Preparations While Dark

Written by Paul Cameron on . Posted in Public

Let's get our journey started! Thanks for joining us. Since our journey is staring in July, we'll start with the preparations we plan to make while our lodge is dark for the summer.

For many lodges, the lights get turned off for a couple months in the summer and there are no meetings. In the Midwestern part in the United States, we call this period, "going dark".

While this can be a great time to get your mind off lodge for a while, it can also be a great time to prepare for the next Masonic year. Our goal this year is to create some significant, lasting change to improve our lodge, We want to increase our active membership, to retain our current active members by providing a better experience for them, and to generate more revenue.

Before we let you peek behind our curtain by sharing details about our current lodge situation, please know that we are completely aware we could be in much better shape than we are right now, and it's actually why we are doing this. Hopefully by putting our situation out there, other lodges in similar shape will relate and we can help them by sharing our journey. So we respectfully ask you keep all comments about our articles encouraging in nature, and if not, at least keep them constructive. We welcome and value advice and constructive input, and we thank you in advance for your understanding.

One area we are definitely deficient in is getting out into the community to raise funds for the lodge so we can pay our bills, and so we can help the local charities around us as well. Down the road, we plan to get some training on fundraising, and when we do we'll certainly share what we learn here, but in the meantime, our first fundraising initiative is this blog. You will be able to follow our entire journey this year on this free blog on SuccessfulMasons.com, and through our YouTube channel which you can find at SuccessfulMasons.com/youtube, and we hope you'll subscribe to both.

However, we also have a 2nd Private Blog available where we share specific details about HOW we're executing these plans, and the results we're getting from them. To access the private blog, we're asking for a subscription of just $5 a month for as long as you want to follow us, and you can cancel any time.

The development, hosting, and maintenance of SuccessfulMasons.com is being provided by a local business in Wheaton, DriveStaff, an IT Recruiting firm. 20% of the proceeds from SuccessfulMasons.com will go to Wheaton Lodge 269, then after site costs are covered, the remaining portion will go towards helping local job seekers through a job search training resource, owned by DriveStaff, called SpeedUpMyJobSearch.com. If you need help with your job search, that site can help, and you may recognize the guy in videos on that site!

Hopefully if we can get enough people to follow our journey, we'll not only be able to start paying our bills more consistently, but we'll also be able to affect some positive change for community around us. So we hope you'll be willing to follow our Private Blog, and you have our word as Masons that we will do everything possible to make sure you get more value out of this than what you invest into it.

So let's get started: While we're dark, we can improve our online activities, our membership development, and lodge meeting agendas. While there are lots of other areas that need attention as well, like community activities, charity contributions, and lots of other areas, we need to start with the first three, and in this blog post we are focused on our online activities.

How to Bring Old Guys Back, and New Guys In.

Let's start right where we stand, which is with our blog. One of our issues is that we have lots of members but only about 10 or 15 people who show up to meetings regularly. So we're thinking that by starting a blog about the positive things happening in our lodge, our formerly active members will have a chance keep up with the latest happenings, and thereby feel more connected, and possibly want to come back to help out.

(If YOU are a former member of our lodge reading this, hint, hint, nudge, nudge, please come back! We would love to have you! Or perhaps you would be willing to support your old lodge that's trying really hard to rebuild by subscribing to the Private Blog.)

In addition to helping bring people back, a blog could also give any potential members in the area who are considering joining our lodge some insight into what's actually happening here. Our thought is that if people see a local organization working hard to improve, working hard to take care of its members, and doing good in the community, they will want to join the cause. If that describes YOU, please use the Contact Us button to reach out to us and schedule a visit.

The How To:

Starting a blog doesn't have to be as hard as it sounds, and you don't have to publicly share a challenging journey like we're doing, you can just keep people up to date. If you have any good writers in your active membership, or even mediocre writers but they enjoy it, have your secretary send them the minutes after each meeting and they can create a quick story about the positive things happening in your lodge. Also, ask around in your lodge to see if you have anyone who already knows about blogging and can get one started for you.

If you need specific ideas and direction, here's an example of where our Private Blog can be helpful. On that blog we list several places where you can start a blog for free and let people follow you if you don't have a website of your own to post on. Hosting a website these days is also extremely simple, and can be inexpensive. You can build one yourself and have it up and running over a weekend, and it'll only cost you about $4 per month for a simple site. It's definitely worth the investment. For details on all of this, please subscribe to our Private Blog.

Information Gathering

The next preparation step is information gathering. One of our goals is to make our members feel more connected and get more involved in activities this year, so we need some information about them.

This year we decided we're going to use email pretty heavily to stay connected with everyone, but if we don't set this up correctly from the start, it won't have the impact that we want.

As it stands right now, we have about 150 members of our lodge who are alive and believed to still be in the area, but we have absolutely no contact with at least 120 of them! We need to change that.

First things first, we need to get email addresses and phone numbers of all our members, so we will search all of our databases. If YOU are a former member reading this, please help us by sending us your email! Subscribe to this blog and reply to let us know who you are, and when you joined.

As we look for the email addresses and phone numbers, we will also be looking for the date that they became a Master Mason, as well as their birthday. This may be something you already do at your lodge, but we've been told that acknowledging Masonic anniversaries and birthdays is a great way to let our members know we care about them. This can be accomplished with just a quick email to the group, or maybe even through individual text messages, and then reading off the names in our stated meetings to celebrate. So we are incorporating that into our routine.

The How To:

Sending out notices acknowledging these dates does NOT need to create a bunch of busy work for you. You can automate all of this so that when it's done once, you never have to think about it again. Here's how:

We use an email automation program called Active Campaign which allows us to write the announcement email once, make 12 copies of it, and schedule them to go out the first day of each month. We just need to add in the names of the people who have an anniversary or birthday in the appropriate month emails, and then the emails go out, automatically. Nobody has to do anything.

In fact, (and I hate to mention this here because it will take some of the surprise out of this for our lodge), but we have now set up Active Campaign to send a text message to each brother ON their anniversary date and birth date! Again, this is completely automatic, so they'll feel like they're getting a warm hug from the lodge, and it won't take any extra effort on our part! If you try this and you're not writing a blog revealing what you're doing, your members will feel special that you took the time to send them a text. I'm just hoping our members just forget about this paragraph and know they are loved.

Going forward, whenever we add a new Master Mason to our lodge, we'll just add their name into the email already scheduled for their month, put their information into Active Campaign, and we're done. Those dates are never going to change, so the emails and texts will always be relevant and will go out on the right dates.

If you are interested in using Active Campaign, currently it's $9 per month, but we think it's totally worth it for all the work it saves us. To check it out use this link to Active Campaign for a 14 day free trial. That's an affiliate link, meaning, if you sign up, you will get the same price you would if you just went direct to their website, but by using that link, Active Campaign will give us a commission for referring you. With sincerity I tell you that we are NOT promoting them for that reason, I personally have been using their system for years for SpeedUpMyJobSearch.com, and I really love it. The fact that they have an affiliate program is just a bonus that can help us.

Speaking of Bonuses

If you DO decide to use Active Campaign, the automation sequences can get fairly complicated, but we built a template for the complete automation series that schedules and sends out the monthly anniversary and birthday emails automatically.

On our Private Blog we have a link you can use that allows you to import our automation templates into your Active Campaign account with just a couple clicks. They are already completely built out for you so you don't have to figure out how to build them yourself, we've already done it.

All you would have to do is write the emails you will be sending, but oh by the way, we also include the exact emails we're sending our members on that Private Blog, so you can build yours off of those. Hopefully this resource alone from this one single blog post will make it worth the $5 investment to support our lodge by subscribing to our Private Blog. This will save you hours of set up work.

More Uses

We also us Active Campaign for our meeting announcements and degree reminders. If I know that at our next meeting we'll be voting on a bylaw change for example, I'll write that reminder email to everyone now, schedule it to go out a few days before the next meeting, and another one for the morning of the meeting. Then I don't have to worry about getting too busy to send out the reminders and updates, they're already done and I know they're going to go out at the right times. Then everyone shows up prepared knowing what to do.

By the way, in that email I can also include a paraphrased version of the minutes of the last meeting, so when it comes time for the secretary read the minutes, everyone is already in the know and we can motion to waive the minutes. That's a huge time saver.

The Next Steps

The next step in the information gathering process is a bit more involved because we really need to know more about our members than just their anniversary and birthday. We could accomplish so much more if each member felt like they were being individually valued, that they were making a contribution to the lodge that was making a difference, and that their talents and abilities were being utilized. That's information that really can't be obtained by asking them to fill out a form or by replying to an email.

So in the next blog post I'll get into some specifics of how we're trying to get that information, the type of information we're trying to get, and why. I'll also share a fantastic idea I heard about in the annual leadership meeting the Grand Lodge hosted here in Illinois that we're planning to make a regular part of our stated meetings going forward, and I think it would be a great help for yours too.

After that, I'll dedicate an article completely to the subject of how to re-engage members that your lodge has lost touch with. If your current plan for re-engaging members is to just print off a list and hand everyone 20 names to call, I'll show you why that doesn't have the highest success rate and specifically what you can do to start re-engaging those former members. Plus we have more posts already planned after that.

So if you haven't already, please subscribe to this blog and our youtube channel because we have lots of great stuff coming over the next several weeks and months, and I hope you'll consider supporting us through our Private Blog which gives you even more detail about our journey and the results we're getting. Your support would really be a great help to our lodge so we can keep building and growing and teaching. Thanks so much for your consideration, thanks for following our journey.

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