Every once in a while we devote an issue entirely to
the benevolence stories from a single Masonic Angel Fund. We are pleased to
feature once again material from the semi-annual report of the Eau
Claire Area Masonic Angel Fund in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. This MAF
was featured for a number of reasons that we will explore following a few of
their benevolence stories.
10/9/2009 - Purchased a mattress ($153) for a second
grade girl who kept becoming re-infested with lice due to a contaminated
mattress that could not be de-loused.
10/1/2009 - Funded both lunch and "milk money" (total
of $120.75) for two kindergarten students who had not yet qualified for
10/9/2009 - Issued a check for $250 to cover
necessities for a family where grandparents were raising their two
grandchildren and had lost everything in a house fire. Prior to the fire
the grandfather had suffered a heard attack. Grandma was burned in the
10/10/2009 - Provided funding for a semester's worth of
mid-day milk breaks ($25) for a first grader.
10/15/2009 - Eyeglasses for a fourth grade boy at a
cost of $129.
10/20/2009 - $83.28 to purchase "basics" for a family
of four children.
10/23/2009 - Arranged to acquire laundry equipment for
a family where the little boy was coming to school in soiled, smelly
clothing. Sourced, delivered and installed at a cost of $100.
10/30/2009 - Shoes for two little boys at a total cost
11/13/2009 - Funded "milk breaks" for two boys for the
balance of the school year at a total cost of $72.
11/21/2009 - Purchased an air purifier ($105.47) for a
family with an asthmatic child.
12/11/2009 - Toys for multiple Christmas gifts at a
cost of $250.
12/15/2009 - Reimbursed a school counselor who had
purchased necessities ($100) for a family with a seriously ill child.
12/15/2009 - Covered a $50 co-pay for a prescription.
12/15/2009 - Purchased winter clothing for four
children at a total cost of $250.33.
The benevolences listed here represent a total of
$1726.79. They came from 15 benevolence report forms and affected about 35
Why did we choose to feature
benevolences from Eau Claire's report?
We enjoy reading the reports from Eau Claire Area MAF
because they always represent the core of what we try to do with the Masonic
Angel Fund. Eau Claire's benevolences are what we in the Foundation refer
to as "bread-and-butter benevolences." Food, clothing, fire assistance,
eyeglasses, medical items - these benevolences all fulfilled very basic,
When John Sherman and I first conceived the Masonic
Angel Fund program, these are exactly the type of benevolences that
were on our mind. That week John had just finished a session of Masonic
Child ID filmings in our local schools. His head was full of stories where
he had seen kids with shoes that didn't fit, patched-up eyeglasses or a coat
that was far too small. The first description of the Masonic Angel Fund -
and it's still in all of our literature - included the words "to provide
modest assistance to children in need".
The work of the Eau Claire Area Masonic Angel Fund
exemplifies the term "modest assistance". They provide exactly the right
amount of help at exactly the time when that assistance is crucial in the
life of a child.
Most Masonic Angel Funds start out doing these kinds of
benevolences. Indeed, many MAF's limit themselves to "bread-and-butter
benevolences" for their entire life span.
Being Freemasons, many of us like to set the bar a
little higher. Some of our Masonic Angel Funds increase the scope of the
benevolences they cover as they grow their fundraising prowess. As their
funding capabilities grow, many MAF's decide to take on more ambitious
This is usually a fine thing to do if you are fully
covering all of the "bread-and-butter" benevolence requests in all of your
schools. In a small community like the one where we founded the
Masonic Angel Fund this is fairly simple. We have four elementary schools,
one middle school and one high school and a reasonably finite student
On the other hand, consider a community like Eau
Claire, Wisconsin. Eau Claire has a population of over 60,000 people and
has about 71 schools. In a city like this, a Masonic Angel Fund ought to do
just what this one has done - cover basic needs for as many kids in as many
schools as funding permits. If your funding capacity grows, it would follow
that you would want to take on additional schools - not provide for larger
benevolences in a smaller number of schools.
We have seen this practice occur in many other school
districts. The Paul Revere Masonic Angel Fund in Brockton, Massachusetts is
another good example. MAF trustee Bruce K. Pratt and his colleagues planned
a very deliberate path through their city, one school at a time. As they
acquired more sources of money, the added more schools.
In these challenging times of the "Great Recession",
many Masonic Angel Funds are limiting themselves to the basics. If yours is
one in that situation, please remember that "the basics" is why we started
the Masonic Angel Fund "to provide modest assistance to children in need who
do not fit the criteria for traditional social service programs."
As we read the semi-annual reports from our chapters -
and we do read every word of every report - we see some Masonic Angel Funds
"reaching for the stars" with benevolences to fund wheelchair purchases and
other benevolences that were "pie in the sky" back in the early days of the
program. We applaud these programs for going the extra mile. However, we
do not in any way believe that this should influence other chapters to
change the way they choose to serve their communities.
A successful Masonic Angel Fund is a busy Masonic Angel
Fund. If your program is funding plenty of "bread-and-butter" benevolences
every semester and you're happy with that, then we're perfectly happy with
If your program is funding all of those "basics", is
covering every school in your community and still has money left over - then
by all means feel free to raise the bar on the kinds of benevolences you
consider. As long as you stay within the bounds of The Ten Standards we
applaud you in that decision.
On the other hand, if your program is sitting on a lot
of money and you haven't done any benevolences in the past six months,
shame on you! Please don't even think of saying "there's no need" at a
time like this! Get out into your schools and do better with your outreach
program. We have an comprehensive article on outreach at
Leveraging the 501(c)(3) Group Exemption
The Eau Claire Area Masonic Angel Fund is a member of
the MAF group exemption. Consequently, they hold 501(c)(3) status in their
own right. Remember the "laundry benevolence" where a washer/dryer was
requested? In a case like this, when a business sells a product at
something less than fair market value - and when's the last time you could
purchase a dryer for $100? - the donor can take a deduction of the
difference between the price paid and the fair market value of the donated
We saw another good example of this years ago when
Filene's Basement sold several winter coats and snow suits to our partners
in the USO for a little less than $5 each. Filene's Basement had retailed
those items at over $100 with a likely fair market value in the $80 range.
When they sold the coats to us for $5, they likely claimed an in-kind
donation of $75 per item.
If you are a member of the group exemption, remember
these cases when you're working with a store to purchase something for a
benevolence. Leveraging our 501(c)(3) status can often get you a lot more
for the kids for a lot less money.
When you do receive an in-kind donation or deep
discount like this, remember that we do NOT list the fair market value
in the acknowledgement letter but just describe the items donated or
sold at a deep discount. You can include tag descriptions or store SKU
numbers to help the donor tie it back to their inventory but never
assign a fair market value to the items. We are not retail experts, art
experts, auto appraisers or any other form of expert. It is incumbent upon
the donor to declare the FMV on their taxes and then be prepared to defend
it before the IRS if audited.
Semi-Annual Reports for the Fall Semester Due