Together we make a profound difference

BEST PRACTICE: Lodge website

HOW-TO: Enrich your website

Link in

Wrap up, check in, and plan ahead

Trestleboard and more

Question of the month

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BEST PRACTICE: Lodge website

A few months ago, Three Great Lights Lodge No. 651 in San Mateo received an unexpected phone call. The Grand Lodge of New Zealand had come across the lodge’s website, masoniclodge651.com, and wanted to arrange a visit during their upcoming United States tour.

It was the kind of reaction the lodge had been pursuing. Last year, Three Great Lights Lodge invested in a complete overhaul of its website, going from a single-page, static site to an interactive, search-optimized site that makes members’ lives easier and represents the fraternity in an accurate, modern way.

Richard Jenkins, a Master Mason at the lodge and an e-commerce director by profession, explains:

Background

Our lodge had been intending to update its website for about a decade. Last year, leaders asked if I could use my experience to guide the process. We hired a web design team of software engineers who I’d previously worked with and trusted. With our direction, they designed and built the site from scratch. We’re thrilled with the new site. It’s moved our digital presence into the 21st century.

Goals

  • Info-packed: We wanted a content-rich site with lots of features. We dedicated pages for the lodge Trestleboard, history, and FAQs. We have a blog. We link to the Masons of California YouTube channel. And more.
  • Low-maintenance: The calendar is prefixed and updates itself monthly. If events need to be added, we have the capability of updating it ourselves. We pay just a small fee each month to host the website on the design team’s secure server, and they take care of the rest.
  • Visual presence: It was important that the website be attractive, intuitive, and unique – something our members and fraternity could be proud of. The web design team included artists who helped us achieve these goals.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): From the very beginning the site was optimized for search engines, which allows people to find the site easily. Rankings on the search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, depend on how long the website has existed; the number of pages imbedded in the site; and the number and placement of keywords, good links and relevant content – all things that are best addressed early.

Process

  • Start to finish: The entire redesign process took four months.
  • Lodge liaison: For the most part, I acted as the go-between for the design team and the lodge.
  • Team input: Any lodge brother who was interested was encouraged to participate in the process. About 10 members got involved. We all contributed to the verbiage and weighed in on decisions.
  • Unique art: We provided pictures of Masonic symbols and imagery. The design team put the pieces together in an artistic way.
  • Grand Lodge assistance: Our previous website was hosted through Grand Lodge on calodges.org. The Grand Lodge IT department was extremely helpful with the transition to our new hosting company, and Communications Department staff even offered advice on some of our messaging.

Results

  • E-commerce: Brothers are now able to pay their membership dues right on the website, and the public can reserve and rent the hall building.
  • Prospect potential: Positive, factual information is now available about the lodge and its events. Prospects have a way of reaching out to us in the digital world.
  • Public persona: The site is point of contact for the community and something the members can feel proud of.
  • Internet attention: Thanks to SEO, we’re already starting to rank high in Google searches. Our lodge is also listed on Quantcast, one of the world’s top online audience measurement resources.
  • Member connection: One member had fallen off from paying his dues. When he saw our new website, he decided to start up again.

Advice

  • Shop around: We used a web design company that I happened to know, but there are plenty of good ones out there. Shop around.
  • Invest what you can: No matter who you use, you’re going to have to spend a little money. But you can improve your website on a very small budget – services like wix.com even offer templates where you can include dues payment options like PayPay. Low-end options may not be as cool-looking, but they can still be a vast improvement to your current site.
  • Seek advice: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are people already in the organization and maybe even in your lodge who can guide you.

In closing

Some of the most popular search terms on sites like Twitter and YouTube are related to Masonry. If the people searching don’t find your lodge’s website, they can certainly find one devoted to conspiracy theories.

Our advice? Invest in your web presence. This is an opportunity to grow the fraternity and represent your lodge in a positive and meaningful light. Don't squander the chance.

Check out Three Great Lights Lodge’s website at masoniclodge651.com. For more information, contact Richard Jenkins.

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HOW-TO: Enrich your website

Does your website add any value to your members’ fraternal experience? When a prospect stumbles upon your lodge website, how much information does he take away?

Here are 16 content suggestions to educate the public, engage members, and showcase your lodge’s unique identity.

About the lodge

  • General information, such as number of members, community partnerships, annual events, and projects such as scholarships or fundraisers
  • Photos of the lodge building and member activities
  • Lodge history, including historic facts about the town
  • Information about how to apply, including a link to freemason.org’s Applying page
  • Lodge email, phone, address, and visiting hours (if offered)

About Masonry

Lodge news

  • Current and past Trestleboards
  • Calendar, including event details and links to registration information
  • TIP: Highlight calendar events that are open to the public

Blog

  • Create a calendar of writing assignments, and ask for volunteers among fraternal family, including Masonic youth
  • Reuse or expand Trestleboard stories
  • Recap recent events or share success stories from other lodges and fraternal orders in the district
  • Start simple and be consistent – for example, a paragraph or two accompanied by a picture each week

Functional features

  • Offer online dues payments
  • Enable members to RSVP and pay ahead for special events
  • If you rent your lodge to the community, automate the availability calendar, reservation request form, and payment options

Links

  • For recommended websites to link to, see this month’s “Link in” article.

Remember: It’s important to be current, since outdated calendars or articles give the impression that your lodge is no longer active. Appoint someone to regularly review the website and update information.

Have we forgotten something? Email suggestions to communications@freemason.org.

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Link in

If a prospect in your geographic area is curious about Masonry, his very first web search may lead to your lodge. So your website is important not only as a source of information about your own lodge – it needs to represent the whole fraternity.

One simple way is to link to other reputable sites. Here’s a list of suggestions.

Link to on your lodge website

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Wrap up, check in, and plan ahead

By now, chances are your 2015 officers are ready for installation and set to begin a productive year. What about the rest of your lodge? Now is a good time to take stock of member expectations and build consensus for your leadership goals. Here are a few strategies.

Meeting of the minds

  • Invite the lodge to a “town hall meeting” to discuss the achievements and challenges of the past year, and the needs, goals, and expectations for the year ahead
  • Introduce and promote new projects and objectives
  • If you use a strategic plan, distribute printed copies and briefly review how the upcoming year will fit into the larger scheme of things
  • Use the meeting to identify potential volunteers for future committee appointments and leadership opportunities
  • After the meeting, debrief with the leadership team and assess any short or long-term changes to the year’s goals
  • Submit a summary of the meeting to the entire lodge via your chosen method: email, Trestleboard, stated meeting, video link, or something else
  • BEST PRACTICE: Irvine Valley Lodge uses Trestleboard updates and weekly “fireside chats" to keep members on the same page

Survey says

  • Create a member survey to gather opinions on lodge strengths, weaknesses, and goals for the year ahead
  • Consider including widows on a general membership survey, or creating a devoted “sweetheart survey” to identify their specific needs
  • Work with your leadership team to analyze survey results and decide on one or two action items
  • Share a summary of results and responses with the lodge

Communication strategy

  • Think about the most effective way to share brief updates with the lodge for the year ahead – Facebook or another form of social media, video or audio recording, e-blast, or another tactic
  • Appoint one officer to be in charge of these updates, or divvy it up by week or topic
  • On a weekly or biweekly basis, pull together a brief recap of past events, projects on deck, goal progress, and other lodge news
  • Keep updates short, sweet, and consistently timed

For more leadership ideas, check out this HOW-TO.

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Trestleboard and more

By partnering with Masonic Assistance, you can make sure your fraternal family knows where to turn when they need support. This section is designed to help.

This month, download a website directory on masonichome.org to remind members that information on the Masonic Homes, Masonic Senior Outreach, and Masonic Family Outreach is just a click away.

Download: Your online guide to masonichome.org
Publish in your trestleboard, post at lodge, and include in a special email reminder.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked how many community events your lodge hosts per year. Of those who responded:

12% - None
67% - One to five
17% - More than five
4% - Don't know

The most popular type of community event is for public schools support, followed by fundraisers and Child ID.

Here's your next question.

 

 

 

 

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Please email questions to communications@freemason.org.

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1111 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

p: (415) 776-7000

e: memberservices@freemason.org