Benevolent funds to receive help

A venture has been set up to help promote the work of benevolent funds in the UK.

Tina Steele, a former director of funding development at Ben, the Motor and Allied Trades Benevolent Fund, has set up a consultancy called Solely for Occupational Benevolent Funds. It aims to make the work of benevolent funds better understood and supported in the UK.

"Having worked with a benevolent fund for 20 years it became obvious that there's little recognition both in the trades and industries they serve and the not-for-profit sector,

said Steele. "Once people know that benevolent funds exist and what they do, they're more likely to approach them in the future."

Occupational benevolent funds, which are usually funded by endowments, are unique to the UK. The funds serve and support a profession or trade, whereby eligible candidates can receive a one-off grant or regular allowance in order to meet day-to-day living costs. Those that qualify for help may be in financial hardship because of illness, old age or an accident.

"The stock market situation at the moment means funds are dropping quite dramatically,

said Steele. "That's why benevolent funds are looking at ways of fundraising."

She is courting company and organisation heads to encourage them to make a donation and will talk and make presentations to employees to make them aware of an existing relevant fund. Employees will be asked to support the fund through payroll giving, and also by volunteering.

"I want to raise more awareness, more income and see more people being helped through benevolent funds,

said Steele.

She is also calling for more understanding in the not-for-profit sector about benevolent funds and for a co-ordinated approach to helping those who have illnesses such as cancer, MS or muscular dystrophy. "There needs to be more communication between the two agents,

she said.

In the UK, there are more than 90 funds that look after those who have worked in a particular trade, profession or industry, including accountants, builders, civil service, confectionery, engineering, gardening, nursing, teaching, printing and the fire service.

Unless they're a friendly society, benevolent funds even provide help to people who haven't given to the fund but work in the relevant industry.

Steele also intends to offer consultancy service to people who wish to set up a fund for trades that don't already have one."The not-for-profit sector does not have one - maybe the sector should think about setting up a fund,

she said.

At present major industries including the aeronautical and computing sector are not represented. "I would be responsive to any industry that wants to look to start up a new benevolent fund but primarily I'm working with existing ones,

she said.

During Steele's time at Ben-Motor, voluntary income increased from ?xA3;800,000 in 1981 to ?xA3;9 million last year and beneficiary numbers rose from 1,000 to 15,000.

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