Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity
9 September 2015
An address by Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity
Deputy Grand President and members. Those of you who attend Quarterly Communications and the AGM of the Grand Charity will know that typically I speak about the Charity’s non-masonic grant making. Today’s AGM is, however, not a typical one and if members approve the resolutions set out in agenda item 5, these will pave the way for a total restructuring of the management and administration of all four of the central masonic charities. The Grand Charity will cease to operate as it has in the past, although the vital support it gives will continue.
I hope I may, therefore, take this opportunity to comment outside the normal script of an AGM as there will not be another opportunity to remind you of the critical role that the Grand Charity has played in the development and organization of the Craft’s charitable activities and of the excellence of its work.
As a non-mason, an outsider to the Craft, I believe that I can speak more dispassionately and objectively about the Grand Charity than others. It is indisputable that the Grand Charity has made a vital contribution across a wide range of charitable activity – support for masons, for non-masons and for masonic charity overall, through grants to other masonic charities and the services of the Relief Chest Scheme which has done so much to encourage charitable giving throughout the Craft. The Grand Charity has donated approximately £70m to masonic causes and approximately £60m to non-masonic charities since it was established in 1981. Significantly, the Grand Charity has filled the gap identified by the Bagnall Report, to contribute to the wider community in a manner befitting the importance and scale of English Freemasonry. It has made groundbreaking and extensive contributions to wider society, demonstrating that Freemasonry is both a philanthropic leader and an outward facing, inclusive organization and it has received national public acclaim for its work.
I have been enormously privileged to work with you, who have supported the Grand Charity so generously, and to assist the trustees as they have honed the Grand Charity to achieve the tremendous positive impact that it has. I regularly debated with one of the past presidents of the charity as to which were the best jobs in Freemasonry, and we were both convinced that we were amongst those who held them.
Change is, however, inevitable and the planning for the new world of one central masonic charity is well advanced. As the president will emphasize in a few moments, the creation of the proposed overarching charity will deliver a greatly enhanced level of service to our beneficiaries, more efficiently and more cost-effectively. This new central charity will embody the very best principles of Freemasonry and will be one of which the Craft will be extremely proud. The success of the future depends very much on the strength of the past, and the new charity will build on the firm and carefully crafted foundations laid by the Grand Charity, and the legacies brought by the other central masonic charities, in some cases over many more years, as Freemasonry moves to the next era in its very long and proud tradition of charitable support.
Deputy Grand President and members of the Grand Charity, thank you for allowing me to say these few words – and thank you for all the support that the Charity’s staff and I have received from you over the years.