History and Evolution


First in preparing this paper I thought I would like to reflect back on the early years of the charity and more importantly how the East Lancashire Masonic Benevolent Institution or as we all knew it the ELMBI evolved, and why changes had to be made. Support for those less fortunate than ourselves has always been a feature of our Masonic activity throughout the history of our Province. When in the eighteenth century, charity was dispersed by individual Lodges on behalf of their members. Then in 1815 Grand Lodge ordained that a Province could establish a local fund for charitable and other Masonic purposes, and then, in 1853, a meeting of Provincial Grand Lodge in Blackburn established a fund of benevolence. Eventually, a committee was formed to promote the interests of charity and this committee included one representative from each Lodge in the Province, this was the origin of the Lodge charity representative, now known as the Charity Steward.

In 1876 “the East Lancashire systematic and educational Masonic benevolent fund” was established to administer the increasing work of helping needy masons and their families in the Province. In 1904 the institution was incorporated and registered under the Charities Act and became the “East Lancashire Masonic Benevolent Institution” or ELMBI. We are all aware that the constitution of ELMBI has stood the test of time and served the Province for over a century, during which time, through the Lodge and Chapter almoners, has been able to improve the quality of life for thousands of its beneficiaries, which would not have happened without the generous donations of Brethren within the Province, this being facilitated by the Lodge and Chapter Charity Stewards. In recent years, however, the focus of the Province’s charity has been diverted into various festivals, and thus ELMBI’s capability, profile and donations by way of covenants have reduced dramatically.

A review of the charity’s activities was certainly overdue and consequently a paper was delivered to the Provincial Grand Master’s cabinet in June 2005 with ways to bring the ELMBI up to date and raise its profile. This presentation included outlined details of the fundraising success in the Province of Yorkshire West Riding, a Province similar in size to that of East Lancashire with 8,000 Brethren of which approximately 6,000 are active. Over some time, 62% of these Brethren have become members of their charity and make regular contributions. After the meeting, certain objectives were set out by the cabinet and it was decided to hold a workshop on 21st September 2005 at Bridge Street, Manchester, at which each of the Districts within the Province was represented by three Brethren, the District chairman, Charity Steward and one other representative, which in the majority of cases was the deputy chairman, who of course is also the District Almoner.

The workshop, which was attended by the PGM and his Deputy, commenced with a presentation and discussion about the charity’s objectives. This was followed by the Brethren being split into groups and forming several workshops. The workshops were asked to recommend ways to re-activate the fortunes of ELMBI by encouraging more Brethren to make donations regularly, and also to consider the model adopted by the Province of Yorkshire West Riding, which was mentioned previously. The workshops were also asked how to encourage and support Charity Stewards in their work within the Lodges & Chapters and how to reconnect with the community.

Each group condensed their views and gave a flip chart presentation on what had been discussed, with topics such as membership schemes, rebranding ideas, reward and recognition, patronage, raising our profile, and reconnecting with our community. Not surprisingly a high percentage of views and ideas were similar from the various groups. There was an overwhelming desire by the delegates for a second workshop to be held, this was subsequently held at Bridge Street on 10th November 2005, the main aim of this workshop was to debate the matters arising from the first workshop, and this was the last opportunity for discussion before the appeal was to be relaunched at Provincial Grand Lodge, Blackburn, in November 2005. Being present at both these workshops in my role as District Charity Steward I can assure you that the delegate’s inputs and ideas were taken on board and it was not just a case of paying lip service to the Province, which I think was very important.

David Lightbown, PAGDC

From the workshops prime strategies were identified:1) To rebrand ELMBI with the aim of giving it a modern image and to drop the word “Institution” which was felt conjured up all sorts of wrong or dated images. The first priority however was still to care for existing and future beneficiaries. With a second aim to donate funds to local non Masonic charities and organisations, and I mention once again, generally to reconnect more with our community.2) Also to develop role descriptions for both the District and Lodge Charity Stewards to assist them with the relaunching of ELMBI.The Provincial Grand Master subsequently included in his address at Provincial Grand Lodge, Blackburn, in November 2005, that one of his priorities was charity and it was up to the Brethren and particular the Charity Stewards to meet this challenge. To this end, at an extraordinary general meeting of ELMBI held on 1st February 2006, the members took the first major step in the development process to meet the objectives set out by the Provincial Grand Master by changing the name of our charity, which had served our Province since 1904, to the “East Lancashire Masonic Charity”, complete with a new logo, which incorporates the red rose of Lancashire entwined with the square & compasses and the motto “We’re here to care”. New literature was printed, membership lapel badges were produced and new computer systems were adopted to administer the changes.All this work included a tremendous amount of unrecognised effort by Brethren in the Province to help us achieve our goals. All District Charity Stewards received ongoing training at Bridge Street with a view to giving power point presentations to Lodge and Chapter Charity Stewards within their Districts. These presentations were given during February and March 2006, and included the outline job description roles for District and Lodge Charity Stewards to assist them in promoting the aims of ELMC. There was also a detailed manual handed out to each Charity Steward, this manual being a controlled document which should be kept up dated with the Lodge or Chapter records and passed on to the Charity Stewards successor.
Charges/ Setup Costs

Obviously when changes are made certain overhead costs are inevitable, and there was initially a few negative feed back comments regarding the costs of the changes so I think it is important that we understand how these costs were absorbed.The consultancy work regarding the start up of the project along with design of the new logo etc amounted to a commercial cost in the region of £25,000. All this work however was carried out free of charge to the charity by Brethren in the Province.Questions were raised as regard the production costs for the new lapel badge; this has been kept to a minimum cost of 35p each.A new computer system was up and running, the software being the same as that designed for the Province of Cheshire at a cost of £60,000. However, this software had been supplied at a nominal charge from Cheshire. The software required adaptation to meet our needs and although there were ongoing problems trying to integrate the system with the Provincial and Grand Lodge databases, these issues were resolved.So having changed the name and hopefully the image of our charity lets look at the strategies, policies and progress to date of the ELMC:As was mentioned earlier it is still the prime role of the charity to look after our ever increasing number of beneficiaries, and to this end additional funding is required. These funds are primarily from three sources, either by way of Lodge or District donations, individual contributions or bequests.First looking at Lodge or District contributions; since the end of the 2004 Festival, contributions have risen significantly and we need to maintain and develop this positive level of support so a Lodge and Chapter patronage scheme was set up.Whereby Lodges who achieve set levels of contributions throughout the year, and have a certain percentage of Brethren as members of ELMC, will receive various levels of patronage, patronage for Chapters being achieved with lesser amounts of donations. Patronage can then be printed on the Lodge or Chapter summonses, for each year of qualification.

Membership of the Charity

The membership scheme was developed to encourage a feeling of belonging to a club and to encourage through gift aid personnel contributions on a regular basis, and that potential new candidates should once again be made aware of the charitable nature of freemasonary at their interview and in particular an expectation that they should become members of ELMC.A lot of debate took place regarding the annual membership fee, it was however agreed that £5 per month or £60 per annum should be the minimum membership fee of the charity, payments can be made annually, quarterly or monthly by standing order. After a slow take up of membership things are improving each year, so it appears that we are on the right path.It was however the over whelming wish of the Brethren at the workshops that we do not make value judgements of an individuals contribution by awarding individual patronage or publishing lists of individuals contributions or league tables, but to recognise that what a brother gives to charity should be a matter for their own conscience and individual circumstances.


It was therefore confirmed that for this reason of confidentiality reports of Lodge & Chapter donations would be sent out in two different ways to the Districts:1) Each Charity Steward would receive confirmation of his own Lodge or Chapter member’s contributions.2) Each District Charity Steward would receive details of Lodge & Chapter donation totals only (not individually named member contributions).


The contribution year for membership starting on 1st September until 31st August the following year.It is important to point out that if a member makes casual donations within the year of £60 or more he will become a member of ELMC for that contribution year only, but if a regular commitment is made, the membership would be continuous, until of course payments cease. It is also important to point out the situation regarding multi membership of Lodges, if you become a member of ELMC through any one of your Lodges or Chapters this will automatically qualify you as a member against all your other Lodges and Chapters for patronage purposes, this being referred to on the Charity Steward’s donation reports.


So having looked at the charities income, lets look at were the money goes:Two thirds of all monies received is allocated to the Benevolence Fund, who by sub committees support applications for assistance by Brethren and dependants , the Comfort Fund to support socials for elderly beneficiaries and also a fund for young dependants.


I would just like to give you some idea of the type of beneficiaries in our Province at the present time:We have Lodge widows / widows of closed Lodges / individual Brethren / married couples / spinster daughters and also young people, so we have a wide cross section of beneficiaries, and therefore I cannot over emphasise how important our contributions to our charity are.

Community Fund

The Community Fund came under the remit of the newly formed Grant Making Committee in 2015 – which makes decisions on all non-Masonic Giving for the Charity.The remaining one third of all donations to ELMC is directed into the Community Fund, this fund being used for community based projects, on petition from Districts or individual Lodges and Chapters within the Province. A nine strong Community Fund committee was formed, which is chaired by our Assistant Provincial Grand Master, and includes both the Provincial Grand Master and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master. The committee meet and consider applications on a regular basis. The committee met for the first time on Wednesday 1st November 2006 to consider appeals, and one of the first grants approved was for £6,500 to the Blackburn and Darwen District for the Newfield special school sensory garden. This project was completed and officially opened in July 2007 by the Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, who remarked that the garden has given the school a wonderful facility for years to come. The garden has been marked with an engraved stone that the garden was donated by local Freemasons.The community fund has since allocated further grants to various sections within our community; these can be viewed by on this website.

ELMC Main Aim

Although the main aim of the ELMC is without question to support our ever increasing number of beneficiaries, there are still funds available for further community based projects. So Brethren, it is up to us all to identify any suitable projects within our community where we can be of help, and bring these to the attention of our Charity Stewards.


So in conclusion, after a slow start, the momentum and profile of the ELMC is increasing not only within the Craft but also within our community by our continued efforts to reconnect by various means and building relationships.