Like many membership organisations, Freemasonry struggles to attract new members and retain existing members.
Within our Lodges and Grand Lodges, we search endlessly for ideas to reverse the decline in membership. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet.
To successfully attract and retain members, we must continually remind ourselves that membership marketing is a process.
No single ‘super’ idea turns everything around. Until we face this, we continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
– Albert Einstein
There are three distinct phases of membership marketing:
First, you must understand your existing lodge membership profile.
Second, you must attract new members into the lodge.
Third, collectively, you must keep both those new and existing lodge members.
Understanding Your Lodge Membership
When building a Lodge Membership Marketing Program to attract new members, getting bogged down in complex marketing theory and fancy ideas is easy.
Before you commit your valuable time and resources, consider three questions:
Who are lodge members?
What problems do lodge members face?
How does Freemasonry solve these problems?
All products and services, including Freemasonry, must provide its customers or members a benefit, a solution to a problem that outweighs the cost.
We must look at Freemasonry, or at least lodge membership as a product that provides a solution to a problem.
To fully understand this concept, it can, in some cases, require a significant mind shift in the current lodge members. Or at least those who will be undertaking the planning and implementation of a Lodge Membership Marketing Program.
Once you have answered these questions, you can start to understand how to target new members.
There are countless ways of studying the existing lodge membership profile. You can simply begin by asking the question:
What are the demographics of your lodge membership?
Demographic information typically includes some or all of the following: age, income, education, geographic location, title, length of membership and type of membership.
While collecting many different types of information is possible, try to focus on areas to help identify and understand your current lodge members and new potential lodge members.
A common means of collecting such data is to capture this information from lodge membership records.
Next, answer the question: What problems do your members face?
The only way to understand your members’ problems is to ask them. Commercial membership organisations should undertake this task every three to five years as part of their strategic planning process.
Understandably, your lodge members face problems every day.
It’s a simple process to distribute a brief survey each year to your membership. Allow your lodge members to identify and rank issues of concern.
You then adjust your membership marketing program and other activities to reflect the priorities of your existing members.
After determining the problems your lodge members face, begin deciding how to address these issues.
Once you have an accurate demographic picture of your lodge membership, and a strong understanding of the issues they are concerned about, assess whether the priorities, programs and services currently provided by your lodge are consistent with your lodge members’ needs.
Attracting New Lodge Members
There are many different strategies used to attract new members. Tried and true methods include social events, member-get-a-member programs, press articles on the charitable giving in the local papers and so on.
Focus on how your lodge addresses the problems of the potential new members, these fit the profile you have developed. Then, each of these programs will be incrementally more successful.
Social media marketing offers a new approach to attracting new members. As each post is being created, you should ask yourself three questions:
- Who is this post directed towards? Consider the primary age and or location demographic, will this post inspire potential enquiries from people who have other complementary interests
- What is the message? Does it have a clear benefit statement, does the message apply to the emotion, or potential life style values? Does the message address the problems identified by the survey carried out with the existing lodge members?
- What is the call to action? Is there a clear call to action, a simple route for the enquirer to follow?
The following 5-step process can be used to carry out major membership marketing programs.
First, using the information gathered through the lodge membership profile process, establish your current membership status.
What’s your retention rate?
What’s your new member growth rate?
What’s your current financial situation?
The purpose of this step is to identify the current health of your lodge.
Using realistic assessments of the market potential and lodge’s capabilities, establish end goals for your Lodge Membership Marketing Program.
How many new lodge members do you realistically plan on acquiring during the length of the program?
This goal provides a target by which to measure the success of your program.
Your marketing strategy is the defining means to acquire new lodge members.
Will you focus on value or offer new opportunities available nowhere else?
Will the quality of your education be superior to other competing organizations?
Often, once you have analysed your membership, the strategy for success is obvious.
If not, test several strategies on an incremental basis before you invest significant resources on an overall program.
Many marketers say that a successful marketing program is 10% strategy and 90% execution.
Your goal should be to create a lodge marketing program that your lodge members can competently achieve based on their skill sets, financial and time resources.
Be realistic, though. Break down the major tasks associated with your lodge marketing plan.
Identify the individual components.
Review the major tasks necessary to achieve your lodge marketing objectives.
Assign these tasks to lodge members based on the current skill sets and time resources.
Allow lodge members to review the entire plan, so each individual member who is involved, is familiar with the overall strategy and the end goals.
Work with lodge members to identify interim measurements to allow you to track success.
This gives you the information necessary to make strategy or program changes.
Retaining Your Existing Lodge Members
A common mistake lodges can make is to focus on attracting new members and forget about member retention.
New member marketing is exciting and appealing. You get to develop marketing plans, create digital brochures and write fascinating sales copy.
Existing members, while far more beneficial to the lodge, can get left behind.
Your lodge should invest more of its resources on lodge member retention than attracting new members. The goal of the lodge should be to increase the affiliation of these lodge members.
How do you recognize declining affiliation?
You discover the number of members attending meetings is decreasing.
Your member retention rate is falling.
Each of these are symptoms the lodge is no longer maintaining a relationship with the current members.
There are two areas which take priority to retain existing lodge members:
First, the lodge must continue to adapt to the changing needs of its members.
Use the strategies outlined above to continually re-educate yourself on the problems and issues faced by your lodge members and how Freemasonry solves them.
Second, focus on improving your member service.
The quality of your member service is one of the primary factors influencing the decision to retain a membership.
A significant element of Freemasonry is about the personal interaction between the lodge members and the lodge. Therefore ask, is this interaction enjoyable or convenient?
The lodge should commit to these activities and build on these initiatives to the extent lodge resources allow. As the positive interaction between lodge members and your lodge builds, their affiliation with the goals and programs of the lodge increases.
The bottom line? As stated earlier, there’s no silver bullet.
You must pursue the lodge marketing process methodically.
If your lodge makes a commitment to this process, the reward is to watch a busy fertile lodge grow and all members can enjoy the results.
Association Laboratory: A national consulting firm specializing in R&D of marketing and organizational strategy for associations.
YourMembership: Part of Community Brands, the leading provider of cloud-based software to associations, non-profits, faith-based groups, and K-12 schools. Organizations adopt Community Brands solutions to manage memberships, career centres, learning, accounting, fundraising, donations, admissions, enrolment and events.
Article by: Nicholas J Broadway
Nicholas Broadway was initiated into Freemasonry in 1989 in Stonewell Lodge No. 9137, Essex England and was Master in 1995, 2011 and 2016. He also joined other UGLE Lodges and is a PZ in the Holy Royal Arch.
He moved to West Sussex and assists the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex Communications Team with Social Media activities. He acquired the title of The Square Magazine in January 2020 and oversees the technical running of the digital publication.