The motion called for the union to create a new fund "by voluntary contributions from members, by grants from management fund balance of branches and collections at union gatherings". It was to be used for the relief of the widows, orphans and other dependants of members left in distressed circumstances.

That year, the union was authorised to fund the charity by as much as £50 a year from interest on the union's invested monies and a maximum of £50 from the union's central funds. The first grants were made in 1911 and amounted to £10.

Three years later the union was authorised to allocate two shillings per member to this fund. From 1911 to 1919, the fund granted a total of £416.

A separate fund

The problem was that, because it was only a nominal fund, at the end of each year any balance was returned to the general fund. To separate the money completely, in 1920 it became the Widows and Orphans Fund. Union allocations amounted to £434, donations to £408 and grants totalled £47, leaving a surplus of £801.

By 1956, the Widows and Orphan Fund had £152,800 allocated to it within NUJ accounts. The fund remained part of the NUJ accounts until 1970 when it was established as a separate charity.

In 1982, it changed its name and became the Provident Fund to reflect the wider diversity of beneficiaries.

Members in need

There then followed some debate with the Charity Commission about the use of the fund. Despite the first-ever certificate from the Charity Commission stating that "the trustees may apply the same for the relief of distress among members of the said union who are in necessitous or straitened circumstances", this clause disappeared from later revisions.

When the trustees began to help members in need, rather than dependants of deceased members, the Charity Commission did not approve. That led the trustees to establish the Members in Need Fund in 1992, with a supportive donation from the NUJ and from many of its branches. The first payment to a beneficiary was made in 1995.

Within a decade, the Charity Commission had changed its mind on the splitting of such charities, partly because of the huge number of allied charities across many industrial sectors. The NUJ was typical, having two charities with the same trustees and administrators, the same fund manager, auditor and book-keeper. It all seemed unnecessary duplication.

The merger

The trustees first mooted the idea of merging the two charities in 2003 and the formal merger was approved by the Charity Commission in December 2005, with the name changed to NUJ extra.

In December 2005, the combined funds were worth just over £2 million and grants for that year totalled more than £84,000. In anticipation of the merger, the trustees authorised the biggest-ever increase in the ceiling used to calculate weekly benefit for continuing beneficiaries.

The amount per person rose from £130 to £150 a week and the grant for each dependent rose from £50 to £75. In 2007 the trustees raised the ceiling to its highest level – £175 plus £90 for each dependant. One-off grants were also considerably increased.

Donate to NUJ extra – anyone can donate money to the charity. Members should log in to the website before making a donation to avoid filling in forms.