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The First Step to Opening Your Lodge's Doors
Many towns in California have a building bearing the square-and-compass insignia on its cornerstone, making the Masonic brand a familiar and trusted one across the state. Today, Masonic lodges represent a unique opportunity for the fraternity to help foster a sense of community in their own towns. California Grand Lodge is dedicated to helping lodges throughout the state become vibrant and active forces in their community—that’s why this September has been named Masonic Lodge Open House Month by Grand Master Wright.
However it can be difficult for many lodges to take that first step. The good news is that small gestures can have a huge impact. The appropriately named Wisdom Lodge No. 202 in Pasadena, for instance, has done just that, welcoming groups of local police and firefighters to a dinner for each of the past 17 years in which they recognize a different officer.
The tradition began in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, according to lodge secretary Levon Keshishian, when two firefighters from Pasadena traveled across the country to assist in the search and rescue efforts. “The lodge wanted to honor the selfless spirit of those two firefighters, who went beyond the call of duty,” Keshishian says. So in 2002, the sitting Master invited the two men to a special evening at the lodge, where the firefighters given an award for their service. Out of this first evening came the Serving Beyond the Call of Duty Awards, which Wisdom Lodge now gives out each September.
After 17 years of hosting the event, members of the lodge know how to host the dinner like clockwork. That includes identifying and selecting awardees; setting a date for the event; sending invitations; and securing a caterer. The evening program consists of a dinner and a special guest speaker in addition to the awards ceremony. Speakers have included the mayor of Pasadena, superior court judges, police and fire chiefs, and the Masonic Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master.
“This event has been a great way for people who ordinarily wouldn’t come to a lodge to enjoy an evening in ours,” Keshishian says. The benefit of hosting a regular, annual event is that it gets easier and easier to prepare for as the years go by. For Wisdom Lodge, the celebration has become a staple in the community, with the local newspaper occasionally covering the event. “Wisdom Lodge proudly has committed itself to this program and plans to continue to do so for years to come,” he says.
Cheat Sheet: Event Planning 101
Lodges can and do host public events of all kinds, from prospects nights to fundraisers for local community groups and nonprofits. No matter what it is, follow a few tips to make sure it goes off without a hitch.
- Give Yourself Time: At a minimum, a three-month lead time is necessary for planning a public event. You might need even longer if you’re co-hosting with another organization—many hands may make light work, but they tend to impact people’s schedules. Start with this event calendar checklist as a reference.
- Get It on The Radar: Schedule your event when your lodge is updating its annual calendar. This makes sure your event is on everyone’s minds right at the beginning of the year.
- Don't Forget Publicity: Establish a budget for the program that includes both publicity and the costs of staging the event. Publicity costs can be more expensive than you think, but town newspaper calendars and social media use are both budget-friendly ways to publicize your event.
- Delegate: Create a subcommittee and appoint a chairman for the event. They can report in before or during your stated meetings to make sure everyone is kept in the loop. Communication is by far the most important thing when planning an event.
- Get The Word Out: The best-planned event isn’t worth much if no one shows up. When promoting your event, it’s important to know your desired audience and reach them where they are. For instance, a family-oriented event can be publicized over Facebook, where parents are constantly on the lookout for news. If it’s a prospects night and you’re trying to bring in a younger crowd, consider advertising at a local community college or university.
- Create a Publicity Calendar: A “save the date” advertisement can run four or more months in advance of an event. However, the bulk of your advertising efforts should start around three months before the event and gradually ramp up as the date draws closer.
- Word of Mouth is Best: The most cost-effective—and just plain effective—form of publicity is personal recommendations. So encourage members to get the word out themselves; a personal invite from a member will get the best response. That starts with making sure members know about the event: Post an invitation or announcement on your lodge website, publicize it in your Trestleboard, and post an announcement somewhere in the lodge building.
- Have talking Points: Use this media kit to help answer potential questions posed by the media, if they’re attending. Information in the kit can also be handed out at a prospects night event.
A few other logistical preparations go a long way toward hosting a successful public event:
- Make sure the lodge building is clean inside and out and well lit.
- Request reservations so you know how many to expect.
- Station members at the door to greet guests as they arrive.
- Prepare nametags from the reservation list and give them to the potential members and their families when they arrive. And have a few blank one extra, for latecomers and people who didn’t RSVP. Make members’ nametags different from the guests so people can identify them as Masons—maybe a different color.
- Position a table at the door with Masonic literature for guests to pick up.
Your June checklist
Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your June checklist.
- Remind members to celebrate Masonic Homes Month.
Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee
- Identify and approach members for 2020 open elected and appointed officer positions
- Identify and approach members for the 2020 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
- Set calendar for 2020 and identify event leaders.
- Continue preparing 2020 budget.
- Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain.
- Review all candidates’ progress towards advancement.
- Continue tracking 100% officer giving to the Annual Fund, with officers setting an example through gifts that represent their capability as well as their commitment to our charitable programs.
- Send list of members with late dues to the Retention Committee.
- Send any suspension notices via certified mail.
- Provide necessary information so the Charity Committee can consider remissions.
- Begin reviewing roster for accuracy in preparation for the end of the Grand Lodge membership year, June 30.
Questions? Contact Member Services at email@example.com or (415) 776-7000.
Find it on freemason.org
As September’s Masonic Lodge Open House Month draws nearer, the Grand Lodge website has resources to help you plan, advertise, and execute a great event this fall or any time of year. Those include a toolkit to help you best utilize social media; resources to help draft press releases for print and web publications; and a comprehensive guide to prospects nights.
Question of the month
Last month we asked how your lodge reaches out to absentee members. Of those that responded:
- 77% - With our trestleboard
- 73% - With phone calls
- 36% - With personal visit
- 14% - We don't