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Peter Lowndes on the progress of the Membership Focus Group

Forward with focus

As the Membership Focus Group gathers opinions about the future of Freemasonry and proposals circulate about the combination of the four charities, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes looks ahead

Over the past forty-odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on knowing as much as possible about our membership, and what we can do to stabilise numbers and increasingly attract high-quality members.

The Membership Focus Group (MFG) has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval – all vital to the success of any organisation. 

The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months that will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that more than 7,400 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it is so often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone. One such idea came from a chance comment from a Deputy Provincial Grand Master about the word ‘recruitment’ having connotations of press-ganging into the services. Rather than talking about recruiting new members, why not think about ‘attracting’ them? This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.

The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this: I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded with emails, so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

Modernising the Charities

Another area in which there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, at that time myself but soon to be Jonathan Spence, who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in Freemasons’ Hall in London.

The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the charity presidents and their chief executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the charities for many years to come. 

I am pleased to announce that the Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnall Report of forty-one years ago.

The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main charities into a new overarching charity, managed by a single board of trustees under a single chief executive officer, with a single team of staff. Further details will be made available via the individual charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today. 

At the Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of the Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members’ meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole-family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be more appropriate for the twenty-first century. 

‘Some ideas may appear trivial, but it is often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone.’