Together we make a profound difference

BEST PRACTICE: Using a member survey to plan ahead

HOW-TO: Create a member survey

A note from the grand secretary concerning the service of alcohol

New member applications

The strategic vision for Masonic Assistance


Question of the month



BEST PRACTICE: Using a member survey to plan ahead

In spring 2010, Grand Lodge used an online survey to solicit member input for the fraternity’s 2010-15 strategic plan.

Earlier this year, Vista Lodge No. 687 followed that example. For the first time, the lodge created an online survey for members. The objective? Use member opinion to determine the top priorities for the lodge’s own strategic plan. The response was so positive, the lodge has decided to make the survey an annual exercise.

Senior Warden David Rathgeber explains:

When Grand Lodge instituted a new five-year strategic plan, so did we. Our lodge’s objectives closely mirror Grand Lodge’s. 

We want to make progress on every objective in the upcoming Masonic year, but we’re also realistic: We do not have the resources to devote equal energy to all of them. The Senior Wardens Retreat gave me the idea to use a survey and let members prioritize the objectives. That’s what we did.

The goals

  • Focus on the future: The survey has an immediate practical use: It tells us what’s most important to the membership, which determines our first step in implementing the strategic plan.
  • Increase participation: The survey reaches every member, even those who haven’t been to lodge in awhile. By demonstrating that we are active and evolving, it may encourage members to come back to lodge.
  • Raise awareness: The survey generates interest in the strategic plan, and informs members about our shared goals for the future.
  • Create ownership: If we are doing what the members want, they will be more likely to participate in lodge.

The survey

  • The team: The survey was designed as a collaborative effort between the junior warden, senior deacon, and me, with additional input from the master.
  • The tools: At Grand Lodge’s suggestion, we used SurveyMonkey, an online service that analyzes and stores results. We sent the survey link out by email.
  • The response rate: Of our 186 members, we were hoping for at least 30 responses. We were pleasantly surprised to receive 72; a great response rate. 
  • The reactions: This was the first time we did this type of survey. Based on the number of responses and some of the comments - such as "thanks for asking" - we hope to do at least one per year.

The results

  • Immediate: The membership responded with a clear hierarchy of strategic objectives. Now, we can focus our resources on the objectives that are most important to the lodge as a whole.
  • Long-term: We intend to update the survey each year. We can use it to find out if members are satisfied with our efforts, and to keep track of any changing priorities.

For more information, contact David Rathgeber:

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HOW-TO: Create a member survey

Throughout the state, lodges are aligning with the Masons of California strategic plan for 2010-15. That can mean significant changes to lodge programs and practices.

It’s important for every member to have a say in the future of his lodge. One of the easiest ways to solicit member feedback is an annual survey. Here’s how to create one.

Choose a format

  • Electronic:If you often use email to communicate with members, use a free service like SurveyMonkey to create an online survey. These services provide tools to analyze and store results.
  • Paper: If your members rarely go online, distribute a written questionnaire. Ask them to turn it in at a stated meeting or mail back to the lodge. This will be more time-consuming, but may garner a better response rate.
  • Both: If lodge demographics are split, create two identical surveys: one to be distributed online, one by mail.

Define a purpose
Start by asking yourself what you want to find out. For example:

  • Planning for the future: Are you writing a strategic plan, and want member input?
  • Overall membership experience: Do you want to identify the lodge’s weaknesses and find ways to address them?
  • Existing program: Do you want to know how to enhance a specific program (ex. Masonic education)?
  • New program: Do you want to launch a new program, and need to find out what will engage the most members (ex. community service, getting involved with youth orders, or starting a fellowship night)?

Write the questions

  • Ask a combination of multiple-choice questions and questions that ask members to rate their satisfaction. (Remember to define the scale: “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ______.”)
  • Avoid open-ended questions.
  • Leave a space for comments.
  • TIP: Have several members review the survey before finalizing.

Sample questions to get you started

  • What should be our lodge’s top priority for the upcoming year?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being “completely satisfied,” how satisfied are you with _____________?
  • What would motivate you to attend more stated meetings?
  • Which of the following programs are you interested in supporting?

Distribute the survey
Whether by e-blast or postal mail, remember to:

  • Explain: Include a paragraph or two about the purpose and importance of the survey.
  • Give a deadline: Allow more time for print surveys.
  • Remind: Make an announcement at stated meeting, and send a reminder email in the final week before surveys are due.


  • Analyze responses: An online service such as SurveyMonkey provides tools to summarize and interpret data. Whether electronic or paper, save survey responses for future reference.
  • Discuss with lodge leaders: Share analyzed results, and discuss common responses. Form a plan of action: Can you make any immediate changes to address member feedback? Long-term changes?
  • Share with members: Summarize survey responses in the Trestleboard, stated meeting, an email, or all three. Explain how the responses will influence future programs and plans. Thank everyone for participating.
  • Ask for feedback: Did members think the survey was useful? What did they like? What didn’t they like? What was missing? Record answers, especially ideas for improvement, and refer to them when you create next year’s survey.
Have we forgotten something? Please e-mail suggestions to with How-To: Create a member survey in the subject line.

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A note from the grand secretary concerning the service of alcohol

Under the California Masonic Code, proceeds from ticket sales or donations to a lodge or hall association event may never be used to purchase alcoholic beverages or to reimburse anyone who has purchased alcoholic beverages.

In addition, lodges and hall associations may not use funds from the lodge’s or the hall association’s treasury to purchase alcoholic beverages. No lodge or hall association funds may be used to reimburse anyone who has purchased alcoholic beverages.

There are only two ways in which alcoholic beverages may be acquired for service at a lodge event:

  1. Someone may purchase the beverages with their own funds (with no actual or expected reimbursement from anyone else) and provide them at the event without charge or donation.
  2. A caterer with a sales license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control may serve and sell alcoholic beverages at any event held by a lodge or hall association, if all applicable California laws are followed. If the event sponsor is a lodge or hall association, the caterer with an ABC license (not the event’s sponsor) must sell the tickets to the event.


More information about these rules may be found in Section 811.010 of the California Masonic Code and in 1995 G.M. Recommendation No. 5, as revised by 2009 G.M. Decision No. 1.

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New membership applications

This month, Grand Lodge introduces new applications for degrees and affiliation.

The new applications were designed to improve the prospect and applicant experience, an integral part of the strategic plan priority to enhance the member experience.

5 steps for lodges

  1. This month, look for new applications in the mail.
  2. Once you receive new applications, start using them immediately.
  3. Destroy old applications, including those in your Pass It On kits.
  4. Beginning with the January meeting, you must read applications on the new application.
  5. When needed, order additional forms from Terrie Strokos at 415/292-9132 or

The “new person” entry form on iMember will be updated to correspond with the new applications.

Coming soon:
Look for additional resources to improve the prospect and applicant experience, including an expanded prospect information section on and a revised investigation process.

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The strategic vision for Masonic Assistance

The Masonic Homes of California recently adopted a new philosophy of care and strategic vision, positioning it as a leader in mission-based, preventive, and support services for our fraternal family and others.

Earlier this year member discussion forums and an online survey addressed your greatest health care and aging concerns and the support services needed in the future.

Your greatest concern is increased health care costs, followed closely by health issues such as dementia. The vast majority plan to age at home, and say it is important to be able to receive assistance in the home. In line with this, nearly 75 percent say lodges should provide outreach services information to members and facilitate access to services. More than 75 percent also say that, if financially necessary, it would be acceptable to offer services to the public at a fee, provided those services are offered to Masons at no cost or at a discount. Four strategic initiatives emerged from our vision to lead significant advancements in the field of care giving - dementia care, care at home, lodge outreach, and youth and family services.

These initiatives, now in the development phase, share common principles and goals, including:

    • Reflect the changing demographics and relevant needs of our membership
    • Develop leading research and innovative care to extend Masonic relief inside and outside the fraternity
    • Provide integrated services that capitalize on the fraternity’s inherent strengths and infrastructure
    • Provide customized, community-based solutions within the context of statewide initiatives
    • Emphasize wellness and prevention, focusing on realizing full potential and high quality of life
Thank you for contributing to strategic planning for the future of Masonic Assistance.

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

The support services provided by Masonic Assistance have saved the lives of hundreds of vulnerable brothers and fraternal family members. But California Masons and widows who now live out of state may not realize that they are eligible for support, too.

This month’s resource is a special reminder to out-of-state fraternal family.

Template letter: Out-of-state member benefits
Once a year, send this letter from the master to out-of-state brothers and Masonic widows, reminding them that they are entitled to support services.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked what your lodge has done to bring back non-participants. Of the 99 who responded, the top tactics were:

55% - Plan family-friendly events
47% - Assign active members to call non-participants
42% - Plan fellowship nights

Other popular tactics were to plan community service events (36%) and organize rides for members without transportation (33%).

Here’s your next question.





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Grand Lodge of California
1111 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

p: (415) 776-7000