Support for the Community
Since the very earliest years following the establishment of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717, Freemasons have given generously to the wider community.
Local and Provincial lodges make donations both to national charities and to those within their own communities. The review of Masonic charity that culminated in the Bagnall Report concluded, however, that in addition to this local giving, there should be a central Masonic charity that made non-Masonic donations on behalf of the entire Craft.
Thus, one of the primary reasons the Grand Charity was established was for this purpose, to make donations to national charities of the wider community, on behalf of all members of the Craft.
Grants to National Charities
In 2002 the Grand Charity gave grants totalling approximately £2.4m to more than 350 national charities. Hundreds of charities submit applications every year, which are reviewed against criteria agreed by the Council of the Grand Charity, to reflect the views of the Craft on the types of charities that individual Masons would like to support.
Medical research, especially for common diseases such as cancer, is high on the list. Helping young people to gain skills and self-confidence for a successful transition to adult life is another priority. Finally, support for the most vulnerable and frail in our society underlines many of the grants given by the Grand Charity.
This commitment is also seen in the support provided by the Grand Charity for the hospice movement, which has totalled more than £4.5m since 1984.
In 2002, grants totalling approximately £500,000 were given to 205 hospices across England and Wales, to help with their annual running costs.
During the past year three important changes have taken place at the Grand Charity that will help it to serve the Craft more effectively.
The first relates to the membership. As the central Craft charity, involvement by the members of the Craft is essential to the success of the Grand Charity. Yet prior to June 2002, only members of Grand Lodge were members of the Grand Charity.
Now all Master Masons of London and Provincial Lodges become members and they are, therefore, able to be more involved in its affairs and governance.
The second development is that the Grand Charity has received approval from the Inland Revenue to reclaim the tax relief via Gift Aid on members' annual contributions.
The Charity is currently working with Grand Lodge to implement the system for securing this relief. Provided that this receives support from the Craft, Grand Charity could receive an additional £300,000 to £400,000 a year - at no additional cost to members.
Finally, as mentioned above, the transfer of the responsibility from the RMBI to the Grand Charity, for the payment of annuities and for all financial assistance to Masons in need, will result in greater efficiency and focus for both charities.
The change streamlines the application and administration of the grants, as well as allowing the RMBI to concentrate on its primary objective of providing residential care and advice for older Masons and their dependants.
The Grand Charity, working in conjunction with the other central Craft charities, forms a cornerstone in the proud tradition of Masonic charity. It seeks to provide assistance to all Masons and their dependants who are in need and to act, on behalf of the entire Craft, in making donations to national charities on a scale beyond the reach of most individual Lodges or Provinces.
Laura Chapman is Chief Executive of The Grand Charity.
Web site created by Mark Griffin