Raise the Dues?!? Gasp!
It's that time of the year when people start replacing their worn dues cards with pretty new ones. The installations are all but complete, new Worshipful Masters are beginning their terms in Office, and dues notices have gone out. Masons all over the country (we are going to focus in the United States) will receive dues notices and most likely sigh, or complain, or begrudgingly write a check to pay their dues for the year. All over the U.S., dues payments come flooding in to Lodge secretaries, and quickly deposited to be put to use.
The overwhelming majority of Masons that I know and speak to, regardless of age, financial status, or personal circumstance, will always believe that dues are just right, or more commonly, are a bit too high. A small minority believe that the Craft is underfunded and in trouble. I am in the latter group (if you haven't noticed already)
Knowing what many Lodges charge in dues (and initiation fees) across the country, it both startles and mystifies me what people have to complain about. And, most of all, it saddens me how little monetary value we place on something we "say" we love so much.
Scouring the Interwebs and social media, it appears to be that an average "low" for dues payments (appearing in more rural parts of the country) appear to be around $25-$30. Lets make it $75 for good measure. $75 a year to be a member of the Craft in some parts of the country. $75 a year for all the benefits and privileges of belonging to the Masonic fraternity
On the other end of the spectrum, there are Lodges, many which are affinity Lodges or have a defined niche and membership, that charge anywhere from $500-$1000 a year for their dues.
Is there a happy medium? Is there a minimum? Are we charging too little for Freemasonry? Let's do the math, shall we?
Let's go with the upper end of the spectrum. Assuming a Lodge membership costs $500 a year, that breaks down to $42 a month. Breaking it down even further, that round out at a whopping $1.40 per day (and a teeny bit more in February). Less than $2.00 a day for Freemasonry, and the benefits that come with, doesn't sound so bad when compared to the costs associated with everything else one does in their life. Of all the Lodges I have been to or heard of that charge significantly higher dues, most (if not all) provide a "quality" Masonic experience. Great meetings, quality education, fantastic fellowship, and deep and lasting relationships are the calling card of these more "expensive" Lodges.
Let us now journey to the other side of that spectrum. I'm not even going to touch the $25/year dues, that is just ridiculous. That's less expensive that Netflix and two TV dinners for one evening. We will use the other low average of $75 a year and work with that. Per month, that equals $6.25 a month, or $0.20 A DAY.
What on Earth can provide you any sort of quality experience for $0.20 a day??? I can't think of very much.
Wor. Chris Hodapp says it best in his blog post over 10 years ago, when he writes: "Any organization that is cheap to join and belong to requires little sense of commitment, pride or belonging from its members. Any organization that is easy to join is also easy to walk away from."
Now I know the naysayers are chiming in with the usual diatribes of "it's not the dues that make Masonry," and "you are going to price people out of Masonry." Great segue to a brief lesson in economics.
In order to have (and keep) something nice, you unfortunately have to pay for it. Dues have been stagnant since the 1960s-1970s, and the Craft has "paid for it" ever since. Buildings are literally crumbling and being torn down. Maintaining amazing marvels of architecture, such as your ornate Grand Lodge buildings, costs money. Maintenance requires funding, and many Lodges with artificially low dues have been living off of endowments or large sums of cash that Lodges keep in the bank, and are not replenishing.
Unfortunately, this money will soon run out, and all will be left are members who cant afford to keep the lights on in buildings that they own. It is an unsustainable "tradition" to keep dues low, and it is one "tradition" that can be forgotten.
If you value Freemasonry MORE than a $4.00 Tall Latte at Starbucks, then stop complaining about raising dues. If you think Freemasonry is worth more than a $9.83 Double Whopper meal with an extra large Diet Coke to wash it down, then quit whining. Quality Freemasonry requires a quality place to Work, quality education, and quality fellowship. If you want to keep your Lodge buildings or temples, then stop murmuring in the sidelines, and put up...or shut up.
The difference between $0.20/day Freemasonry and $1.40/day Freemasonry is astounding, maybe the right answer is somewhere in-between. You get what you pay for, and you miss out on what you don't.
~~ FDTL ~~