The Role And Duties Of The Provincial Charity Steward
The Provincial Charity Steward has the responsibility of developing and maintaining the awareness within the Province, for fundraising, and providing relevant and up to date information with the intention of stimulating the enthusiasm of the brethren. The provision of current information from the 4 Masonic Charities is a vital part of enthusing the giving process, as the brethren must be kept aware of the importance of their regular giving to these Charities.
He should work closely with his Provincial Executive, enacting their directions on Provincial Initiatives through a management team which can relate to the Lodges in their Local Masonic Centres. In addition he should assist the Executive to raise the profile of Freemasonry in the community by identifying worthy projects for support, and building relationships with local charitable organisations.
He should work closely with the Provincial Treasurer to ensure accurate records are kept of charitable monies entrusted through the Province, and with the Provincial Secretary to keep the posted information up to date and of interest to all the Brethren of the Province.
He should visit Lodges as often as possible, to support the work of Lodge Charity Stewards and be a focal point for advice, assistance and support, providing guidance as far as their fund raising ideas, bearing in mind current legislation and best practises.
In addition during a Festival period he should work closely with the Festival Committee and the nominated Charity to ensure that over the Festival period the maximum effectiveness is achieved for that Charity.
He should ensure his successor is properly trained and when the time comes to hand over the role, that the process proceeds smoothly and efficiently.
As the activity of Hertfordshire Lodges slows with the approach of summer, this is perhaps an opportune moment to update the Brethren with current information on Charitable monies donated by the four Masonic Charities and the Provincial Awards Committee, within our Province over the last twelve months.
During the period to December 2012, the four main charities have together provided nearly £500,000 towards the support of 98 Hertfordshire Freemasons, their families and dependants.
In addition, £8000 was donated by the Grand Charity to the Hertfordshire and Essex Air Ambulance bringing the total donated by the Charity to all Air Ambulances nationally to £1 million since 2007.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master James Young passed a cheque for £5000 to representatives of the Princes Trust from the Grand Charity, as part of the Grand Charity’s National Project Initiative.
Seven Hospices in the Province received a total of nearly £14,000 from the Grand Charity, as their share of £600,000 donated nationally. Those benefitting were, Garden House Hospice, Hospice of St. Francis, Isobel Hospice, Noah’s Ark, Peace Hospice, Pepper Foundation and St. Albans and Dacorum. The Grand Charity has given nearly £9.9 million to Hospices nationally since 1984.
Just recently, Provincial Lodge has made awards totalling over £20,000 to local charities including Teddies, Sue Ryder Stagenhoe, 3 Scout and 1 Guide Group, Young Epilepsy, Enough Abuse, Teens Unite Fighting Cancer, Care Farm Project and the Masonic Trout and Salmon Fishing Charity. In addition a further £8000 has been donated to the Royal Arch 2013 Appeal on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons.
The awards made by the four Masonic Charities to our Province, serve as a significant reminder of the reasons why we support so strongly the Festival System. Over 70% of the income the charities receive is provided by Festivals and donations. Without this support they simply would not be able to function as they do.
Our Province starts the next Festival period in the early part of 2014, and for the following five years all our attention will be concentrated on raising as much money as possible for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. Preparations are well underway and official launches will take place in the early months of next year.
Prudent planning of Lodge funds now, will help in getting the Province off to a good start when the Festival period commences. I cannot stress strongly enough, the importance of the use of Gift Aid, either for collections in Lodge using the envelope system, or by regular or single donations using the mandate system, into a Lodge Relief Chest. For the period of the Festival, Festival Fund Mandates will also be available to allow contributions to pass directly to the Charity throughout the Festival period. The RMTGB will claim gift Aid as appropriate on each mandate, crediting the amount both to the Brother and his Lodge. Full details of this option will be announced at Festival Launch. We cannot afford to pass up the opportunity of claiming 25p in every £1 donated via the Gift Aid system, all for the sake of a little paperwork and administration. It makes a vital contribution to the total raised. We are not able to raise funds as others do, we cannot appeal directly to the public, all our funds raised come from our members and the Exchequer’s contribution must not be ignored,
As it has the potential to add 25% to everything we raise.
In order to lighten the load of the Lodge Charity Steward, perhaps consideration by the Lodge Committee could be given to appointing a Festival Steward for the period of the Appeal, to act as link between the Lodge and the Festival organisers.
As a specific plea, the use of postal communications add very significantly to the cost and speed of any communication between the Festival Committee and each Lodge, and so the opportunity to use email provides a vital and inexpensive means of contact. It would be my wish that every Lodge Charity Steward and Festival Steward appointed by a Lodge should have an email address to ensure up to date information throughout the Festival Period can be quickly and easily interchanged.
As we move from summer towards autumn and the start of a new Masonic year, it is perhaps a time for Lodge committees to take a prudent look at their Lodge’s finances, to ensure they are as healthy as possible.
We are now less than two years away from the start of a five year Festival Appeal in support of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.
The RMTGB helps beneficiaries overcome the barriers of poverty and complete the education and training needed to achieve and succeed in life.
In our Province, this charity has provided over £750,000 of support in the last five years, to children and dependants of our members and is currently supporting 40 families with grants of £105,000, awarded in the last twelve months.The Festival Appeal will concentrate the direction of fundraising across our Province, which inevitably may divert funds away from each Lodge’s more regular choices for support.
There are three main streams in most Lodges into which monies are placed and need careful consideration. Most brethren will, of course, already have a good working knowledge of the functions of these accounts, but I feel it bears repetition, and may be especially helpful for the newer members.
The General Fund is normally financed by members’ subscriptions, dining fees and sundry payments and is really there to cover the day-to-day running of the Lodge itself. Generating a small surplus in this fund is always useful as thiscan be used as “emergency” money should a crisis occur in the Lodge or for example, if a Masonic centre makes a specific charge on their users. As this money is raised without a mention of charity, it can be used for any purpose as decided by the Lodge members.
The Benevolent Fund, which may have different titles in many Lodges, i.e. Almoners account and suchlike, is normally funded from collections in Lodge, from raffles, social events or even one-off donations, and in all cases these funds are not raised in the name of charity, and Gift Aid is NOT reclaimable on them. These Benevolent Funds can be used for supporting Lodge widows and dependants, gifts as directed by the members, flowers, wreaths and Christmas boxes. This money is unencumbered by Gift Aid and can be used at the members’ discretion.
The Charity Fund is normally funded by monies raised in the name of charity, from in-Lodge collections, specifically nominated before the collection takes place, by all monies raised in Gift Aid envelopes and by single or regular Payment Promises, to a registered charity or to a Lodge Relief Chest. Where appropriate, and depending on individual members’ taxable status, 25p in the pound is reclaimable from the Exchequer, greatly enhancing the value of this type of giving. It can ONLY be disbursed for charitable purposes by donation to a registered charity or as a donation to individuals in cases of demonstrable need or hardship.
It is important to remember that Gift Aid is NEVER reclaimable from monies raised in raffles. Charitable funds cannot be used for flowers, widows’ gifts and Christmas boxes.
When the next Festival period begins in 2014, the brethren of our Province will be asked to prioritise their giving in the direction of the RMTGB and, as a consequence, two of these three funds may suffer a drop in liquidity. As both of these funds are very important for each Lodge’s ability to support others, now is the right time to ensure their balances are as you would wish them to be.