Charity Partners: The British Benevolent Society

About the BBS

As we enter the season of festive giving, GBx are shining a spotlight on our charity partners, The British Benevolent Society of California (BBS). As a fellow organisation of Brits, we share many members.

The BBS is a distinctive independent charity and social hub for the British community in the Western United States. We offer aid and relief to British citizens during times of dire need, striving to provide life-saving support when it matters most.

The BBS, primarily composed of volunteer members, operates under the guidance of an 11-member Board of Directors responsible for managing the charity’s activities. The Board focuses on aiding British Nationals in the states covered by the Consulates General offices in California who have nowhere else to turn for help. 

The BBS frequently receives requests for assistance from British citizens dealing with emergency repatriation, recovery from violent crimes, rental assistance, affording essential medication, and maintaining health insurance. Despite the unique nature of cases, all applicants are British nationals.



Notably, the BBS remains committed to aiding those affected by the pandemic’s economic impact. Since March 2020, over $250,000 has been provided in aid throughout the Western United States to support British citizens in need.

The BBS sustains its efforts through a paid membership program, open to anyone willing to contribute. A $100 yearly membership allows attendance at BBS events and fundraisers, supporting individuals facing crises. Our support also comes from generous donations, legacies and fundraising by members, and our community in California. 

With your help and involvement, we can:

  • Continue to provide aid and relief to distressed British nationals in dire need of assistance.
  • Partner with the British Consulates General in San Francisco and Los Angeles to ensure people know where to find us.
  • Follow the tradition that began in 1858 to help those that need it the most.


Your support can make a difference:

Your donations help fund our mission in so many important ways. 

  • $25 — One hot meal and beverage
  • $50 — Transportation to the airport for one person
  • $100 — One night at a hotel for one person or couple
  • $500 — Essential document replacement and lodging
  • $1,000 — Repatriation to the UK for one person

If you are in a position where you can help the BBS, please make a *tax-deductible donation today via our website, Venmo, or PayPal:

*The IRS recognizes the British Benevolent Society of California Inc. as a Section 501(c)(3) public charity, tax ID: 94-1294900. Therefore, federal law provides that contributions to the BBS qualify for the charitable contribution deduction, subject to your personal tax situation. No goods or services were provided to you in exchange for this gift.


Meet the BBS Directors (who are also GBx members!)

Penny Harwood, Director

Penny, SVP Business Development at London & Partners, leads the San Francisco office and supports high-growth tech companies in globalizing and expanding to London. Specializing in SaaS, fintech, ecommerce, creative, and sustainability, she works closely with C-level executives. A super connector, Penny is also involved in facilitating trade services for London scale-ups, demonstrating a strong passion for purpose-driven causes.


Arif Damji, Director

Arif, an investor at Conductive Ventures in Palo Alto, focuses on fostering the success of SaaS and hardware startups. Before his investment role, he successfully scaled a B2B SaaS solution to acquisition and led innovation for a private equity-owned winery.. In his spare time, he is dedicated to supporting the arts in adapting for future generations, mentoring young leaders, and aiding relief organizations in serving local communities.


Alex Sinclair, Director

British born Alex J Sinclair is a media consultant in the publishing and creative rights distribution space focused on digital photography and footage licensing. Alex brings 20 years of intra/entrepreneurial experience having developed products and subsidiaries for educational companies such as Pearson Education, McGraw Hill and Encyclopedia Britannica.


Case Studies

The mission of the BBS is to provide the best and most appropriate support to British Nationals in distress.

The BBS receives a range of applications for assistance. More recently requests have involved providing attention, care and financial relief to individuals impacted by the global pandemic.

Historically the charity has received requests from Brits in need of help to repatriate to the UK, renew their passport, replace green cards or even help pay for a certified copy of a birth certificate. 

These are just a few of the stories from those that we have helped…

Compassionate Assistance: Elder Care

We learned of a particularly serious case brought to us by the British Consulate in San Francisco. The Consulate received word of an 87-year-old British national receiving emergency care at a local hospital. She had been discovered living in vile conditions where she had suffered from neglect. A therapist at the hospital contacted the Consulate, hoping to help put her patient in contact with family. Working with the Consulate, the BBS helped cover the costs of a new passport, basic necessities and repatriation. 


Mental Health Issues and Homelessness:
The BBS extended financial aid and facilitated emergency repatriation for a British national experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges in San Francisco. After contacting the Consulate, arrangements were made for him to stay at a hotel for two nights, enabling him to stabilize and prepare for a flight back to the UK. Collaborating with the Consulate, Travel Care greeted him at Heathrow, facilitating his reunion with his doctor upon arrival.


Supporting Our Ex-Pat Community: Financial Assistance for a Single Mother
A young single mother in the US, facing a desperate situation due to immigration constraints and the pandemic travel ban, received assistance. Unable to work and lacking permission to return to the UK with her child, she was isolated without family support. The BBS provided two months of rent support, funds for a month of groceries, and an Amazon gift to help her during this challenging time.


Covid 19 Grant:
This Brit was in the final stages of waiting for his green card application.  It was put permanently on hold during the pandemic. He was unable to work (his industry had shut down during the pandemic) or return to the UK as it would compromise the green card process. The BBS provided him with a Covid19 Grant of $1,500 which was used to pay rent.


The BBS Relief Leaflet offers additional information about the assistance we provide, as well as additional case studies.