Jo Ayley MInstF (Cert), fundraising and legacies manager, The Civil Service Benevolent Fund

Occupational benevolent funds - what are they, I hear you ask?

When somebody asks who you work for, and you tell them you work for an occupational benevolent fund, the expression on their face generally changes to one of non-recognition. Say the name of a well-known charity, their ears would prick up with interest.

Why? Because people do not have an understanding of occupational benevolent funds, and yet there are lots of them providing help to staff, retired staff and their families throughout the UK. Occupational benevolent funds, through their workplace-related nature, reach approximately 80 per cent of the population.

So why don't people know about them?

Unfortunately because of the nature of the funds they tend to advertise only in the work place. We all have heard of the military and the fire service's benevolent funds as they can, and do, appeal directly to the general public. But others for gardeners, dentists, bookbinders, the civil service, do not fundraise in the public sector and, therefore, do not get recognition.

What do they provide? Most benevolent funds will offer financial help either as grants or loans to people in difficulty. Many will offer additional advice, such as care placement, advice on benefits, sorting-out of finances, employment and back-to-work schemes. Additionally, some may help with respite care and specialist equipment.

Most importantly because they are not linked to a particular cause, benevolent funds can help with all of these things. They are there when you think nobody else is and they provide real help. Benevolent funds are also an enormous resource for an employer; providing support to an employee through difficult times and, ultimately, help them return to the workplace.

Together, benevolent funds help thousands of people, providing grants worth millions of pounds each year. Our communities would be very different without them. The Civil Service Benevolent Fund alone, helps one person every 11 minutes of each working day and issues £33-worth of grants every minute ...

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