Submitted by Seth Anthony
Triune Lodge #307 Middletown, PA
This week, I received the latest issue of the Sovereign Grand Lodge magazine. I’m guessing that many of you did as well. I noticed a blurb on the back imploring me to renew my subscription. I was shocked that our fraternity asks me to pay additional fees to subscribe our own newsletter.
Let’s face it, with the average age of our membership, the most effective method to reach all of the Odd Fellows in Sovereign Grand Lodge is through a paper publication. It’s the single best way our leadership has to communicate to all of members. Yet, I’m willing to bet the vast majority of our Brothers and Sisters opt out of this communications device by choosing to not re-subscribe. By doing so, they are choosing to turn off communications with our national leadership, which in turn disconnects them from the fraternity.
This begs the question – why don’t people want to subscribe? Without polling those who receive the newsletter, we can only hazard a guess. But, from informal conversations with Brothers and Sisters across the country, we hear many similar colloquial comments:
“There isn’t much in it that interests me.”
“Why pay for it when I can read it online?”
“The design is dated and the production values are low.”
While attaining my Master’s degree, we studied a business that was losing money. The first thing that the senior leadership did was cut ancillary programs and costs, such as training and education. If your business is failing, isn’t it safe to assume that you might benefit from some education and new ideas? Yet, in most cases, the first thing to get cut in lean times is a training budget.
In my experience with fraternal organizations, communications vehicles face this same fate. The newsletter seems like an easy expense to cut. But, there are always a few members who see the value in it. Instead of cutting it completely, we reduce the product quality and kick the cost down the lane to our members. What we end up doing is asking that they pay to be kept in the loop about what their organization is up to.
When your organization is struggling, with mounting membership losses, tight budgets, and general malaise, what’s the best thing to do? Stop communicating with your members? Hardly! This is exactly the moment when you need to redouble your efforts to engage with your members and communicate the value of your organization too them. If the only thing they get out of their membership is a dues card in the mail and boring business meetings, why should they continue to pay?
The cost to print and mail that newsletter should be built into my dues, fees, and per capita payments. Yes, I know dues will go up, but that’s the cost of doing business. It’s the expectation that I have as a member – my dues cover the costs of full membership in the body, with a little extra to pay for programs. Those costs, of course, include communications.
The onus is on our leadership to charge enough money so that they can communicate properly with the membership, at all levels Our Sovereign Grand Lodge needs to do this. Your state Grand Lodge needs to do this. Your Lodge needs to do this. If your Lodge isn’t publishing a newsletter that lets members know of upcoming events, then you can’t expect to see new faces, as only those attending your meetings have any idea what’s going on.
I have to give credit to my own Grand Lodge, Pennsylvania, which publishes a quality monthly newsletter. While there is always room for improvement, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania does a nice job with the resources they have. The publication uses a splash of color, provides updates on what our Lodges are doing, and publishes interesting articles on the history of our order.
As a member of nearly 30 fraternal organizations, I can draw an easy correlation to those that are doing well and those that are communicating with me through a number of different channels, including printed material. Sure, digital is cheaper and I can opt in to receive my publications digitally, but for many, a printed publication is still desired. Let the members choose how they want to be communicated with.
As Odd Fellows, we need to hear what our leaders have to say. We can’t follow a vision we don’t know or understand, and we can’t love a fraternity that we feel disconnected from.