Why is your lodge member count of a high importance to your lodge? Because, without an up-to-date headcount, your lodge financials will be incorrect and your lodge may be in great danger of having serious (and possibly irreversible) money troubles.
So, what's the big deal? You simply multiply the number of lodge members times our regular dues amount, right? Wrong.
Let's shed a little more light on this.
While most Masonic Lodge Secretaries are aware of this, many newly elected Worshipful Masters (and many of the Brethren) are unaware that lodge dues are not the same amount for every single member, nor how to perform a correct lodge member count.
While the majority of the members pay regular dues, there are other members who hold endowed memberships for which they purchased an endowed membership to the lodge and therefore, they do not pay any dues money for the rest of their lives.
Other members (especially Past Masters) may have the option to only pay 1/2 price dues after their term. See your lodge's Bylaws for more details as to special rates which apply.
Without an Accurate Lodge Member Count:
1. Your Masonic lodge's Budget Committee cannot, in good faith, put together a correct budget for the Master's elected year.
2. If your Worshipful Master is given a budget that, in reality, has been overstated (contains less money than he is told by the Budget Committee that he may utilize), it is difficult to plan his yearly expenditures for the Masonic Lodge.
3. Lodge members cannot, in good conscience, vote on the purchase of any item, as your lodge member count is the number one revenue (income) source that most lodges rely upon throughout the year to host events, provide charitable efforts and pay the lodge's bills.
4. You may be paying dues to your Masonic Grand Lodge that are not due or, at best, are incorrect.
5. A lodge which is currently struggling to pay its bills, may, by necessity, have to merge with another lodge.
How to Obtain a Correct Lodge Member Count:
First, you must find the most up-to-date member directory available. If the Secretary does not have this information, then the Master should immediately assign a committee to this task with progress reports due at each subsequent meeting. Your Secretary should immediately request an up-to-date member roster from your state's Grand Lodge.
Once the Grand Lodge membership roster is received, this list will contain both the names of each member whom the lodge paid dues for, as well as the specific amount of each member's dues.
This information should be placed onto an Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is easy to use because it will automatically total each separate member's dues without the Secretary having to write all this by hand. It is also easy to e-mail to other lodge members or to a new Secretary when he takes office for quick updating and totaling.
Create an Excel Spreadsheet
Simply open Excel. Click File/Open/New.
When the spreadsheet loads, in cell A1, type: Lodge Member Count.
In cell A3 type: Member Name and in cell B3, type: Dues Paid-2008 (or whatever the current year is)
In cells A3, A4, A5, etc. type all your specific member names, (Last Name, First Name), e.g. (Jones, John)
In cells B3, B4, B5, etc., type the amount of each member's dues which they paid to the lodge.
When you finish, you will have 2 columns (Member Name) and (Dues Paid-2008).
To total the sum of all dues paid, simply click on the cell directly beneath your last Dues Paid amount.
Highlight the Dues Paid column from B3, downward to include all your number amounts, then go up to toolbar at the top of the page and right under where it says "Window", click on what looks like a funky "E". This is the Auto Sum.
Click the "E" and all the amounts which you highlighted will be added together and a total provided for you in the cell which you clicked that is directly beneath your last Dues Paid amount.
Voila! No more adding machine tape!
Go back to the top toolbar and click File / SaveAs and fill in the name and the location of where you want to keep this Lodge Member Count on your computer. My Documents is a standard place in which to file it. ...And you're done, until you have any changes to make.
As a conscientious Secretary, you should also back up this file onto a floppy or CD (in case of a hard drive crash) and immediately e-mail this file to your lodge's e-mail.
That way, if your machine crashes (and you forgot to make a back up copy)... you still have a copy which resides on your lodge's e-mail address server. (if no one deletes it).
You can even e-mail your copy back to yourself so that if your computer crashes, your Lodge Member Count file will still be held on your Internet Service Provider's server.
Then, once you get your computer fixed, you can go out to your e-mail account and open the Lodge member Count Excel file and save it back onto your computer.
Cross-Check Your Roster Against the Grand Lodge Roster
Next, your Masonic Grand Lodge membership roster must be checked against theSecretary's list of actual member dues received and, subsequently the portion paid to your Grand Lodge.
Why is it so important to cross reference these 2 lists each year?
Many lodges have a large number of elderly members who do not always attend regularly. You may be amazed to find out how far off your lodge member count actually is.
You may also find that some of the long-term members from the lodge who have not paid their dues and for which, as a courtesy, the lodge may have been paying their dues for them, may, in fact, have been deceased for several years! This means that, unknowingly, the lodge has been paying these dues out of the General Fund and paying Grand Lodge for their portion, in error.
Therefore, special attention should be paid toward keeping an accurate lodge membership roster and updating it in an ongoing manner.
Create an E-Mail Account
Help Keep Your Lodge Member Count Accurate
One excellent way to help keep your lodge member count accurate is to create a free lodge e-mail address at Yahoo.com, Hotmail, etc..
Place the lodge's e-mail address into each and every newsletter so that when a member becomes aware of the passing of a brother, he can simply e-mail this information to the lodge's e-mail address.
This becomes a huge timesaver because if your Lodge Directory is not up-to-date, this is a repository for information. Your Lodge's Master, Secretary (and other officers...at the Master's discretion) should be given the e-mail address and password to be able to monitor its postings.
Due to the fact that there is no one in the lodge during the week to call, as well as the fact that elderly members who do not attend lodge, often, may not know the phone number of the new Master or Secretary to advise of the passing of a Brother, a lodge e-mail address can be a wonderful link for lodge news, updates and to make it easier to keep your lodge member count, accurate.
While not all Masonic lodge members have e-mail capabilities, its establishment and ongoing use to help provide a correct lodge member count, can be an enormous time saver for the Master, the Secretary and the officers as well as giving them the ability to quickly stay in touch with the various lodge committee members and the brethren, in general.