The results from the second Membership Focus Group survey reveal the importance to members of being valued and included, while developing knowledge and friendships at the same time
The Membership Focus Group’s latest survey focuses on the joining experience of new members, their involvement and the image of the organisation. The sense of brotherhood was highly prized by the 6,500 respondents, with feeling valued rated as the biggest contributing factor to overall satisfaction as a Freemason. This was followed by developing new friendships; developing masonic knowledge; feeling included; social activities; and developing skills in ritual.
With improved retention vital to our future, it is clear that the way in which new initiates are cared for leads to a corresponding change in the number of members. It is of concern to note that while they feel well prepared for initiation, new masons feel less supported as they progress, with more emphasis needed on developing masonic knowledge.
While 57.5% of survey respondents stated that their lodge performs very good ceremonies, only 41.1% felt that it looks after its members very well and only 33.8% said that their lodge is very good at developing masonic knowledge. These figures underline the case for more effort and support in learning and understanding. Masonic education emerges as a key issue if the organisation is to retain healthy membership numbers.
When it comes to Freemasonry’s external profile, the main attraction for members is belonging to an organisation that prizes decent moral and ethical standards (67.4%). Evident in the feedback is the importance attached to personal and moral development. Social altruism – a moral desire to help others – is a predominant principle of the membership and the survey shows noticeable support for more involvement in local communities.
An unequivocal 75.7% of respondents said that Freemasonry places sufficient emphasis on charitable giving, with only 17.5% considering the emphasis to be too great. Survey comments noted that while people support the charitable thrust and are very proud of what Freemasonry does, some feel it has become too dominant. The concern is that the charitable focus is downgrading the importance of personal development and instruction in moral and ethical standards – key values that often lead people to join Freemasonry in the first place. There is clearly a balance to be achieved: while Freemasonry is an organisation that is charitable, it is not a charity.
Having a true understanding of just what Freemasonry represents is a challenge to both members and non-members alike. The survey supports the view that Freemasonry is more than a hobby, being a society that is concerned with moral and spiritual values, based on integrity, tolerance, kindness, honesty and fairness. It means different things to each of those who join. For some, it’s about making new friends and acquaintances, or represents a challenging system of self-improvement. For others, it’s about helping deserving causes – making a contribution to family and in the community. But for everyone, it is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity.
The challenge set by the Membership Focus Group is to improve the quality of selection and make better provision for more masonic learning and understanding. As one survey respondent noted, ‘I want to have the opportunity to express the more responsible side of myself.’
If you wish to have your say and are willing to help, then please register at www.ugle.org.uk/mfg
‘Freemasonry means different things to each of those who join… but for everyone, it is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity.’