Countless times I have talked to brethren across the nation and even in different countries to find one problem that we have in our society. Our lodges are struggling to provide for the communities they serve, the buildings they use and sadly the brethren who sit inside the lodge.
Every lodge has a minimum amount of funding they have to have in their given financial institutions. It could be a zero balance or it could be ranging anywhere from $1 to $5,000 dollars. Regardless of what they have in the account, there is a troubling situation when our lodges are having a hard time coming on top of their overhead. Many point the finger at the loss of memberships and lack of petitions. When the bills start piling up, are those really the problems we need to identify?
I’d like to make a couple suggestions on where we should focus in order to be sure we have enough money in our lodge for our usual expenses, emergency expenses as well as expenses for new programs.
First, for those lodges who have lost members, yes this is tragic, however it doesn’t mean that your lodge can’t come out on top. We may be suffering from fewer members than in previous years; however, our fraternity has lasted through out the centuries despite the challenges set against us. If you have a masonic body made up of fewer than 10 members who regularly show for stated meetings, perhaps its time to consider consolidating with other local lodges.
I know, this is not in the best interest for the history of your lodge and you want to uphold that history. Yet, is it really upholding the lodge history when you may have to close the doors due to lack of membership? Remember, when we close a lodge we always ask the members if they have anything for the better of the fraternity; trying to uphold one particular lodge’s history is not for the better of our organization. Let’s consider the benefits of consolidating:
- Bills would be shared amongst a different lodge.
- We can always learn from other lodges experiences.
- We can be a part of history and create a newer lodge in the community and create fresh ideas out of the rubble of two or more closed lodges. The phoenix of your community.
- A larger community to reach out to and possibly receives more petitions.
- With a larger body, the sometimes-lacking ritual can be restored without more than one person sharing roles.
These are just a few benefits that our local lodges would experience. There are a lot more and together we can contemplate these. I just suggest our WM’s and PM’s and officers alike consider these when sitting at the trestle board trying to save their lodge.
For those lodges that are not lacking in membership, but are still having a hard time paying the bills, let me ask you a simple question. What is your lodge’s primary means of income? If you answer with your member’s dues, are they high enough? If they are low enough for a member to pay out of pocket change, perhaps you should increase them. I have talked to brethren across the country about their dues and they all seem to agree about a months worth of pay should be average for the year. Now, of course this all is depending on your location and the average income for a household in your community. It is up to your lodge to find a medium with your members on what their membership is worth to them.
If your member’s are already paying a considerable amount for their dues perhaps it is time to look at your expenses. If you have a large enough body of members and they are paying a substantial amount for dues, where is your lodge’s money going? What programs is your lodge participating in that could use some readjustments? I suggest you write down all of your bills in order of precedence. First and foremost you need to pay overhead. That is the most important bill, there would be no building without it. Overhead consists of the usual, Property Tax/Rent, Electricity, Gas (If you have it) Heating and A/C. Then write down the programs your lodge is funding in order by expenses, The Most expensive first.
Once you have all your outcome money written down in order of precedence, start looking at the programs and figuring if any of the programs can be either scrapped, consolidated or you can provide less money for any of them. If there is a program that seems to not be going anywhere, and is more costly than producing results, GET RID OF IT! These types of programs are toxic to our society and more damaging to your community. Yes, I understand your lodges “Christmas Bike Program” is a great and noble cause, it works in other lodges and your hoping it will eventually become worth the money spent and the time invested. Well, until that time don’t fund it. It is important that your lodge stays above water or else it wouldn’t be very beneficial.
Refocus your lodge’s money through the programs. If you are spending a substantial amount of money on one program but not another, ask why that is. It could be that one program legitimately needs that money dedicated toward it. It’s also possible that some of those funds are not functioning the way they should. The solution to this is rather simple; pull some of those funds and divide them amongst other programs that may need more attention. If none of this helps get your lodge back above water, there are other solutions to the funding issues.
Do you have a lack of obedience in your lodge? Are members causing distractions during degree work? Fine them. There are plenty of lodges across this nation who are known to cite a fine toward their members if they are being less than productive during work. It is a simple way to earn money in the lodge and it helps instill discipline. A win-win if you ask me, although I really do not want to be the member that has to pay the fine.
Finally, there is one more solution I have in my toolbox that we can use across all of our lodges. It will, possibly, cost some money at the beginning if your lodge is lacking in maintenance. However, turn your lodge into something that could bring money in from the community. When I was raised, I was raised in the very lodge that accepted my family and friends into their fellowship hall for my graduation/going away party when I was 18 years old and heading off for the Army. Flushing Lodge #223 rents out their fellowship hall to members of the community for a decent price. It is a great way to bring in some kind of external revenue to help alleviate the woes of the recession our country and world is going through. Not to mention bring in potential petitions. Once you get your lodge up to standard and make it more of a sellable product you can become more visible in your community. I will not take any thunder away from fellow Midnight Freemason contributor W.B Greg Knott. He is working on his series of “Increasing Your Lodge’s Visibility. It is a great series and beneficial to lodges looking for a way to breathe again in the recession. You can find his article here.
With these set in place our lodges can become the shining light in our community, they once were. A community coming together for the better, our Craft of Freemasonry upstaging the conspiracies and allowing the public to see us in a different light. Now that really is a Win-Win.