October 2021: Making Lodge More Welcoming
Carlos Diez almost didn’t become a Mason. Not because he had an unfavorable opinion of the fraternity or Masons in general, but because when he first reached out to his local lodge, he didn’t hear back—for an incredible six months. “I sometimes think about what could have happened had I not continued to press the lodge for information,” Diez says. “I would have lost out on such a great experience.” Now a past master of Solomon’s Staircase No. 357 in Buena Park, Orange County, and a district inspector, Diez is on a mission to ensure that lodges across the state take prospecting seriously and go the extra mile to create a welcoming environment.
Diez’s experience is far from unique—and that’s a real problem. Recent research conducted by the Grand Lodge has shown that the second-most-common reason that prospects don’t join a lodge is because the lodge never followed up with them. This is a major blind spot—although one with an easy remedy. Even after his own experience, Diez says he didn’t think much about how his lodge dealt with incoming prospects until one day, out of the blue, he asked about the lodge’s voicemail inbox.
As it turned out, it had been months since anyone had checked it—and there were more than 70 messages saved up, many from interested prospects. “That was a wake-up call,” Diez says. “That’s when I remembered my own experience.”
Sitting down with his fellow officers, the group came up with a new system to make sure no more prospects slipped through the cracks. The group posed three questions of itself:
- What happens when someone leaves us a voicemail?
- What happens when someone writes us an email?
- What happens when someone walks into our lodge?
The answer to all three was the creation of a welcoming committee. Specific members of the lodge were assigned to deal with the first two issues—voicemail and email messages—and the entire lodge would be involved with welcoming walk-ins. The formula for that was simple: If a member didn’t recognize a visitor to the lodge, they should approach them, introduce themselves with a handshake and a smile, and invite them on a tour of the building. “The key is to make it so it feels easy for people to inquire about our lodge,” Diez explains. “We want to make sure that if someone chooses not to join our lodge, it’s based on an educated decision—and not because they didn’t feel welcome.”
Over the years, the lodge has refined the system. Most importantly, they’ve added a responsibility for checking the lodge’s social media channels for incoming requests. And they’ve assigned a backup role for each position, just in case.
And while many of these functions are now directly assigned to one person (or two, depending), the success of the plan is the result of the entire lodge adopting as its mission the work of creating the most welcoming environment possible. “In the end, it’s more about a culture than an assigned committee,” he says.
It’s relatively easy to replicate the system Diez and his lodge created. Below are some tips and tricks for getting a committee started, getting buy-in from your members, and interacting with prospects.
- Sit down as a lodge and discuss the downsides to losing out on prospects. What does it mean for your lodge? Fewer new Masons is the easiest answer. But more broadly, think about how people walking away from a lodge affects their view of the fraternity as a whole—and what they’d likely tell their own friends about Freemasonry. “A lost prospect might hurt one lodge a bit, but it hurts Masonry as a whole a lot more,” Diez says.
- Some members might not be excited about the committee or even see the need to provide a more welcoming environment. That’s OK, according to Diez. “Just get the guys who are enthused about it, and if not everyone is excited, that’s fine—just get a core group to start.”
Creating a Committee
- Remember to answer those four questions: What do you do when someone leaves a voicemail, an email, a social media message, or walks into the lodge?
- Assigning a point person and a backup to each task will ensure you have enough coverage. That way you know you’ll always have someone reviewing those channels, with one person ultimately responsible for making sure things are moving along.
- Recruit new Masons to be part of the welcoming committee. They are often the most enthusiastic about the lodge, and it can be a great way to keep them engaged.
Interacting with Prospects
- The first thing to do when you respond to a message is to answer any questions and be a resource. At the end of a conversation or message, invite them to the next lodge event.
- Direct prospects to reputable resources like the Grand Lodge website, which includes lots of basic information about Freemasonry.
- Match prospects with members who have similar interests. For instance, when one prospect walked into Diez’s lodge and told him he was a mechanic, Diez invited a fellow member who works as a machinist to chat with him. “That immediately put the guy at ease and showed him we were just like everyone else.”
- Don’t be too quick to offer an application. Let the prospective member get to know the lodge first. Some lodges wait as much as six months. Just don’t let a prospect wither on the vine. As long as they’re being communicated with and not ignored, they’ll stick around to learn more.
Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your October checklist.
- Make plans for your lodge master, wardens, or other representatives to attend Annual Communication 8–10. Your vote is important to the future of Freemasonry in California.
Senior Warden, along with Executive Committee
- Identify and approach members for the 2022 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
- Urge presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to perform their Master Mason’s proficiency soon, if not already completed.
- Urge the presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to qualify early with the inspector in their office’s ritual.
- Urge respective officers to answer the master, senior warden, and junior warden questions early.
- Set calendar for 2022 and identify event leaders.
- Continue preparing 2022 budget.
- Finalize your installation date/venue and prepare the installing team.
- Review all candidates’ progress toward advancement.
- Continue tracking 100 percent 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.
- Grand Lodge has centralized the dues process to allow members to pay their annual dues directly into the system via credit card. See previous issues of the Leader for more information.
- If your lodge has employees, file quarterly federal payroll tax form 941 (unless IRS has approved an annual filing of form 944, due in February).
- If your lodge has employees, file quarterly state payroll tax form DE9/DE9C and deposit form DE88.
Questions? Contact Member Services at email@example.com or (415) 776-7000.
Last month we asked what percentage of your lodge’s prospects came through the freemason.org applicant portal, compared to in-person inquiries or personal referrals? . Of those that responded:
- None or almost none: 51%
- Fewer than half: 28%
- About half: 15%
- More than half: 3%
- Almost all of them: 1%