the research comes in.’
As a nurse, Cariss, twenty-nine, knew something wasn’t right when she kept suffering from bouts of intense déjà vu. ‘I could be driving the car, and all of a sudden my face would prickle with heat and this horrible feeling of panic would strike me,’ she recalls.
It turned out to be a grade III oligoastrocytoma growing behind her eye. Cariss was devastated. In June 2014, she had brain surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, before undergoing intensive rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy over the course of the rest of the year. ‘The treatment made me feel even worse than the tumour itself,’ she says. ‘It was such a gruelling process.’
The lack of understanding about what caused this disease was equally disheartening. ‘In the news, they put it down to bad luck, but there’s got to be a reason. That’s why research is so vital, so we can find out what causes brain cancer and treat it effectively.’
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
Forward with focus
As the Membership Focus Group gathers opinions about the future of Freemasonry and proposals circulate about the combination of the four masonic charities, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes looks ahead
Over the past forty-odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on knowing as much as possible about our membership, and what we can do to stabilise numbers and increasingly attract high-quality members.
The Membership Focus Group (MFG) has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval – all vital to the success of any organisation.
The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months that will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that more than 7,400 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.
Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it is so often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone. One such idea came from a chance comment from a Deputy Provincial Grand Master about the word ‘recruitment’ having connotations of press-ganging into the services. Rather than talking about recruiting new members, why not think about ‘attracting’ them? This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.
The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this: I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded with emails, so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.
Modernising the Charities
Another area in which there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, at that time myself but soon to be Jonathan Spence, who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in Freemasons’ Hall in London.
The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the charity presidents and their chief executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the charities for many years to come.
I am pleased to announce that the Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnall Report of forty-one years ago.
The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main charities into a new overarching charity, managed by a single board of trustees under a single chief executive officer, with a single team of staff. Further details will be made available via the individual charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of the Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members’ meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.
The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole-family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be more appropriate for the twenty-first century.
‘Some ideas may appear trivial, but it is often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone.’