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 nor public appeals.
At each Masonic meeting there is normally an Alms collection. This will be given in accordance with the directions of, and by prior announcement by the Master (W.M.) this may be for the benefit of and shared between a list of several chosen charities or worthy causes, maybe 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, again 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, as charitable giving is a founding principle of Freemasonry. Then they should consult with their Lodge Charity Steward as soon as possible after joining; 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 are recipients of Masonic charity. The main Masonic Charities come under the auspices of The Grand Lodge of England. These are:-
The Freemasons' Grand Charity is a grant-making charity, which supports people in need. Since 1981, it has made grants totalling over £72 million to thousands of individuals and non-Masonic charities. The work of the Charity continues a commitment to charitable support that began nearly 300 years ago in the earliest days of organised Freemasonry. In addition to providing relief for Masonic petitioners their families or dependants who are experiencing hardship it also provides mobility equipment, assistance to other Masonic Charities and grants to major or national non-Masonic Charities. It also responds when national and international emergencies and disasters occur by making significant grants for assistance and has a special programme of support for Hospices. Indeed the Grand Charity is the largest grant giving charity next to the National Lottery.
The Grand Charity also operates a Relief Chest Scheme which 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. In addition to the Lodge Relief Chests, The Freemasons' Grand Charity holds the money on behalf of the Lodge or other Masonic organisation which retains control over the disposal of the money.
The Chest Holder (usually a Lodge) uses the funds in their individual Relief Chest to make donations to any non-Masonic or Masonic charity or to an individual, a Lodge member, widow or a dependant of a member who is in need. 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.
The Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (R.M.B.I.) 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. Caring mainly for elderly and infirm Freemasons and their dependants, 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 dependants for over 160 years. There are two Masonic Homes which are in or close to our Province Zetland Court at Bournemouth and Shannon Court on the Surrey/Hampshire border at Hindhead.
The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (R.M.T.G.B.) since the late18th Century, the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls and the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys now combined under the R.M.T.G.B., have helped relieve poverty and advance 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 Trust's mission is to help 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 Masonic Samaritan Fund provides financial support for needy, sick and infirm Freemasons, their wives, children or dependants or the widows, children or dependants 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. The fund, by allocating grants has supported treatment for thousands of individuals ranging in age from 18 months upwards. Whilst many of the conditions funded via the MSF 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 Fund is unable to provide support in emergency or life threatening cases where the NHS will deal with it promptly and efficiently. It will be appreciated that is very difficult to assess situations retrospectively. The Fund is therefore unable to support applicants who have already undergone treatment. Almoners, patients and relatives should therefore apply to the Fund in good time and not incur financial liabilities for treatment prior to or in anticipation of approval by the Fund. Applicants do not need to be financially destitute to qualify for assistance. In establishing the financial need both income and capital are taken into account but will not include the value of an applicant's home. Allowances are made for certain items of expenditure and for reasonable savings. Some applicants may be asked to make a contribution towards the overall cost of treatment. Once an application is accepted, the interests of the patient will be paramount and the required treatment will be obtained at whichever hospital is the most appropriate and, if possible, near to where the patient lives.
Here are just a few of the Non Masonic Charities supported by the United Grand Lodge of England through its Grand Charity and by the Brethren of the Masonic Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight. .
Source information for lodge brethren
"The Central Masonic Charities" a booklet designed to provide a brief overview of the main Masonic Charities is obtainable electronically by downloading from here or follow the instructions on screen to obtain a hard copy from Freemason's Hall.
The "Masonic Year Book for the Province of Hampshire and Isle of Wight" produced annually by the Provincial Office provides up-to-date details of all Provincial Lodges and Charities, Trusts, etc.
Another excellent source of information and a Portal to all the Central Masonic Charities is Freemasonry Cares a one-stop shop which provides a step-by-step guide to Masonic charitable assistance.
Another good source of information, particularly if a lodge is thinking of setting up a charity or who wish to trace the authenticity of a charity they want to donate to, and to keep abreast of charity law, is the Charity Commission website.