September 2021: Building Positive Awareness
Market research shows that the public’s general awareness of Freemasonry is, overall, relatively strong. Half of survey respondents last year indicated that they were familiar with the fraternity. That’s a higher rate than of similar organizations including the Elks, Rotary Club, and Kiwanis. However, despite that awareness, the public overall rate it less favorably than those organizations. “That causes us a great deal of concern,” says Junior Grand Warden Sean Metroka, a past master of Nevada No. 13. “We’ve been around for a long time and we do great work in our communities. And yet, we’re not known for that.”
There’s no doubt Masons and Masonic lodges work hard to improve their communities. But for all that effort, many people—both Masons and outsiders—still struggle to articulate the benefits and role of Freemasonry with others. That's why, as the Masons of California look toward the future with the 2025 Fraternity Plan, efforts to increase positive awareness are a key pillar of the strategy. For the months of July, August, and September, the Leader is focusing on each of the three elements of the 2025 plan: True friendship, diversity and harmony, and now positive awareness.
Those who do know about the fraternity (and have a favorable impression of it) tend to have learned about it from coworkers, friends, or family. And yet for most Masons, a persistent confusion remains about how much they can or can’t discuss the craft with those around them. As a result, many Masons still don’t discuss Masonry with their inner circles. Research shows that 89 percent of Masons value or greatly value their membership, but nearly two-thirds do not talk about it. “Asking someone, ‘Have you ever thought about the fraternity?’ is not a forbidden question,” Metroka says. “Broaching the subject is not solicitation.” Masons can—and should—feel empowered and inspired to discuss their personal experiences without fear of breaking a rule. By giving Freemasonry a personal face, they’ll help combat misconceptions about the fraternity and raise awareness in a new generation of Californians.
Masons can do more than just share their story with those around them, Metroka says—they can go out into the world and embody the fraternity’s values. “We charge our members to go into their communities and be good men. More members should take that charge to heart and take on leadership roles in their communities.” Masons and lodges that are active in their communities serve as examples of Masonic principles. Through that alone, they create positive awareness of the fraternity and what it stands for. The message is clear: its members are the best advertisement for the fraternity.
In the end, the more people who connect Freemasonry with the good deeds of individual Masons and lodges, the more people will understand the role of Masonry—and help strengthen it into the future. But it’s more than just the numbers. It’s about multiplying the fraternity’s positive impact. Many hands make light work, as the saying goes. “We feel we have something to offer humanity,” Metroka says, “and we feel that if we share this, that we’ll make the world a better place.” In order to see this come to fruition, lodges need to take on the mission of spreading positive awareness in their communities.
How can lodges and their members increase the public’s positive awareness of Freemasonry as a whole? Over the coming years, a number of new initiatives will be rolled out to help support this aim. In addition, the organization will work toward key goals to ensure our fraternity meets its ideals.
Goal 1: Masons Are Empowered to Discuss Masonry
Given Freemason’s reputation for secrecy, it’s not surprising that there are so many questions about how to talk about Freemasonry. The California Masonic Code states that California Masons are free to discuss the principals, philosophies, and purposes of Freemasonry, so long as they do not divulge portion of the ritual that is written in cypher. Rules around soliciting men for membership has also been confusing. In 1993, a grand master’s decision stated: “Solicitation is the active and persistent attempt to influence someone to do something… Offering information is not solicitation.”
That means that members are not only able—but in fact encouraged—to talk freely about Freemasonry with friends, family members, and associates. The Grand Lodge can help with this, by offering members talking points and resources for helping explain the fraternity to the public. Still, though, the vast majority of today’s Masons learned about the fraternity from close friends or family members—meanig word of mouth is the most powerful tool we have for growing the fraternity.
Goal 2: Communities See Masons in Action
While it's true that market research indicated that the general public rates Freemasonry less favorably than similar membership organizations, once those same respondents were made aware of the Masons’ various charitable causes, their positive impression of the fraternity jumped up, and more people said they were interested in learning more about the organization. Helping the community make that connection is of the upmost importance. In addition to the statewide philanthropic initiatives undertaken by the California Masonic Foundation, we know Masons are highly active in their own communities. If your lodge is organizing a volunteering effort or doing charitable work in the community, make sure that the public recognizes who’s behind that work. That might mean wearing lodge T-shirts or hanging a banner—either way, increasing the visibility of Masons’ charitable impact will build positive awareness of the organization as a whole.
Goal 3: Masons Create Positive Awareness Locally, Statewide, and Nationally
One of the clearest messages in the market research was that the Masons of California need to create more opportunities to raise their profile at every level—locally, statewide, and beyond. That means that individual Masons, lodges, and the state-level organization can all work toward building positive awareness campaigns.
From simple one-time efforts like raising a legible and inviting sign on your lodge hall, or keeping your lodge website and social media channels up-to-date, to larger statewide public-relations efforts to drum up press interest and community support for our philanthropic works, there are a million ways for the fraternity to increase its positive awareness. Look for creative ways to raise your lodge’s—and the fraternity’s—profile.
Stay on track of lodge business and prepare for important deadlines. Here’s your September checklist.
- Make plans for your lodge master, wardens, or other representatives to attend Annual Communication this October. Your vote is important to the future of Freemasonry in California. Please be aware of all protocols now in place for the 172nd Annual Communication being held October 8–10 to comply with San Francisco’s pandemic safety requirements. If you would like more information, you can read the San Francisco guidance here.
- All attendees, staff, and exhibitors will be required to show proof of full vaccination before entering the California Masonic Memorial Temple, and at the Grand Master’s Banquet and Gala and the Spouses and Partners event. Full vaccination means that the final dose of the vaccine was administered by September 24, 2021, which is two weeks prior to the event.
- Masks will be required indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking.
- Negative COVID-19 tests are not sufficient to enter the building or attend an event.
- To be fully vaccinated by October 8, 2021, you must have started a two-dose vaccination schedule by Friday, September 3, and have received your second shot by September 24, 2021. Or, you must have received your one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination by September 24, 2021.
- Proof of vaccination can be digital. You can show a picture of your vaccination card and photo ID, use a digital COVID-19 vaccine record issued by the state of California, or an approved private app to verify vaccination status.
- Identify and approach members for 2022 open elected and appointed officer positions.
- Urge presumptive master, wardens, and senior deacon to perform their Master Mason’s proficiency soon, if not already completed.
- Urge respective officers to answer the master, senior warden, and junior warden questions early.
- Identify and approach members for the 2022 Audit, Membership Retention, and any other committees.
- Set calendar for 2022 and identify event leaders.
- Continue preparing 2022 budget.
- Set installation date and approach installing officer, master of ceremonies, and chaplain.
- 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.
- If lodge per capita has not yet been paid, submit payment ASAP.
- Prepare to send out dues notices and begin collecting member dues, starting Oct. 31.
- If lodge per capita has not yet been paid, submit payment ASAP.
Questions? Contact Member Services at email@example.com or (415) 776-7000.
Last month we asked who was responsible for responding to prospect phone calls and emails at your lodge. Of those that responded:
- The secretary of the lodge - 70%
- A different officer of the lodge - 16%
- We assign members of our lodge to respond - 7%
- I don't know - 3%
- Other - 3%
We also asked how do you receive unexpected visitors at your lodge. Of those that responded:
- An officer of the lodge is responsible for welcoming them - 36%
- We don't have a plan - we improvise - 31%
- A member (or group of members) is assigned to welcome them - 22%
- We don't have unexpected visitors - 6%
- Other - 4%