Apparently, charitable organisations in other countries are often seen as politicised, but in the UK this is not the case. There was some thinking that the Labour Party in 2008 wished to change the rules governing charities but this never materialised. Today, the Charity Commission (for England and Wales) sets the rules regarding political campaigning by Charities.
In the first of the Key Points the Commission states (among other points) that a charity as ‘an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political.’ However, ‘campaigning and political activity can be legitimate and valuable activities for charities to undertake.’ This is defined in the guidance as ‘political campaigning, or political activities must be undertaken only in the context of supporting the delivery of its charitable purpose.’
This article, however, is about the UK’s involvement in charitable acts and, more importantly the Masonic Charitable Foundations charitable giving.
Firstly, the UK is a ‘welfare state,’ so whichever party is in power, the government supports the welfare of its people. This can be defined as our National Health Service (NHS) which is free at the point of delivery to all UK citizens and its social security policies of supporting its citizens financially in times of need through the collection of taxes and National Insurance collections. The UK government is, at this present time of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic crises, providing extra support for all citizens and businesses adversely affected by this terrible virus; loans are being made available to businesses and up to 80% of salaries/ wages will be paid to employees who remain on a company payroll during this crisis, and the self employed will receive the same based on their previous tax returns.
So where does this leave other charities? Unsurprisingly, the largest charitable funding is provided by the National Lottery, but at this time is centring its main support to organisations that support people and communities that are at high risk from Covid-19. Long term charitable commitments already in progress will not be affected.
The second largest charitable funding in tis country is provided by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Money provided to this charity is provided entirely by Freemasons and their families. However, inside this foundation is an item called a relief chest and Freemasons can choose one of these specific chests to donate to and they also can, should they choose to, create their own individual relieve chest and for this they can set up the ability for donations to be made by family and their friends, be they Freemasons or not.
The MCF is committed to providing the best possible support for the individuals and families that they help, as well as their charity partners who deliver vital services in the local communities across England and Wales. This includes financial, health, family or care-related needs. The MCF supports daily living costs should a Freemason find himself out of work, for example, by helping to make ends meet. They will look after wellbeing, especially at this time of social distancing which may inadvertently affect mental stability. Education and skills for children and young people is supported should, for example, a household have a reduced income. This and much, much more is supported to individual Freemasons and their families.
Current support for individual Freemasons and their families in not affected by the Covid-19 crisis. However, all future applications from charities have been currently suspended during the current pandemic, although current grant holders will continue to receive support. Charities generally supported during normal times are ‘Early Years,’ grants so children from vulnerable families get the best start in life; ‘Later Years,’ grants to help reduce loneliness amongst older people; ‘Medical Research,’ grants that fund PhD studies into degenerative diseases; ‘Hospice Care,’ a partnership with Hospice UK which aims to widen access and address barriers to hospice services for people experiencing homelessness or people with learning difficulties.
These are just a few of the areas that Freemasons provide charitable funding through the MCF, find out more here: https://mcf.org.uk/ .
Alongside the MCF is the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI). This charity has 17 residential homes offering care and support for older Freemasons, their families and the wider community. The aim is to provide care that promotes the dignity, independence and choice of each person in their care. Each of these 17 homes can offer places to people with dementia, following an assessment of their needs. Find out more here: https://www.rmbi.org.uk/
Then there is The Freemasons Fund for Surgical Research which supports the Royal College of Surgeons of England. This fund was set up by donations raised as part of the 250th anniversary celebrations by UGLE in 1967. This fund recently received a second significant sum as part of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Arch. Find out more here: https://www.ffsr.org.uk/
But there is more to this fund raising for charities within UGLE. Every year, four Provinces in England and Wales launch a new appeal. These are fund raising appeals known as Festivals. Each Festival lasts for five years and individual Lodges within each Province embark on fund raising over this five year period. These funds generate the majority of the income for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) mentioned above. They also provide an opportunity to increase awareness of the work the MCF undertakes and the support it provides to Freemasons, their families as well as many other charities.
The generosity of Freemasons shows no bounds, and it doesn’t stop here either. Every Lodge also supports local, smaller charities in their home location. For example, Neptune Lodge 5150 has a collection card so individual Brethren can record particular donations they personally make to a Festival. This isn’t done to brag to others how much they give, but to allow their donations to be tax free. This is called “Gift Aid’ in the UK and for each £1 they give the Inland Revenue adds an amount (dependant upon the Brother’s tax status) to the charity also, increasing the funds potential. In Neptune we continue to do this whether we are involved in a current Festival or not, as I am sire many others Lodges do also. During the evening, along with this giving, we have an ‘alms’ collection in the Temple (or Lodge room), a ‘Copper Box’ collection during the Festive Board (our Lodge dinner) for small change and, of course a raffle.
So, in summary, the UK has many charitable organisations supporting all kinds of needs, from pets (the RSPCA is an animal charity), to people, to research and many more, and Freemasons remain a substantial donor organisation to many of these good causes. UK’s charities are non political bodies who can, if it aids their own charitable giving, lobby ministers, but they remain by law independent of any political party at all times, or their license as a charity would be revoked.
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
© Copyright 2019 Al-Khabar/Stephen Froggatt all rights reserved