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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

CIoJ charities to take a new turn?

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has had its own charities for many, many years. Some have been merged or assimilated into others during this long period and now there are just four in existence. Is it time, perhaps, to consolidate further to meet today’s conditions and demands?

Presently the Orphan Fund dominates the quartet with investments in excess of £2 million that generated income last year of £89,000.  It made grants of around £21,000 leaving a surplus of around £67,000. Our Benevolent Fund has investments worth £285,000, made grants of over £9,000 leaving it with a surplus for the year of about one thousand pounds.

The Pension Fund, with investments worth a quarter of a million pounds, has four pensioners currently. It made grants to them of almost £7,000 which represented almost all the income generated from the investments. The smallest fund, informally known as Oakhill, is a merger of the Oak Hill and the T P O’Connor Funds. It has inherited investments worth just over £200,000 which generated income of about £6,000 last year, of which £4,000 was paid out in grants.

The only income the charities receive comes from investments and deposits. The investments are with established charitable funds such as Charibond that pay dividends. Bank deposits pay interest but the interest received today is peanuts.

The picture that emerges of the Institute charities is of a rather unbalanced team. Disregarding Oakhill, whose legacy funds and charitable objects are not entirely inclusive to the Institute, each of the charities has a different set of Trustees. There is also a worrying aspect of the funds’ surplus. The Charity Commission takes a dim view of charities that build up large balances.  The view is that a charity exists to help its beneficiaries or promote the objectives for which it was founded.  A charity is not there to generate large fund balances. The Commission has the power to direct a charity to run down its balances.  The Charity Commission is also a bit averse to small charities and has encouraged where possible the merging or acquisition of charities to make more viable and efficient organisations.

Financial returns

One way that the Institute could bring greater compliance with the Charity Commission policy is to merge the three charities whose objectives are confined to the support and welfare of its members.

If the Orphan, Benevolent and Pension Funds were merged into one Welfare Fund it would immediately generate administrative savings.

The number of financial returns and reports would be reduced by two thirds which is no small factor in this day and age of compliance and anti-money laundering documentation. The number of Trustees could also be reduced which, again, reduces the burden of financial services bureaucracy.

The Institute would have in its Welfare Fund investments worth almost £3 million. As the investment amount available increases, the overhead charges as a proportion of the total will be lower, generating an additional amount of income.

Trustees would no longer be constrained by the allocation presently available. Thus the number of Institute pensioners could (not necessarily would) be increased beyond the present number. Neither would any unfortunate youngsters who had lost a mother or father who was an Institute member lose out. The funds available in the Welfare Fund would be adequate even if the number of orphans should be treble the number the Institute has supported over the last 20 or 30 years.

The trustees would be able to review the whole range of welfare needs of members and their dependants not, as at present, looking at one segment, detached from the others. With one Welfare Fund, the Institute would be in a far more logical and practical position to help its members should they get into situations where they need support.

Obviously this is a matter for the membership as a whole and not simply Council. The Institute’s Annual Conference would be an ideal occasion at which to debate the matter.

Norman Bartlett
CIoJ Council Member and Trustee of Benevolent, Oakhill and Pension Funds, Past President of the CIoJ and Past Hon. Treasurer