Increasing Membership The Right Way

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.

Read: The Death of Freemasonry: When Change Changes You

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 November 2012

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 people first:

Figure out why people are

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 soccer practice.

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 their schedule.

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 home turf

Recruiting efforts could include breaking bread with potential members. I’d take that over a phone call any day.
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.

Learn people’s learning styles

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 accordingly.

Use Less outreach, more in-break

In the book Jim and Casper Go to Church, you learn the difference between “outreaching,” which is inviting people to join your group, and “in-breaking,” 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 organization.

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 game plan 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?

Discover their 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 world.

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 contribution.

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 dropping.

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 deaf ears.

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 their lives.

They’re never going to volunteer.
They’re never going to win member of the year.
They’re never going to be District Deputy Grand Master.

No matter how many members nominate them.

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.

REMEMBER: There are people out there just dying to join us

And they will.

As long as you’re willing to join them first.

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 bake sale.

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:

Start with yourself

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 step

“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.,

“Remember people’s 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 members back.

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?

Nourish their interests

Remember: Belonging has a strong emotion – appeal to it.

Create 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 value.

“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 contribute

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 organization.

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 know this?

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 membership committee

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 succeed.

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

Posted in The Bee Hive and tagged , , .

Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.


  1. Excellent article. Another point of loss to consider is when a brother is working his way through the degrees. In my lodge we had many people become initiated and then lose interest. Our investigations into this came to a general conclusion; we were not providing them what they needed/wanted.

    Our society has moved too far apart. Social networking, cable tv with hundreds of channels, video games, and all of our other distractions do not fulfill our needs as social beings and our newest generations are realizing this. They come to us because we *are* a social outlet that excludes liquor, loud music, and superficiality. They want this. However, as they are going through the degrees they are denied it because we conduct our meetings on the third degree.

    There are a number of approaches one can take to address this. Conduct meetings on the first degree (as long as there are no obituaries and the non-master masons are not allowed to vote). Have floor work practices on the degree they are at. I am certain there are more, but I really like the solution we have implemented.

    We have a different meeting at the lodge office itself on a night other than lodge night. The primary purpose is to assist the candidates through their posting lectures. That said, there have been many Masonic conversations at this. There has been great fellowship. The newly obligated brothers get the “lodge” experience and they build bonds with others. They get that fulfillment that we all crave.

    Our retention has skyrocketed. Each of these new brothers feel like part of the lodge when they are raised and start attending stated meetings.

    And best of all, we have not needed to change our by-laws to open stated meetings on the first degree or alter our established customs in any way.

    I hope this post will help any other lodges having difficulty.

    Steven Warner
    Anchorage Lodge 17; Anchorage, Alaska; USA

  2. AT last at least someone is listening. The answer in truth is not to add members but to make better men of the members we have. If we succeed in this, then we will increase as much as we need.
    Sheer numbers of masons have no value. It has always been the quality of men that keep the organization alive. Vain and glory seekers die out, the dedicated are still with us.
    ole Blake

  3. Vosotros no conoceis la dignidad humana,ni el amor,ni la solidariedad,sois un virus corrosivo,una plaga de insectos que devoran todo lo bueno del sentimento humano…nosotros las pocas personas que creemos en la vida,en el respeto mutuo en la igualdad de derechos,en la existencia de la vida en el crecimento de la inteligencia,en la metamorfosis de la energia del universo,,, deseamos ver vuestro final mucho mas cerca de lo que os permite vuestra maldad.

  4. brother blake==not all dedicated masons stick around==some are expelled for life with a fake or no trial==by vain and glory seekers===expelled–im still a dedicated mason and i conduct my self as such===masonry has given me a lot more than i have it and i have gave a lot===i think ==we==understand what im saying

  5. I was our lodge secretary 35 years ago, did not attend lodge for over 30 years, Now I am active again, I feel the need. I am very concerned about our longevity & the overall trend, [lack of interest in Masonry] by the masses, for what ever reason. I found this reading to be very compelling, and plan to utilize the information in the best interest of my lodge. All replies were individual, and interesting to say the least.

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