By Richard Hagler JGW
Brother Masons of South Dakota, thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Following tradition, I will be in charge of Masonic Membership. Membership can be divided into two main categories; new members and retention. Both are very important to the future of our Fraternity, yet many Lodges put all their focus in the direction of new members. I am as guilty as anyone else on the honeymoon phase of bringing in candidates. We have programs and tools to help Lodges mentor prospects and make them new Masons, but what about retention? Do any Lodges have a program to reach out to their current dues paying members? If not, we need to. Retention needs to have the same amount of focus as new members, if not more.
I have spent many hours digging into the historical membership data. I will not get into the intricate details of what the data says, at this time, but will give a very brief overview. Since the late 1960s, South Dakota has been on a steady decline in membership, which is the same situation as many other states. That decline is, on the average, around 2.5% loss per year. The numbers have gone from around 20,000 members to just over 5,000 members, in 50 years. The number of Lodges, in the same time, have gone from 164 to 70. I can make assumptions and come up with plans, but I prefer to have several heads look at it together. If you are interested in looking at this data in detail, I will be sharing it at the Leadership Conference on August 25 and 26.
Looking over the data from the last 10 years
This may or may not be a shock to many, but we have several Lodges doing great things. There are several Lodges that have a 100% retention rate on the candidates they raised in the last 10 years. We have several Lodges that have a 10-year positive membership. Meaning, they have more members today, than what they had in 2007. Overall, the average retention rate of Lodges in South Dakota, from the last 10 years, is 68%. Our retention rate drops each year. SD average retention for 2015 is currently 90% but is at 50% for 2005. Meaning the longer a man is a Mason, the greater the risk of losing him. The biggest issue of the 10 year data; Non-Payment of Dues (NPD). 90% of the losses are NPD.
We have to change what we are doing and I am looking for answers. We have a lot of work ahead of us and if you are willing to help, please let me know. There are many ways to contact me, but the easiest is firstname.lastname@example.org.