Celebrating 300 years

Quarterly Communication

9 March 2016 
An address by VW Bro James Newman, Deputy President-designate, and David Innes, Chief Executive

James Newman

RW Bro Deputy Grand Master and brethren, firstly thank you very much for unanimously approving the changes to the Book of Constitutions a few minutes ago. These changes, in essence, facilitate the creation of the Masonic Charitable Foundation and its strong links to Grand Lodge by the appointment of a President and Deputy President.

Indeed brethren, to paraphrase that part of our initiation ceremony, which specifically relates to charity, if you had not approved the changes, 'the subject of this presentation would have to have been postponed'.

Happily, it is now only three weeks until the official launch of our new charity. MCF, which I am sure it will be known as, will open for business on 1 April. Despite the date being April Fools' Day, for those of us involved, it will be no joking matter. 

Your new charity has been established following a long and very thorough review of how the four central masonic charities currently operate, could work together in the future and how best they can collectively serve the masonic community in particular. The Bagnall Report in 1973 made quite a number of recommendations, some of which were implemented, but many others were not, as they were not felt appropriate at that time.

In those intervening 43 years, some attempts have been made to further integrate masonic charitable support but with little success. More importantly, both the Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund have been successfully established and society and Freemasonry have both changed beyond recognition, so another major review was long overdue.

So why has this review succeeded in getting to such an advanced stage. As with all things, especially in Freemasonry, it's all about people and their willingness to compromise and work for a better solution.

In traditional masonic style, I will start at the top. Deputy Grand Master, we would like to offer our sincere thanks to you, for all your active support and encouragement throughout this whole process as well as your guidance through the black, or perhaps I should say, dark blue hole, that is masonic politics. Although not planned, it is entirely appropriate that you, as the Ruler responsible for charity affairs, should be in the chair at this particular meeting.

With so many Provincial Grand Masters present today, it is also an ideal opportunity to thank you all, and your predecessors, for both your foresight and your patience. Some years ago, you collectively identified the need for change. Your concept of the future has helped us shape what has now been developed and many of you have made, and continue to make, valued contributions to the process.

As you will realise, I am making this presentation on behalf of my fellow Presidents, both present and past. We have worked together now for a good number of years on this review, had some robust discussions along the way but always came back to the overriding objective – how do we create the best, long term and the most efficient solution to provide charitable support and protect our fundraising activities.

Whilst the Presidents have set the policies and persuaded and sometimes had to cajole their Trustees to support the review’s recommendations, I hope you will all agree that we owe a big debt to our four Chief Executives and their respective staff teams for the professional manner in which they have approached this review, and indeed, are now implementing it. 

Change can often be difficult, but our staff have been magnificent throughout and no matter what uncertainty they face for their own futures , they have ensured that the standard of service that you all have come to expect, has been maintained at a consistently high level.  

By now I hope you are all aware of the main reasons why the review came to the conclusion that consolidating the charities, by creating an overarching parent charity, was the best and most sustainable solution for the future. The rationale for what we have done is to make best use of the money you all so generously donate and to have a structured and flexible system of support carried out in the most efficient way.

To do this, we will create a single charitable fund with as few restrictions as possible on how we spend it, which will allow us to react to the specific demand or need for support at any point in time from the masonic and non-masonic community. Of course, the existing funds of each of the charities will continue to be spent for the purposes for which they have been raised, as David will explain shortly.

Therefore, I am delighted to hand over to David, our new Chief Executive, who has the unenviable task of knitting all this together, so that he can tell you about our vision for the future and how we plan to realise it.

David Innes

RW Deputy Grand Master and brethren all, as I am sure you appreciate only too well, the creation of the new Masonic Charitable Foundation is a very significant milestone in the evolution of charitable support, both within and by the masonic community. Although James has said I have an unenviable task, I feel deeply honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead this new charity during its all-important formative years – particularly as I am not a Freemason.

The logo of our new charity depicts a charitable heart at the centre of the widely recognised square and compasses symbol. It is our firm intention that MCF will become extremely well known and appreciated as a force for good by all Freemasons and their families, as well as by the wider charity sector and the public at large. At the same time, the MCF logo must become instantly recognisable as the symbol of masonic charity within the widest possible audience. We will all be working hard to ensure this happens.

I have also used our new logo to explain to staff the structure that we shall be implementing when the charities consolidate next month. The heart symbolises the core function of the charity, namely the provision of beneficial support to the masonic community. It also represents the continuation of the practical support provided to the Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodges, in particular to Provincial Grand Almoners and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards who will remain as important as ever to the success of the new charity.

Similarly, the advice and support team will continue to be an integral element of this support network, operating as it does right in the heart of the masonic community. In time, we hope to expand our direct support by introducing new services – such as the Visiting Volunteer initiative – which we are currently piloting in a number of Provinces.

The heart also symbolises the extensive support available to the wider community through a variety of grants to other charitable causes and, when required, in response to natural disasters. The size and scale of the new charity will enable us to enter into major partnerships with other national charities, and to develop long term programmes of support of national significance, that will have a real and high profile impact. We shall also continue providing support to Lifelites and all the fantastic work it does in children’s hospices.

Another element of the operational support we provide to the masonic community and beyond, is our care homes. These will continue to be a very important part of what we do but, after 1 April, will be run by a separate charitable company within MCF known as RMBI Care Company. This company will have its own board of directors but will be fully accountable to the MCF Board.

Having decided to group all our current operations together for what I hope are obvious reasons, I am delighted that Les Hutchinson has been selected to be the Chief Operating Officer of our new charity and he is already hard at work.

The square underpins all these activities and represents the finance, secretariat and Relief Chest functions. The creation of a unified finance team will ensure that the very significant assets of the new charity are properly managed within all the appropriate regulations, and we are indebted to Chris Head for his help in getting this critical element up and running. Whilst we will be delighted to receive donations via any route, we would much prefer that the generous contributions of the Craft are made through the Relief Chest. It will also continue to deliver the valuable service that is already well-established on behalf of lodges, Provinces and festival appeals, and will be at the centre of our technological revolution.

Festival appeals will continue to be the main source of funding for MCF. During the first few years, those festivals that have already launched on behalf of one of the current four charities will continue to raise funds that will only be available for use according to the charitable objects of that particular charity.

However, this year will see the first MCF festivals launching in the Provinces of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The funds raised will be available for use according to need across the full spectrum of charitable support.

The third element of the MCF logo is the compasses.

I have described these as setting the key parameters for MCF and ensuring that our communication messages encompass everything we do. Specifically those working in this area will help set the strategic direction for the charity, devise ways to evaluate its performance and facilitate communication with all our stakeholders.

As a new charity, it is vitally important to create a vision, determine KPIs and monitor the effectiveness of all that it does, particularly the use of our resources. It is also important that we look to identify new opportunities in which the MCF, on behalf of Freemasonry, can increase its support to the masonic community and beyond. I’m delighted that Laura Chapman is bringing her considerable experience of masonic charitable support to bear in this important area.

One of the reasons for moving away from the current model of four separate charities was to simplify the message about what the central masonic charities actually do and for whom. We are determined to use the move to a single charity, with a single brand, as an opportunity to deliver a single and effective message to the widest possible audience. The MCF Communications Committee, very ably supported by Richard Douglas, is already hard at work refining a strategy that will cover all activities of the charity and will utilise the complete range of communication channels. The good old fashioned paper materials, like the leaflet that you were given as you arrived for this meeting, will still have an important role to play. Increasingly we will also embrace and exploit digital technology and social media. Beyond that there is also a need to support the Grand Lodge strategy for Freemasonry in the 21st century, and to increase awareness of Freemasonry amongst the charity sector and the wider community.

With the deadline of 1 April rapidly approaching, you will be delighted to hear that the first phase of what I see as a three phase consolidation process is nearly complete.

Having been formally appointed to my new position in December last year, I have focused on ensuring that the required foundations are in place. This has been mainly about developing a new, integrated organisation structure and systems suitable for the future. Another key task has been the formal TUPE consultation process in respect of the transfer of staff to the new charity. This is a time-consuming but vital step, and one that needs to be done properly and carefully. This phase is nearly complete and will see all staff from the three grant-making charities, as well as a few staff from the RMBI, transfer to MCF on 1 April. At the same time, the remainder of the RMBI staff will be transferring to the new RMBI Care Company.

Phase 2, between April and July this year, will see the actual reorganisation itself. Again, in full consultation with staff, it will involve changes to team structures and the physical relocation of staff within the office accommodation. It is quite likely that many employees will have a new line manager and will need to get used to different ways of working.

The transition from four charities to one has, as one of its main purposes, the improvement of the support and services provided to our many and varied stakeholders. This period of transition will be very challenging for everyone involved and I would wish to add my own tribute to the way in which all the staff have worked to bring about this major evolution in the way masonic charity is delivered. I have stressed from the outset that retaining their experience and expertise is vital to achieving change. I know that the staff and Trustees share my determination to prevent any disruption to, or degradation of, the services we provide. In particular, the needs of our beneficiaries will remain paramount throughout and I am absolutely determined that we do not drop the ball in the process – although I’m very happy for Wales to drop it a few times on Saturday!!

Following the reorganisation, there will need to be a period of bedding in. I anticipate this third phase beginning as the masonic year resumes and staff return from their summer holidays. It is my aim that, by December, all new working practices, policies and procedures are totally bedded in, the new grant-making software is fully operational and MCF is firmly established.

Looking beyond this year, I see 2017 as being a busy year for all concerned. In addition to delivering ‘business as usual’, MCF will be supporting the many and varied tercentenary celebrations in conjunction with Grand Lodge.

However, some things won’t change, such the wide range of support provided by the Masonic community for financial, health and family related needs. The simple difference will be that help will be available from a single source, via a single application process that uses standardised eligibility criteria. There will no longer be the need to remember what the four different charities do and risk applying to the wrong one in the wrong way. Further details are provided in the leaflet, which also contains all the relevant contact details for MCF and these are valid now.

Another thing that won’t change is our support to the wider, non-masonic community. Through MCF, Freemasons will continue to support registered charities that help those facing issues with education and employability, financial hardship, age related challenges, health, disability, social exclusion and disadvantage. Support will also continue to be available for the advancement of medical and social research, hospices throughout England and Wales, the air ambulance and other rescue services, as well as disaster relief appeals.

All in all, we anticipate no real change to the support available but a simpler, easier to understand, easier to access, more efficient and more responsive organisation delivering that support – which is considerable.

Each year, support is provided to over 5,000 Freemasons and their families which last year amounted to £15.5 million. In addition to the support given to the masonic community, MCF will also look to allocate between three and a half and five million pounds per year to non-masonic causes. There will also be extra money available next year to commemorate the Tercentenary and further details will be made available in due course.  We would welcome your support in ensuring that these messages are communicated to all those who need to hear them.

I hope you will deduce from what I have said that this is an exciting and busy time for Masonic charity.  The formation of MCF is good news for beneficiaries, good news for donors and good news for the wider community beyond Freemasonry.

Thank you for listening.  I will now hand back to James who will tell you how MCF will be governed and remain accessible to its membership.

James Newman

Thank you David. Before we finish this short presentation, it's important you all know how MCF is to be governed and how you and the Craft generally are all to be represented.

A Trustee Board has been formed, has already met three times and meets again tomorrow. It has representatives from each of the four current charities and an excellent mix of skills. We have set up a number of committees, who are already hard at work advising on new integrated policies, assisting the executive team and making recommendations to the Trustee Board.

So far, I am glad to say that all is going well, everyone is still talking to each other and there is, of course, lots of brotherly love!

So how will all of you and the Craft be represented and be able to get your views across to the new Trustee Board and executive team? The membership of MCF will consist of the Trustees themselves plus two appointees from Metropolitan Grand Lodge and two from each Province. These nominees will be approved at each Metropolitan or Provincial meeting so that you will all know who they are and can, therefore, ask them to represent your views. There will be at least two members' meetings each year, one of which will be outside London.

Brethren, I mentioned earlier the charity address in the NE corner during our initiation ceremony. That address to the candidate, clearly sets out that charity is one of the key principles of being a mason, one of which we should all be proud of. 

That is why today is such a red letter day for Freemasonry in general and masonic charity in particular. We are about to create a very large and we hope nationally recognised, charity, which will become a beacon for us all. The funds we shall have at our disposal have been built up by our predecessors over two and a quarter centuries, and we owe it to them and our current donors and beneficiaries, to make it a success.

Deputy Grand Master and brethren, on behalf of everyone associated with MCF, we hope that you have found this presentation useful and that you will now spread the word about MCF across your Provinces and down here in London. Thank you for listening and we look forward to updating you later in the year.

Published in Speeches

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