As an organisation, we have charitable status for some of our funds. Donations to these are always welcome, and can be made via the SIGBI Federation Office, or via the SIGBI Website.
The Benevolent Fund came about because in 1939, Soroptimists in Exeter recognised that a younger fellow Soroptimist, recently widowed, was experiencing financial difficulties. From this was born the idea that a Relief fund for the assistance of Soroptimists who had fallen into financial difficulty either through ill heath, misfortunate or advancing years, needed financial assistance. It took until 1942 for the Benevolent Fund to be formed and incorporated into the Federation Constitution following a proposal by SI Exeter which was seconded by SI Plymouth. The capital fund at that time was £958 and an annual levy of one shilling payable by every member in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland. The Benevolent Fund has its own Constitution and is a Registered Charity (No 211840).
Today the Benevolent Fund is still funded by and available to, members from the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland, the levy per member currently is £2.00.
Many years ago, a beneficiary may have retired on a modest salary which has not kept pace with the cost of living. The question to ask is why should women have to reduce their standard of living just because they have retired? The reasons given in 1942 are just the same today, ill health, disability, failure of business, matrimonial difficulties and the problems accompanying old age. Today’s beneficiaries range in age from the mid-40s to the over 90s.
Management of the Benevolent Fund
The Trustees of the Benevolent Fund are the regionally elected representatives, two representatives from SIGBI, including the Federation’s Director of Finance who also acts as Treasurer to the Benevolent Fund. The Trustees elect their Chairman and Secretary. The portfolio of investments held by the Benevolent fund are ethically invested with the Trustees delegating the management of the portfolio to the Investment Committee (membership: Chairman, SIGBI Financial Director, Federation Representative, Secretary and at least 2 other trustees). The services of professional financial advisors are retained to ensure that the portfolio is properly managed. The Investment Committee meets twice a year to review the portfolio.
The Trustees meet annually following the SIGBI Federation Conference, when all those who have received help during the past year are reviewed to ensure they are still getting the help they require and if appropriate to withdraw, or reduce funding from a beneficiary. The Department of Work and Pensions website is consulted to review the income and capital a beneficiary may receive/hold before becoming eligible for help from the Benevolent Fund.
Confidentiality is key in the work of the Benevolent Fund, as it is important that our beneficiaries can trust that their personal business is not discussed with any other member of a club or a region. The Regional Representative is the link person between a beneficiary and the Trustees and they assist any would be applicant in completing the application form and meet at least annually with beneficiaries to ensure that a fair report on a beneficiary’s needs is put to the Annual General Meeting of Trustees. The Regional Representatives do not discuss individual cases with any other member of a club or a region.
To receive help from the Benevolent Fund, an applicant must have been a member of a Soroptimist Club for at least 3 consecutive years. Assistance is given in the form of grants, either as a one-off payment for a specific need, or as a regular quarterly grant to supplement the beneficiary’s income. The fund does not make loans.
Application Forms for financial assistance from the Benevolent Fund may be obtained from the Regional Representative or from the Benevolent Fund Secretary whose name can be found in the Soroptimist Directory, located on the SIGBI website http://sigbi.org.
All information is treated in absolute confidence. The only person with whom the applicant will discuss her circumstances is her Regional Representative, who will help her complete the form and ensure that the reasons for the application is made clear. The form is then sent to the Secretary of the Benevolent Fund.
Donations and Legacies
The Benevolent Fund is always pleased to receive donations from Clubs and individual members. If you are interested in leaving a legacy to the Fund your Regional Representative or the Benevolent Fund Secretary will gladly assist you.
I hope the above has given a little insight into the work of the Benevolent Fund. Finally, because the Benevolent Fund is a registered charity, the Benevolent Fund levy qualifies under the Gift Aid Scheme and it is hoped that all eligible Soroptimists have taken the opportunity to sign up for this. It costs the Soroptimist nothing and as such all are encouraged to do so. Every penny helps.