Friday, March 18, 2016

GL of Kansas and Per Capita Increases



The annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Kansas AF&AM meets this Saturday, and the leadership is presenting a bitter pill to their members. They are proposing the annual per capita paid to operate the Grand Lodge be raised from the current $24 a year, to $60 by the year 2024.

Kansas faces the same situation nearly every jurisdiction is currently confronted with: namely, the severe drop in membership, combined with an aging one (average age in Kansas is 68),  resulting in sharp losses in income to operate the fraternity. The losses are predicted to continue.

I know that in Indiana, we made a catastrophic economic error in the late 1940s, by passing a rule that exempted Masons in our state who had been members for 50 years from paying any dues at all. Anyone who could have read an insurance actuarial chart in those days should have known what a ticking time bomb that was financially. Attempts in recent years to repeal or even tinker with this provision in any responsible way have been met with shrieks of horror.

The Grand Lodge of Kansas circulated this video to all of its members in an effort to sell their proposal. I am curious to hear if it passes. But make no mistake - this will not be an isolated case as time marches on.

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UPDATE 3/19/16:

The vote in Grand Lodge today was about 50/50, but required a 2/3 majority to pass.

It failed.

Another year of kicking the problem down the road, as the numbers continue to fall and the income decreases further...

10 comments:

  1. This dollar amount is really insignificant and with an 8-year ramp up time, it should be no big deal to pay an extra $3 per month. Forget about declining membership, the world has gotten more expensive and dues need to reflect that. It's simple economics. Maybe it would be easier to accept if dues (and per capita from GL) was indexed to inflation.

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  2. Can't blame them. Unlike the decline in membership, I wouldn't view this as a big deal. One less night out on the time to preserve the solvency of the Fraternity should never be an excuse for the Brethren to complain about.

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  3. As we approach the tercentenary of the premier Grand Lodge, we're essentially faced with two courses of action. Either increase the "per capita" to maintain status quo operations or seriously reduce Grand Lodge spending altogether by:

    1) Eliminate most, if not all, paid Grand Lodge administrative positions. There should be no such thing as a "full time Freemason". Their duties can and ought to be filled by volunteer brethren.

    2) Get rid of pension programs for Grand Lodge personnel.

    3) No more annual silly trinkets such as Grand Master's pins.

    4) Stop paying for Grand Lodge officers and their ladies to travel the jurisdiction for banquets and stump speeches.

    5) Fight attempts by the Grand Lodges to make themselves more relevant whether as A) a background-check clearinghouse for candidates; B) the source of Masonic education programs and C) as a website host. The subordinate lodges are more than capable of fulfilling these roles.

    I strongly hope Kansas Masons will resist this odious proposal, and that Masons across the country will do everything they can to fight "per capita" increase proposals. It's not worth it, brethren. Let's force Grand Lodges to return to their ancient role as simply an assembly of the subordinate lodges.

    Fraternally thine,

    William Hesch, P.:M.:
    Melrose Lodge No. 671
    Grand Lodge F&AM Ohio

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    1. I don't live in Kansas, so I don't have a dog in your fight. But I absolutely disagree that a large, modern, membership organization can be operated by an all volunteer staff. That is a laughable argument. You are living in a dream world, Brother.

      As to a couple of your other points, yes, background checks are absolutely needed these days, and any grand lodge that doesn't demand their use is asking for trouble. With current privacy laws in place, no lodge investigating committee is going to suss out felonies anymore.

      As for an education source, who else is supposed to provide training for officers? The lodges sure as hell aren't doing it.

      Ditto as an internet gateway for new members. How many lodges update their sites on a monthly basis, REALLY? I go to site after site and see calendars listing their 2011 pancake breakfast. Yeah, THAT'LL attract new members. With Masonry at the most visible public point in decades these days, somebody needs to provide a central information site for a state, and a lodge locater. And believe me, there are hundreds, if not thousands of bogus Masonic groups out there trying to pull those men in who should be joining your lodges, and they have websites too.

      Nope, an all-volunteer staff is an absurd notion, and you'll die a quick death that way.

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    2. Jeez, I just saw you're in Ohio. In a state as massive as yours, with hundreds of lodges and three times Kansas' membership, you're agitating for an all volunteer GL office. Dream on. I got over Grand Lodge resentment a long time ago, once I actually talked with GMs, Grand Secretaries, Trustees, office staff, etc. and found out just what they all do. Try it sometime.

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    3. The issue of concern to Grand Lodges regarding background checks is that the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that any rejection based on the results of a background check be open to appeal from the party rejected. Masonic balloting does not have a method in place for a petitioner to appeal a black ball vote.

      By allowing the GL to request the check, rather than the lodge itself, the thought is that adding another layer of abstraction between the request and the vote, an individual lodge would be further protected against potential lawsuits by those rejected.

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  4. By fighting any proposals for "per capita" increases, it's possible to quietly wage a war of attrition against the modern Grand Lodge system itself.

    It's a great tactic actually since it's so easy to get rank-and-file Worshipful Brother Curmudgeon to vote against any "per capita" increase. In the long run, the goal is to seriously cut Grand Lodge spending and empower the local lodges.

    I don't resent the Grand Lodge system per se, but I do question it's attempts at increased relevancy. Background checks; education and website hosting are three areas I see Grand Lodges dabbling with that they don't need to. Competent subordinate lodges can handle their internal affairs and public relations just fine- and those are the lodges that are going to survive the next generation anyhow.

    At the very least get rid of ridiculous 20th century innovations like Grand Master's pins, banquets/ stump speeches, GL personnel pensions, the endless barrage of "cornerstone re-enactments", printed magazines/ newsletters, and viola... no need to raise "per capita".

    For those sympathetic to the bottom-up notion that dynamic lodges are the answer, not a stronger Grand Lodge, might I refer you to my friend Richard Graeter's manifesto at reformfreemasonry.com

    Fraternally thine,

    William Hesch, P.:M.:
    Melrose Lodge No. 671
    Grand Lodge F&AM Ohio

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    1. LOL. You said "Competent subordinate lodges." THAT'S funny.

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  5. There needs to be a balance. If membership is dropping, then there isn't a need for the same amount of administration compared to many years ago. There isn't a need for so many districts. There also isn't a need for so many dead lodges to administer! Why does there need to be a Grand Lodge Communication every year?

    That said, even most lodge secretaries get a monthly honourarium. It goes a long way in compensating for the time spent even administering a lodge of 100 members. I don't wish the job on anybody. There should certainly be a modest compensation for certain Grand Lodge officers.

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  6. And I am just assuming here, but if the average age for Masons in Kansas is 68, then I'd assume most are retired and on fixed income. Any changes to that it difficult.

    I think the only way around it is to propose keeping dues the same for Masons over 65 and increase it for those under. Some may claim it will detract men from joining. Nay. It actually shows the value of it--that is, if lodges are offering that value to new Masons.

    But perhaps not wanting to increase per capita dues as necessary says how much it is valued by some.

    I'm sure this vote will be brought up again next year.

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