The rush to attract new members

Discussion in 'General Freemasonry Discussion' started by Blake Bowden, Feb 19, 2011.

  1. Blake Bowden

    Blake Bowden Administrator Staff Member

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    As many of you know, I've been a proponent of open houses, commercials, heck even using billboards to attract new members to our honorable fraternity. We've seen the infomercials from the GL of Mass and the fantastic programs published by the GL of Cali, but the more I think about it, the more questions I have on whether such programs would benefit us.

    The GL of Texas finally gave the thumbs up to Masonic license plates and now I hear rumblings they plan to shoot some videos. On the surface this is great, in matter of fact, it's exactly what we've been asking for.

    That being said, what are we attracting new members to? Just yesterday I spoke with a Brother who told me that he's been turned off by his home Lodge. He explained that members of his Lodge were trying to push him through the chairs even though he doesn't have the time to do so. He was also tired of the endless signup sheets and solicitation of money at every meeting.

    Commercials, videos, open houses, pamphlets may attract new members, but it won't keep them interested in Masonry. I visited a Lodge a couple of weeks ago and after 15 mins, I couldn't wait till it was over so i could get the heck out. I don't want raffle tickets or hear bickering on whether to meet at 6:30 AM or 7:30 AM to start cooking for the Chili fundraiser, nor do I care about discussing who's going to change the A/C filters. Those mundane topics are necessary I suppose, but offer me something else. Why not a short talk bulletin? After Lodge a PM came up to me an explained that last year they had 12 EA's, 2 were raised but only 1 is semi-active. Surprised?

    I would say 90% of the Lodges that I've visited are like that. Boring, mundane and teetering on the brink of demise. We can print flyers, ALL/Life Programs, shoot videos and create websites, but unless we offer something at LODGE, the new guys will move on and existing members will get burned out and loose interest.

    Don't be content with the business as usual mentality at your Lodge...
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2011
  2. Zack

    Zack Registered User

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    There is a difference between attraction and promotion.

    Billboards, tv ads, flyers,etc are promotions/advertisements. Same as solicitation imo.

    Attraction is individual Freemasons setting examples by doing the right things, being active in the community and worthy causes, etc. These kind of acts will attract like minded men.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2011
  3. BigSkyMM

    BigSkyMM Registered User

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    I, personally, would rather not see the billboards, commercials, and overt advertising of our Fraternity. The traditional method, in my opinion, still is the best method: "To be one, Ask one."

    I just read Bro. Andrew Hammer's "Observing the Craft." He is a PM of Alexandria Washington Lodge #22 in VA. He argues that more members are not needed. Rather, brothers who are in the "pursuit of excellence" are what we are in need of. I tend to agree. By the way, I highly recommend Bro. Andrew's book as I have found it very inspiring, myself.

    ---------- Post added at 05:45 AM ---------- Previous post was at 05:40 AM ----------

    Agreed.
     
  4. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    AMEN Brother Zack!

    If the Organization focused upon Building Builders, we would attract members who wanted to be Better Builders. Building Better Builders would in turn bring about Organizational enrichment, a better Built Society and a better Built profane world.

    If what WE have to offer doesn't attract the right people, who WE are is not rightfully attractive.
     
  5. davidterrell80

    davidterrell80 Past Master Premium Member

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    At one point, being of a historical bent, I read the entire 150+year collection of my lodge's minutes. It took a while. I noticed very little difference in the principal form of the meetings. But, having, by this time been an officer of the lodge and having experience as a Naval reserve officer, I could sorta read between the lines when "out of the ordinary" events would be place in the minutes.

    There was essentially no masonic education for the first 110 years of lodge history--in the sense of lectures on Masonic symbolism or philosophy. When the boilerplate of openings, reports and closings were stripped away; the remaining activity consisted mostly of providing visits, clothing assistance, food and financial support to widows and orphans; providing masonic funerals to members and traveling masons; helping to ensure members and their sons were gainfully employed; twice annual representations (Sts John days) at the church across the street; occasional cornerstone ceremonies about the town; and formal dinners at Christmas and in the summer--honoring Past Masters and the widows.

    After World War II, there were several attempts to start masonic education programs--driven by brothers with personal interest--but, they never lasted more than a year. The same happened when I tried to start a Smithfield Masonic Institute, with twice monthly evening lectures and discussion. I invited the lodges in Dallas and Fort Worth--more than 30, as I remember--and a totle of six came to the first three attempts. We changed it to an email circle--then a new technology.

    So, I keep studying. When I do find another, we drench each other in masonic learning, feeling it run into our beards and down to the skirts of our garments. Precious times.

    I believe if we continue to do the kinds of things Lodges did in the past. Quietly seeing to our members and families, being occasionally visible, we will attract the right men. I fear that overtly marketing might attract men who affiliate with unreal expectations.

    I'd rather have fewer good men, than more ex-masons telling the world evil stories.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2011
  6. Benton

    Benton Premium Member

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    Solicitation will bring in men expecting the world. When they don't receive it, many won't stay. I'm all for getting our name out in public, but I'm very anti solicitation. Freemasonry doesn't have a recruitment problem, it has a retention problem.
     
  7. Bro.BruceBenjamin

    Bro.BruceBenjamin Premium Member

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    Whatever happened to the stimulation of a brothers mind while at lodge? How do you do that? Simple answer by doing something off the script and different from the thousands of other lodge meetings.
     
  8. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    There was a time in the US when people would gather to help each other build a neighbors barn. The would gather to enjoy each others company. The would enjoy helping each other. In today's society everyone wants to be entertained. It's sad we have come to this...
     
  9. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    Growth is good. Two(2) lodges that I have belonged to have had to consolidate. Gone with the wind. Masonry is losing members, all over the USA. In 2009, only two(2) Grand Lodges reported any increase in membership: New Mexico added 16, and Rhode Island added 143. The USA totals are:

    Totals (2008) 1,404,059 (2009) 1,444,823 For a net loss : -40,764

    The statistics for 2010 will be even worse. The fraternity is eroding like beach sand.

    I am in agreement, that most stated meetings are boring. Open, pay the bills, read the sick list, schedule your next fund-raiser, close the meeting. People ask me, what do you do in Masonic meetings. I answer "sleep".

    Men will come, if the meetings give them VALUE for their time. There are many demands on a man's time. VALUE will bring them.

    The restrictions against open recruiting, are obsolete. 100 years ago, most people were born, lived, and died within 100 miles. Those days are gone. Our population is scattered. I have worked from Maine to California, and 14 years in foreign countries. It ain't your grandfather's world, and it ain't your Grandfather's freemasonry.

    Pennsylvania now has open recruiting. If you know a man, who you think would benefit from Freemasonry, and you think the man could likewise bring benefit TO Freemasonry, you may invite him to join. If a 60 year old (or older) man is the first line signer on two men who are 30 years old (or younger), the 60 year old Mason, gets free dues for life.

    As Bob Dylan sang "The times, they are a-changing".
     
  10. Benton

    Benton Premium Member

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    I think I've stated before, but I'll repeat, I think open recruiting is generally speaking, a poor idea. My college fraternity openly solicited members, and we often times have 50% or fewer new brothers make it through their first year before they quit. They didn't join because they were truly interested in joining, rather they joined because there were people harping them to join. Once they got in, they would almost always drop, like I said in less than a year, because they weren't there for themselves, they were there for others.

    Which is why I don't have a huge problem with open houses, generally only those will come who have interest. It's a far cry different from open solicitation.

    If we did allow solicitation, I would be thoroughly AGAINST benefits for those first line signers who bring new members in. The motivation should be bringing in friend whom you would want to call brother. If you can't do that without the carrot of 'free dues' hanging in front of your nose, there's something wrong in that equation.

    And in fact, with the advent of urbanization, our population is far less scattered than it was 100 years ago. Yes, people move around more. But communication has made the world a much smaller place. I can still keep in touch with one of them men who led me to become a Mason, despite the fact that he now lives in Indianapolis and I still live in Texas. 100 years ago, that would have been impossible.

    No, I would reject open solicitation because, while I do not have experience with it in regards to Masonry, I do have experience with it in regards to my two college fraternities, and in that respect it was patently not all that it was cracked up to be. Our biggest recruitment pushes would often yield the poorest results. This year, my old college fraternity (I still have friends there, as a recent graduate) has it's biggest rush class in the past two years, and they did little to no recruiting.

    Yes, I'm young, yes, I'm new to Masonry. No, I don't want solicitation, and no I don't see the benefits to it, given my life experience thus far.

    The greater problem is retention. Of the ten or so EA's my lodge has brought in in the last 1.5 since I joined, I'm the *only* one who has been raised to the sublime degree. One other just took his fellow craft, and there are two others soon to take their fellow craft. Another, who was an EA before me, just started his work up again. The other five? Disappeared. If we're only raising in 50% of our EAs, we will have a problem.

    ---

    An aside thought, I would rather be in a fraternity with 10,000 great, honest men whom I would call brother, than in a fraternity with 1,000,000 men whom we carelessly let pass through the West Gate because we were worried about membership. Masonry has been here a long time. It's not going anywhere. This doesn't excuse our problems, but it shouldn't be a call to changing or standards.
     
  11. Bro. Brad Marrs

    Bro. Brad Marrs Premium Member

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    What an awesome idea! This is a perfect way to get to know the organism that is a Lodge.

    There are a few of us that have tried to do more on the learning side, but we keep getting shot down by the folks on the sidelines. It got so bad once that a handful got up and left just because we went 15 minutes past the normal hour long meeting.

    Nonetheless, we show up early and stay late to discuss our Masonry now. We are getting in the line, and will do what we can from there, and lead by example.

    I will be going through the minutes. Thanks Brother.
     
  12. Zack

    Zack Registered User

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    Not necessarily. Growth without firm control of the West Gate is the prime reason FM is in the shape it is today. IMO.

    As has been said in many different ways..."I'll take quality over quanity every time".
     
  13. coachn

    coachn Coach John S. Nagy Premium Member

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    Growth that has a beneficial purpose is good.

    If that growth doesn't truly benefit the Purpose of the Organization, then it's not good.
     
  14. jwhoff

    jwhoff Premium Member

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    Can't be. Won't be! Love the post brother.
     
  15. tom268

    tom268 Registered User

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    I once heard a phrase from a US mason, "we don't need more men in masonry, but more masonry in men". I love that. A large membership is not a guarantee for many masons. It is usually on the contrary. It is just an indication for financial force, and is financial force the cause why we come together? Is it the numbers? The full ranks? The large buildings? The glittering parades with hundrets of men in regalia? The cheering croud? The applauding families at installations? The photos in the newspaper?

    I strongly oppose this "broadcast yourself"-mentality, that many lodges try today. Especially, if the esoteric work on the inside, gets less and less time and attention, because of the public relation has to feed the masses. No, that can't be. I prefer a lodge of 20 men, who can raise the hairs on the back of a candidate, than a lodge of 700, who can only raise the attention of the local media.

    And where is the border between information and advertizing? In my jurisdiction, the candidate is asked, if he was in any ways lured into becoming a mason. But how will a man answer, who is twittered or facebooked into the lodge?
     
  16. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    I hope that you will not hold me personally responsible for the bad news, but here it is:

    http://www.msana.com/msastats.asp#us

    There is a joke we tell in our lodge. "What is the death rate for Masons"? answer- 100%, just like everybody else.

    ---------- Post added at 04:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:21 PM ----------

    BTW- The Grand Lodge of VA has a twitter page. (They tightly restrict who can follow them, but anyone can read their tweets). The GL of VA also has a facebook page. I think this is terrific, no problem at all.
     
  17. JohnnyFlotsam

    JohnnyFlotsam Premium Member

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    It's not "bad" news unless the organizations represented in therein (the respective Grand Lodge jurisdications) have been ignoring it, and more importantly, the inevitable financial impact, for years. Sadly, many, if not most, have been doing exactly that. But that too, is not exactly "news".

    What I'd like to see is some demographic detail. What is the breakdown of the various reasons for the "lost" members. Obviously, "too many birthdays" is the big one, but a statistical breakdown might be enlightening.

    Also, some statistics on age of "lost" members would be useful. Looking at the percentage of lost membership, it's all over the place, but two jurisdictions actually gained members. If the age stats present no significant difference from one jurisdiction to the next, then the question "what are those jurisdictions that are gaining members, or at least not losing the as fast, doing differently?" becomes meaningful.
     
  18. Dave in Waco

    Dave in Waco Premium Member

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    I still say that group activities are a great resource. My lodge really doesn't do just a one on one mentoring program for our EA's. We have work nights where they can learn their work beside other brothers who are keeping sharp on theirs, but it's done as a group. To me, this makes the EA part of the group. We include EA's in everything we do and try to get them involved and invested in the lodge and brethren. But once invested in a group, people are more likely to stay with that group. On our work nights, we work seriously on our work, but we keep things light enough that people have a good time being there, so people like coming. I've always been told people make time for the things they want to do. We've been doing our work nights for over a year now, and in that time we've only had 1 EA that did not complete his work or is not currently still working on it. The EA in question also quit to keep peace at home, because his wife had seen one too many conspiracy shows, and we are learning from that as well.

    We've recently started adding in Family Nights to bring the family and getting not just the brother but his family as well involved in the lodge. More and more people are turning out for these events. And the one thing that keeps these going is that we aren't afraid to test out someone's new idea regardless if they are our 93 year old PM or the EA we initiated the night before. But the name of my is J.H. Gurley in which we have been nicknamed "Gurleymen". As my WM put it once after being jokingly asked if he was a "Gurleyman", he proudly answered yes, because Gurleymen are men of action. In my lodge we have taken that to heart. When someone brings up an idea, we act upon it. Sometimes they bare fruit, sometimes they don't, but regardless they won't become a "what if".
     
  19. cemab4y

    cemab4y Premium Member

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    @Johnny Flotsam: Here is an article on some of the reasons for the decline in membership : http://www.freemasoninformation.com/2009/06/there’s-a-hole-in-our-bucket/

    Most masons do not realize that Masonry is losing more members due to Demits/resignations/suspension(non payment of dues), than we are to deaths.

    I have done a lot of traveling, and visited quite a few lodges (13 states, WashDC, 5 foreign countries). The impression that I get from most lodges/Grand Lodges, is that they are not concerned about the drop in membership numbers. And (in most cases) Grand Lodges are not willing to "import" ideas from other Grand Lodges, with respect to membership issues. (The upcoming state-wide open house in Maryland, is patterned after the similar state-wide open houses in Massachusetts).

    I used to work for the US Census Bureau in statistical data collection. The demographic breakdown for Masonry is bad. With your average age at 68, and the male life span at 73; in five years, your a** is glass.
     
  20. Beathard

    Beathard Premium Member

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    I believe that the big reason foe the drop is a culture shift during the Vietnam War. The American culture changed. Men no longer joined "establishment" organizations. With an 800 year history, masonry was seen as part of that establishment. We missed out on a whole generation. We then miss out on the father son draw to the fraternity.

    I truly believe that we are at the end of that downturn. I own a Sylvan Learning Center. I have started getting unsolicited requests for information. They are usually triggered by ring. The younger men are looking for something real to grab onto. I believe masonry is poised for a rebirth. We have an 18 yr old master turning in work tomorrow (Goatrider), an 18 yr old fellowcraft, and two 18 yr old applications in hand.

    It's happening! Let's just keep it interesting for them. If life expectancy is 73, they have at least 55 years to build us back up.
     

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