BRIDGING THE MASONIC GENERATION GAP
Adapted from a PowerPoint presentation prepared by The Membership Committee of the
Grand Lodge of Minnesota
Presented to the Hawke’s Bay Research Lodge No 305
By Bro Eric Bakker, MM, on 2nd May 2011
This presentation focuses on the differences between the various age groups of our existing and potential members. It describes how they think and how they want to participate as volunteers. It gives insights on how to recruit, retain and lead them. Our young members think, act and respond differently than we did. They have different ways of dealing with this new world. In order to relate to them we must first identify and respect the differences. We must find common ground for the bonding process to begin. This presentation is an effort to find that common ground.
PowerPoint Slide #1 –
The goal of this session is to identify:
Who are today’s potential “new brothers”?
How do you reach them, get them to join and ultimately keep them?
What membership resources are available to help you?
How do you show the “value of belonging” to our organisation?
In this program we will talk about matters related to membership and why recruitment, retention and leadership style is important to Freemasonry. There are many new ideas and resources that can be shared - however the bottom line is that there is no "magic pill" here. Membership is everyone's responsibility and it's lots of hard work.
Let's take a look at why we need to seek out new types of potential members, who's out there, how do you understand them and communicate with them in a way that will have them listen and ultimately what resources are out there that will give you all kinds of tips in helping you get them to join.
PowerPoint Slide #2 –
Targeting new audiences for membership growth:
Who’s out there?
How do you understand them?
How do you use that knowledge to communicate with them?
How do you get them to join?
A recent article “Will Demographic Trends Transform Association Membership?” by Michael Faukner, published in the Winter 2004 issue of the Journal for Association Leadership, made this statement which is resonating throughout the association community and addresses the "why" of going after new folks - and this is not just happening in Masonry but throughout the non-profit world.
"Organizations have to change to meet the needs and demands of a whole new membership and service sector."
The transformation is a result of dramatic change in the United States population, a force that is altering the profile of the USA membership associations like never before. The pool of "traditional members" (i.e. members derived from historic rather than current demographic data) is diminishing quickly as demographics continue to shift.
PowerPoint Slide #3 –
Reaching out to different generations is a key to growth. Our largest “new” audience is vast:
Let's touch upon another group of "new" audiences - different generations. It's not just the knowing they exist - that's not new - but it is understanding how they think, how they want to participate in volunteering and how to keep them as members.
Psychologist Dr P Butterfield, when talking about communication between generations said:
"Leaders who understand the conditions that shaped each generation and the values and beliefs that flowed from these conditions will have a handy set of tools in creating strong relationships and teams for getting things done."
For the first time in the workplace, we are seeing four generations actively participating. The impact is also being felt in our Lodges - we need to understand these generations and how to effectively communicate to each one - for the good of our membership growth.
PowerPoint Slide #4 –
Who’s out there?
The Silent or Greatest Generation
Baby Boomers or Baby Busters
Generation Y: otherwise known as “Nexters” or “Millennials” or “Generation Next”
These are the bulk of our current membership base - you may want to share this understanding with new, younger members - it would be helpful to them to understand the "why" of this age group.
PowerPoint Slide #5 –
The Silent or Greatest Generation:
Born before 1946; strong traditional views of religion, family and country
Focus: include respect for authority, loyalty, hard work, and dedication. Security, stability and now health care are their main issues
Known as “joiners”. Many joined Freemasonry
Like the written word in a formal format (few pictures)
And came through the ranks (i.e. paid their “volunteer dues”) to ultimately take leadership
The boomers are the first generation squeezed between managing people older than us (the silent or greatest generation) and those following (generation X).
PowerPoint Slide #6 –
Baby Boomers or Baby Busters:
Born between 1946 – 1964; did not experience the same difficulties as their parents
Were influenced by the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, the space program, the Cold War, the Vietnam War
They are known to place a high value on youth, health, personal gratification and material wealth
Baby Boomers are optimistic and believe their generation changed the world. Personal values, respect and success – main motivators
The boomers will inherit lots of money from their parents. You can almost divide this group into two - the first boomers who are idealists and social activists, and the second wave - kind of "who are we" as they just missed the heavy social activism of the first wave, but are not yet generation "Xers".
PowerPoint Slide #7 –
Born between 1965-1980
Tend to be nontraditional, interested in new concepts and products and have a global mindset
Called the “misunderstood” generation
Often thought to be lazy, selfish and “don’t want to get involved”
In reality: need personally relevant value – the answer to “what’s in it for me?” and want active participation as problem solvers
Key motivator is an enjoyable experience
They believe in keeping the nuclear family intact, live life to the fullest, are career driven, knowledge is power, and expect the merging of cultures. They are sceptical, not yet cynical, more money motivated, are team builders and can be very competitive.
In their formative years, Generation X’ers tend to be unimpressed with authority, cynical towards the older generation, distrustful of major institutions and have a sense of disempowerment.
Today, what are their hot buttons? They are into "save the neighbourhood", are pragmatic, want to make marriage work and to "be there" for the kids and work hard to make money. For our purposes, when we look at them for joining Masonry, we need to understand:
They are not lazy, selfish or "don't want to get involved". - They need personally relevant value "what's in it for me to be involved."
They are professional problem solvers - they were taught problem solving in their schools. They'll question why we do things the way we do - not out of disrespect, but because that's what they learned to do in school.
And they value fun.
PowerPoint Slide #8 –
Born between 1980-2000: have no recollection of the Reagan era, do not remember the Cold War and have known only one Germany. Their world has always had AIDS, answering machines, microwave ovens and video cassette recorders
This generation includes more than 81 million people, approximately 30%, of the current population – and are greater in number than the Baby Boom generation
They will influence changes in the work environment, just as the Baby Boomers did in the past
They will join us but they need to be listened to. They demand input.
The adage for Generation Y is: if you can convince their peers, you'll convince them. They are consumerists; they shop for their needs, but are very sceptical of commercialism.
They work to live, not live to work. They are self-focused, not team oriented. They separate work from private life, need flexible time schedules and like to hear "action verbs" to challenge their thinking.
Now that we know a bit more about these different generations, how do we talk to them, and ultimately convince them to join us?
Here are some great tips:
PowerPoint Slide #9 –
Is my generation viewed positively by other generations?
PowerPoint Slide #10 –
What can be done?
Change focus from “us” to “them”
Learn that Membership is the only reason for our existence
Focus on important things, not extemporaneous things
Give them what they want
What challenges and opportunities do these differences bring? We have to look beyond the "we've always done it this way" and come up with new means of getting individuals from different generations involved.
Here are a few ideas:
PowerPoint Slide #11–
Mature Generation - build trust; face-to-face; written; more formal
Baby Boomers – speak in an open direct style; answer questions directly and expect to be pressed for details
Generation X – learn their language and speak it; use e-mail as your primary communication tool; talk in short sound bytes to keep their attention; share information with them immediately and often
Generation Y – let your language paint visual pictures; use e-mail and voice mail as a primary communication tool; constantly seek their feedback
Another example - younger, tech savvy members who can never attend meetings but want to contribute, have them help with your new e-newsletter. Send them the copy (if they can't write) and they could either help by simply distributing the newsletter, to help you collect member's email addresses, to maybe even helping contribute, or set up, your website.
PowerPoint Slide #12–
What challenges & opportunities do these differences bring?
New ways of doing business
Have younger members chair committees usually reserved for the elder
Use of ad-hoc committees for short-time commitment
The new meeting – high tech gadgets on site; CD’s to take back with them and what to offer if they cannot attend?
The last and perhaps one of the most important lessons from this session concerns leadership style. In the distant past the “Greatest Generation” and some “Baby Boomers” would gladly follow a strong authoritative leader. Today people will only join organizations that give them a voice and an opportunity to be involved with some decision-making.
PowerPoint Slide #13–
New member banding steps:
"Because I said so" style of leadership in a volunteer organization, just won't make it today.
PowerPoint Slide #14–
Understanding the Difference:
PowerPoint Slide #15–
Understanding the difference in people, makes the difference
What the New Member May Expect …
Under the American system, upon becoming a Master Mason and paying his annual dues, the new member is issued a dues receipt card, the possession of which is one of the requirements for admission as a visitor to a lodge other than his own.
The new member is at this point entitled to all the rights and privileges of Freemasonry and he is fully obligated to conform to the teachings of the fraternity. He is also obligated to discharge the duties of a Master Mason. The rights and privileges of as such are often one and the same, but are often also distinguishable. A Master Mason, for example, has the right to participate in the affairs of his lodge; he has the privilege of visiting other lodges. The former cannot be denied him, the latter can - but rarely is.
A new mason discovers he has entered into a highly protective organization. Members will rally to his support in time of his need, even though he may be among strangers. It does not matter what the nature of his need, the worthy Mason can always depend upon the support of his brethren, collectively and individually, at home or abroad. Although help in time of need is most often thought of as financial aid, and frequently is, Masons also come to a brother's aid in time of emotional crisis, they assume another's duties when he is unable for good cause to perform them, they see to the needed care and safety of a brothers loved ones and in many additional ways faithfully support and sustain each other.
The fraternity does not guarantee such support. It is instead the consequence of the obligations Masons assume. It will be more readily forthcoming in some areas than in others, and the kind of Mason a man is and has been will often affect the extent of the assistance he receives in time of need. A Mason is not obligated to assist an unworthy brother.
Masons are very supportive of the widows and children of deceased members. The foregoing benefits, however important they may be in time of need, are not the chief or most often enjoyed benefits of Masonic membership. Perhaps the greatest single benefit of Masonic membership is the sheer joy of participation. To be a part of Freemasonry's fellowship, to be active in all Masonic activities —particularly in helping confer the degrees and to merit the approbation of his brethren, are benefits the practicing Mason would not trade for any material gains.
An integral part of participating in Freemasonry is helping provide assistance to deserving members. In Masonry, as everywhere, it is infinitely more blessed and more satisfying to give than to receive. But, “full participation” includes so much more.
The Mason who regularly attends lodge meetings soon discovers this is at least one place where he can temporarily escape the controversies and pressures of today's living. In a lodge he meets with men from every walk of life, with men of every religious and political persuasion, and who come together in a Masonic lodge with one common purpose - true fellowship.
In a Masonic lodge, he will not hear one religion advanced as being superior to any other. This is forbidden, as noted in an earlier chapter. He will not hear a political party or candidate promoted. This, too, is forbidden. He will not hear a business or a product extolled. Also forbidden. Simply put, he will not hear any non-Masonic position or argument advanced in a Masonic lodge. He and his fellow members will sit in complete harmony, because they share a unity of purpose.
The new Mason may be the richest or the poorest member present, or he may be the most or the least prominent citizen in his community, but none of this will work to his advantage or disadvantage in a Masonic lodge. Each and every member has one voice, one vote, and identical rights.
A sergeant in the army can be master of and preside over a lodge that includes generals and other high-ranking officers among its membership and this has happened on numerous occasions. The only significant rank in a Masonic lodge is Masonic rank, and that is conferred by vote of the members.
It has been reported that when Theodore Roosevelt became a Mason he discovered his gardener was serving as Master of the lodge -the presiding officer. Men of high station outside Masonry evidence no resentment when men of lower outside station occupy positions of greater Masonic authority. Somehow, Masonic lodges are able to function without snobbery. Members meet on the level, a phrase explained in an earlier chapter.
Another great benefit of Masonic membership is Freemasonry's universality. No matter where a Mason goes in the United States, or in most other countries, he is never far from a Masonic lodge. The lodge is a home away from home for countless Freemasons who would otherwise on many occasions be extremely lonely. An American member can feel at home, for example, in a French or a German lodge, although he may not understand a word that is spoken. The ritual will differ in some respects from nation to nation, even from state to state, but the teachings and the basics will be the same. And the all-important fellowship is ever present. Lodges go to great lengths in making welcome a visitor from far away.
Few things can be more valuable to a Mason than the friendships he establishes in Freemasonry, it is said of the fraternity that it "conciliates true friendship among those who otherwise might have remained at a perpetual distance," and few truer statements were ever made. Extremely shy individuals, men that previously found it difficult to mix with others, have been known to establish friendships by the score upon becoming Masons. Time after time, Freemasonry has demonstrated its ability to bring together and unite men who would have otherwise been forever separated. The unique bonds of the fraternity are invaluable to its members.
Many lodges regularly schedule functions enabling members to involve their wives and families, thus providing family outings at which a member can be assured his family will be exposed only to that which is wholesome and uplifting. Such assurance in most modern activities is becoming ever more rare and ever more precious.
Such are some of the benefits of Masonic membership, full appreciation of which can be realized only in attainment. As earlier noted, at the same time a Master Mason becomes entitled to the rights and privileges of Freemasonry, he also obligates himself to many and various Masonic duties. These duties are not onerous; in fact the performance of Masonic duties is the most rewarding facet of Masonic membership.
To begin with, the new Mason is obligated to live by a strict moral code, the requirements of which will not be unfamiliar to any good man accustomed to living according to the teachings of his religion and according to the laws of the land. And the new Mason assumes unique new obligations to his fellow members and their families, and to all mankind. Masonry's success probably stems in large part from the fact that wherever a member turns he is reminded of the fraternity's teachings and of his obligations to be true to them. These reminders come in such beautiful form, or in such an unobtrusive manner, that the Mason never has the feeling he is being hounded or badgered.
So Freemasonry expects its members to be good men and true - true to their church, their nation, their family and their friends. Masonry encourages each member to be active in the affairs of his community and state and nation, but always as an individual citizen and never attempting to represent Freemasonry in these matters. Masonry will not lend its name or permit its members to use its name in any political, commercial, or religious activity, but urges each member to be individually active in these areas, so long as their activities are morally correct.
This PowerPoint programme is one of sixteen prepared by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota’s Membership Committee under the chairmanship of MWBro Neil Neddermeyer, PGM and a Past Director of Fraternal Operations.
All sixteen can be sourced from the Grand Lodge’s website –
The “Bridging the Masonic Generation Gap” programme has been reprinted here with kind permission of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota