Monday, January 31, 2011

USA Today: Masons, other service groups fight membership declines

From USA Today article today, "Masons, other service groups fight membership declines" by Jon Ostendorff:

There are fewer Masons today — by nearly a million — than there were in 1941 as the country came out of the Great Depression, says Richard Fletcher, executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America. There are an estimated 3 million members worldwide and 1.5 million in the USA, he says, compared with more than 4 million members in the USA in 1959.

Why? Blame the Baby Boomers, Fletcher says.

"We had what I call the '60s syndrome," he says. "That was the whole concept of the generation. You turned against anything that was mainstream."

In 2005, the association produced a report called "It's About Time," which encouraged lodges to invite the community in, Fletcher says. But most didn't start opening their doors until Masons in Massachusetts saw successes in 2009 with the policy, he says.

Since then, a growing number have opened their doors:

•In Asheville, Mount Hermon Masonic Lodge 118 allows prospective members to dine with members before official meetings to learn more about Masonry. The effort has paid off. Seven years ago, the lodge was struggling with low attendance and now has about 500 members, says John Burchfield, the local district deputy grand lecturer.

•In Ellwood City, Pa., three lodges in 37th Masonic District held open houses in August.

•In New Hampshire, Freemasons held statewide events in March and October. "It was very well received in New Hampshire," says Nashua, N.H., Rising Sun lodge member Bob Porter. The Nashua lodge got 30 new members, Porter says.

Tough times
The Mason decline is mirrored by other fraternities.

Amos McCallum, a chairman of the past national presidents of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, says his group has 900,000 members, down from 1.6 million in 1980.

Membership in Rotary clubs has dropped nearly 42,000 since 1995 in the USA to 360,790 last year, says Rotary spokeswoman Elizabeth Minelli.

Some civic clubs say they are starting to see an uptick. Lions Club International reported 20,000 new members last year after decades of decline. It has 1.35 million worldwide, says spokesman Dane La Joye.

Reaching out to women has been key, La Joye says. "Women are the fastest-growing segment of our membership today," he says.

6 comments:

Art said...

In Maryland, we are seeing signs of a reversal, and 2011 will be an interesting one to watch. We have adopted the PR program of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts (Ben Franklin stars in it), and are spending $250K in the first quarter on media buys, culminating with a state-wide open house on 2 April. My own lodge has received over a dozen contacts from the ads since 1 January, with 6 petitions received. We also are seeing growth in the York Rite (my commandery was positive in growth for 2010,and on track for at least a 10, if not 20, percent increase in 2011.

Art Hebbeler
PM, Brentwood Lodge 616 (MO)
Affiliated PM, Millington Lodge 166 (MD)
Commander, Crusade Commandery 5, KT (MD)

Steve said...

I found a copy of one of my dad's old Indiana Freemason Magazines from 1966, a time that could almost be considered the "heyday" of our Fraternity. I read it cover to cover and saw the membership issue was as much of an overriding theme back then as it is now. By today's standards they had members coming out of the woodwork. Heck, his Scottish Rite class had 300 candidates. Still, the magazine had a big push to go out and beat the bushes for more. Yeah, I’m all for increased membership, and I’m happy to say in Missouri things are turning around a bit, too, but I also realize if our membership quintupled overnight, the only thing we would need after that would be... more members.

Steve Harrison, PM
Liberty Lodge #31
Liberty, Missouri

Web Master said...

I was raised in a lodge in rural Iowa. There, membership has been an issue for quite a while but now there has been a surge in membership from the Millenial Generation, as well as a few Generation X's.

When I attended college at Iowa State University, the lodge in that town was booming with petitions from just about every generation - likely a product of the growing population of that city, and the high concentration of Millennials attending college.

Now I'm attending graduate school in Raleigh, NC - a city of ~500,000 people. There are frequent initiations in all of the local lodges, mostly from the Millennials.

I see a trend here. I'm glad to say that my generation, the Millennials, are "joiners" and I'm happy to see people my age swell the rosters, and especially lend more helping hands in Masonic fundraisers and philanthropic events.

Colby M.
North Star Lodge #447 (IA)
Millbrook Lodge #97 (NC)

Tom Accuosti said...

Chris, better check your blog feeds - a 15 year old post just came up.

Richard said...

•In Ellwood City, Pa., three lodges in 37th Masonic District held open houses in August.

I was both surprised and pleased to see this, but I wonder where the reporter got their information. Three Lodges in Pennsylvania's 37th Masonic District held a joint open house on August 28th, in Bridgewater (Beaver), PA. (I was WM of one of the Lodges involved.)
See link here

The event only had about 30 visitors, but they were all genuinely interested. It also resulted in a few new members for two of the lodges (alas, not mine...). Over all, it was a good experience and well worth doing. However, be prepared to answer a lot of questions that most members probably won't have good answers to, so you may want to have a copy of Freemasonry for Dummies handy... ;-)

Richard Muth, PM
Parian Lodge No.662
Beaver Falls, PA
Chairman of Masonic Education for the 37th Masonic District

Chris Hodapp said...

@Richard
Oh, I agree...