FREEMASONS AND CHARITY
by R. W. Bro. Col. G. S. H. Dicker
(Member of the Bagnall Committee)
It is quite impossible in a short paper to cover this vast subject adequately. Traditionally, Freemasons and Charity have always been inextricably linked. Without Charity Freemasonry would be meaningless.
Prior to 1973 there were four principal Masonic charities, the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls (RMIG), founded in 1788, the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys (RMIB), founded in 1798, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI), founded in 1842, and the Royal Masonic Hospital (RMH), founded in 1920. There was also the Fund of Benevolence, administered by Grand Lodge, and many other smaller charities within Provinces, Districts and individual Lodges, and within other Masonic orders.
Then in 1971 the Grand Master appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of R W Bro the Hon. Mr Justice Bagnall to review the whole operation of charity within the context of Freemasonry. This Committee reported in December 1973.
Following the publication of the Bagnall Report a number of changes took place. The RMIG and RMIB combined into the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (MTGB). The Boys' School a Bushey was closed, and the Girls' School at Rickmansworth became financially independent, with entry no longer restricted to children of Freemasons. The MTGB took on the responsibility for those children of masons who needed help, paying not only school fees at Rickmansworth and other schools, but also maintenance costs where appropriate. This arrangement has been highly successful - the Rickmansworth Masonic School flourishes, with about 650 girls of whom 470 are boarders, and the MTGB looks after more than 1400 children.
As a direct consequence of the Bagnall Report, the Fund of Benevolence was succeeded by the Grand Charity, which differed from its predecessor in a number of ways. It is financed from two main sources. It holds an annual festival, and there is what seems like a compulsory levy, which is expressed as a contribution; this at present is not less than 3.00 pounds from each brother of a London Lodge, and 2.50 pounds from each brother in a Province. It is open to Lodges to make larger contributions if they so wish. No such contribution is payable by a brother in a Lodge overseas. The Grant Charity makes substantial payments to petitioners, as did the Fund of Benevolence, and to other Masonic charities, and it also distributes over 1 pounds million a year to non-Masonic charities.
A further major change following the Bagnall Report was the merger of the RMBI and the RMH into the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick. This was not so successful. After a few years there was a de-merger, so that the RMBI reverted to its original practice of looking after the elderly, in 15 Homes throughout the country, and by way of direct annuities to Freemasons and their families with limited resources. The RMBI currently cares for over 1900 people by way of financial assistance with everyday living expenses, and some 900 are looked after in the Homes.
The RMH has not had a happy history in recent years. Bagnall forecast problems, and in 1984 a further Committee under the chairmanship of R W Bro the Hon. Mr Justice Drake reported that the Hospital was no longer providing the best way for the Foundation to fulfil its role, nor was it financially viable, and recommended that it should be disposed of, the proceeds of sale, together with other easting assets, being used to provide a fund from which assistance would in future be made to eligible needy sick Freemasons and their families. Although an attractive offer was received, a proposal to sell the Hospital was rejected, and the Hospital has continued to function, although its operating losses have been heavy. In 1990 plans were announced to create a new structure. The Hospital was to be managed by a newly formed company, The Royal Masonic Hospital Limited, which would presumably lease the premises from the RMH. The company was to be self financing, with all fees being paid in full. At the same time the old Samaritan fund, which had formed part of the funds of the RMH but had run out of money, was replaced by a new RMH Samaritan Fund, which is quite separate from the Hospital. The intention was, and indeed stiff is, that the New Masonic Samaritan Fund (NMSF) should support sick and needy masons and their dependants wherever they may be. The objects of the new Fund are wider than those of the old, and the benefits are not limited to patients at the Royal Masonic Hospital. It is intended that, as money becomes available, the Fund will be able to extend its work to relief generally based on the interests and needs of its petitioners.
But there are problems. The NMSF has started from scratch, and needs to raise a substantial amount of long term capital by way of endowment, in addition to money to run its operations from the start. It remains to be seen how far the NMSF will be able to go. From time to time consideration has been given to the establishment of a "Masonic sick fund", but this has generally been thought not to be practicable as an open ended project. In 1989 the Committee chaired by R W Bro I R Bryce recommend that although a national fund was not a viable proposition, every attempt should be made to extend the scope of the (then) Samaritan Fund. This has been started with the formation of the NMSF. Both the Drake Report and the Bryce Report clearly had in mind that there would only be limited resources available for helping sick and needy Freemasons.
Indeed, it has to be accepted that there is, and always will be, a limit to the amount that can be raised within masonry for charitable purposes. Bagnall, in a supplementary report not generally published, made the following observations:
"We conclude by reiterating that the funds for the support of Masonic charity are and will be limited. In modern jargon there is one "cake" to be shared. It will be more and more difficult to increase the size of the cake: indeed we think that the size will certainly diminish in terms of purchasing power, and possibly in absolute terms. We think that it must be an obligation of all Freemasons, and particularly those who have a voice in the control and management of the present Charities, to do their utmost to ensure that Masonic charitable funds are devoted to giving relief where it is most needed and that the costs of providing that relief are reduced to a minimum".
As regards the size of the "cake" referred to by Bagnall, it is not possible to be precise, particularly because of the variations from year to year through the festival system. However it is worth recording that in 1972, immediately prior to Bagnall, the total annual donations from members of the Craft to the principal charities were estimated at 2.2 million pounds, and the average for the five years up to and including 1972 amounted to 1.8 million pounds.
It is difficult to assess what they are today, but a rough estimate, based on the last available accounts, is 9 million pounds.
Even if this current estimate is not quite accurate it does bear out what Bagnall suggested, before the days of high inflation. In January 1972 the RPI stood at 21, and in January 1992 it was 1355, so that prices have increased by a factor of 6.4. Applying this factor to the 1972 total of, say, 2.0 million pounds gives an amount of over 12.8 million pounds, which is certainly well in excess of what is now being contributed by the Craft to its charities. Another way of looking at the problem is to say that if each of 8,000 Lodges were to raise 1,600 pounds a year the total would amount to 12.8 million pounds, and this is the sort of figure which might be expected based on 1972 levels.
The above estimated figures do not include amounts raised within Provinces and Districts, and within individual Lodges, for their own Charities. Other Masonic Orders, notably the Mark Benevolent Fund, also raise, and spend, money for charitable purposes. Most, if not all, of these make contributions to non Masonic charities.
Mention has been made of the Festival system. Traditionally the three Institutions (RMIG, RMIB and RMBI) held annual Festivals, but the RMH did not. Now there are annual Festivals in aid of the MTGB, RMBI and the Grand Charity, but not for the NMSF. There are suggestions that the NMSF should hold an annual Festival. Festivals are planned, after consultations between the three Charities concerned, some ten years ahead, so that although a period of 4 - 7 years may be officially stated as the gestation period for a Province to support a Festival, in practice at any one time there are up to 30 Provinces working towards Festivals. Of the remaining 17 several are too small to provide direct support for Festivals, and London only rarely does so as an area, although London Lodges, support for Provincial festivals is considerable.
It is mainly because of the variations in size of the Provinces that it is difficult to assess the total amount raised annually.
Have we got our priorities right? At present the Charities vie against each other for support, with varying degrees of success. Each Charity can do with more money, and there is no limit to the amount which would be welcomed by non-Masonic charities, both at home and by those dealing with relief for overseas emergencies. Perhaps it is time to consider again some of the Terms of Reference of the Bagnall Committee:
- To consider in the light of present economic and other circumstances whether the Charities are serving the interests of the Craft and achieving their several charitable purposes in the best possible manner.
- To consider the several methods at present adopted for raising funds for the purpose of each of the Charities and whether any additional or alternative method or methods could be adopted.
- To consider whether competition between the Charities in seeking funds or otherwise is in the best interests of the Craft and the Charities.
Are Masonic charitable funds being raised in the best possible way, and are they devoted to giving relief where it is most needed? These are the questions which we should be asking ourselves in 1992.
Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution
Miss Jane Reynolds
Chief Executive Officer, RMBI
The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution has provided services for older Freemasons and their dependants since 1842, concentrating latterly on the provision of mainly registered Residential Care accommodation (with some registered Nursing accommodation) for about 900 people in 15 Homes in England and Wales, and Annuities to approximately 1,900 people on very low incomes. More peripherally, it operates two Funds - The Good Neighbour Fund, to pay for holidays, and the Victor Donaldson Fund, to assist financially with repairs to Annuitants' own properties.
The arrival of the new Chief Executive in November 1991 coincided with a period of substantial change for the Institution, to adapt to the changing needs of Residents to comply with ever-increasing legislation and to develop existing services to be responsive to expressed needs from, and on behalf of, those Freemasons and their dependants wishing to remain in their own homes for as long as possible and practicable.
The Chief Executive's first and immediate task was to get a firm grip on her management responsibilities.
Subsequently, a number of initiatives are being launched which will help shape our strategy for the medium to long-term by testing fresh approaches to care, and providing new information.
Most of the Homes are very large, with the scope and perhaps the need to be subdivided into smaller sub-units to be commensurate with current patters of care provision.
Not all the Homes have registered Nursing accommodation within them. A rolling programme has been set up to tackle this. There is a likelihood that more beds in the other Homes will need to be registered for Nursing Care as time goes by, and Residents become more frail, in order to meet the Institution's stated aim of providing care for Residents until the end of their lives. There are both significant capital and revenue consequences of this need: the staffing levels in the Homes are, by and large, barely adequate at the present time, even when a large percentage of Residents are still fairly capable.
There is concern about some low occupancy levels of some of the Homes. Procedures are now in place to accelerate the procedure from referral to the individual taking up a place. Other strategies may need to be devised to fill empty Beds, or, alternatively, consideration will need to be given to deciding upon a different use for the empty space in the Buildings in question.
The Institutions key objectives are:
- To strive vigorously to provide the highest possible standards of care.
- To ensure occupancy levels in the Homes exceed the current levels, accelerating the processing of referrals and utilising virtually all the beds, allowing only the minimum to be kept to ensure flexibility.
- To operate the Homes at levels that achieve an appropriate recovery of running costs from Residents' Fees.
- To ensure that staffing levels are commensurate with Residents' needs.
- To use the Homes as bases for new services - supporting people in their own homes - that will provide added value.
- To ensure that the workforce is appropriately skilled to undertaken the work, and that the staff feel valued by the Organisation.
- To run the Institution as efficiently as possible.
- To be responsive to changing needs.
To achieve these objectives, there are a number of major programme themes:
- Achieving a better balance between Sheltered Accommodation, Residential Beds and Nursing Beds.
- Improving communication with the Provinces to identify unmet needs.
- establishing close cooperation with our Statutory colleagues in the District Health Authorities and Social Services Departments.
- Demonstrating openness to other views and influences.
- Expanding into outreach services to support people in their own homes.
- Developing staff to meet changing needs.
A Business Plan is being prepared; delivering it will require the Institution to manage change, in many cases significant, over the full range of our responsibilities. During this period, good communications will be essential, to keep staff, Residents, Annuitants and the Provinces informed of what we are doing and why. With efficient and effective management, we are sure that the Institution can face the many challenges that lie ahead with confidence.
The Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
W. Bro. Col. R. K. Hind PSGD
The Trust exists for the relief of poverty and advancement of education of any child of the family of a Freemason considered to be in need. There are no upper or lower age limits for these children and it is a principle that each child shall be supported until preparation for a working life has been completed. This prime task having been financed then authority exists to assist the education of any child, whether or not the child of a Freemason. This latter task has been discharged by answering appeals from non-Masonic charities operating in the same field of relief, for children in distressed and handicapped circumstances, where it can be established that funds so disbursed are for direct application to a child.
The most recent example of this latter form of relief is the joint venture with the Grand Charity in providing funds for the M W the Grant Master's Anniversary project, the construction of a village for the mentally handicapped. The Trust is making its largest donation so far to non-Masonic charity, 1/2 million pounds to provide the educational and training facilities in this CARE village.
Throughout all the changes in policy, management, and scale of relief, that have taken place in the life time of the former separate Institutions for Girls and Boys and now the Trust, the aim has remained constant for over two hundred years, to prepare the child for a working life. It follows that the length of time under the protection of the Trust can be considerable and the average is now in excess of eleven years.
The most significant change which took place on 1 January 1986 when the former Institutions merged with the MTGB, which then became the one operative charity concerned with children, was the ability to apply relief to a wider Masonic family, to the child of the family of a Freemason, that is to say, any child supported by a Freemason as though that child were his own, and found to be in need.
On the day the Trust became operative, a total of 366 girls and 390 boys came under its protection from the former Institutions and the direct support costs of those children and young people in that first year totalled 2.3 million pounds. On 1 May 1992, there were 799 girls and 796 boys under its protection at a forecast cost in the year of 6.4 million pounds.
The growth in number of children under the Trust's protection, from 756 in 1986 to the current level of 1,595, is due to a continually increasing number of new petitions. In the first year of operation there were 168 new petitions, a very high figure in relation to the number of children already under care. In the succeeding years the level of new petitions has been increasing at a rate of nearly 10% per annum. These factors have resulted in the number of children under protection more than doubling in 6 1/2 years, an average growth in numbers of near 13% per annum compound.
Growth in numbers and costs can be attributed to the following factors:
- Increased awareness within the Craft of the relief available to children of the larger Masonic family.
- Increase in the level of distress following the death of Freemasons having children in education coupled with the greater educational opportunities evadable and needed to fit children for a working life in this increasing technological age.
- Increase in life expectancy of and facilities for children having learning difficulties through mental or physical handicap.
- Increase in refinance on charitable relief to supplement State support for those in distressed circumstances.
- Increase in the rate of desertion by fathers having children of school age.
- Inflation which affects all support costs in the home; food, clothing, materials, equipment and travel.
- The equal opportunities to be offered both girls and boys resulting in a common level of support and education costs.
- The psychological benefits in maintaining children at the school which they attended before the death of the father.
During the period, from 1986 to the present time, the average cost of each child's support has increased by nearly 7% per annum compound. When coupled with the increased numbers, this has resulted in an annual cost increase to the Trust of nearly 20% per annum, as evidenced by the increase from 2.3 million pounds in 1986 to the forecast cost of 6.4 million pounds in 1992.
On the other side of the balance sheet without allowing for possible reductions in donations due to the economic situation the future Festivals for this Trust to the year 2000 will produce an anticipated level of income well below that experienced in the last decade due to the size of the Provinces concerned. To this must be added a reduced level of investment income due to usage of capital reserves. It is forecast that within two years capital reserves will have to be used to sustain the present level of expenditure and should the growth in petition cases continue the effect on resources will become serious.
It was to meet the expressed wish of the Craft that relief was extended to the wider Masonic family in 1986. Experience in the brief 6 1/2 year life of the Trust directly influences the "Way Ahead" in the next decade. The growth in numbers and costs and the anticipated reduction in income and their influence on the application of the principle - applied for over two centuries - to prepare the distressed children of Freemasons in need for a working life, are the factors dominating planning activity in the Trust.
The Grand Charity
R. W. Bro. Cdr. M. B. S. Higham PJGW
Secretary Grand Charity
The Grand Charity came into being on 1 January 1981. It succeeded the Board of Benevolence, which had descended from various committees formed by Grand Lodge since 1727 for the relief of distressed Freemasons.
The Grand Charity was intended as a charity which could be outward-looking and flexible, which could respond to any charitable need (not just Masonic) and which could at the same time continue as a first priority to help needy Freemasons and their dependents.
Comment: The aims could hardly be wider in a Masonic charity.
The Grand Charity derives its income from four sources:
- Donations and legacies - unpredictable
- Covenants - more predictable, and steady
- Dividends and interest - varying with the state of the stock market, and deriving from a capital fund which is not large
- Festivals - varying from year to year, roughly in proportion with the size of the Festival Province.
Comment: These sources are like those of other Masonic charities, and their characteristics will be familiar.
A fifth source is the Grand Charity's own contributions from Lodges, increased from 1 January 1992 to the rate of 3.00 pounds per annum for each member of a London Lodge. (2.50 pounds in Provincial Lodges). These replace contributions from Grand Lodge's Fund of General Purposes to its Fund of Benevolence, capitation fees which until 1981 were extracted painlessly and almost unnoticed from Lodges as part of their annual dues to Grand Lodge.
Comment: The basic contribution is not large, but the method of collection is sometimes misunderstood. The change in 1981 was to emphasise the Grand Charity's constitutional independence and it may matter less now if the method were to revert although there might be tax repercussions. Either method involves all Freemasons in the Craft's central charity.
Petitioners Expenditure on the relief of needy Freemasons and their dependants is the first call on the Grand Charity's funds.
Comment: This will continue
Contributions from a central charity to other Masonic charities were part of the Bagnall Committee's plan, and the Grand Charity has provided funds to help the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick and the New Masonic Samaritan Fund start their administrations; grants to the Royal Masonic Hospital and Masonic Housing Association, and grants or loans to Provinces to start or otherwise help with retirement homes or sheltered housing.
Comment: This form of assistance will continue, but guidelines on housing may have to become more fierce.
Apart from providing, as did the old Board of Benevolence, relief for natural disasters at home and overseas, the Grand Charity has made major grants, often as a series over five years, to non-Masonic charities, and often (as in grants for combatting drug dependence for hospices and for helping mentally handicapped adults) in advance of support from the government or the general public.
Comment: This part of the Grand Charity's activities shows that Freemasons care for others apart from their own people, and play a responsible part in identifying and meeting the needs of society at large.
RELIEF CHEST SCHEME
Since 1986 the Relief Chest Scheme has pooled charitable funds so that Lodges and Provinces achieve maximum return on investments while retaining control over expenditure. One in four London Lodges; one in 6 1/2 Provincial Lodges, one in 5 Provinces have chests.
Comment: Pooling resources without losing control is obviously sensible. Growth in numbers involved is steady, but should be encouraged.
Expenditure should not outpace income, or the capital base becomes even smaller. The Grand Charity's spending on petitioners has for the last seven years exceeded contributions from Lodges, and in 1991's recession was nearly twice as much. Festivals are now an important source of funds for the Grand Charity (as well as providing valuable contacts with members) but income from them fluctuates. Without a large capital base, the Grand Charity relies heavily on contributions to balance its spending. One might hope that the general level of spending has the Craft's approval - might the Craft not also persuade itself that 5.75p a week per member of a London Lodge or 4.8p a week in a Provincial Lodge was a little low?
New Masonic Samaritan Fund
Bro. Lt. Col. S. G. Overton
The main draft paper reviews the ethos and historical aspect of Masonic Charities, rehearses the "cake" theory and identifies the diminishing buying power trend of income generated within the Craft and Masonic Charities. It also touches on the potential for conflict between Provinces and Masonic Charities in fundraising activities. It neither seeks to present a radical review with options and proposals for change, and how to manage it or discuss the question of raising and allocating funds on a needs basis. It is however a most useful and constructive document to stimulate discussion. The 275th Anniversary Conference, therefore, needs to consider the present situation and its problems, the basis of raising and allocating funds and whether these require modification, re-structuring or radical revision.
The principle requirement for providing charitable relief is surely First to establish the need of the individual applicant within the parameters and framework of the objects and criteria of the particular Fund concerned. From this, the level of relief can be assessed and given. Similarly, at the level of the Masonic Charities themselves, due regard must surely be given to the comparative needs and requirements of each Fund/Charity and its ability to generate and allocate sufficient funds for relief. These need to take into account any special needs, eg. for capital reserves and resources, as well as annual income requirement. The Charities should also be regarded as a business in terms of efficiency and operational planning and run accordingly. Thus the need assessment should be incorporated into a short, mid and long term budget analyses taking into account the expected demand, the cost and frequency of benevolence to be given, the assets and resources already held, and the shortfall/requirement thereon. It represents forecasts, comparisons, budgets, business plans and maximising scarce resources. Thus the size of the "cake" and allocation thereof should not be based arbitrarily on independent fundraising effort, but a breakdown of the corporate Charities needs and equitable allocation and distribution of resources using immediate, mid and long term requirement forecasts. Moreover, if a quantitive assessment of demand is taken by viewing the quarter of a million Craft members and their 2-5 million dependants along with the four Charities on an age/life bar.
The New Masonic Samaritan Fund Charity can be identified as having a prime requirement.
PAST AND PRESENT
The Inception of the Fund arose from the financial difficulties experienced by the Royal Masonic Hospital (RMH) and Old Samaritan Fund (OSF). Dependence on both had declined within the Craft by 1990 due to the establishment of excellent National Health Service and Private Hospital facilities, with related after care services, throughout the domain, especially in the far flung Provinces, i.e. Cornwall, Devon and Durham.
The Fund was thus incorporated on 28 November 1990 as an independent Charity of equal status with her Sister Masonic Charities to provide support and relief for sick, infirm and needy Freemasons and their dependants suffering pain, hardship and distress. Relief is applied through a petitioners process utilising Lodge and Provincial Almoners (or Provincial equivalents). The criteria for relief is based on a medical need, financial hardship, lack of availability of timely treatment through the National Health Service and social/family need. Successful petitioners are funded at their most appropriate and normally cost effective hospital/establishment, including the RMH, acting as provider units on a countrywide basis. In the case of overseas Districts, treatment may be in the UK or eventually provided under local overseas arrangements where available. From 1 August 1991 to the 30 April 1992 the NMSF supported 350 successful petition applicants at 80 different hospitals from Provinces countrywide and Districts at a cost of 1.1 million pounds representing an average of 3,142 pounds per case. This does not include the interim arrangements funded by Grand Charity via NMSF for committed OSF patients at the RMH between March and July 1991. Treatments have been predominantly orthopaedic, eye cataracts, urology and heart by-pass, all of which suffer from overlong NHS waiting lists. Demand on the Fund, still in its infancy, can be expected to greatly increase in the future.
The Fund is currently endeavouring to enter into discussions with our sister Charities in respect of interface petition case situations.
Funding for our applicants has come from the 2.75 million pounds accruing from the Cornwallis Appeal (which had a target of 6 million pounds) and a 1 million pound start up grant from Grand Charity. Much of the latter was used up on the OSF interim arrangements. The Appeal preparation time and publicity was minimal before launch which has had the misfortune to run concurrently with a severe recession. Hence, on this basis, the result must be considered reasonably successful despite the fact that some funds have also undoubtedly been held back due to initial confusion and concern over the Fund's relationship with the RMH.
The critical problem facing the NMSF is identifying the source and expediting the generation of sufficient income to fund our immediate, mid and long term needs. The Fund considers it needs a minimum guaranteed annual income budget of 2.5 million pounds, including operating costs, to meet the level of applicants experienced so far. This incorporates paring organisation costs to the minimum and maximising the effective, efficient and economic use of assets and resources. The maximum amount of monies must be devoted to benevolence. We can also expect, as knowledge of the Fund increases (it is still very much in a start up phase), the number of applicants, particularly dependants to increase. At the same time, the cost of private treatment for medical, dental and health care will continue to escalate. It is also unlikely, even with any additional Government funding or management initiatives, NHS waiting lists will be eradicated. The income accruing from the OSF, the expenditure of which has been controlled by the NMSF since August 1991, has rapidly diminished as covenants have tailed off and have either not been renewed or have been re-allocated elsewhere. The Provinces and Charities vie for funds, with potential conflicts only averted by the disciplines imposed by the Festival system, from which the NMSF is omitted. The latter is a serious disadvantage to the NMSF in comparison with her Sister Charities. Thus, the NMSF has no dedicated source of funding. The NMSF must be considered in potential crisis!
The question is how do we identify and secure our slice of the cake? Will this be realised through an arbitrary allocation of resource based on individual Charity Appeals effort in a restricted market, or be based on an agreed slice of the "cake"?
Will income raised meet our immediate annual operational requirements as well as provide capital for investment to create reserves for future beneficiaries? It may not! Certainly, and unlike the OSF, we can only spend what we receive whereas pain, suffering and hardship, on the contrary, cannot be turned on and off.
The present fundraising position of NMSF is largely based on the status quo. Therefore, instead of assessing the overall requirements of NMSF including its initial non-requiring capital needs, and working out how best this can be raised, NMSF fundraising has been largely "grafted on" to the established fundraising arrangements of the existing Charities. As a result NMSF remains outside the capital and income raising benefits derived from being within the Festival system. The Cornwallis Appeal was therefore necessarily concentrated within London and on Provinces which had not already undertaken Festival requirements or which were not committed to local Provincial fundraising efforts. Now that the Appeal is over, there is therefore, no ongoing arrangements so that Provinces are being requested to consider short term one or two year appeals where they do not have Festival requirements. These are subject to Provincial conflicting demands and the stated proviso that the NMSF fundraising should not operate to the detriment of the established fundraising of more financially secure and income guaranteed sister Charities. We have no special rights in London. Many in the Craft, anyway, believe that a London Festival would not work, but that a direct Appeal may have some merit.
In the mid term, the short Festival approach may prove to be reasonably successful in creating sufficient turnover income but not a capital reserve. This could be a wildly over optimistic perception! Whatever, and in the short term, (remember Festivals are planned over ten years in advance) they will be difficult and costly to organise and manage relative to the return. Even coupled with some commitment from London Lodges, this will probably not, by itself, pragmatically meet the assessed need and financial requirements for the next few years.
Many of the Provinces have expressed concern over the present effectiveness of the Festival system. The time is seemingly ripe for a radical review of utilising vision, imagination and candour. Recommendations, when implemented, will take us into the next century and beyond. The 275th Anniversary Conference represents an ideal catalyst and opportunity to embark on this venture. In the meantime, many find it difficult to understand why the NMSF, being the newest Masonic Charity and most in need, should not be treated on an equal basis by being brought immediately into the Festival system as opposed to being left to fend for itself in isolation. They believe that vested interests should not rule, rather a comparison of needs dictate when cutting the cake. In the immediate future, if it is to survive, the Fund will need to be supported by three or four mini-festivals per year plus ad-hoc support from London.
What is the way ahead? What are the options? Is there any radical option for change which will assure the future of all Masonic charitable elements making up the "cake" including Provinces internal needs? How do we negate rivalry and conflict? How best to manage change and in what time frame?
The following ideas have been proposed for consideration:
- That Festivals should be for a fixed period announced not more than 12 months before the commencement of the Festival.
- That Festivals might be more frequent, eg. 4 year Festivals and spread over all 4 major Masonic Charities (ie. tax benefit based).
- Specific fundraising efforts should be directed at London Lodges both generally and in groups.
- That the Festival system might be more standardised with a percentage of the funds raised, say 20%, available within the Province or at the nomination the PGM and say, half to be a named Masonic Charity on a rotational basis with the balance into a general Masonic "Foundation" for allocation amongst the Masonic Charities or non-Masonic Charities based on bids for grants based on need.
- NMSF to be brought into the Festival system instead of Grand Charity, but for a percentage of every Festival to go to Grand Charity with flexibility for Grand Charity to make grants to assist Masonic and non-Masonic Charities according to need.
Whilst many feel that the success of the Festival system can be attributed to the appeal of the particular Masonic Charity for whom the Festival is directed, others consider that it is the Provincial effort and the appeal by the PGM and the Provincial Officers which achieves success. Against this, some in the Province may wish to continue to support other Charities and are therefore faced with a conflict of interest. It is considered, therefore, that, if the Festival system includes some basis on which the funds raised can be made available as part of the "the cake", then the Festival fundraising can be seen, to that extent at least, to be capable of being allocated equitably and fairly etc.
The benefit to the Craft is that the "cake" is seen in the whole, as apportioned equitably and fairly on a needs basis, reserves, assets and resources are maximised throughout and further income is generated through centralised investment. Additionally, the Provinces, as the fundraisers and providers, are involved in its use and allocation. Conflict and competition is removed.
In conclusion, a four year "short" Festival on behalf of all Masonic Charities has great appeal to all. No one wins, no one loses, benevolence (relief is maximised, Masonic Charities become one large interrelated business plan, and Masonic harmony is maintained within the Craft. The virtues of wisdom, truth and brotherly love indeed!
The NMSF, in particular, was established by the Craft and is "in need". It behooves the Craft to ensure success in that the Fund has a reasonable and equitable means of fundraising to guarantee adequate income and reserves to resource relief and benevolence for those in real need. Radical change is appropriate. The time is right to implement it. The Conference is well placed to consider and commence the process of change. Celer et audax.
Should Lodges do more for local charities?
W. Bro. A. C. Gregory PJGD
Should Lodges do more for non-Masonic Charities? At first sight, one would imagine that such a straightforward question would elicit one of two simple answers, namely "yes" or "no", closer examination of the question however, casts doubt on whether it is straightforward, or if the answer is simple. An extremely interesting and lively debate could be initiated if the topic was put to some of our lodges, particularly in some of the provinces: and if put to the vote only a brave man would hedge his bets on the result.
This paper, therefore, is an attempt to present the argument for supporting non-Masonic charities, and thereby provide an answer to the question in the title which Freemasons in our Constitution will feel disposed to consider and act upon.
Charity is of course one of the principal corner stones on which our Order is built. When we "make" a Freemason it is stated in the North East Cornerstone "Charge" that the candidate has "no doubt felt and practised charity". In the same charge he is told that should he ever meet a brother in distressed circumstances who might solicit his assistance, he should "remember that peculiar moment when he was received into masonry" and cheerfully embrace the opportunity of practising that virtue which he has professed to admire.
Our candidate is left in no doubt as to where his charity should be directed, namely to his brother. But who is his "brother"? When the allegorical meaning of the working tools in the first degree are explained, he is then told that he should spend part of the day "serving a friend or brother in time of need". Who then, should be the recipient of his charity, his "friend" or his "brother" if a choice has to be made? Many brethren will (and do) quote their initiation ceremony when discussing the question of financial donations at Lodge Committee meetings, and the expression "Charity Begins at Home" means just that to many Freemasons who have, quite rightly embraced the North East Cornerstone Charge directive. More than one argument regarding the disposal of the Lodge Charity Account has developed from such reasoning and there are Freemasons who will say their donations to charity have been subjected to misappropriation if they are given to a cause other than a Masonic charity.
It is conceivable that we have ourselves created the situation that can cause a brother to vote against a donation to a non-Masonic charity. History tells us that Freemasonry originated as part of a self help movement amongst groups of local stonemasons: very likely the birth of trade groups and philanthropic societies. This, coupled with our teaching in the first degree, gives a powerful argument to the "Keep-it-in-the-family" faction.
However, the Masonic scholar can also present the supporters of non-Masonic charities with historical arguments. In the first degree ceremony the conspicuous Jacobs Ladder on the tracing board is referred by A F A Woodford as "pointing to the connexion between earth and heaven, man and god, and to represent faith in God, charity towards all men, and hope in immortality". Not necessarily a strong argument, but one which could be enlarged on by those experienced in debating circles.
It must be accepted that we live in a changing world, and changes there have been and will continue to be in all facets of society, not least Freemasonry. Chapter 9 in John Hamill's book "The Craft", presents an excellent portrayal of the changes in Masonic charity since the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717. Even changes he describes now require amendment as the book was published in 1986, and there have been some sweeping developments since then. The last two years (1990/91) saw the birth of the New Samaritan Fund: and the references to the Royal Masonic Hospital in Bro Hamill's book now bear witness to the fact that even in 1970, warning signals were on the horizon as to the hospital's future. There is a salutary lessen to be learned from the RMH "experience" and one which can add weight to the argument for supporters of non-Masonic charities.
The findings of the Bagnall committee, and the much more recent Bryce Committee, have done (and are doing) much to update our charities and how we administer them. The problems of the RMH should surely illustrate that the monks we raise are better donated to those bodies which are "up and running" and established and experienced in their particular field of activity: and it is this argument which should do most to sway the vote in favour of those lodges and brethren who support non-Masonic charities and organisations.
In 1967 600,000 pounds was raised to form a trust fund for medical research as part of the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of Grand Lodge. Now, twenty five years on, we are to donate 2,550,000 pounds to four charities active in the field of work for mentally handicapped adults, to celebrate the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge and the 25th anniversary of our Grand Master's installation. Surely this donation will do much to further the work of those who are experienced and established - especially in a time of economic difficulties when all charitable organisations are undergoing problems with regard to their income.
So to attempt our answer. We are all aware of the support which Grand Charity gives to National organisations, and these figures and details are circulated to every member of the Craft. Brethren are thus well aware of how their donations to Grand Charity are dispensed. However, the Provinces and Districts in their own way, help and support local organisations, in addition to answering the numerous "one off" cries for help. These can range from a hospital scanner unit appeal to help with a donation for a new roof on the local scout hut. To help with local "natural" disasters or some help with a Christmas party for senior citizens.
The author of this paper recently stood down as secretary to the second largest province in the English Constitution. The Province has a Masonic benevolent institution, a registered company which, in many ways, developed along similar lines to the Grand Charity. R W Bro LeGendre Nicholas Starkie was Provincial Grand Master from 1870/99 and his special interest lay in the development of the original society. He was affectionately known as it's "Father". The work of the institution is primarily for the relief of those members of the Order and their dependents within the Province, and it has it's own residential home for elderly masons and their wives, widows and other dependent relatives. The Committee of Benevolence is responsible for the relief of those in need, and the onward transmission of petitions to Grand Charity and the Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys if additional assistance is necessary. Every year dependents are taken on holiday, and the young people's committee ensures the welfare of dependent children is not forgotten.
In recent years, however, the support of non-Masonic charities has become a growing feature of the Institution - and by no means to the detriment of the brethren and/or their dependents in the Province, who fall on hard times. A fair comparison with Bro Hamill's description of the development of Grand Charity in the last twenty years can be made at this particular provincial level. Because of this growth in support of non-Masonic charities at National and Provincial level, support within the lodges has automatically ensued. Many Masters decide on a charity "project" at the commencement of their year in office, rather like the local mayor: and a proportion of the monies raised are donated to a local cause or causes.
Present and future generations of Freemasons are living in a world which sees vast amounts of money donated through other National organisations, television appeals, and the like: and they see their lodge as a "vehicle" to exercise their own enthusiasm for fund raising in their own locality.
If we are to encourage our order to go forward into the next millennium with an enthusiasm for caring and "serving friend and brother in time of need", then surely there is a strong case for encouraging our Lodges to do more for non-Masonic charities.
The emphasis, however, must be on encouragement and not direction. The former will achieve both satisfaction and success. The latter approach will create resentment, and thereby provide further fuel for our critics.