What is the Ben Fund?

It has been around since 1969. In fact the Guild of Motoring Writers' Benevolent Fund, to give it its full name, was launched the same year as man first walked on the moon and Ford introduced the Capri.

Hmm, cumbersome name… no wonder it's been shortened to Guild Ben Fund. But I've read about another Ben. Are they linked?

You're probably referring to the Motor and Allied Trades Benevolent Fund, commonly known as BEN. This is a huge organisation that helps and supports anyone who has worked in the motor industry… and that includes journalists. And yes, we do have a link to BEN.

OK I'm confused. Why do we need two Bens?

It's a question of scale. The industry BEN runs nursing homes and support centres across the UK and looks after thousands of people every year. The Guild's Fund offers help on a smaller scale to Guild members and their families only.

What sort of help are we talking about here?

The Guild Fund helps when you run into difficulties. Let's just suppose your company unexpectedly 'lets you go' or you lose a valuable freelance contract… there's no money coming in, but you've still got bills to pay.

You mean you'll pay my mortgage when I've got no work?

Not exactly; the Guild Fund has money – although it's far from a bottomless pit – that can be used to help you over a difficult period without having to worry that the bailiffs are going to come knocking.

So the Fund is really a bank, then?

Absolutely not. While we can and do hand over cash when it's needed, we spend as much, if not more, time getting to the root cause of the problem as we do solving the immediate crisis.

Give me an example.

OK. Every Guild member is obviously a brilliant driver, but not all are so accomplished with money. Some borrow on credit cards and are surprised when they discover what 18.5 per cent APR really means. Others assume the VAT man is a patient sort of chap and is prepared to wait for payment. Faced with such debts, the temptation is to rob Peter to pay Paul and then get dragged deeper into debt as a result.

This is starting to get uncomfortably close to the truth. So what can the Fund do?

Well, the first thing we can do is take short-term responsibility for the bill and make sure it's paid promptly. Then we try to get to the root of the problem and work out a recovery programme so that it won't happen again. It's important to remember, however, that we are not a pension fund… that's down to you. That said, we can point you in the direction of professionals for proper financial planning advice.

What happens when I retire?

The Guild Fund has a number of retired members on its books and we help wherever and whenever we're needed. We have installed stair lifts, for example, have provided special orthopaedic beds and helped with interim nursing costs for the needy.

Who funds the Fund?

You do. A proportion of your Guild membership fee and part of the revenue generated by adverts in the Guild Yearbook are given to the Fund every year. The Guild also organises events such as the Classic Run to raise more cash and the Fund gains further income from bequests and donations. This money is invested carefully to generate more income. But we still need more, which is why we encourage all new and existing members to contribute via www.justgiving.com/gomw. If every active member donated a fiver a month, the Fund would be better off by around £30,000 a year.

You said earlier that the Fund helps not just Guild members but also their families. How does that work?

Just imagine the worst happens and someone gets injured, or worse, while out on a story. Insurance payouts will sort out most financial dramas… eventually. But what happens before probate is sorted? Who makes sure school bills are settled on time or there's enough cash pay the supermarket bill in the meantime? The Fund…

Who runs the Fund?

The Guild Fund is run by five Trustees and an Administrator who work entirely independently of the Guild Committee. All have their ears to the ground in an attempt to keep tabs on who might need help. But they also rely on others to alert them to potential problems.

Who have you helped in the past?

Can't tell you, I'm afraid. Getting into difficulties is bad enough but having everyone know about it can be even worse. That's why every offer of help is given in total confidence. Your regular launch driving partner might be getting help from the Fund, but it's up to him or her to tell you, not us.

So to recap, the Fund operates discreetly, offering support and money to Guild members in trouble.

Exactly right. The level of help depends entirely on the circumstances of each case, but whatever the problem we are never judgmental.

What can I do to help?

Many things. You can set up a regular donation at www.justgiving.com/gomw giving us a little extra cash to ensure we can keep providing help. You can let us know when you hear of a fellow Guild member in trouble.

And you can rely on us to help you if you come unstuck.