When Membership Declines

Discussion in 'Masonic Blogs' started by My Freemasonry, Jan 13, 2014.

  1. The answer is NOT to raise dues.
    [​IMG]I have been around nonprofit organizations of all kinds for several years. I don’t know about you, but I have found far too many in decline due to such things as apathy, lack of relevance, or just bad public relations.
    Regardless of the reason, when membership declines, the first knee-jerk reaction by the powers that be, is to raise the price of dues. Again, I am reminded of the old expression, “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” Instead of applying energies to fixing the hole, officials decide to shackle more weight on the passengers. I never understood the logic of such action.
    Instead of forming a committee or project to identify the problem and take corrective action, the officers turn 180 degrees and run away as fast as possible.
    This is just plain irresponsible and reckless behavior on the part of the officers in charge. The first step is to recognize that something is wrong; you’re membership wouldn’t be in decline if everything was working properly. Find out what it is and correct it. Face the problem, do not evade it.
    Unfortunately, too many officers do not understand the basics of business and are at a loss as to what to do. There is also the possibility they fear change of any kind and do not want to be held responsible for failure. Consequently, they opt for the easy solution of raising the price of dues, an option that will ultimately encourage more members to quit, thereby compounding membership decline and hurrying the destruction of the organization. Raising dues to keep pace with inflation is one thing, raising dues because you are in a death spiral is another.
    Re-examine the membership process and offer suggestions for improvement. What does your chapter offer? Why would somebody want to join your organization? What is the competition?
    You basically have three alternatives:

    • Change the status quo
    • consolidate or merge with another chapter, or
    • close your doors before the creditors come knocking.
    Understand this, nonprofit organizations are legal entities in the eyes of the state. Even if you are a 501(c)3 charity, you are not immune from prosecution. Whether you like it or not, you are a business and, as such, better learn to act as such.
    To me, the answer is obvious: fix your membership and the money will take care of itself. Then again, the obvious is not always obvious.
    Increased membership is a much better alternative than raising dues or charging an assessment. Then again, I’m a capitalist. Let’s consider how this applies in the corporate world. Instead of paying more taxes and enacting more regulations on business, government should reduce taxes and regulations thereby freeing business to produce more, hire more people, and stimulate the economy.
    Whether you are in government or a nonprofit, suffocation is hardly an effective means for stimulating business. If anything, learn the Heimlich maneuver. At least you won’t kill off your membership.
    Just remember, if you cannot fix the hole in the Titanic, it is time to make preparations to bailout.
    Keep the Faith!Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.​
    [​IMG]Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com
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  2. JJones

    JJones Moderator Staff Member

    So if I'm understanding correctly then the conclusion is to create more dues paying members? I'm not sure I agree with that, there are several lodges around here that rush members through the degrees and have a lax attitude about their west gate but they still face retention and financial problems.

    Creating members isn't the same as creating Masons though, IMO.

    edit: If we're looking at it from a business perspective then you can't ignore concepts like supply and demand. In a free market,if something is made quickly and poorly then the supply goes up, demand goes down, and the product is typically cheap to purchase. On the other hand, quality products will take time to make and be well-crafted, they will be in short supply but the demand, and price, will go up.

    I do agree that raising dues for the sake of raising dues is the wrong approach. I do think, however, that increasing the quality of the experiences masons have in the lodge will better reflect the interests and expectations of new and existing members. Unfortunately, quality has a price and the cost of maintaining a desired experience rests with the lodge members.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  3. dfreybur

    dfreybur Premium Member

    On the other hand I think holding dues down below inflation to prevent drop out of members is also the wrong approach. I've seen what happens when dues are raised to take inflation into account. The result is not members demitting nor is it an increased rate of NPD. Brothers who can't afford dues because they are on fixed income that is not inflation adjusted have mostly already demitted, asked to have their dues remitted or gone NPD.

    What I've seen is widely separated votes to increase due and because of that wide separation the jump has to be large. The result is not increased drop out. But I've also seen a long history of dues versus inflation. Decades ago the dues were much higher when adjusted for inflation.

    Is a very big jump a dues increase or is it a long needed inflation adjustment? The situation is not as clear as Bro Bryce depicts. Some lodges saw the decline and resisted dues increase hoping that would help. Eventually those lodges realized keeping dues low did not help so they voted to increase dues. The death spiral is not the dues - That gets the direction wrong for the arrow of effect and cause. The low dues are the effect of previous membership decline.
  4. JohnnyFlotsam

    JohnnyFlotsam Premium Member


    I have a lot of respect for Brother Tim Bryce, but I believe he's quite wrong, in his observations (most of them, anyway) and his rationale. The standard go-to solution that I seem to see is a membership drive. "We need to get more members!" is the refrain, and what follows is sadly predictable.

    While we may debate the source of resistance to increasing dues, and to some extent, the validity of this or that argument, there is nothing to debate when it comes to the math in many, if not most, Lodges. Dues have not kept pace with inflation. Couple this with declining membership and an aging infrastructure, and it's easy to see why many struggle, or fall into that "death spiral". I'd agree with Tim on his point that by the time things have reached that point, one has been ignoring reality for far too long.

    Again, if we (re)make Masonry into what it is supposed to be, membership will take care of itself.
  5. Browncoat

    Browncoat Registered User

    Seems pretty clear to me: make being a Mason mean something.

    This isn't 1962 when simply belonging to an exclusive boy's only club carries enough social status to warrant membership. Paying dues and going to meetings was enough in those days, and unfortunately, Masonry as a whole seems slow to adapt to change.

    Give members something to learn and DO.
  6. crono782

    crono782 Premium Member

    Yup... Or rather, go back to its origins.

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