Why are you here?
I have made no secret of the fact that I am a Freemason. I’ve been active in many bodies within the ancient fraternity and have received a few awards for my labor. I’ve been a Master of one of my Lodges, an educator, travelled around as a speaker, and have even published a book on the leadership lessons contained within the first 14 Degrees of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. (For my complete Masonic biography, you can click here).
I bring this to your attention because there is one thing that Freemasonry has done quite well over the many centuries of its existence, membership development. Individual lodges may come and go, but Freemasonry remains as vibrant today as it did when our country’s first President, George Washington, was Master of his local Lodge in Virginia.
I’m always amazed, as I travel the world, at the warmth and hospitality of my brother Masons. I’ve visited Lodges all around the United States and even as far away as South Africa. Masonic hospitality is so generous that you’ll often find yourself being offered a seat, a drink, and a plate to eat before the questions begin.
You see, membership development is critical to the future of each Masonic Lodge and to Freemasonry in general. As an example, California Masons are instructed that in order to maintain a sufficient membership level, each lodge must add a minimum of five Master Masons per year. Five. Masons understand that new members are important for Lodge growth and prosperity because they provide a range of personal resources and knowledge that can strengthen the Lodge, provide a succession of leaders for officer and committee roles, provide the financial means to continue Lodge operations and add new programs, and replace members the Lodge loses each year. As a plan of action, the Masonic membership development program has two simple components: the attraction of new members and the retention of members.
What could this possibly have to do with the Libertarian Party of California, you might ask? Whilst Masons around the world have a well thought out and executed plan for membership development and retention, the LPC has none. Ouch. I said it.
I attended the LPC’s Executive Committee meeting last weekend in El Segundo. One item on the agenda asked the Committee members to approve the expenditure of a sum of money to fund a newsletter for the Party. Great idea. Newsletters help communicate news and information about past/future events, help facilitate education, and etc. During discussion on the item, one of the members of the Committee mentioned that the LPC has no strategic plan, no marketing plan, no membership development plan, no long term plan / goals, and thus we should do these things before spending money on a newsletter that has nothing to communicate. Again, ouch.
Another agenda item dealt with the LPC’s meager finances. It was proposed that a fundraising company be retained in order to raise funds and memberships for the Party. It was again mentioned that as none of the aforementioned plans in place, we might be putting the cart before the horse. After all, if there are no plans as to what to do with this newly acquired cash and membership, why not wait a bit until such plans are in place? Surely, it can’t take that long to develop such plans?
To borrow from the Masons on membership retention and development, the best way for our Party (or County Party) to be successful at both attracting and retaining members is to offer a comprehensive and diverse program of activities that have broad member appeal. The program selection should include personal growth and leadership, socialization with family members, community service activities, support of educational activities, and other programs that clearly and publicly demonstrates Libertarian values and dedication to the communities and people we serve. Yes, as a political party (and as candidates for public office) we are public servants.
Knowing and meeting member needs will develop and retain members, encourage their involvement, and motivate them to refer potential new members. Being a visible and active member of your community will help attract people who will want to know your secret, as well as where to find others with like minds. As an interesting aside, though Masonry is not political, it was the lessons learned there that lead me to question some of my political assumptions – and lead me to switch my voter registration and party affiliation to Libertarian. If it could happen to me … Who else might be questioning their personal politics right now? How will we reach them?
So how do we get there? How do we reach potential new members and work to keep the ones we have? It starts with the question, why are you here, and goes from that point to asses if the LPC is meeting your needs and attempting to retain you as a member.
The Rotary Clubs have an amazing membership development program as well. They recognize that Club assessment is crucial to keeping their current members engaged and active whilst also ensuring their many local clubs are attractive to prospective members. Rotary advises taking an objective look at the organization regularly to reveal both strengths and the areas that need improvement. They remind the leadership of the local groups to be sure to involve actual members, who are a valuable resource in the continual effort to keep the local club fresh and vibrant.
Here are a few ways Rotary suggests organizations get feedback from members:
- Face-to-face interviews
- Written or electronic surveys
- Informal discussions, with small and large groups, held in a location other than the usual meeting place
- Focus groups with members, prospective members, or non-members in your community
Once the results are in, we must be open to making changes to the LPC based on the feedback and involvement of our members. Evaluation is most effective if we begin to make changes soon after we gather feedback. Once we ask for members’ opinions, they will be eager to see what changes will be made based on their recommendations. If none are made, our members are not likely to be motivated to participate in LPC evaluations or activities in the future.
The thing that I like the most about our Party is the thing that separates it from the other political parties. We’re free to explore, achieve, create, and grow, as a group and as an individual. Whilst there is a central committee and by-laws, there’s no top-down hierarchy commanding members do this and that. You go be your kind of Libertarian and I’ll go be my kind of Libertarian. When we add up all this activity in the end, we’ll be successful due to the combination of our efforts. If I can help you, and you ask me for help, I will do my best. If I need help, I can ask. If I have time today, but no time tomorrow, then that’s how it is. No force, no coercion, no guilt … just free people coming together to further the cause of liberty in our state and country.
Upon entering a Lodge of Masons, I’m asked why I am there and what I came to do. I would ask my fellow Libertarians the same thing, and add a few more things at the end. Why are you here? What did you come to do? Can I help? Can you help me?
I’ve been involved in membership education and retention programs in Masonry and elsewhere. Thus, I can help guide the LPC in this effort. This is one of the many things that I can do. Others have extensive marketing experience and have offered up their help to do what they can do. This is great too. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are things that work, have worked, and will work again for the LPC. We just need to do them.
Will you join me?