In 2014 Freemasons Victoria celebrated 125 years of existence, having been formed in 1889. In that year, when the United Grand Lodge of Victoria was established, a fund was set up to look after Freemasons who had fallen on hard times. That fund was called the "Benevolent Fund".
In early 2014 the Benevolent Fund, having accumulated over $30m in investments, was, for the first time in 125 years, registered as a charity under the name of "Freemasons Benevolent Fund".
In 1989, in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, a group of senior Freemasons established "The Freemasons Public Charitable Foundation" which is a Public Ancillary Fund registered as a Deductible Gift Recipient charity.
In a move designed to change the philanthropic direction of Freemasons Victoria, and continue to serve it for another 125 years, both of these funds were recently brought together under a common trustee, Freemasons Foundation Victoria Limited.
The directors of Freemasons Foundation Victoria Limited now manage both charities.
The Freemasons Public Charitable Foundation will continue to make grants only to Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) charities; the Freemasons Benevolent Fund will not only make substantial grants to non-DGR charities, it will also continue to support the charitable activities of over 260 Freemasons Lodges throughout Victoria which, collectively, raise about a quarter of a million dollars each year for local causes and community organisations. It will also continue to support Freemasons who require financial assistance and it will run the very successful scholarship program which was established a number of years ago and awards about $300,000 a year to qualified students.
The board of directors of Freemasons Foundation Victoria Limited consists of nine Freemasons and two non-Freemasons who, between them, have a range of skills, and experience in philanthropy, which will ensure the success of this new philanthropic organisation.
The new board met for the first time in December 2014 and approved about $85,000 in grants. This was the first step in a program of giving which, in the next full year period, will make grants of about $1.2m. This, added to the amounts raised by Victorian Freemasons Lodges, will ensure that worthwhile community causes in Victoria will benefit from about $1.5 million in grants per year.
Applications for grants are invited from charitable and community organisations which can demonstrate a specific need for funding.