This continuation of the personas of Freemasonry (read part 1-new member personas and part 2-member personas) will look at the core of Freemasonry by identifying the underlying aspects of who members of the fraternity were. In this post, the intent is to illustrate who, what, and who someone was a member and, more importantly, why they left and how they may appear in a digital marketing funnel.
Why do people quit the Freemasons?
Ultimately, I don’t think it’s an easy answer to identify the “why” they left. What’s more important is understanding who they were to look for and communicate with them in the future and better manage the overall experience. Obviously, not everyone is going to be happy all of the time. But to hide behind the idea of “Guarding the west gate” or being better off without are false analogies to perfection. Were they true from the start, there would have been better management of the selection, vetting, or voting on membership?
How they quit is, perhaps, more important than why as leaving with a bad taste can do more harm than just leaving.
Rather than the “…west gate” argument, I propose as a club, if the organization isn’t offering or producing engaging content, people will leave. And, if year after year, the organization fails to engage its members, more and more of those individuals will continue to leave.
Certainly, the argument of being better off without them can be made, but without them also means a loss of revenue, a loss of new member pipelines, a loss of robust lodge rooms, and the feeding of that decline that gets more pronounced year on year. Doing more of the same than planning to do it for fewer people with less resources.
As its own category, former members lump together non-attenders, voluntary demits, and former suspended. It does not include those who have been ejected or expelled.
Volume: medium-high / risk: medium
This, I believe, is a high-volume segment of the fraternity. Member in name and with a (mostly) paid-up dues card but an infrequent, if ever, attender. There are a variety of reasons for their lack of attendance or inability to come to monthly stated meetings or special events ranging from family or professional obligations to a more benign lack of interest in the meetings themselves. What makes this group unique (and one of the most approachable) is that they’re still connected. They get emails, newsletters, and communications. They might go to the occasional appendant body dinner or meeting. They’re members, they’re just not present. Maybe they joined the blue lodge to go into the Shrine, or the Rite, as they could have their own personas, too. But this persona segment is still interested and could come back on with the right message, the right communication, or the right outreach. I don’t think a broad general message would work here. This is a more nuanced communication. A personal message or outreach. The biggest risk is that the member, non-attender becomes a former member, suspended for non-payment of dues.
I think this is a segment that most Grand Lodges rely on in the same way gyms and fitness clubs rely on people to sign up but not show up.
- Age: 25-75
- Interests: Varies. Family/Work are prominent.
- Income: Varies. Likely very high or very low.
- Location: Urban or suburban.
- Job: Professional or blue-collar.
Affinity/Interest: This segment is hard to measure given their absence. It’s a missing piece of the membership that exists but doesn’t participate. They just are not around.
Hobbies: Family is important. Work and off time. There is an interest in membership/volunteer opportunities, but it’s a tacit interest because of availability.
Wants/Desires: More time. The core of this persona is a desire for more time and the ability to engage when they have the time to (which is usually at odd hours or times).
Goals: This persona is looking for fulfillment but is willing to jump around to find it. Activity isn’t enough, they want to believe what they’re doing has meaning and will help the world around them.
Psychographics: Deep in the psyche of this persona is the desire for results with low engagement. They like to shop online for quick delivery, and without realizing it wants the same results in other categories of their life. The idea of being an influencer is appealing for the high-volume results for the perceived low inputs of effort. All said, there is a deeper misunderstanding that great results come from hard work.
Former member, voluntary
Volume: high / risk: low
I ranked this group as a high-volume low risk as the member that leaves, just walks away, is perhaps bigger than we imagine. The reason it poses so little risk is that they’ve made the choice to demit from membership and just not be a Freemason anymore. Over the last century, I imagine there are a number of these former members. You don’t see them because they simply disappeared. Why did they quit? The answer to this is just as broad as the non-attender. Could be family, religious choice, work schedule, disinterest, or lack of connection to the organization. Freemasonry just didn’t resonate with them, and they didn’t want to remain a member.
- Age: 30s-60s
- Interests: Family/Work/Anything other than Freemasonry
- Income: Varies
- Location: Varies
- Job: Varies
Affinity/Interest: This group is one of those black holes in the roles of the membership. They were engaged, became a member, and then just left. They got bored, irritated or just no longer found affinity in what the fraternity offered. The flip side of this is that they found interest in something else.
Hobbies: This group is interesting as their hobbies could be anything. From sports to family life to gardening or movies—It may be that there just wasn’t a hook to make them want to give their time to Freemasonry.
Wants/Desires: Figuring out the wants and desires of this group may be more about understanding what it is they don’t want. Part of this might be not wanting rigid membership or membership with rules, especially when the rules deviate from other personal norms.
Goals: As a cohort, this group just chooses to not belong to the fraternity anymore. Their goal is to give their time, attention, and money to something else. Maybe a membership organization. Maybe an online gaming subscription. Their goal is to no longer associate with the Freemasons as an organization and do something else.
Psychographics: It’s hard to say exactly which psychographic element is key here. This individual obviously found some fault or disfavor in the organization and is choosing to disassociate from it. It could be personal; it could be professional. Something rubbed them the wrong way and they wanted out. It’s interesting to look at this cohort as it relates to other subscription-based models. Perhaps it’s the one-time-a-year dues charge that makes this option more enticing, rather than just letting a membership continue unchanged? In total, this persona left, completely, for a reason. It was willful. They were not happy or did not feel like they belonged.
Read: When Membership Declines
Former Member, suspended/abandoned (NPD)
Volume: low-medium / risk: medium-high
Like the former-voluntary departing member, the former suspended is a ghost on the ledgers of the fraternity.
To have volume, Grand Lodges have kept them on the books but, the gap of members is an anomaly on the books that is unavoidable. This group, for a host of reasons, stopped being interested and stopped paying for membership. They just stopped.
It’s easy enough to do—the cost of dues, forgetful check writing, other obligations, or an intentional decision to not pay for something they weren’t connecting with. The psychology behind opting to not pay for a membership is diverse: not interested, too expensive, lack of connection to the content, disagreement with the content, personal disagreements with the local branch, religious differences, and so on… People leave, but like any business whose future relies on subscribers, if the content doesn’t appeal to people, they move on. It’s not telling anyone they’re moving on that sends the signal that something isn’t working. Some of the issues might be the threshold to overcome for readmission being too high. It becomes easier to just not pay, sit on the books as an unpaid member and watch the re-engagement fee skyrocket. Eventually, that member won’t be able to come back because the readmission fee will be astronomical.
- Age: 20-80
- Interests: Varies.
- Income: On the lower end, or transitory (which may have some bearing on the NPD issue).
- Location: Urban and suburban
- Job: Likely blue-collar, entry-level professional/entry-point management. An industry that doesn’t pay well or is transitory.
Affinity/Interest: This cohort is interested in what the fraternity offers and its networking, but life obligations take precedence. The interest is there but the needs of the family overshadow all else. Member fee services are prevalent in the household, but liquid income isn’t.
Hobbies: Family and work dominate, but entertainment, politics, and family activities dominate most of their free time.
Wants/Desires: This persona is looking for a leg up. They want to be in a better position in their life to be able to provide for their family and have the means for the other things they want. They can save but tend to spend or seek out the things that bring them the most enjoyment.
Goals: Family and work life monopolize this persona. Keeping that in harmony and fluid is most important as are activities that engage areas, they find the greatest affinity. Because free time is limited affinity activities that provide the biggest bang for the buck get the most attention.
Psychographics: This persona has their heart in the right place and wants to be a member but has other competing factors that just make paying the dues a challenge. It may not be a money issue as much as it’s money a one-time issue, and the struggle over which to pay weighs heavy on them. So, rather than try and prioritize their membership, they give up, so suspended, and do not think twice about it. What makes it worse for them is the barrier to re-entry. Cost is a huge issue and having to reconcile the expense, getting back into paid status, and regaining a “good standing” is a hill too high. So, they just stop pursuing and move on to other things.
Read: Three Types of Masons
Former Member, detractor
Volume: low / risk: high
This group, while not high in volume, can pose a huge issue in their communities and their attitudes about the fraternity. This includes in-person communities and online.
In marketing, a person who has had a negative experience with a brand or product will share that bad experience with at least 10 people. That same idea is very much true here. An individual with an axe to grind or a desire to inflict damage will do so readily.
I think the fact that you haven’t heard many of these bad news stories has fortunate as many are out there. It takes a lot of energy for someone to write a bad review, share a bad experience, or even worse, come out and make a sweeping allegation of impropriety about a membership organization. Just look at the Scouts or the Catholic Church as examples of this.
The former member and detractor persona, when coupled with other more extreme conspiracy actors (like Q-Anon or “the Big Lie”). Most of what this persona projects and says is unmanageable. What is manageable are the communication channels that can disrupt and diminish the detractor’s messaging to retain the fraternity’s reputational standing. As the saying goes, a good offense is the best defense, and being ready with messaging, having some reputation management campaign running, or just being present to counter disinformation goes a long way to keep this persona in check.
- Age: 30-60, though trended younger
- Interests: Freemasonry is still a paramount interest but online engagement, anti-influencer presence, and being a keyboard warrior is big. This persona spends a lot of time online.
- Income: Broadly, low. Could be on disability or from a low-paying part-time job giving them the time to put energy into constant online posting.
- Location: Suburban, mostly. Somewhere without the pressures of needing a high income.
- Job: Disability or state income likely. Could live at home still or work in a field that pays enough to live and spend a lot of time online.
Affinity/Interest: Antihero figures loom large for this persona. They like the projection of negative memes but hate admitting to it in public. They do take great pleasure in communities of like-minded online personas.
Hobbies: Social media and the web figure largely. They have an affinity for surfing the dark web and get much of their content intake from unconventional sources online.
Wants/Desires: This persona wants to watch the fraternity burn. They dislike several things, but in this scenario, the detractor/former member is looking to do damage to the fraternity because they enjoy it and believe they have an axe to grind.
Goals: The main goal of this persona is to reshape the perception of Freemasonry and influence the opinion of others about it. They have other personal goals but all, broadly, revolve around disrupting and creating a negative public opinion of the Freemasons.
Psychographics: Deep down, somewhere along the lines, this persona suffered a deep wound from their membership. Maybe it was some (warranted) exclusion from activities, a negation of some exuberant opinion, or just a period of being overlooked for leadership roles. Whatever the circumstance, warranted or not, this persona is wounded and likely unreachable to change their opinion. They are, literally, the bad apple in the public sphere that seeks to spoil the bunch. Logical reasoning or good taste escapes them as they seek to do nothing more than destroy public sentiment about the organization. They are a hazard to be aware of and prepared for. No level of good counsel or appeal will help to change their mind.