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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

How much are your Lodge Dues currently?

They were $35 when I stopped going three years ago.

How much should they be?

Enough to cover all the expenses of the lodge. I sat as treasurer for two years and as of 2018 lodge dues should have been about $250/member to cover expenses.

Are the fees your Lodge charges for the Degrees high enough?

No.

If your Lodge offers Life Memberships, are those fees high enough?

No. Look at the NRA or VFW or American legion. Any national organization has life membership priced at about 25x the cost of an annual membership. Those funds should be invested in a market account averaging at least 8% returns or greater.

If one or more of these need to be raised, what is the best way an increase can be sold to your Lodge?

Beats me. I tried many times to raise the dues, but instead they lost the building.

Would you have to improve the Lodge experience to justify an increase in dues? If yes, what comes first?

Absolutely. The money must come by sacrifice of the older members to create a lodge experience for the new members. Either that or debt. You can't create the experience from nothing. It costs money to make a good experience.

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I knew that they were low at your Lodge, but I had no idea that they were that low. If $250 would have covered expenses, then that is where they should have been. That does not seem an unreasonable amount at all.

But, as you say, they didn't raise the dues, so they lost the building. Last week they voted to shut the Lodge too. They lost everything so that they could keep those $35 dues.

Yours was not a Lodge that was historically poor, and the large majority of current members are financially successful people from what I've seen. It's a horrible shame, one of the oldest Lodges in our Jurisdiction.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Makes me wonder what they're doing with the building sale money.

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Rightly or wrongly, half went to the OES Chapter. I think it was before you joined, but years ago the OES bailed the Lodge out of financial disaster when ignored building maintenance requirements resulted in a wall collapse.

The OES paid to fix it, and asked for 50% ownership in the building in order to protect their investment.

The other half the Lodge has invested. If it is managed well, it can be put to good use for decades to come.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

I guess that also means that I am a member at large with no home lodge anymore. That will make it easier to found a new lodge in some ways.

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Actually if Chehalis' current plan works, you'll be a member of Little Falls, or whatever the new combined Lodge is called, assuming that Chehalis can get LF to agree to a new name moving forward. The vote wasn't to dissolve Chehalis Lodge, rather to ask Little Falls to consider a merger. The money from the building sale, if that goes through, will then to go the combined Lodge.

I think that Little Falls will accept this proposal, but given how strong and impactful it has always been on its community, I imagine it will fight very hard to hold on it its identity and traditional programs.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

I think LF should keep their name and identity. The cowlitz and chehalis are not the same watershed.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Jack, I agree with you that the Little Falls should be the primary lodge influence in the merger, but I think the merged Lodge should also influence the communities that the old Chehalis Lodge interacted with, including Adna, Pe Ell, and Napavine, which both Lodges interacted with. This will help them build a stronger membership base and community presence.

If I were you, I'd continue your dream of creating a new charter for an esoteric Lodge in Southwest Washington. It's not a pipe dream.

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I agree. If I were a member of Little Falls I would not sacrifice a single bit of my Lodge identity in a merger. Little Falls is a tiny Lodge that has worked to do truly amazing things for its community. I wouldn't give a bit of that up. The other Lodge destroyed its own name, number, and reputation. It is not up to Little Falls to keep those things alive or put a polish back on them.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

As a EA I can only speak with limited experience, however I feel that dues being only 60 ish a year is amazingly low.. I feel that it is worth so much more. And we get way more out of the craft then 60 dollars a year.. personally I would have zero issue paying more then double that.. and emagine what that would allow for the lodges? I understand brothers might be onna fixed income witch makes things alot harder. But still at least 120 a year should be no issue....

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I agree.

And we should never forget that if a Lodge has a Brother who really can't afford the dues, those dues can be, and I would argue should be, waived for that Brother.

We need not keep our dues so low so that the very poorest man can afford to pay them, for we can very easily make him exempt from dues.

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May 20, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

That's a good point. And like others have said masonry should be something that is cherished and paying only 60 a year for it is almost insulting to the craft . But yes if a brother is in a situation that he can't afford dues then it should be waived ... Assuming it is warrented

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Yes. We never want to lose a Brother because of honest financial distress. Luckily we have a way of addressing that. I think Lodges should use it whenever they find the need.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

Our yearly dues are $100 and the fee to an initiate is $150. I read once that paying a dollar a day to belong to our great Fraternity would be about right. I realize it would greatly reduce the number of plural memberships but that could also be addressed. I think the $150 fee for a new initiate is about right and would only increase it to assure the candidate received a true lamb skin apron. Raising dues before or after bettering the lodge experience is like, which came first, the chicken or the egg. I think if you raise the dues you better be making changes at the same time so the brother can see and experience what he’s paying for. I don’t have an issue paying more but I also want to see the return on my dollar. I don’t want to hear my increased dues are going to keep the building open. That’s an issue that should have been already been taken care of.

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I think I agree. A dollar a day seems like it would be a good amount. I think that most Lodges could thrive at that level of support, and I don't believe that it would be too much for any Brother to pay.

Like you, I'd like our Candidates to receive a real lambskin apron. Plus a copy of the Standard Work, and whatever other educational materials the Lodges selects. I think if the fees for the Degrees covers those things, that is good.

I also like your thought about improvements as the dues are increased. Otherwise the Chicken/Egg problem can hold a Lodge at inaction.

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If things keep going at the rate they are going, GL assessments will be more than most lodges dues. That is an indictment against both.

I had did a report to the lodge a few years ago detailing some milestones. One was the cost of dues. I can’t recall the year, but at one time dues were twelve dollars, or the modern equivalent of $77 dollars, just slightly more than we are paying now. But times back then were different. There was no social security taxes, or Medicare taxes, or even income taxes. And lodges weren’t subject to the property taxes and other expenses like they are now. You bought a piece of land, you built on it, and the only expenses you had were maintaining it. GL didn’t tax lodges either.

In our current lodges situation, due to neglect, if we raised taxes to cover all of the repairs needed, no one could afford the dues. Getting our roof fixed alone is tens of thousands of dollars.

But the biggest factor is that if you value something cheap, it will be viewed as inconsequential. Especially if the lodge provides nothing else of intrinsic value to your life.

Fundraising is one way of attempting to cover expenses, but that usually entails hard work for a small handful of the members, and attendance is going to be a fraction of the lodge membership. Thus, it’s not very fair to have a small portion of the membership doing all the fund raising to keep the lodge afloat. Raising dues is the only equitable way to fix that.

But then, if you raise the cost of annual dues, you will suffer from people either sending in their demits, moving to another cheaper lodge, or buying a life membership. You can’t do much about the first two, but the last you can. But, that would drive the first two away even more. The

At certainly would expose just how little some people value their lodge membership, of course.

The entire dues issue is much more complex than you would think at first glance. Human nature being what it is, always tries to find the path of least resistance. But in the long run, you must provide value to the brothers above every thing else, in order to make it worth the expense.

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>>"But the biggest factor is that if you value something cheap, it will be viewed as >>inconsequential. Especially if the lodge provides nothing else of intrinsic value to your life."

I think that this is exactly right. If we give Freemasonry away, if we don't require one to work for it, then one will not value it. I think the old wisdom is true that we only really value that which we must work to achieve.

>>"But in the long run, you must provide value to the brothers above every thing else, in order to >>make it worth the expense."

And this is exactly correct too. If our Lodges provide a great Lodge experience, and the education and fellowship that those who join us expect to receive, they will be providing the value that Masons rightly expect.

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We have $125 a year for dues. It went up a few years ago without too much of an issue.

Our fee for the degrees went down since I was Initiated in 1999. I think I paid (memory issue) $350 and it's gone down since. But we used to hand the new Brother a family Bible that he was Obligated on and a copy of The Craft and Its Symbols. Some reason I ended up with a year membership with the SCRL, but no one knew where that came from but would be a nice gift subscription.

I think maybe we cheapen the Degrees, but also took away things that helped to make memories of those days. A bump up in that fee should come also with something besides his Lambskin Apron.

As renters, I don't think we need a large amount of dues as long as we are not digging into our stocks and bonds beyond the interest.

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I think that not owning a building does make the dues situation a lot less complicated, and a lot more forgiving of errors. If they end up being set at the wrong level, no real long term harm will likely happen. Whereas if you own a building and they are set too low, that results in repairs not being made, maintenance not being done and both those things ultimately lead to higher costs.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

When I was Raised in California, *37* years ago, the fees for the degrees were about $350, and annual dues were $120. In my home Lodge here, the fees are roughly $300, and annual dues are less than $60. Why? I don't know. I know of other Lodges where dues and fees are much higher than at my Lodge. Again, why? Well, that's the way it is, I suppose.

If we can't afford $10 a month to be a member, maybe we ought consider some other organization. Some people I know spend more than $10 *per* *day* on coffee, but squeal louder than a stuck pig when the suggestion is made to increase dues to match the cost of living. Our buildings ain't getting any younger, and require increasingly expensive maintenance--structure, furnace, kitchen, furniture, and so on.

Our Lodge came into a fair amount of money a few years ago. We invested some of it, put some into scholarship funds, and are now buying life memberships for all Master Masons of the Lodge. This makes good sense, for by doing so, we invest in our Lodge, the newly-Raised Brother doesn't have to be concerned with annual dues, and the Lodge receives dividends from this investment sufficient to pay the annual Grand Lodge assessment and have some left over to re-invest. Just a thought...

"Improve the Lodge experience" to justify an increase in dues opens a whole new train of thought. Do we come to Lodge for *education* or *entertainment*? We can certainly reduce the amount of time we spend on business, introductions, the same old, same old. We can offer "Master's Moments" for education. Heaven knows there's enough material to supply topics for discussion for years. The problem here is attention span. If the gavel comes down at 7:30 pm, the Brothers want to be on the way home by no later than 9:00. What parts of the "usual" Lodge agenda do we reduce or cut? Committee reports? Finance report? That will require some creative thinking.

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Reduce or eliminate:

Introductions

Announcements (we all know when your next state meeting is going to be)

Reading of minutes

Limit communications to essential lodge stuff

Treasurer's report to just the pertinent items (fund balances)

Bills limited to just what's not budgeted

Relegate most other business to committees

There are times within a lodge's stated meeting where there are a few items that just can't be avoided, such as candidate voting, elections, memorials, which can eat up some extra time. Those meetings, of course, will run a little long. But normally, a stated meeting can feature a good 20 minutes of masonic education and still get out within an hour, if the meeting is run efficiently. And the education doesn't have to be just some prepared speech, you can open discussion on a multitude of topics that easily can take that amount of time, especially as the brothers warm up to the idea. Perhaps the WM, or whoever is leading the discussion can notify the brothers in advance of the topic, and have them mull it over the prepare their thoughts in advance.

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>>"And the education doesn't have to be just some prepared speech, you can open >>discussion on a multitude of topics that easily can take that amount of time,

Yes. I actually think that this is the best, most enjoyable way of providing Masonic education.

>>especially as the brothers warm up to the idea.

Yes. In my experience it will take a time or two for the Brothers to get used to it. I think it is the natural fear that we all share of speaking in public, combined with a fairly common nervousness about talking of the deeper meanings of our rituals.

>>Perhaps the WM, or whoever is leading the discussion can notify the brothers in >>advance of the topic, and have them mull it over the prepare their thoughts in advance.

This works quite well.

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I think you are exactly right about the average maximum attention span. If a Lodge contains elements of education, fellowship, and business, and those combined elements take up too much time, then in my opinion the business must be ruthlessly cut.

A great deal of it can be moved to email and other electronic formats.

Beyond that though, by adjusting the agenda to put education first and business last, the business won't take nearly as long. The Brothers will be ready to go home, so they won't want to spend so much time talking of meaningless things.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

At the end of the day Lodges have to be able to run with at least a balanced ledger. It's simply how things work. Some of our Lodges are still enjoying the advantages of investments (financial and real estate) made during the expansion in membership follow WW2. Other Lodges are not so lucky. In any case Lodges need a financial plan, that takes into account unexpected expenses. These plans need to be dynamic and updated annually. Income options are limited to dues, investments, fundraisers, donations and in some cases grants. The higher the dues, the less the Lodge will need from the other sources. Once the expenses are calculated then the question becomes is it worth it? Is the experience of being a Mason in that Lodge worth it to the member? Now, I have seen this balance done several ways. I have seen some Masters use fundraisers as experiences that the members enjoy. I have seen others increase dues and focus on Lodge programs that excited members, and of course I have seen a combination of the two.

I think Grand Lodge could look at creating an investment fund that Lodges could buy into, combining the economic power of our jurisdiction to the benefit of all, with annual dividend paid out based on how much was paid in to the fund. I think as a fraternity we are not super money wise. When it comes to money we make too many of our collective decisions based on emotions, and not good fiscal models. I also have seen a lot of decisions that are made with a mind on this year's needs with little thought about the future. We have touched on the expense of hanging on to our to large Temples, as an example. Having a profession financial advisor available to look at Lodge, and jurisdiction, finances (including real estate) would be helpful, and especially after this last year of reduced activity. Our numbers were dropping before COVID19 and the last year has not helped and I am sure that we will see the affect of this last year in our bottom lines for years. When I was Master of my Lodge, I personally projected (calculated) the membership rate (declining) and the bleeding of our investments (also declining) and determined the theoretical year that our Lodge would no longer be viable. That date was not very far into the future, and it was reflected in my decisions. It's a good exercise to go thru to wrap your head around the problems we are facing and how we collectively make decisions around money. Doing the math will bring specific problems into focus, like buildings that are not fiscally viable and declining memberships, and it will communicate exactly how severe the problem is for a Lodge.

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>>I think Grand Lodge could look at creating an investment fund that Lodges could buy into, >>combining the economic power of our jurisdiction to the benefit of all, with annual dividend >>paid out based on how much was paid in to the fund.

This is an interesting idea, and as I understand it, quite similar to how the Life Membership fund works. It would bring professional management to the fund, large 'buying power,' and regular professional auditing. But of course all of that comes with costs.

In any event, I think that in our Jurisdiction, a simple code change would be all it would take.

>>I think as a fraternity we are not super money wise. When it comes to money we make too >>many of our collective decisions based on emotions, and not good fiscal models. I also have >>seen a lot of decisions that are made with a mind on this year's needs with little thought >>about the future. We have touched on the expense of hanging on to our to large Temples, as >>an example. Having a profession financial advisor available to look at Lodge, and >>jurisdiction, finances (including real estate) would be helpful,

I agree. I think that our Lodges with significant real estate would benefit from professional advice, and likewise those with significant investments or cash. It's not that anyone has anything but the best of intentions, but most of us just don't know very much about these things.

Another area I think all our Lodges and Temple Boards should get professional help in is auditing. We hate to admit it, but far too many Lodges and Temple Boards have been stolen from through the years. This is an extremely common occurrence, and good professional auditing would stop almost all of it.

>>When I was Master of my Lodge, I personally projected (calculated) the membership rate

>>(declining) and the bleeding of our investments (also declining) and determined the >>theoretical year that our Lodge would no longer be viable.

I've done this as well, and it is scary. But I don't think we will reach that point. I think we are turning around. This very discussion proves that in my mind.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

$250 per year. $500 total for all three degrees including the first full year of dues. They are not high enough but the aging members are very sensitive. We have a 35,000 square foot building that can not because of zoning be used for business purposes. On the other hand we pay no property taxes. But run at a minimum budget the building alone costs about $30,000 a year. So dues need to be higher and a time will come when members will have to decide if they want to have a rather posh private club building that costs them significant $$$ or if the wish to sell the building. The sale would also be tax free. I fall on the side of posh private club building but I'm only one guy. Just installed a new boiler and about to do a new roof.

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I've got to say that I'd love the posh private club, even if I had to kick in significan dues to maintain it.

Since business use is not possible, given your zoning, might I ask if your building is eligible for government or private grant funding?

In Washington we started pursuing state grants a few years ago, and have found remarkable success with it.

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What is the value of being a freemason? Can you put a price on it? We're paying to support Grand Lodge and the upkeep of the Lodge. Inflation has affected all of us. Property taxes has not stopped growing every year. There are Brothers who are on a fixed income, that struggle to pay for medications and food, but how do they come up with dues? Some Lodges that can afford, pay for those Brothers dues to keep them on the rolls. I know Brothers in other jurisdictions who pay up to $2000 a year. There is the argument if we make dues too cheap, there is no intrinsic value. How do I feel about dues? I feel bad. We support 2 bodies with 1 dues, but because of the pandemic our coffers are nearly empty. Many Lodges are in the same boat. I believe we should not leave a Brother behind, because he is my Brother. Yet we need to survive. No easy fix.

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I think that a Lodge should always waive the dues of men whom it knows truly can't afford them. Provided of course that the man is not being a spendthrift with his dues money. What I mean by that is I for example am a member of four Lodges, the Scottish Rite, a couple small bodies, and the OES. All told, around a grand a year. If I were to hit a financial bottom, before any Lodge waived my dues, I think it would only be fair for me to do my part to reduce that burden drastically by dropping all the unnecessary stuff.

But assuming that a member of our Lodge is having a terrible financial time, we should I think waive his dues.

I also think though that we should make provision for those who can afford it, and who want to do so, to pay more. One of my Lodges, and another body have fairly low dues, but they do ask those who can afford it to consider a donation above and beyond the dues. I think that is a way that we can always ensure that we have enough offset to be able to waive the dues of those who need to have them waived.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

“How much are your Lodge Dues currently?” Roughly $125, between the Lodge and the Grand Lodge fees. This is concerning my home Lodge, as I’m a life member of the other two Lodges.

“How much should they be?” For Tenino Lodge, that’s about right. I can see a Lodge in a bigger city with dues in the higher 100’s.

“Are the fees your Lodge charges for the Degrees high enough?” Initiation fees. Through researching old By-laws from a snapshot of a few Lodges in different areas, cities and economies, the Initiation fees were considerably higher 100 years ago. Over $600 in today’s dollars, even the Lodges in smaller towns with more modest economies. It’s almost universal that Brethren think that’s WAY too high. But few really sit down and think about why we had an increase in membership during that period of time, as opposed to the decrease that we’ve had for the past 50 years or so. Some have, and have had very good points, as we live in a totally different era today. And that’s true, so that’s why I don’t push for numbers like that. However, I think they should be high enough to cover the costs of furnishing a new initiate with a True lambskin Apron, a Holy Book of their faith (should they wish to disclose it,) and the proper books, such as a Standard Work, Cyphers, etc. Make sure the Brother gets a proper return on their investment.

“If your Lodge offers Life Memberships, are those fees high enough?” No. Even the Grand Lodge minimum’s aren’t even close to being high enough. Let’s think about it; Let’s say a Lodge has $75 annual dues. If a Brother pays $500 for a life membership, that $500, at a 5% return, is only returning $25. You’d need to triple the cost of the life membership in order to get that return to line up correctly, which means a $1,500 cost for the life membership. I know that’s super-basic, and is more complex than that, but it still shows the general issue with the low minimums in the WMC.

“If one or more of these need to be raised, what is the best way an increase can be sold to your Lodge?” If the Lodge members have a full understanding of their Lodge’s budget, it’ll be a lot easier for a Worshipful Master to bring it up, have a discussion that all can agree on. In fact, you might even have a Lodge member saying the Lodge isn’t increasing the dues enough! However, if your Worshipful Master mentions considering raising the dues AGAIN because of increased building costs, after raising them the last time for that reason, you’re going to get some Brothers who start questioning if they’re dumping their money into an albatross. This has been covered numerous times in this forum.

“Would you have to improve the Lodge experience to justify an increase in dues? If yes, what comes first?” Like is mentioned earlier in this thread, Chicken or the Egg. If your Lodge is currently giving your new members a Luthertex Apron and no Holy Book or other books, and plan to remedy that situation, your Lodge might want to bring that up, increase the initiation fees with the understanding that’s where the increase is going, then make that the norm once it passes. This is what Centralia Lodge did about a decade ago; I think Cameron might remember that. When Centralia Lodge started doing their degrees in costume, it didn’t need an increase in dues to make happen, so a Lodge doesn’t necessarily need to increase the dues to improve some facets of the Lodge experience. This is where the Lodge should first focus – the areas that don’t require additional revenue. Once those are improved, and more members are retained, you can then consider adding more programs that require revenue, and increase your dues to cover those costs.

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Your life membership calculations doesn't factor in all of the life members that no longer count towards assessments. Even expelled life members still give back to the lodge annually. While life memberships only started in 1981 (I think, that's the earliest I could find listed in grandview), the brothers that have passed on are still providing funds to the lodge, and will for decades to come. And this is not just from one lodge, but all lodges, even some that no longer exist. While I agree that more could be charged for life memberships, I don't think it needs to be that high, and certainly should be based on age, as it is now.

I think this year, for the first time since at least I became a mason, our life membership returns was more than the GL assessment. That's only going to be better, as we're in the process of giving everyone a life membership that's eligible for one. Money well spend, IMO. We already as a lodge waive the GL assessment, so this means that by the end of the year, all masons in good standing will no longer have to pay another penny to the jurisdiction, and that they can rest easy that they will die a mason in good standing, at least with their home lodge.

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

You know, Glenn, this is kind of embarrassing, as I should have known better! Cameron and I have a Lodge in our District, Robert Morris Lodge No. 97, who has 106 Master Masons on their active roster, but a whopping 312 life members, if you include those who are deceased. Four Lodges had merged into this Lodge, and as they merged, Robert Morris Lodge purchased Life memberships for all the members of the old Lodges. In addition, if you join this Lodge and purchase a Life membership, the Lodge will pay for half of the life membership. As such, this Lodge has only 5 members who are NOT life members.

In addition, a Lodge can purchase a Memorial Life Membership for a member who had already deceased. It’s noted in the WMC.

This is an important point, and I thank you for bringing it up!

But I also noted, as I looked through the chart, that many of those life memberships were purchased for $200-$300. I’ll admit $200 back in the 1980’s was worth more than it is today, but I can still see that number increase some. Maybe not clear up to fifteen hundred, but maybe double what it was 30 years ago, to keep up with inflation? Maybe what that $200 in the 1980’s is worth in today’s dollars?

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According to my handy dandy inflation calculator, that $200 dollars is worth $587 dollars today. Pretty much in line with the average LM cost right now, maybe a bit more. But I do agree, life memberships are a bit cheap. I know a few lodges that charge twice the GL rate. I think it does have to take into consideration location. Our lodge is in a modest military town, pretty middle class and service based. Younger servicemen, those we'd love to join our fraternity may not have the disposable cash to pay higher sums (after they've bought that new 2021 Dodge Challenger V8 interceptor @ 32% interest rate for 7 years).

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May 19, 2021Liked by Cameron M. Bailey

“those we'd love to join our fraternity may not have the disposable cash to pay higher sums (after they've bought that new 2021 Dodge Challenger V8 interceptor @ 32% interest rate for 7 years).”

Funny how you mention that; that was going to be the subject of my comment for tomorrow’s open forum.

Thinking about my area here in Lewis County.

In addition to location, I think the increases in the life membership cost also should take into account the many factors that are mentioned in today’s forum concerning the Lodge’s dues. There are a lot of them, so I can see a Lodge look at adopting a resolution to establish a Life membership higher than the minimum, but in proportion with their annual dues. And if they increase their dues, they should consider adjusting their life membership rates in a similar manner.

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I agree with this. Whenever annual dues are increased, life membership costs should rise by a similar percentage. The two things should always be linked.

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As I recall NRA Life Memberships are going for 1500 now, and GOA is at 1000. That level seems about right to me for our purposes as well. Certainly neither organization has any trouble getting folks to buy in at that level.

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