Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

9 September 2015 
An address by Richard Hone, QC, President of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

The main change is to reduce the membership from the present 180,000 members to a single charitable company whose own 124 members – comprising the trustees of the new charity, plus members appointed by the 47 Provinces and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge. Experience has shown that 180,000 members are too many and the vast majority do not even know that they are members! Good governance is better achieved by a smaller number. The present members of the Grand Charity will become Supporters of the new charity and, in the rare case of dissent, can either contact their Provincial or London representatives, alternatively they can attend a general meeting and make their views known.

I want to inject a note of enthusiasm here because I am delighted to report that we have made significant progress in our overall aim to have the new, fifth, overarching charity up and running by 1 April 2016. As you will all know by now, over the past five years the four Presidents and Chief Executives of the central masonic charities have been meeting regularly with a view to making masonic charity a more coherent operation.

The present division between the four charities has become illogical and inefficient in the sense that there is now considerable overlap and duplication of function. Over the five year period of the review much has already been achieved.

There is unanimous agreement between the Presidents, the Chief Executives and all four trustee boards that the best way forward for masonic charity is to incorporate a new overarching charity with the widest charitable objects. This will optimise the resources of the four existing charities and ensure an improved service to our masonic and non-masonic beneficiaries.

This has been the most detailed review of masonic charity since the Bagnall Report in 1973 and builds on recommendations endorsed by the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum in 2008. We have consulted widely.

At a meeting in October 2014 the PGMs supported the changes. My letters to members in March and July 2015 explaining the changes to Grand Charity have been distributed through Provincial and Lodge Secretaries. I have had half-a-dozen letters from individuals and lodges raising questions which I hope I have answered to their satisfaction. In general the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.

At the General Meeting in Norfolk on 15 November I was able to seek the views of those attending, and they indicated approval. In July 2015 there was a large meeting of Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards in Manchester with almost every Province represented and they were positive and enthusiastic. These proposals have been accepted by the Grand Master’s Council, the Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee and the Grand Master himself, in his capacity as Grand President of the four central masonic charities.

Although significant, this change is neither rocket science nor revolutionary. The four existing charities will remain in name and will hold their restricted funds, but their functions will be assumed by the new charity administered by a single Trustee Board of 20 members with a single Chief Executive, rather than the four existing Trustee Boards with their separate committees and administrations. Masonic charity is an extraordinary, but largely untold, story and truly is a terrific force for good. The four charities collectively distribute over £25 million each year and we are expecting to improve on that.

I am delighted to announce that the new charity has now been incorporated with agreed Articles of Association. This has been quite a complicated task and we are all extremely grateful to the Grand Registrar who has mediated differences of views with consummate forensic skill and tact. There is now in place a shadow Board of Trustees for the new charity, drawn from the existing trustees of the four charities and working alongside the existing trustee boards. It is a most impressive group and I have no doubt that it will be ensure a smooth transition and a first rate administration from its operational date which is 1 April 2016.

All that remains is for the new charity to be registered with the Charity Commission and for an agreed Memorandum of Understanding between the existing charities and the new charity.

But we do need you, the members, to support this exciting work and vote in favour of this resolution. I now have great pleasure in proposing that the amendments to the Trust Deed and the Regulations of Grand Charity, subject to meeting the conditions specified, be ratified and that the Report of the Council be approved.

[The amendments were approved]

Thank you. As this is the last AGM of Grand Charity, I would like to pay tribute to the 139 trustees who have served over the 35 years of Grand Charity’s existence. I am delighted to see over 20 Council members present today. Also present are three former Presidents, Sir John Welch, Raymond Lye and Grahame Elliott, who have done so much to bring about the changes you have just approved. I mention the late Iain Ross Bryce who as Deputy Grand Master started this whole process moving and was a driving force. He is greatly missed. 

Published in Speeches

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity 

11 June 2014 
An address by the President of the Grand Charity, Richard Hone, QC, and the Chief Executive, Laura Chapman

President (Richard Hone, QC):

Deputy Grand President and Members, welcome to the 34th Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity. At the end of this meeting, we bid farewell to a past President, Grahame Elliott; a Deputy President, Ian Johnson and a Vice President, Ian Macbeth. These senior officers have played pivotal roles in the efficient running of the Grand Charity and on behalf of the Council and members here present, I want to thank them most warmly for all that they have done for the Charity over a long number of years and also for all they have done to assist me in particular.

I just want to endorse fully what the President of the Board of General Purposes has said about the unofficial and unauthorised history of Freemasonry being advertised with the improbable promise of half the net profit on sales being donated to the Grand Charity. I can confirm that we have had absolutely no contact with the publishers. The day job (if I may refer to it as that) reminds me that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Next year, our Annual General Meeting will be held at the September Quarterly Communication because as part of the wider re-organisation of the four central Masonic charities, it has been agreed that all four should have the same financial year-end of 31 March. So next year I shall be reporting on a 16-month period rather than the normal 12.

When I proof read the 44 pages of the Annual Report and Accounts, it demonstrates a year of steady progress - but there are highlights. In November 2013, there was the general meeting in Berkshire where four local mayors attended, with our own RW Bro Anthony West representing the Lord Lieutenant. The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Martin Peters, encouraged a terrific attendance of over 400 members with families and it was a marvellous opportunity to showcase our work and hear heart-rending stories from some of those who have been helped. You probably know that our areas of non-Masonic charitable support are Medical Research, Youth Opportunities, Vulnerable People and Hospices not substantially financed by the NHS. We know from the feed-back we have received that these are the most popular causes with you the members.

Since the formation of Grand Charity in 1980, which took over the work of Grand Lodge’s Board of Benevolence, we have enjoyed 28 Festivals which have raised a global total of no less than £57 million. With prudent investments, the annual contribution and generous legacies, we have been able to add to that £57 million and distribute over £120 million since 1981. Last September, the Province of Staffordshire held the 2013 Festival for the Grand Charity, which raised the stupendous total of £1.675 million from one of the smaller Provinces. I am so grateful to the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Sandy Stewart, who is also a member of our Council, for that tremendous support. Last year we gave grants totalling £6.6 million, first to distressed Freemasons and their families, and equally important to non-Masonic charities. With the other central Masonic charities, we donate over £20 million annually and that excludes Provincial and individual Masonic giving. It is a great story and the world should know that Freemasonry is and remains a truly terrific force for good.

May I turn now to the yellow paper of business on page 13, paragraph 18, and mention that after careful discussions with representatives of the Board of General Purposes we have decided to withdraw our recommendation for an increase in the annual contribution and that the amount for 2015 should remain as it. This situation will be kept under review between now and the next Annual General Meeting.

With that amendment, I now propose that the report of the Council on pages 10-13 be taken as read and adopted.

Deputy Grand President and members – unless anyone has any objections, I shall propose all these recommendations as one resolution.

In the absence of objection, I now move that the 19 Non-Masonic grants recommended under Agenda Items 3a. to 3s., which total £842,500, be approved.

Deputy Grand President and members – Item 5 relates to Emergency Grants. These are grants that, under the rules of the Grand Charity, may be authorised by the President without approval from the Council or from the membership, for either Masonic or non-Masonic purposes in cases of real or dire emergency. Such emergency assistance usually follows natural disasters in other parts of the world, but on occasions this country has its own emergency requirements. The business paper reports a number of grants that were made to assist flood relief operations earlier this year in the UK, and which the Pro Grand Master spoke about in his address to Grand Lodge last March. Since then, I have authorised an emergency grant of £30,000 to assist the three million people affected by flooding and landslides in the Balkans, where more than 100,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed. As is often the case when dealing with urgent aid in areas where the Grand Charity has no real appropriate contact, the British Red Cross has been given the money to assist us in seeing that it swiftly gets to where it is most needed.

I should now, with your permission Deputy Grand President, like to ask Laura Chapman, the Charity’s Chief Executive, to say a few words about further assistance that is given in the name of the Craft, but which falls outside of the normal reporting requirements.

Chief Executive (Laura Chapman):

Deputy Grand President and members. Almost ten years ago, whilst the majority of us were enjoying our Boxing Day lunch, a tsunami travelled 375 miles across 18 countries, leaving 1.7 million people homeless in just 75 minutes, eventually killing more than a quarter of a million people by the end of the day. As you may recall, the Grand Charity immediately made a grant of £100,000 on behalf of the Craft to assist with front-line relief efforts and I personally hand delivered that cheque to the offices of the Red Cross on the first day it re-opened after the Christmas break. In the next few days, before Freemasons’ Hall reopened, I received a number of telephone calls at home from Provincial contacts, asking if the Grand Charity planned to open a Relief Chest to receive donations from Masons and Lodges throughout UGLE who wanted to help the tsunami victims, but also wanted their donations to be associated with Freemasonry. The Grand Charity had never opened a Relief Chest before to receive donations for disaster relief, but it seemed to me to be a very reasonable request. So, even before FMH re-opened after the New Year, the Tsunami Relief Chest was up and running and receiving donations that would ultimately reach nearly £1m. The Trustees of the Grand Charity then approved a grant to Plan International to use the Relief Chest funds to help to reconstruct schools, health centres and other vital community services focussed on helping the children who had suffered so much.

Since then, for a number of catastrophic disasters, Masons have wanted to give more than the emergency grant that the Grand Charity invariably makes immediately after the disaster strikes. For these, the Grand Charity has opened a Relief Chest with the result that more than £1.25 million has so far been given by the Craft for 7 major disaster relief projects.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – the worst storm ever to have hit land – caused widespread destruction across the Philippines, affecting an estimated 14.1 million people and sadly taking the lives of more than 6,000. A President’s emergency grant of £50,000 was immediately made to the British Red Cross and in response to further interest from the Craft to help with the longer term redevelopment efforts, the Council of the Grand Charity announced that its special Relief Chest would once again receive funds to be dedicated to a special project to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan rebuild their lives.

To date, £185,395 has been donated to the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Chest, which will be used, once again with the help of the charity Plan, to re-establish vital services within affected communities through the reconstruction, repair and equipping of 15 classrooms and two village health centres in East and West Samar. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 people will benefit in the first year alone following project completion. The classrooms and health centres, which will be constructed using disaster resilient designs following stringent building codes, will provide safe and engaging learning environments and quality healthcare services for thousands of children and families for many years to come. 

This project, along with the schools in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, Leogane, Haiti, the donation to the emergency relief and recovery programme in Japan (2011), and the fishing boats jealously guarded by the women of Tamil Nadu, India, to make sure that their men did not sell them on to the highest bidder, have all been possible only because of the outpouring of generous support that Masons, throughout the Craft, have given to those who have suffered so much from these catastrophic disasters. 

On behalf of those whom you have helped, thank you.

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 00:01

Principles with imagination

HRH The Duke of Kent explains why transparency is critical for Freemasonry and urges an active spirit of openness

Our concern must be for the future, especially with the approach of our three-hundredth anniversary in 2017. In planning for this great anniversary, I believe these times demand innovation, and imaginative thinking, while retaining our principles.

In this I make no apology for again reminding everyone of the need truly to demonstrate transparency, and to work towards regaining our enviable reputation in society. To do this we have to show how and why we are relevant and to concentrate on the positive aspects of Freemasonry, in particular our generous tradition of giving to a wide variety of causes.

In regards to transparency, we still have some way to go in dispelling the myths that remain deep rooted in many people’s minds, not least the media. Very considerable progress has been made in this direction already, but challenges remain, and there is still work to do to overcome prejudices and misconception.

I am very pleased that we have already achieved two firsts of some importance in tackling this challenge. The first of these was the commissioning of the first ever independent, third party report, written by non-masons, on the Future of Freemasonry. This report has been highly successful and has itself acted as the catalyst for the second of our two innovations, namely the first media tour, conducted by the Grand Secretary.

I recommend that you all take advantage of this active spirit of openness to talk with equal frankness to your family and friends. I think that if you follow this advice, you may well be surprised by the positive reception you will gain.

I want to congratulate all those whom I had the pleasure of investing. To attain Grand Rank in the Craft is a very high accolade of which you can feel justly proud. This promotion does, however, come with an obligation always to set the highest example in standards of integrity, honesty and fairness wherever you are.

Among those I have appointed to acting office are the new Grand Chancellor, the president of the Grand Charity and the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, and I want to take this opportunity of thanking their predecessors.

First of all, Brother Alan Englefield, who as the first Grand Chancellor, has made an invaluable contribution to bringing us closer to other Grand Lodges around the world, as well as to maintaining our position as the Mother Grand Lodge. Secondly to Grahame Elliott, who as president of the Grand Charity, as well as presiding over the Grand Charity itself, was instrumental in the successful move of the four charities into this building and thirdly, to Michael Lawson who has given a long and dedicated period of service on the board since 1988. To all three brethren we owe a considerable debt of gratitude.

Published in UGLE

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity 

13 June 2012 
An address by the President of the Grand Charity, Richard Hone, QC, and the Chief Executive, Laura Chapman 

President (Richard Hone, QC):

Deputy Grand President and members, welcome to what for the Grand Charity is its 32nd Annual General Meeting, and which is my first as President, after serving nine years on the Council between 1997 and 2006. I want to start by paying tribute to the work of my predecessor, Grahame Elliott, who in his six years of office saw the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the founding of The Grand Charity. It is really the man himself I want to praise because he presented such a genial and friendly face of the Charity that will long be remembered, especially by the Provinces, which he often visited. Like all good leaders, he does have his idiosyncrasies and his ability to go off script is unrivalled, but we loved him for it. Perhaps most importantly, he played a key role in moving the four charities in to a single office space in Freemasons’ Hall which has created a sea change of mutual co-operation between our four charities, upon which it will be my happy task to build. On behalf of the Council of the Grand Charity and the staff for whom he cared so deeply, I extend our warmest good wishes to Grahame Elliott in his retirement. He is a hard act to follow but it is reassuring to know that he remains part of the team as a Past President.

I have mentioned the move of all four charities in to the new purpose built offices here at Freemasons’ Hall. The physical proximity means that it is much easier for inter-communication – we are after all in the same business – organising Masonic charity from cradle to grave. One of the most striking things I have noticed since my return to Grand Charity last year, has been the inauguration of Freemasonry Cares as a form of umbrella for all four charities. Yes, Freemasons really do care, and the way in which we care is exemplified by the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls and Boys, by the Masonic Samaritan Fund, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and The Grand Charity. The four Presidents now meet regularly and I am particularly excited that over the next five years, over which I hope to serve as President of the Grand Charity, we foresee a culmination of co-operation, the integration of some of our common services under Freemasonry Cares, as well as cross fertilisation of resources and more joined-up thinking about what we are doing. What is fundamental is to maintain the individual identities of the Charities and the proud traditions of the existing institutions built up over nearly 300 years, but to make sure that the excellent work that we do is delivered more efficiently and without duplication. This on-going process has been enormously promoted by the truly fraternal co-operation between the four Presidents and, most importantly, their chief executives, so you may be assured, it is a consensual exercise, promoted by working together in one location. I am not a great one for slogans – the day job rather puts a stop to that – but what I do want to promote is a sense that Masonic charity as a whole is a terrific force for good. We should all draw strength from that and make sure the public properly understands the good we do. Masonic charity represents over £20 million a year. My task as President of the Grand Charity is to ask continuously: how can we make it even better? I for one shall never forget that, important as London is, our heartland is in the provinces. One only has to look at the recent Grand Charity Festivals in Essex and South Wales to see where our greatest support lies. We must never forget the provinces.

The past year has once again been good for the Charity. The cost of Masonic grants to individuals and families for their daily living costs, amounted to £5.3m. Grants to non-Masonic charities have continued to be given in a way that we all hope everyone approves. I am particularly pleased that the non-Masonic grants in 2011 reached nearly £3m. This is what we must build on, to dispel the myth that Freemasons exist only to look after our own. I repeat the refrain: We are a terrific force for good. One of my tasks as President is to ensure that every member should feel a real sense of pride in the fantastic support we give to national charities and also to emergency grants for international relief where we are acknowledged to be leaders in the field: “He who gives quickly gives twice” was an aphorism of one early Grand Master. It was good to read that we are strongly commended in the recent report entitled: The Future of Freemasonry.

We are most grateful to Grand Lodge for allowing us to hold our Annual General Meeting during this Quarterly Communication. I sense there is a real enthusiasm for the work of the Grand Charity and in spite of these really difficult economic times, involving real family hardship, the report for last year shows that I take over a Charity in a good state. Long may that flourish. I am sure that we were all enthused by the marvellous events of the Diamond Jubilee with the concepts of dedication and service to others which resonate so strongly with Freemasonry and our unwavering support of the Grand Master and Her Majesty the Queen. That is why I am so pleased that we are giving support to the Prince’s Trust. I look forward to reporting an even better year in 2013.

Item 3 on the Agenda concerns the 25 non-Masonic Grants set out on pages 7 to 12, but before seeking their approval, I should like, with your permission Deputy Grand President, to ask Laura Chapman, the Charity’s Chief Executive to say a few words.

Chief Executive (Laura Chapman):

Deputy Grand President and members – As the President has just emphasized, Freemasonry is a terrific force for good and that is nowhere more evident than in the grants that the Grand Charity gives to national charities. The decisions on which charities to support are easy for the Council to make because they are driven by the views of the Craft on the causes you want to support and the impact you wish to achieve.

Masons are very clear that you wish to support people in need, who are vulnerable and coping with terminal illness, disability and frailty or who are excluded from participating fully in society because of ill health or disadvantage. You want your charitable support to be given to people, not to animals, the environment or the arts.
And, not surprisingly as many of you are businessmen, professionals or simply careful with your pennies, you want your charitable investment to make a maximum return both for the individuals concerned and for society as a whole, by helping those ‘at risk’ to help themselves rather than becoming dependant on the state for long term welfare support.

Of those at risk, unemployed youth, now nearly 22% of 15 to 22 year olds in the UK are particularly vulnerable. Disproportionately represented in this group are some of the most disadvantaged and excluded young people in this country, who, even in the most prosperous economies, are less likely to find employment.
Presented for your approval today is a grant for £250,000 to the Prince’s Trust to help address the crisis of youth unemployment. His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales set up The Prince’s Trust in 1976 and today it is one of the UK’s leading charities in supporting young people who face the greatest challenges to become financially and socially independent.

The Grand Charity’s quarter of a million pound grant will fund projects to help these young people to find sustainable employment or re-engage with education. Five thousand pounds of this grant will be distributed to each of the 47 Masonic Provinces and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London to present for the relevant project in their area, thereby creating local publicity for Masonic charitable giving.

The Council of the Grand Charity is especially pleased in this year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to be able to recommend a grant that is so closely associated with the work of the Royal Family and embodies so faithfully the force for good that is Freemasonry. The President will now seek your approval for this and the other non-Masonic grants recommended by the Council.

Non-Masonic Grants approved at the Grand Charity’s Annual General Meeting 

13 June 2012 

MEDICAL RESEARCH
a.  £50,000 to Cancer Research UK to fund a research project on pancreatic cancer at Barts, London.

b.  £60,000 over two years to Diabetes UK to fund a research project on Type 1 diabetes at King’s College, London.

YOUTH OPPORTUNITIES
c.  £50,000 over two years to Barnardo’s to fund the salary of a project worker in the service aimed at preventing sexual exploitation in Plymouth.

d.  £60,000 over two years to Buttle UK to fund the development of the Quality Mark for Care Leavers in higher education.

e.  £16,000 to CHICKS to fund the salary of a supervisor to work with disadvantaged children at residential retreats in Devon.

f.  £25,000 to Children our Ultimate Investment UK to fund the Teens and Toddlers programme in Manchester.

g.  £30,000 to Outward Bound to fund a bursary scheme enabling disadvantaged young people to participate in three week adventure activity courses.

h.  £20,000 to Street League to fund the A-Z Academy programme in Croydon.

i.  £250,000 to The Prince’s Trust to be distributed to Provincial and Metropolitan Grand Lodges for local presentations to fund work-related activities for disadvantaged young people.

VULNERABLE PEOPLE
j.  £25,000 to Calvert Trust Kielder to fund bursaries for severely disabled adults at an outdoor activity centre.

k.  £55,000 to Combat Stress to fund community outreach teams to support ex-Service personnel with mental health problems.

l.  £90,000 over two years to Dementia UK to fund a Chief Nurse post to develop training for specialist dementia nurses.

m.  £25,000 to Dogs for the Disabled to fund the PAWS service for children with autism.

n.  £50,000 to Help for Heroes to fund the development of therapeutic gardens at four recovery centres for wounded Service personnel.

o.  £25,000 to the Huntington Disease Association to fund the regional care advisory service in the north west of England.

p.  £18,000 to I Can to fund a primary school project supporting children who struggle with speech and language skills.

q.  £25,000 to Jubilee Sailing Trust to fund a bursary for a severely disabled crew member.

r.  £12,000 to Living Paintings Trust to fund a catalogue of Touch to See books for pre-school children.

s.  £30,000 to Music in Hospitals to fund live concerts for older people in healthcare settings.

t.  £10,000 to PHAB to fund residential outdoor activity courses for disabled young people.

u.  £30,000 to the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity to fund a family support worker in Manchester.

v.  £22,000 to Rett UK to fund a Family Guide publication for families who have a child with Rett Syndrome.

w.  £25,000 to Special Olympics UK to fund the salary of the volunteer development manager.

x.  £25,000 to TB Alert to fund a project to raise awareness of the rising prevalence of tuberculosis amongst local organisations which work with vulnerable people.

y.  £30,000 to Young Minds to fund the development of the charity’s use of internet technology to provide support services to young people with mental health problems.

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 00:00

changing of the guard

Freemasons pay tribute to retiring Grand Charity president Grahame Elliott’s ‘dedication and vision’, while welcoming his successor, Richard M Hone

Grahame Elliott, CBE, retired as president of the Grand Charity on 25 April 2012, and has been succeeded by Richard Hone, QC. The new president first joined the Council of the Grand Charity in 1997, initially serving for nine years during which time he was chairman of the Finance Committee and  was instrumental in bringing about a major revision of the charity’s constitution. After a gap of five years, Richard’s re-appointment in June 2011 was much welcomed by the other council members. Initiated in Apollo University Lodge in 1968, he is a senior circuit judge at the Central Criminal Court in London.

Grahame Elliott has served on the council for the past nine years, the first three as a member appointed by the Provincial Grand Master for East Lancashire, whose Province held the charity’s festival in 2004.

As president, Grahame has led the charity with much dedication and vision. He has joined with the other presidents of the central masonic charities to develop a closer working relationship, made easier by the charities’ move into Freemasons’ Hall. The Council of the Grand Charity wishes both Richard Hone and Grahame Elliott much success for the future.

Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 00:00

Grand Master's address - April 2012

CRAFT ANNUAL INVESTITURE 

25 APRIL 2012 
AN ADDRESS BY THE MW THE GRAND MASTER HRH THE DUKE OF KENT, KG 

Brethren, I start by congratulating most warmly all those whom I have had the pleasure of investing today. To attain Grand Rank in the Craft is a very high accolade of which you can feel justly proud. This promotion does, however, come with an obligation always to set the highest example in standards of integrity, honesty, and fairness wherever you are.

Among those I have appointed to acting office are the new Grand Chancellor, the President of the Grand Charity and the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, and I want to take this opportunity of thanking their predecessors. First of all, Brother Alan Englefield, who as the first Grand Chancellor, has made an invaluable contribution to bringing us closer to other Grand Lodges around the world, as well as to maintaining our position as the Mother Grand Lodge. Secondly to Brother Grahame Elliott, who as President of the Grand Charity, as well as presiding over the Grand Charity itself, was instrumental in the successful move of the four Charities into this Building and thirdly, to Brother Michael Lawson who has given a long and dedicated period of service on the Board since 1988.  To all three Brethren we owe a considerable debt of gratitude.

Brethren, today our concern must be for the future, especially with the approach of our three hundredth anniversary in 2017. In planning for this great anniversary, I believe these times demand innovation, and imaginative thinking, whilst retaining our principles. In this I make no apology for again reminding Brethren of the need truly to demonstrate transparency, and to work towards regaining our enviable reputation in society.  To do this we have to show how and why we are relevant and to concentrate on the positive aspects of Freemasonry, in particular our generous tradition of giving to a wide variety of causes.

In regards to transparency we still have some way to go in dispelling the myths that remain 'deep rooted' in many people's minds, not least the media. Very considerable progress has been made in this direction already, but challenges remain, and there is still work to do to overcome prejudices and misconception.

I am very pleased that we have already achieved two firsts of some importance in tackling this challenge. The first of these was the commissioning of the first ever independent, third party report, written by non-Masons, on the future of Freemasonry. This Report has been highly successful and has itself acted as the catalyst for the second of our two innovations, namely the first media tour, conducted by the Grand Secretary, and which achieved a reach of more than 117 million people.

I recommend that you all take advantage of this active spirit of openness to talk with equal frankness to your family and friends. I think that if you follow this advice, you may well be surprised by the positive reception you will gain.

Today's has been a memorable gathering and its undoubted success has been achieved by a great deal of careful planning and hard work, so that on your behalf, I want first of all to thank the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the skill and precision with which the ceremony has been conducted, and secondly the Grand Secretary and his staff for their long hours of planning which have 'borne fruit' so excellently this afternoon.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:58

Community Chest

With the Relief Chest Scheme celebrating its 25th anniversary, Freemasonry Today looks at how the scheme makes giving easier for Freemasons around the UK

Launched in 1986, the Relief Chest Scheme provides administrative support for the fundraising activities of masonic units. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity operates the scheme for free, enabling masonic organisations to manage their charitable donations more efficiently by offering individual chests that can be used to accumulate funds for charitable purposes. The scheme maximises the value of charitable donations by pooling funds to ensure that they earn the best possible rate of interest and by claiming Gift Aid relief on all qualifying donations. By taking on this administrative function the scheme saves valuable time and resources involved in lodge fundraising.

The scheme is particularly useful to Provinces running charitable fundraising campaigns, including festivals, with Provinces able to request that the Relief Chest Scheme open special chests. ‘Following our very successful 2010 RMBI Festival, we decided to maintain the culture of regular charitable giving by making use of the Relief Chest Scheme, which had not been previously used by our Province,’ explains Eric Heaviside, Durham Provincial Grand Master. ‘The scheme is a very efficient way to generate funds, as it not only makes giving regularly easy but also provides the opportunity for tax recovery via the Gift Aid allowances. All of this is professionally managed by the Relief Chest Department in The Freemasons’ Grand Charity office in London.’

With over four thousand chests, the scheme is helping Freemasons give charitable support to the people who need it most. Grahame Elliott, President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, explains how the scheme has evolved over the years, ‘When the idea for the Relief Chest Scheme was announced in September 1985, it was hoped that it would provide a simple and effective way for lodges to give to charity. Lodges would be able to give practical proof of an ever-increasing attachment to the first two of the grand principles on which our order is founded – brotherly love and relief. Twenty-five years later, it is clear to me that the scheme has successfully met these aims, evolving as an excellent way of helping lodges to spend less time on the administrative work involved in processing donations, giving them more time to spend on other important activities.’

With over £14 million donated to charitable causes via the Scheme in 2010, it is hoped that this success will continue, assisting the masonic community in its charitable giving for many years to come.

To find out more, go to www.grandcharity.org



Provincial supporters

Provincial Grand Masters from around the UK give their experiences of working with the Relief Chest...
‘We opened our Relief Chest in the name of the Provincial Benevolent Association principally to take advantage of the Gift Aid tax reclaim facility. In addition, by utilising the expertise of the team we have been able to develop a much more efficient and thorough analysis of donations. The Province looks forward to our continuing association with the Relief Chest team and thanks them for their ongoing advice and assistance.’
Rodney Wolverson
Cambridgeshire Provincial Grand Master

‘Relief Chests have proved an immense boon to London charity stewards and treasurers in easing the administration of charitable giving. For our big appeals – the RMBI, the CyberKnife and the Supreme Grand Chapter’s 2013 Appeal – the support given by the Relief Chest team is vital.’
Russell Race
Metropolitan Grand Master

‘The record-breaking success of the 2011 Essex Festival for the Grand Charity was not only due to the generosity of the brethren, but also to the support we received from the Relief Chest Scheme. The scheme’s online reports and personal support made the tracking of donations, interest accumulated and Gift Aid recovery
a seamless operation for our administration.
That information enabled us to keep the lodges and brethren informed of their totals.’
John Webb
Essex Provincial Grand Master


Relief chest breakdown

Who can receive a donation from a Relief Chest?
• Charities registered with the Charity Commission
• Any organisation holding charitable status
• Any individual in financial distress
The benefits provided by the Relief Chest Scheme:
• Interest added to your donation: A favourable interest rate is earned on funds held for each Chest and no tax is payable on interest earned
• Tax relief: The Gift Aid Scheme means HMRC gives 25p for every £1 donated to a Chest, where eligible
• Easy depositing: Make donations by direct debit, cheque and the Gift Aid Envelope Scheme
• Ease of donating to charities: Once a donation is authorised, the payment is made by the Relief Chest Scheme
• Free: There’s no direct cost to Relief Chest holders
• Easily accessible reports: Annual statements are provided, plus interim statements and subscribers’ lists are available upon request
• Additional help for Festival Relief Chests: Comprehensive performance projection reports and free customised stationery are available      




Published in The Grand Charity
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 16:04

Charity Offices Are Opened

The new West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity offices have been opened by Provincial Grand Master Peter Hosker, accompanied by Grahame Elliott, President of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity.    In April 2008, the Province’s seven charitable trusts were amalgamated into one organisation, the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity. However, the space occupied by the new charity was insufficient for its complex working needs and the trustees decided to purchase the new building.
     The building had been financed as part of the Charity’s investment portfolio and it already looks like an excellent investment.
There are a number of causes of particular importance to the Masonic community, but one that stands out is help for Services personnel. Since 2008, the Grand Charity has donated £650,000 to charities that support the Armed Forces. In 2010, the largest Grand Charity grant of this type was awarded to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, one of £250,000 to support their excellent work helping past and present members of the Armed Forces and their families.

The grant has been well received by both the masonic community and local branches of SSAFA, providing funding across the country at a local level. Money was distributed to every Province with many cheque presentations taking place during the autumn period.

Grahame Elliott, President of the Grand Charity, said: ‘Over the last few months whilst attending various events in my capacity as President, I have heard from numerous members who wished to express their happiness at this grant. The sheer volume of support for SSAFA and the work they carry out has been outstanding. Clearly, supporting the Armed Forces is an important cause for the masonic community, which the Council has recognised and gladly done its best to acknowledge.’

General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, SSAFA chairman, added: ‘We are very grateful to The Freemasons’ Grand Charity for this generous grant. It will go directly to our branches who assist veterans of all ages and their dependants. The recent and current conflicts mean that our services need to be tailored to ensure that they remain relevant to the needs of our clients of all ages.’

SSAFA provides a reliable, caring and trusted service to more than 50,000 people each year. The association’s 7,000 volunteers help with problems and concerns ranging from those of a practical nature, such as employment or mobility problems, to emotional issues, such as loneliness.

The Grand Charity began funding SSAFA Forces Help back in 1981, and in 2008 donated £100,000 towards the opening of two SSAFA Norton Homes, one in Birmingham and one in Surrey. The two homes provide short-term accommodation so that families can stay nearby whilst visiting their loved ones at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, Surrey.

The houses were designed as a ‘home from home’ and are the first of their kind in the UK. The homes were so well received that SSAFA was awarded ‘Best Disability Charity’ for this project in 2009.

In 2009, the Grand Charity also funded the following charities: Combat Stress, The Colonel’s Fund Grenadier Guards, King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes, Royal Air Force Charitable Trust, Royal Hospital Chelsea Appeal and the Colonel’s Fund Scots Guards, which received £50,000 each.

The Grand Charity considers it vital to fund charitable projects which are of importance to the Craft. A strong relationship has grown between SSAFA Forces Help and the Grand Charity, and it is hoped that this will continue to provide support to many Servicemen and women and their families, for years to come.

NEW GRAND CHARITY WEB SITE
Please visit the Grand Charity online – our new website has launched and contains more information than ever before: www.grandcharity.org

Published in The Grand Charity

An estimated three million people have been affected by the natural disasters across the Asia Pacific Region, and Freemasons' Grand Charity President Grahame Elliott, has approved an emergency grant of £50,000 to the Red Cross, to support their relief work there.

Typhoon Ketsana hit the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, with the Philippines and Laos being particularly badly affected.  Around 80% of Manila, capital of the Philippines and home to 15 million people, was flooded.  At least 277 people were killed, but many more are missing, feared dead.

On 29 September, an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter Scale hit the Samoan and Niuas Islands and caused a tsunami which killed at least 1,000 people and affected up to 15,000.  Shortly after, another earthquake measuring 7.6 hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, followed by yet another.  At least 500 people were killed, but it is feared that the death toll will rise substantially, with thousands still buried in the rubble.

The Grand Charity’s grant will help to fund the distribution of emergency relief items, provide clean water, sanitation, healthcare and shelter as well as help rebuild people’s livelihoods. 

Published in The Grand Charity

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