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BEST PRACTICE: Creating a strategic plan

HOW-TO: Write a lodge strategic plan

Here's the plan

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BEST PRACTICE: Creating a strategic plan

It's been a busy year for Natoma Lodge No. 64. Actually, it's been a busy four years.

In 2006 the lodge decided to create its first strategic plan in recent history. Today Natoma Lodge, located in Folsom, has accomplished many of those goals, and they're gearing up for round two: a plan for the next five years.

Past Master Scott Barbu shares lessons learned along the way:

Background: Five years ago our lodge was facing some real challenges. We didn't use the Internet, we didn't have a third degree ritual team. Around that time, Grand Lodge began urging lodges to create a lodge vision. Once we looked into creating a strategic plan, we realized it was just what we needed.

Two (hundred) heads are better than one

  • The committee: The first thing you need is someone with experience - just like when you put together a baseball team, you need someone who can play baseball. A few committee members had experience in strategic planning for a business. The rest were officers. We met five or six times over the course of two months.
  • Member input: We mailed a survey to our entire membership. When we start the strategic planning process again this year, we'll do another survey, and this time we'll be able to send it via e-mail and online.

Putting it on paper

  • The tough questions: In the member survey and brainstorming at committee meetings, we asked questions like,
    • What do we want to gain from a strategic plan?
    • What do we hope to achieve in five years?
    • What would our members benefit from?
    • What would our community benefit from?
    • Is it realistic?
    • How will we measure it?
    • What's the timeline?
  • Template for success: We wanted to create a five-year strategic plan that could be easily updated for future years. We used models from the Grand Lodge of California and other organizations.
  • Be specific: Our biggest challenge was looking at our first draft and realizing how vague it was. We had to focus that language towards our specific needs, our deficiencies, our community.
  • Timing is everything: Once we defined our goals, it became clear which ones were urgent. Others, we gave the best ballpark we could for completion.

TIP: Be realistic. We assigned a few unrealistic timelines because we felt that we had to put something down, but it ultimately set us up for disappointment.

  • Educate members: The completed plan was presented at the stated meeting. When the new plan is completed in 2011, it's going to be sent electronically to the entire membership, and it's going to be posted on our public website. Our members and community will be able to hold us accountable.


  • Specifics: We've achieved many of our goals. Two that have had the greatest impact are our overall lodge communications - we now have e-mail access to nearly every member - and establishing a ritual team, so we can perform our own third degrees.
  • At the top: Communication has improved among our leadership. We get together to talk about the initiatives that we're focused on, and do a better job articulating them to the membership.
  • Long-term legacy: The goals and actions in the strategic plan are part of every year's leadership. Now that we've defined where we're heading, the incoming leaders look for ways to get there.

 The components of Natoma Lodge's strategic plan

  • Our mission
  • Our values
  • Our vision
  • Strategic goals with measurers and actions
    • 1. Member vitality, 2. Lodge prosperity, 3. Financial security and stability, 4. Family involvement, 5. Cooperation with concordant organizations, 6. Community awareness, 7. Community involvement
  • Responsibility for action items
  • Reporting the status of strategic goals and actions
  • Updating strategic goals and actions

You have to set your standards and you have to go back and revisit them; you can't just go about your daily business and hope for the best. A strategic plan is like a road map and a progress report at the same time - as the roads change so should the map.

Contact: Scott Barbu,



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HOW-TO: Write a lodge strategic plan

The best strategic plans are focused, flexible, and define a realistic vision for the future. With the completion of the Masons of California strategic plan 2010-2015, now's a good time to create one for your lodge. Here's a step-by-step guide.

Assemble your team

  • Create a special committee of at least six members
  • Aim for members who can bring knowledge of different areas of the lodge, from community partnerships to ritual
  • Include officers and non-officers
  • Solicit help from members who have experience with strategic planning in a business setting

Involve every member

  • Via Trestleboard, mail, or e-mail, notify members about the strategic planning process and what you hope the lodge will gain from it
  • Distribute a survey asking for members' priorities for the future of the lodge
    • Consider using an anonymous electronic survey, such as SurveyMonkey, which automatically tallies and analyzes the results

Establish dates for

  • Member survey distributed, completed, and analyzed.
  • Meeting #1: Discuss big-picture priorities and goals for the future, including responses from the survey.
  • Meeting #2: Narrow priorities and goals down to specific objectives, and assign a timeline to each.
  • Meeting #3: As a group, write a first draft of the plan (see below, Drafting the plan)
  • Meeting #4: Discuss the first draft, noting necessary changes, additions, and deletions.
  • Meeting #5: Finalize the strategic plan draft, and plan the announcement to the lodge.
  • Final plan distribution.

Drafting the plan

  • Customize the Masons of California strategic plan for your lodge
    • How can you tailor the overall goal to your lodge?
    • What are specific ways that your lodge can address the priorities?
    • Can you adopt the same objectives, but on a smaller scale?
  • Make sure your plan clearly articulates objectives, action steps, responsibilities, and deadlines

Sharing the finished product

  • At stated meeting, present the completed plan and immediate next steps
  • Post the plan on your lodge's public website in a clearly marked section
  • Send the completed plan, by mail or electronically, to every member
    • TIP: Enclose a cover letter explaining the process used to create the plan and what you hope the lodge will gain from it. Call out a few specific ways the plan will affect every member, and members' role in implementing the objectives.

Plan progress reports

  • Establish a quarterly or biannual officers' meeting to review plan progress and make adjustments
  • Outgoing officers should provide a progress report to the lodge - at stated meeting, via e-mail, or in a Trestleboard article - reviewing achievements and areas for improvement
  • Incoming officers should meet to discuss how they will implement the plan during their year
Have we forgotten something? E-mail suggestions to with How-To: Prepare a lodge strategic plan in the subject line.


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Your vision for the future

This spring more than 3,500 California Masons and others in the fraternal family participated in strategic planning activities at open forums, leadership retreats, in e-mails, and with an online survey.

Resoundingly, you expressed five priority areas:

  • Membership experience
  • Masonic education
  • Leadership and management
  • Beyond the lodge
  • Philanthropy

Here's the plan
Based on your five priorities, the Masons of California 2010-2015 strategic plan has been completed.

Read the strategic plan:

  • Posted on the Member Center in the Reports & Features section.
  • Mailed to lodges the week of Nov. 22

Your role
The success of the plan relies on the coordinated efforts of every lodge. It's up to lodge leaders to ensure that members understand the plan, and their role in it.

Take this opportunity to create - or update - your lodge's strategic plan, using the Masons of California 2010-2015 plan as a template. How can your lodge participate in the plan's objectives? What steps will you take to achieve these goals by 2015?

Read this issue's HOW-TO article for help writing a strategic plan.

Coming soon

Our entities and Grand Lodge committees and staff are currently developing resources to help lodges implement the strategic plan. You will be notified as these resources become available.


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By Your Side online

Visit By Your Side online to honor a loved one with cancer and support others in their fight.

The goal for By Your Side is 100 percent lodge participation. With a contribution from every California lodge, the fraternity will set a new standard for charitable giving and demonstrate its commitment to helping Californians with cancer.

Your participation will put oncology certified nurses in the hospitals, clinics, and medical care centers that need them most. Together, we can bring comfort and hope to thousands battling cancer.

Contribute online or contact the Office of Philanthropy at 415/292-9117 or


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Save the dates 2011

Secretaries' and Treasurers' Retreats
February 25-27, Irvine
March 18-20, San Ramon


Wardens' Leadership Retreats
Junior Wardens
April 8-10, San Ramon
April 29-May 1, Newport Beach

Senior Wardens
May 13-15, San Ramon
May 20-22, Newport Beach


11th Annual California Masonic Symposium
June 25, Pasadena

162nd Annual Communication
September 23-25, San Francisco



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Question of the month

Last month we asked how many of you attended the 2010 Annual Communication. Of the 146 that responded:

50% - Yes
50% - No


On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being excellent, 77 percent of those that attended rated their experience as an 8 or above.

Here’s your next question.





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