Increasing Membership The
by Wor. Bro. Frederic L.
Once again the cries of a
“membership crisis” resound across the Masonic landscape. The question is will
Freemasonry double down on what has failed its ability to add new members?
Will it continue to try to market the Craft in order to bring in new members?
Will it continue to corrupt Masonic charity by making it a tool of Masonic
awareness and publicity?
Freemasonry is a personal journey.
Yes there is brotherhood bonding and yes there are family gatherings under the
square and compass. But the Lodge is not a men’s social club dedicated to
curing the ills and failings of society. Freemasonry is a personal journey to
better a man’s life.
When Freemasonry either uses the
community for cheap publicity or parades itself about in the public eye for
the purpose of hyping membership, it not only cheapens itself but it takes
away from the practice of Freemasonry itself. Spending an inordinate time and
money on marketing the Craft makes for a diminished and cheapened product, the
product you are trying to sell being Freemasonry.
When Freemasonry is practiced
poorly you end up with a retention problem. You can bring candidates in by the
ton but unrealized expectations won’t convince them to stay.
The answer is not to try to market
Freemasonry but instead improve the product, the practice of Freemasonry, to
the point where it sells itself. Don’t put the cart before the horse. You
can’t talk about how great Freemasonry is until you do a good job of
practicing it. Don’t spend all your time and money trying to market a poor
product, spend your time and money on making the product better. With a
superior product, something they cannot find elsewhere, people will beat down
your doors to get in.
So put on great degrees, insure
good mentoring, provide extensive Masonic education, see to it that there is
great fellowship and perform some meaningful community service or individual
aid without expecting anything in return.
Even then Freemasonry may not sell
itself. The path to success in building membership is to be pro active as an
individual, one on one with those whom you come in contact with that are
worthy. Don’t try to mass sell
Freemasonry! Sell it one on one and by example.
How often have you heard a man say
that when he was young he looked up to leaders in the community who had an
aura of goodness and kindness and humility? And then he found out that what
formed their lives to be such honorable men was Freemasonry. Such men were
Ambassadors for Freemasonry.
So consciously work at building
your membership individually. Keep Freemasonry a personal journey to be shared
with others who are worthy who wish to improve their personal journey. Make
your Lodge the greatest expression of Freemasonry that you can. Then and only
then invite others to join you that they may see the light also.
How do you actually go about
this? We turn to some suggestions from RW Bro. Hugh Goldie whose paper
appeared on Canadian Brother Wayne Anderson’s Weekly Newsletter. Once again to
get on Brother Anderson’s mailing list get in touch with him at
R.W.Bro Hugh Goldie, DDGM,
Frontenac District, Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario, speaking
at his Official Visit to Prince of Wales Lodge No. 157, Napanee, Ontario, 07
At your meeting back in
September I was happy to hear that you had started a Membership initiative and
I would be happy to tell you tonight that I have all the answers you need to
increase your membership. I wish I did, however I would like to share with you
some research and reading I have done on this matter.
Having participated in
membership drives I can tell you it is a thankless job when your efforts just
seem to be futile.
I have done some reading of
Scott Geinsberg who is known as the name tag guy and great brain candy you can
download his books free they are thought provoking and inspirational. He has
tried to analyze how to be successful in membership drives.
Number one fact you can’t
force people to join your organization.
What you can do is increase
the probability that people will join – simply by making yourself, your people
and your organization more joinable.
That means new approaches are
required. And if you want to reach the people who matter, consider
this counter-intuitive suggestion:
Instead of getting people
to join you – try joining them first.
Lets explore some ways to join
Figure out why people
It doesn’t matter what people
do for a living – it only matters why they do it. That’s what defines people.
That’s what drives them to contribute.
And if you want people to join
first, I suggest you touch the center of their why. Even if it’s as simple as
asking them, “Why do you do what you do?”
You’d be amazed how telling
this question is. And the cool part is, once you have their answer, you can
connect their why to the organization you represent.
Involvement isn’t something you can force upon people.
People always make time for what’s important to them. Which means, if
they aren’t joining your organization, it might not be your fault. It might
have nothing to do with you.
Maybe Wednesday night is a
terrible time for them to attend lodge functions because their kids have
Or, maybe they’re just out of
college and can’t commit to monthly meetings because they’d rather go to the
gym or be with their friends.
It doesn’t mean they don’t
like you – it just means they have different priorities. In the book Brains on
Fire, Robbin Phillips writes about this very idea, “It’s not about how people
fit into your plan – but rather about how you fit into their lives.”
Develop and harness a
powerful, sustainable word-of-mouth movement
Try this: Instead of assuming people are apathetic,
uncommitted heathens, ask them how your organization might become a part of
Then, once you’ve gathered
consensus, consider giving an alternative to your activity schedule to
accommodate a diverse group of member priorities.
If the first Monday or Tuesday
of the month doesn’t fit maybe the neighboring lodge who meets on the second
Thursday or Friday may. We should not always think of membership as just a
lodge exercise we want to look at new membership globally.
Are you starting with the
member in mind or just starting with the member?
Hang on their
Recruiting efforts could
include breaking bread with potential members. I’d take that over a phone call
Meet people for lunch at their office or in their
neighborhood. It’s a better window into their world. That’s a smoother
transition from “How are you?” to “Who are you?”
Maybe meet at a prospective
candidates’ home. That’s the big win: When you meet their families. Eat their
food. Hang on their turf. And we might talk about joining – we might not.
The point is to meet
people where they are. Literally. Sure beats sitting on your backside with
crossed fingers and high hopes.
Not everyone needs to come to
every meeting. Maybe they prefer small group meetings. Maybe they’re
homebodies who’d rather just occasionally participate in meetings.
It Doesn’t make them any
less of a member. It just means they process information differently. And only
when you understand these preferences can you tailor your messages
outreach, more inbreak.
In the book Jim and Casper Go
to Church, you learn the difference between “outreaching,” which is inviting
people to join your group, and “inbreaking,” which is joining an existing
community action and getting to know them leveraging common ideas to entice
them that they would be a good addition to your organisation.
Try this: Consider the types
of members you hope to attract. What groups are they already a part of? What
role in the community do they currently occupy? Create a gameplan to take a
more active role in those spaces. People will notice.
Remember: Your members
shouldn’t have to adjust to you. You need to adapt for them. Whose life are
you willing to become a part of?
desired way to contribute.
Instead of laying a guilt trip
on potential members for not devoting every waking moment of their life to
your organization, try asking them how they’d like to contribute.
After all, that’s why people
join: To give back. To add value to others, to the organization and to the
The trick is, not everyone
contributes the same way. At work Personally, I despise meetings. They are the
bane of my existence. And I refuse to waste my valuable (and billable) time
sitting around a table with seven people trying to figure out what meetings we
should schedule and how often.
On the other hand I am
schedule driven and process orientated if you want to prioritize work with a
solid logic and good processes this is the principle instrument of my
No problem. I’m your man.
Your challenge is to dive into
the lives of the people around you. To join them by discovering and honoring
their desired way to contribute. Do so, and you’ll be surprised what they’re
willing to give to your organization. How are you helping people help you?
Find out what
joining looks like to them.
Everybody joins differently. A
single guy in his thirties approaches joining a group differently than retired
widower in his sixties. And if you’ve read Bowling Alone, you know that some
people aren’t even joiners at all.
Bowling alone talks about how
the number of bowlers is rising but the number of teams and leagues are
Our lifestyles and electronic
devices promote isolation and not group or community involvement.
Therefore: If we seek to reach
a diverse group of new members, you have to go out of your way to find out how
people prefer to join. Without this information, your outreach efforts fall on
I don’t care that we have the
greatest organization in the world. If you’re leaving voice mail messages on a
potential member’s phone, odds are he will never, ever call you back. You may
as well be winking in the dark.
The reality is some people
just want to pay their dues, show up to five meetings a year and get on with
They’re never going to
They’re never going to win member of the year.
They’re never going to be District Deputy Grand
No matter how many members
As a leader, you need to be
okay with this reality. Stop compartmentalizing people into convenient little
personality boxes and just let them join as they see fit.
There are people out there just dying to join us.
And they will.
As long as you’re willing to
join them first.
LET ME ASK You THIS…
Whom did you join last week?
Again the question
Why isn’t anybody joining our organization?!”
That’s a frustrating question
for any leader to ask.
Our meeting attendance is
down, new membership is slow and the attitude is bordering on apathetic.
Fortunately, there’s a
solution. And to the dismay of your diabetic members, it doesn’t involve a
HERE’S THE REALITY
again :– you can’t make anybody join you.
All you can do is increase the
probability of new people joining your organization and I repeat by making
yourself, your members and your group more JOIN-ABLE.
A bumper sticker announcing
“to be one ask one” does not do it
Nobody is going to chase your
car to join
Lets find out how:
Think of the last three
organizations, clubs or groups you joined. How easy were they to join? What
was the deciding factor? What reservations did you have about joining?
Make a chart. Write the
answers out. Look for commonalities. Then brainstorm three action items for
each attribute of join-able organizations. Begin executing them today. Is our
organization user friendly to join? Why did YOU join?
Take the first
“Are you getting people to
join you, or are you trying to join them first?” In this instance, proactivity
is the secret. Sticking yourself out there is the way.
After all, approach ability is
a two-way street. Your mission is to give people permission.
Every one of us I’m sure knows
someone that would be a good candidate, guess what they are not going to
approach you, you have to approach them indirectly.
Help people feel
a sense of self-achievement.,
psychological drive and primary need to accomplish things.”
make a list called, “Top Ten
Things My Members Want to Accomplish.”
Then, match group behaviors to
desires. Think about what, specifically, your group is providing to help your
people accomplish those things. How are you helping your members put check
marks next to their goals?
Sit people down.
Shockingly enough, the best
way to find out what people want is to ASK THEM. Asking questions. Having
lunches. Kissing babies. Whatever it takes.
Then, during one-on-one
meeting with members, past members or potential members, ask the following
questions: “What would bring you back?” and “When you used to come to
meetings, what, specifically, were we providing you?”
You might also ask people to
complete the following sentence three times: “As a member, I would come if
(x).” “As a member, I would come if (x).” Whichever approach you choose,
here’s the reality: Regardless of current attendance or membership, there WAS
a moment when people DID care, and DID come. As their leader, you have the
power to create that again.
It’s simple: Pick up the
phone, set up a lunch, sit down with someone, honestly ask for their help,
staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth and take copious notes. Remember:
People want to be in the mix with something meaningful. That’s how you drive
The speed of the
response IS the response.
Be actively responsive to
inquiries about membership. Respond to member impatience with Phrases That Pay
like “Right away,” “The best way to help you right now” and “How can I help
you the most?”
This demonstrates urgency
through your language and reinforces emotional reliability. Especially when
people want answers NOW, or, in many cases, last Tuesday. Remember: When your
words to promote insistence – but aren’t hurried – people become relaxed and
ready to join. How quickly do you return calls?
Remember: Belonging has a
strong emotion – appeal to it.
opportunities to dive and dig deep.
Superficiality works for about
twenty minutes. After that, it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. The
meat and potatoes. The tofu and veggies. Your mission is to make sure your
meetings; websites and materials provide sustainable, practical and actionable
“How do you direct your
creative thinking to create value?”
That one question helps to
dive and dig deep into the heart of a key challenge. How does your group give
its members conversational shovels?
Make it easy to
People derive psychological
satisfaction from doing so. Your goal is to (not only) make contribution easy
– but to continually recognize people’s contributions as they come in. This
cycle of affirmation encourages people to return with more keepers each time.
Be sure to create a
question-friendly environment. Give new people space to share. Work on
boosting your ask ability. And never forget to acknowledge the newbies. They
might have a contribution the likes of which your organization has never seen.
Whose voice are you unintentionally silencing?
Take Home Value.
Here’s how it works: At the
end of every meeting ask each member what was there best “keepers” of the
meeting. Or what was there most throw away part of the meeting. It’s
invaluable for several reasons.
First, you get a chance to see
how people interpret the same ideas in different ways. Secondly, you don’t
have to remember anything. Finally, when you see your own positives and
negatives, your sense of contribution is reaffirmed.
Leave your members with
something to look forward to the next meeting.
I challenge you to
incorporate this process into your meetings.
When you deliver take-home value, you win. Your
members win. Your lodge wins. How are you making it easy for your members to
make positive withdrawals from your organization?
Try holding a focus group let
the members talk and interact freely do not interrupt and make sure the senior
members do not interject with the Wisdom of Solomon on why we can’t do
something. Listen and listen intently these are your members, the life of our
REMEMBER: You can’t
make anybody join you.
All you can do is increase the
probability of new people joining the organization by making yourself, your
members and your group more JOINABLE.
I have always thought that we
do not present a joinable organization; we do not freely communicate the
positives to potential candidates. We do not go out and look for potential
candidates. We sit back complain about decreasing or nonexistent membership
and wait for candidates to come and knock on our door.
This isn’t going to happen.
I think the membership numbers
prove that this does not work.
I returned home last night
from Minden lodge meeting and as I was having my cup of tea before bed turned
on the TV and watched The Big Decision with Jim Treliving. He is asked to help
failing companies. I was surprised at the parallels in business to our
position of membership.
He clearly told the company;
if people don’t know what your company is or what it does your never going to
sell your widgets no matter how good they are.
And people who you want to
invest in your company need to know what the return on investment for them is.
Brethren are we selling a good
widget and making a good return on investment?
Do our potential investors
One of the biggest questions
today is who the membership committee is?
Well the surprising answer is
it’s you no one else.
Each and every member is the
I don’t ask anyone to go and
ask all their friends to join, but you can talk up the positives that you
enjoy from membership leaving them with a positive spin and leave them asking
the question, why am I not a member and how can I join.
Plant the seed in their mind
that their life is incomplete without the advantages of membership in masonry.
Tell them how you enjoyed the
last meeting, the visitations that you have done, the good charity work you
are doing in your community.
Develop and harness a
powerful, sustainable word-of-mouth movement and Brethren be determined to
It is not what we eat,
but what we digest … that makes us strong.
It is not what we earn, but what we save … that makes us rich.
It is not what we read, but what we remember … that makes us learned.
It is not what we profess, but what we practice … that makes us Masons!
Brother Pete Rasmussen