W. Bro. Richard Friedamn is a Past Master of E.R.A.C. Lodge943, Rochester, N.Y. He authored the 12-90 STB "Brother Bring a Friend Night" which has proved to be one of the most popular and motivating STB's put out by the MSA.
In the Short Talk Bulletin of December 1990. I proposed a program called "Brother Bring a Friend Night" to spur efforts towards Membership Development. My own Lodge, District and parts of New York State use the program actively. In areas where it is utilized we are making new Masons.
Three years later we are faced with a different problem: how do we keep the new Mason involved and reinvigorate the senior Mason to the point where we do not see the frustrating rise in the loss of membership due to non payment of dues or demits?
In short, how do we get focused on MEMBERSHIP RETENTION?
Following the World Wars, Masonry saw a huge rise in membership. I have seen Lodge programs from my own small Lodge which indicated 70 men in waiting for the various degrees. Sadly, history tells us that Masonry, as a whole, did little or nothing to retain these men as active members in Craft Masonry.
With the start of a new era in bringing in Masons, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. We must make new Masons and retain them as vital links in the Masonic Chain, especially at the level of the "Blue Lodge".
This Short Talk will deal with some of the key points for Membership Retention from a LODGE level and in a programmatic way. It will present a vision of how one Lodge, having somewhat solved its Membership Development problems took on the challenge of retaining its members.
I am well aware that most of the ideas about to be presented have been out in the field for years. The tragedy is that our Brethren DO NOT USE THE TOOLS AVAILABLE TO THEM !
Over the course of the last several years, Can Do Lodge7777 convinced its members to adopt a Membership Development program. Using the Brother Bring a Friend Night and materials from the Masonic Renewal Task Force, the Lodge members were motivated to go out and bring in new members. The Lodge responded and brought in 20 new members in three years.
At a recent Lodge meeting only 8 of those new members were present. At the same meeting 6 senior members were dropped for non-payment of dues and 4 demits were read. The Master of the Lodge knew something was wrong.
Where were the new guys who looked so excited by the degree work?
The Master commissioned a Lodge Task Force to review the situation and make recommendations for implementation.
The first task the TEAM faced was to come up with a list of honest questions which would clarify the problem.
These were the questions they developed and asked themselves honestly :
Do we call our members regularly?
Do we REACH OUT and OFFER aid and assistance or do we sit back and assume that all is well if we do not hear from a Brother?
Have we asked our new members what they are interested in regarding Freemasonry?
Did we assign them a Shepherd or Mentor after they were raised?
Have we gone out of our way to provide Masonic education?
Has the Lodge REALLY taken an interest in its members old and new?
Do we communicate with our Brothers?
Do we acknowledge Masonic and non Masonic
birthdays or anniversaries prior to 40 or 50 50 year members?
Have we asked our Brethren what they would like to see in our Lodge Trestleboard?
What were we doing to encourage meaningful family involvement both in and outside of the Lodge?
Were we defining family involvement as every member of the family joining appendant Masonic bodies?
How are we addressing the needs of young members who have young families and working parents?
Were we doing enough to include the wives in the life of the Lodge?
Why was the Lodge having a problem in garnering line officers?
Were we really active in the community?
Was there enough fun in the Lodge?
Were we paying enough attention to "paying
the Craft their wages, if any be due, that none may go away dissatisfied"?
The Task Force quickly realized that the painful questions that they asked led them to the even more painful reality that the Lodge was lacking in many areas.
The Task Force put the key questions in writing and sent them to the membership. This began a process of letting the members know that the leadership understood that THEY mattered to the future of the Lodge.
When Can Do Lodge had a severe membership problem they had DISCUSSED it outside of the normal Lodge meeting in a risk free environment and as a TEAM.
The Retention Task Force followed this pattern and got the Master to schedule a brain storming session. They mailed an invitation to attend to the entire membership.
At the brainstorming session it was obvious that many of the brothers held similar concerns and gave similar suggestions to the Task Force. The Task force in turn asked the brother in attendance to commit to working in areas of their CHOICE in the membership retention effort.
The Task Force was now ready to make suggestions for an action plan.
The Task Force proposed the formation of several action Teams working in different but focused areas to address positive solutions to the key questions arising from the evaluation and feedback phase.
Each action team developed specific implementation goals to recommend to the Lodge.
The following section details the different action teams specific recommendations. Each TEAM knew that it would be accountable for following through on its suggestions.
The Family Involvement Action Team. This team recommended:
looking at the Lodge Trestle board and urging more open programming, prevailing on the Master to close the Lodge by 9:00 p.m. whenever possible investigating the feasibility of providing co-op baby-sitters at the Lodge during meetings. Writing a procedure for Investigating Teams to make this first impression of the Craft favorable for the wife, candidate and family.
Producing a letter from the Master describing Masonry and the family's role, to be sent to the wife of every petitioner. Implementing several purely social outings which contained NO Masonic SPEECHES so that the whole family could have fun!
The Masonic Education Action Team. This TEAM recommended:
making sure that every petitioner had a Shepherd or Mentor for at least one year following the degrees.
Using the trestleboard of the Lodge, in part.
to expose new members and the Lodge as a whole, to all current educational material. seeing that a Lodge Library was started to make available Masonic publications and videos.
actively encouraging brothers to visit other Lodges both within the area and without. urging each sponsor of a new member to purchase "The Craft and Its Symbols"' by Allen E. Roberts and give it as a gift to the new member.
urging the Lodge to buy a years subscription to the Masonic Service Association "Short Talk Bulletin" for each new member.
The Masters Wages Action Team. This TEAM recommended:
making sure that each member was contacted as regularly as possible.
Creating a phone list of all local brethren and calling them before each meeting, offering rides if needed. Producing a data base to include all relevant personal information, creating contact sheets on each brother to keep a record of the Lodges communication efforts and their response to them. creating a public "Awards Night" to include certificates for 10 years of service and up, as well as "Mason of the Year", "Most Improved Ritualist"', "Best Lodge Function Attendance, ‘*Membership'" and other motivational awards.
sending out Masonic Birthday Cards to all members once a year asking for some news
and acknowledging their membership.
coordinating visitations to sick and shut in members. asking the Lodge to sponsor a widows program.
asking the Lodge to sponsor a holiday party and summer picnic for the kids.
Insuring that every member in danger of suspension for non-payment of dues or who requested a demit be personally contacted by the Lodge, preferably by someone whom the Brother knew, to find out if there was anything the Lodge could do to assist and to forestall negative action.
creating a Long Range PIan for the Lodge. working with every line officer from top to bottom on program planning, ritual, protocol and administration. working with officers on how to run a meeting developing and publishing a handbook of job descriptions for each Station and Place in the Lodge, with a clear outline of duties and role.
recruiting new blood into the line and making recommendations to the Master as to appointments.
insuring that each officer was a graduate of a leadership course, (if one is available) or had attended a certain number of seminars about Masonic Leadership or had a working knowledge of certain books pertaining to Masonic Leadership.
This TEAM recommended:
reaching out to the local community and
flnding ways to be of service.
making sure that the Lodge was actively
involved in charitable work.
attempting to create relationships with the
local news media in order to get the Lodges
actions publicized in the community.
creating ways of using the Lodge as a central community hub, such as letting boy/girl scout troops, AA meetings and other community groups use the facility.
The Feedback, Fun and Continuity Action Team. This TEAM recommended:
continual evaluation of whether the Lodge was having enough fun, as defined by participation, attendance and feedback by the brethren.
continuous assessment of whether the needs
of the Brethren were being met.
Continuous input of creative new ways to interact with one another.
"Behold how good and how pleasant it is
for brethren to dwell together in unity"
The Lodge had come to understand that the key to membership retention was the creation of a culture whereby a Brother feels that he really misses something great when he can't attend a meeting.
Can Do Lodge had become a place where every brother could relate, from the heart, to the words of the ancient Scottish Tyler's toast:
"Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again"