Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sustaining Membership

It's been a rant of mine for a while. It's becoming a rant for more than just me. It's about how do we revive and sustain our membership. It's about Brotherhood. It's about Morality. It's about Friendship. Not only are finances (non payment of dues) involved, but the wellfare of our individual members, and the collective wellfare of our institution. This posting stems from a discussion of non payment of dues, and is part of my take on this subject.

I hope that this stimulates a few people to chime in with ideas of how to solve this problem. It is solvable. It requires work.

I've done some talking with others at our S.R. meeting. A couple of the brothers are professional marketers. I have done my share of that sort of thing in the past as well, having run my own business for several years before retirement. I was reminded that what we're talking about when we talk about sustaining membership is marketing. The same principles apply.

In a marketing program, it's statistically true that a mailing (Trestleboard) has a 1% response rate. That's 1% calling back; not 1% buying. Keeping customers (Brothers/Members) requires much more work, and bringing back those who have fallen away, even more. The reason it takes more work is that there are several factors involved in them not returning: they might be bored; they might be angry; they might be too busy; they might be too sick; they might not have money. Any of these could contribute to the belief that "there's something wrong," with me or with the others. I don't fit. Masonry is for the rich, or Masonry is for the good old boys, or "they just don't like me."

When I ask what's being done about reviving members, I'm told, by almost everyone I ask, "Well a couple of years ago, we set up a phone committee, and called everyone. They didn't answer the phone, and didn't answer our post cards, so trying to contact them doesn't work." If you did this in a business, you'd be out of business within 6 months. Reviving members who no one's seen requires research, repeated contacts, and personal effort. What are the most excellent teachings of our organization? Is not caring included in each of those teachings that are between the points of the compasses?

In my opinion, our attitude toward missing NPD brothers has to be one of "What's wrong here, can we help?" rather than these guys are a financial drudge, and need to be purged. At least until we find out differently.

How do we find out differently? How do we find customers for our businesses? Research, advertising, personal contact.

It's a big job, and it's getting bigger. some of us have responsibility for the operation and success of our lodges. This includes financial success and it includes fraternal considerations. Perhaps the system of inherited offices, men moving up in the line, needs to be looked at. When you move to an office in line, do you get that this carries real responsibility for real assets and real people, not just for knowing ritual. Perpetuation of ritual is very important. Perpetuation of the Craft is too. Our brothers are at the heart of it.

SteveB
Birmingham #188
Maryland

1 comment:

Traveling Man said...

I have to say that making outreach by telephone does produce results.

The key is not only to call the Brethren when their dues are needed, but call just to check in on them. Call to demonstrate that you care.

Obtaining Grand Lodge Records can have value as well. This can eliminate trying to reach Brethren who may have moved or passed away.

Chose to honor your Brethren. Scour the minutes of your Lodge and find what contributions they have made to the Lodge. Invite them to Lodge to pay them the respect they deserve.

Finally, regular trestleboards that have relevant content. Eliminate the banal and be direct. If your Lodge is doing well, celebrate it. If it isn't, give them the facts without any hint of "blame". Have Masonic content in your trestleboards. (Maybe enclose a Short Talk Bulletin in one or two of them and then have a program to discuss them at a Stated Communication?)

Encourage involvement. Have the Master declare that everyone outside a certain radius of the Lodge is now on the "Foriegn Correspondence Commitee" and that he expects regular reports from the commitee.

Hold a "Masonic Exchange" one Saturday at the Lodge. Invite Masons and their families to catch up and try pairing a need with a Brother. (e.g. lawn mowing, garage cleaning, rides, what have you.)

In short, for a *community* based on the tenets of Freemasonry around your Lodge. This, I believe, will go a long way to resolving the problems you've outlined.

Be Well,

Traveling Man

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This blog is the thoughts of a Freemason. It's not affiliated with any Masonic body, and doesn't speak for Freemasonry in any sense of the word. My purpose is to raise questions, not dictate answers. If you read this blog, please comment; please subscribe, so we can look for answers to these questions together.