What is Masonic charity?
Masonic Charity is organised charitable support within Freemasonry – caring and spending time and not just money – freely and confidentially given by every able Brother in aid of the sick, aged and needy.
How do Masons give to charity?
Every Mason is encouraged to give generously within his means and without detriment to himself or his family, through alms collections, gift aid etc. Unlike many other organisations, Freemasons never ask the general public for money; do not make street collections or public appeals.
At each Masonic meeting there is normally a collection. This will be given in accordance with the directions of, and by prior announcement by the Master (WM). This may be for the benefit of and shared between several chosen charities or worthy causes, may be for a Festival Appeal, an Almoners Fund or a Lodge Benevolent Fund. There may also be a raffle at the dinner following or in some cases prior to the meeting, the beneficiary being announced beforehand. The Lodge Charity Steward may also organise a collection or other special fundraising activity for a Festival or other authorised purpose. There are planned giving schemes available to the individual Mason, which the Lodge Charity Steward will be pleased to explain.
What is the first thing a new Mason should do about charity?
Brethren should talk to their Proposer and Seconder, to understand the Masonic principles of charitable giving, which is a founding principle of Freemasonry. Then they should consult with the Lodge Charity Steward as soon as possible after joining to gain a high-level understanding of Lodge charitable aims and the national and provincial Masonic Charities and their aims; any queries which he cannot answer immediately will be referred to the Provincial Grand Charity Steward through the Provincial Office.
To what charitable causes do Masons give?
Many deserving causes, both Masonic and non-Masonic. In 2016 four Masonic Charities were amalgamated into one umbrella charity at national level, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). This charity comes under the auspices of The Grand Lodge of England.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation
Funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country.
Most of the support provided by the MCF takes the form of financial grants to individuals and families to assist with daily living costs. It can also award grants to provide specific items or services.
A range of health and care needs, including medical and dental treatments, counselling and mobility aids or home adaptations are supported, with funding also available for respite, residential, nursing and dementia care.
Its professional Advice and Support team offers confidential and practical guidance about the support available from the MCF and many other organisations.
In addition to the support it provides to Freemasons and their families, the MCF awards millions of pounds each year to local and national charities that help vulnerable people, advance medical research and provide opportunities for young people.
It also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contribute to worldwide appeals for disaster relief. In total, its support helps to improve the lives of thousands of people every year in England, Wales and internationally.
The MCF brings together the work of four national Charities which had been operating separately under various names since the early 18th Century. The work of the MCF includes:
Support of individuals and non-Masonic charities
This continues a commitment to charitable support that began in the earliest days of organised Freemasonry. It provides relief for Masonic petitioners their families or dependants who are experiencing hardship as well as mobility equipment, assistance to other Masonic Charities and grants to major or national non-Masonic Charities. National and international emergencies and disasters are relieved by making significant grants for assistance and there is a programme of support for hospices.
Caring for elderly and infirm Freemasons and their dependants
The MCF provides a level of care, support and assistance appropriate to individual needs and is committed to ensuring the individual’s right to dignity, respect, choice and control over their own lives. It offers a range of high quality care options including residential care, dementia support, nursing and respite care. It also provides sheltered accommodation, holidays and even annuities and home improvement loans for the sick and disabled. It runs 17 Rest and Nursing Homes across England and Wales, and has been caring for older Freemasons and their dependents for over 160 years.
The MCF provides financial support for needy, sick and infirm Freemasons, their wives, children or dependents or the widows, children or dependents of deceased Freemasons who are unable to obtain the appropriate treatment on the NHS without undue delay or hardship. The interests and needs of each applicant are paramount in determining how and where relief may be granted.
Whilst many of the conditions funded may be associated with advancing years – hip and knee joint replacements, cataracts and prostate problems – funding can be available for everything from scans to major heart surgery including complaints which are not necessarily life threatening but are distressing, reduce the quality of life in the sufferer and may involve a long wait on the NHS.
The MCF relieves poverty and advances the education and preparation for life of the children of deceased and distressed Freemasons. Whether a case is accepted due to the death, disability or desertion of a parent, or financial distress experienced by the family as a whole, each brings its own unique heartbreak and turmoil. The MCF helps relieve this distress through the provision of grants and financial assistance and, where funds permit, extends its help to children not connected with Masonic families, in particular by continuing to offer bursaries at cathedrals and choral foundations.
The Relief Chest scheme
A Relief Chest is a simple, cost-effective scheme for managing charitable giving. The MCF provides charitable accounts known as ‘Relief Chests’ which offer a range of benefits for donors. Any Lodge, Chapter or other recognised Masonic group can open a Relief Chest – all donations, payments and disbursements are then processed by staff at the MCF.
In the summer of 2017 there were 4,645 Relief Chests holding funds which total £23.3 million.
Every Lodge is encouraged to join. It was set up to help the Craft give to charity easily and tax-effectively. It offers individual “Relief Chests” which can be used to accumulate funds collected by a Lodge or other Masonic organisation for charitable purposes. The MCF holds the money on behalf of the Lodge or other Masonic organisation which retains control over the disposal of the money.
The Chest Holder uses the funds in its individual Relief Chest to make donations to any non-Masonic or Masonic charity. A highly favourable interest rate is earned on the funds and interest is paid gross of tax. Eligible donations may be Gift Aided and are therefore tax efficient, thereby maximising charitable giving.
How to open a Relief Chest
Setting up a Relief Chest is easy and only takes a few simple steps. The Application Pack provides you with all the necessary guidance notes.
- The Lodge is the ‘Relief Chest Holder’
- A resolution must be passed in open Lodge. Subject to the by-laws and practice of each Lodge, prior notice of motion is not required
- An application form must be completed and signed by the Secretary or other Officer of the Lodge.
- A Relief Chest Application Form is available to download or can be obtained by contacting the MCF Relief Chest Department on 020 3146 3333
- An application can be submitted at any time
- The Relief Chest will become active of the first day of the month following the receipt of the application
Operation of the Chest
The Relief Chest is usually operated by the Charity Steward or Treasurer. This role is known as the “Relief Chest Representative”. The Representative is appointed by the Lodge and is responsible for contact between the Relief Chest office and the Lodge/other Masonic organisation. If the Representative is unobtainable, The MCF will write to the Lodge Secretary or equivalent. For full details on operating a Relief Chest, please download the Relief Chest guide.
Legacy gifts make an important contribution to the funding of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. Every gift, large or small, can help to make a difference to the charity and people assisted through the grant-making programmes. If you would like to donate by this method it is important that the name and registered charity number is quoted correctly in your Will. If you would like to support the future work of the MCF by remembering the charity in your Will, you are urged to seek legal advice from your solicitor or another suitably qualified professional. For further information, please contact the MCF direct or through its website where a useful guide is available – ‘Leaving a Legacy’.
The MCF would be most grateful for any support given in this way.
Lodge charitable funds
Many Lodges choose to administer their own charitable funds, including any legacies, in a Lodge Benevolent Fund. The Fund may be kept under the direction of the Lodge Treasurer and/or Charity Steward, in a bank or building society account.
Alternatively, these funds may be deposited in a Lodge “Relief Chest”.
What does the Lodge Charity Steward do?
The Lodge Charity Steward is appointed by the Master of the Lodge. It is his responsibility to ensure that the Brethren are informed of the charitable activities in their Lodge and this Province as a whole. He should assist the W.M. and the Lodge in all matters relating to charity; as well as assisting the Brethren with the completion of their Gift Aid forms and other specialised forms of giving.
He should keep accurate records for himself and the Lodge Treasurer and ensure that the Lodge and brethren comply with Charity law and all relevant Masonic regulations at all times. He should also communicate with the Provincial Grand Charity Steward and / or the Area Charity Steward as and when necessary, addressing any general charitable queries for his attention, initially through the Provincial Office.
Every Lodge Charity Steward is expected to be pro-active at fund raising within his Lodge and to be able to offer guidance and support to the brethren whenever he is approached about any charitable matter.
W.Bro. Robert G Payne
Provincial Grand Charity Steward