Give Them Something Of Value
by Midnight Freemasons guest contributor
Steve Harrison, PM, FMLR
I'll bet you one million dollars I can fill your Scottish Rite auditorium at your next meeting. Any takers?
So, I wrote a book. Please don't buy it.
I'm currently the Senior Warden of the Missouri Lodge of Research and...
"Brother Steve," you might ask, "where are you going with this?"
Just work with me here, OK? Back to the Lodge of Research and that book. The MOLOR, as we affectionately call it, is suffering a decline in membership. Shockingly, it's not because of the economy or overall declining Masonic membership. It's because we goofed. See, MOLOR has always had a healthy membership base (having MWB Harry Truman as a founder and Past Master hasn't hurt). As a member, among other things, each year you get a Masonic book. Most years MOLOR has published the book itself and they've been high quality and well received. Then, we published a series of books about the individual Lodges in Missouri. It took five years to work through all the Lodges and for five straight years, that was the book members received. The series was not without value, but it was not popular. We have many out-of-state members (Including Todd Creason), and a series of books about Missouri Lodges just did not appeal to them. They didn't feel they were getting the value they wanted from MOLOR, and membership dropped like the proverbial hot rock.
We've recovered somewhat over the past two years by offering a couple of great books, but ones we didn't publish ourselves. Part of my intent in writing this book was not only to make it our annual offering, but also to use it as a recruiting tool. Very simple: become a member, get a book. No muss, no fuss. I was voted down like President Obama at a Tea Party rally (or, to be non-partisan, like Governor Romney at an Occupy protest). Why? Two reasons. First, we can't afford it (for the record, don't make me run the numbers, but we can afford it). Second, it's not fair to the current members. Oh, I didn't realize life was a zero-sum game. I mean, what would be more fair to our members than doing something to strengthen the Lodge of Research?
Defeated, I did the only thing any red-blooded American would do in such a situation. I went rogue.
I get no compensation for this book so, for all my trouble, I talked them into giving me a box of 40 copies. Now at least I can say, "Become a member, get a book." I'm hoping when I bring them 40 new members they might reconsider my crackpot scheme.
Selling books isn't my point here. I'll be happy to oblige if you want a book but for heaven's sake, don't buy one. Contact me and I'll set you up with a membership and a book.*
But really, there is a much, much bigger point. We hear so much about members: why we can't get them, why we can't keep them, why they're not active. How's this for a partial answer: if we truly give them what they want, we will get them, keep them and they will be active. The big question, of course, is what the heck do they want? We're competing with their kids' school activities, work, family life, big screen TVs at home and other groups asking the same questions. Not only that, my Grand Lodge surveyed the members asking what they wanted. The number one thing they said they wanted was quality Masonic education. So, we instituted a formal Masonic education program which, in my opinion, pretty much had no effect. In other words, this is a tough nut to crack.
But we do have to give them something of value and sometimes it doesn't have to be much. My little rogue books-for-memberships program is going very well, thank you. I guess if you consider the book an asset (and I'll let someone else make that judgment) that amounts to giving them something of value in return for joining. It works.
So to prove my point, let's go back to my little bet. If I can find a sucker to take me up on it, I'll offer each member $1,000 to come to the next meeting in your 500-seat auditorium. Once the place is full, that’s it; no more payouts, no standing room. You'll have the biggest meeting you've had in decades and I'll pocket a cool half million bucks. Do that every meeting and you'll have people clamoring to become members and fighting each other to get into the meetings.
That's the answer. Give them something they want; give them something of value. The question is, how do we accomplish that on a practical level? Any takers?
*Brother Harrison's book, Freemasonry crosses the Mississippi, chronicles the westward expansion of Freemasonry from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Accompanied by many illustrations and side stories it also details the accomplishments of famous Brothers from the area including Lewis and Clark, Stephen Austin, Kit Carson, Mark Twain and many more. If you're interested in taking him up on his offer to join the Missouri Lodge of Research and receive a complimentary copy of his book, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
W.B. Steve Harrison is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason Magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Junior Warden.