This week I came across an interesting post in the Texas Freemasons group:
Now, I usually like to keep to myself and I rarely contribute much to Freemasonry online unless I’m browsing My Freemasonry or posting something on this blog, but I couldn’t help myself (I guess I still can’t help myself since I’m writing this post!).
It’s a very interesting post and, if you’re a member of the group, it’s worth a read. There are several good ideas presented in the comments, as well as several which are not so good, but everything is relative, as we say in physics.
Keep in mind that this post isn’t a direct response to the post mentioned above, although it does sort of cover some of the things mentioned. This is actually a topic I’ve considered writing about for a while, I guess this just spurred me into actually doing so.
In Due Course
I know I can come across as preachy sometimes but I’m going to suggest two papers which every Mason should read: “Whither Are We Traveling?” (in particular Chapter 4, which addresses dues) and “Dues That Don’t Anymore“.
It’s my opinion that these two papers (among a few others) should be required reading for every brother at some point in his Masonic career…the earlier the better. Read them now, in fact, if you can. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
All done? Great!
I just want to point something out, and most of you have probably already noticed this, and that is that although “Whither Are We Traveling?” reads as though it could have been written last week, it’s actually almost sixty years old!
“Dues That Don’t Anymore” is much more recent and provides more perspective. Both papers say the same things though:
- The ‘dues problem’ has been around for a while now.
- The same mentalities which originally created this problem are still dominant in Masonic culture.
- Most lodges and Grand Lodges have done everything they can to alleviate the ‘dues problem’ without directly addressing it. Fundraisers are a prime example…speaking of which…
- Fundraisers don’t work. At least not in the capacity that many lodges try to use them, which is to keep the lodge running, offset the cost the lodge is paying for low dues, and give to local charity. All at once.
After reading number four, some brothers will probably want to contact me and let me know how great X fundraiser is doing for your lodge, and that’s great. The big question to ask is how well will this fundraiser keep working five, ten, or twenty years down the road? If it isn’t sustainable, consistent, and replicable then you don’t have much you can rely on for the long-term health and operation of your lodge.
Due’ing What Is Right
I’m not going to try and justify raising dues in this post because I’d just be repeating what you’ve already read in the papers listed above. (You DID read them, right?) Instead, I’ll offer a few suggestions for Texas Masons who want ideas for improving their lodges dues situation.
- First, don’t every try to make big changes like this without using a committee. Ask the Worshipful Master to appoint a committee, if you are the Worshipful Master then practice delegation and form a committee. Also, be sure the Treasurer and Secretary are on this committee.
- Look at your lodges expenses for the past several years (3-5 seems reasonable) and break down your income and expenses for each year. Use this data to find an average annual operating cost for your lodge. Don’t include any charitable expenses at this point, just look at bills, rent, per capita, etc.
- Find out how many dues paying brethren are currently members of your lodge. Divide your average annual operating cost by this number. This number is the minimum you should be charging for annual dues!
- “But what about brethren on fixed income?!” Brother, unless you work off commission, we’re all on fixed income! Some of us just have more time on our hands than others.
If it’s really a problem at your lodge you can consider ‘grandfathering in’ the grandfathers and leave the dues for retired brethren as-is. You could also consider giving them a year to get an endowment at the old $500 rate.
(Edit: I learned something today: Art. 310. No Distinctions Among Vocations. No distinction in the amount of fees charged a candidate for the degrees, nor in the amount charged a member for dues, shall be made on account of the profession, occupation or calling of the candidate or member; and no reduction in the amount of fees, contributions or dues accruing to the Grand Lodge shall be made on that account.
Also: Art. 314. May Remit or Exempt from Payment.
A Lodge may exempt any member from the payment of current dues, may remit the dues of a member in arrears, or may remit or compromise the amount of dues owing by a Brother suspended for non-payment thereof, but is not thereby exempt from the payment of any part of its dues on such member or suspended Brother to the Grand Lodge.
Thanks Bro Bill Lins from My Freemasonry for pointing this out!)
- Most lodges tend to charge the minimum $500 for endowments. Endowments, especially large numbers of them, can be terrible for the short term health of your lodge. They are ok for the long term, assuming they pay out, and also assuming they don’t kill your lodge in the short term. My advice is to increase them at the same time you raise your dues or that $500 endowment will start to look way more attractive and you’ll be worse off than you started. I’ve read elsewhere that annual dues times ten is a good start for endowment prices…I’ll agree with that, so long as you are using your new and adjusted annual dues when making the calculation.
- Finally, look at your annual charitable expenses. This is the amount of money you’ll need to raise with fundraising if you want to continue these programs.
There’s a saying, and it’s really cliche, but it’s relevant: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”
In many lodges we have this down to an art and, sadly, many Masons hate change. This means that anyone attempting to bring sanity into the lodge is an innovator who needs to be ostracized.
You also might hear something about it how is the internal and not the external (you know the rest)…but isn’t the external a reflection of the internal?
Brethren, I’m not one to wring his hands about the future of our fraternity, in fact, I have a very positive vision of what we can become. That being said, I do believe changes will need to be made, some of which we have known about but put off for decades in hopes that the next Masonic generation will deal with it.
This is one of those problems and it is my opinion that there is no better time to fix it than now. Some lodges have already adopted many, if not all of the ideas presented in these papers. It’s feasible, it’s sustainable, it’s replicable, and we owe it to ourselves and our lodges.