Vol. XXI No. 3 — March 1943

Dropped, N.P.D.

What to do about those who are separated from their lodges by failure to pay dues is a perennial and a difficult question, which most (not all) lodges face every year.

There are two aspects to the question: the prevention of dropping; the cure for dropping.

A lodge gains members: (1) by raisings; (2) by affiliations; (3) by reinstatements of members previously dropped for non-payment of dues.

A lodge loses members: (1) by deaths; (2) by dimissions; (3) by dropping for non-payment of dues.

If the sum total of gains exceeds the sum total of losses, the lodge thrives and grows. If the reverse is true, the lodge diminishes in size, resources, power and prestige.

A lodge has some control over all three ways to increase membership, but some control over but two ways to lose membership (as there is nothing it can do about deaths) and therefore has a three to two handicap before attacking the problem.

It may be argued that a lodge has no control over the petitions it receives as no member has moral or Masonic right to attempt to secure petitions. Masonry asks no man into its ranks. He who does not seek Freemasonry of his own free will and accord is robbed in the beginning of a right in the fraternity — a right he possesses from the first instant he thought of it; the right of free choice.

Nevertheless a lodge does have some control. Where two or more lodges possess concurrent jurisdiction, one may and often does receive more petitions than the other. The reason is that one lodge is more alive, does better work, makes its meeting more attractive to its members, and thus attracts more petitions.

A lodge may — and many of them do — once a year arrange programs for brethren and their friends; a ladies night; a father and son night. Such functions, if well planned and effectively conducted, do show a pleasant social side of the lodge which may result in petitions. So the statement that a lodge has some control of all three ways of making gains, while control over the causes of only two losses, must stand.

While a lodge may gain from affiliations, those gains are offset by some other lodge or lodges having lost by dimissions. These losses and gains do not balance since not all who demit join again. A hundred men may demit from a hundred lodges; 90 of them may join another lodge or lodges, but ten will never again knock at the door, so a balance between dimissions and affiliations is never effected; it is always, in the last analysis, a loss.

Only two classes of members owe dues to a lodge: (1) those who can pay and do not; (2) those who cannot pay and do not.

No lodge worthy of the name ever intentionally dropped any brother who could not pay his dues.

Therefore, brethren dropped for non-payment of dues are dropped only because they will not pay. By refusing to live up to their obligations they drop themselves.

The only action a lodge may take to preserve membership for a brother who cannot pay is to pay for him. Whether this process is called “carrying” or “remitting” or “paying,” the rock bottom fact is that when the lodge continues on its roll a member who has not paid his dues, the lodge is actually making a charitable appropriation and the brother whose dues are remitted is the recipient of lodge generosity.

When a lodge does not pay the dues of the brother who does not pay for himself he is dropped . . . but he drops himself because the remedy was in his own hands.

The first attack on the problem, then, would seem to be to convince the brother who can pay, and does not, that he does not wish to be dropped.

There appear to be several ways to do this. First, by an appeal to his pride. There are certain inescapable consequences to being dropped, which, once they occur, can never be changed. The record cannot be expunged, any more than the fact that a man was once raised a Master Mason can be expunged. The record stands.

Does the brother who is about to drop himself know that permanent record of the fact is printed in the Proceedings of some grand lodges to stand for all time in hundreds of libraries? Does he know that his name, coupled with his failure to pay, is forever in the minutes? Does he know that reinstatement cannot change these records?

Does he know that if he is dropped for a certain period of time, he must again pass the ballot if he is to be reinstated? Does he know that being dropped compels every other Masonic body to which he belongs also to drop him? Does he know that being dropped definitely hurts his commercial credit in banks, in which he may want a loan; with merchants, from whom he may desire to purchase on a time payment plan; with his employer, and his associates? [This is no longer the case.] Does he know that the Mason dropped for non-payment of dues has no right to Masonic burial? If he does not know these things, telling him of them may have a salutary effect!

A second method of preventing a brother from dropping himself is the direct opposite; instead of laying the consequences before him, entice him to remain by showing him the advantages of membership.

Has he reflected that he has paid a substantial sum for the privileges of membership, which sum is now about to be lost forever? Does he know of the very attractive program planned for the next year? Is he willing to be left out of social activities which may have been planned by the lodge, not only for his own sake, but for that of his family? Does he desire his reputation to be one to imitate, or one to be held up as an unworthy example to his younger brethren? (The honest way of getting out of a lodge is to pay all dues to date and request a demit.)

The most effective way of preventing any droppings, of course, starts early, when the brother is raised; that method is to bring him into membership in a lodge which is so attractive, which provides so much for its members, which puts on such good degrees, which provides such interesting and instructive Masonic occasions for its members that none are willing to be dropped.

The second aspect of the question concerns a lodge as deeply; what can be done to retrieve those who have dropped themselves and are no longer members?

Much can be done; much should be done. But it takes a real Master, a good committee, some interested members and a lot of work to do it.

The average normal reinstatements, in proportion to droppings N.P.D., are approximately 33% percent. This is only true when the statistics of many lodges for a considerable period of time are considered. An individual lodge may have a much higher, or a much less percentage, due to local conditions. It has been proved time and again, when a vigorous campaign has been waged among brethren dropped N.P.D. that fifty percent of the two-thirds which normally would not come back, can be salvaged by proper methods.

What are proper methods?

First, a lodge meeting in which the membership present can be enthused over the idea of a campaign to secure payment of back dues and reinstatements. A committee not backed by lodge enthusiasm soon “bogs down.” A committee may work, at the command of a Master, but if not given lodge support soon come to feel they are being made the goats of lazy members too willing to “let George do it.” Get the lodge enthused and willing to help and a good committee can do much.

The committee should have decided for it whether it is to be stiff or lenient; this requires lodge action. Shall the committee demand the whole amount of unpaid dues? Or is the lodge willing to offer any inducement, and say to the dropped brother “you can apply for membership on payment of one-half of what you owe.” (Or one fourth, or by paying one year’s back dues, or without paying anything.)

The committee may begin by surveying the ground to be tilled. How many years back is the effort to reach? Having decided that only those dropped within two, or within five, or within ten years are to be approached, make a list; names, addresses, amounts owed when dropped. This fist must then be culled; some of the brethren have moved away; some have died. The names which remain are the targets at which the committee will shoot.

What ammunition they will use depends upon the reasons which caused these brethren to allow themselves to be dropped.

In many cases no known reason can be assigned. But in some case the reasons are known; a personal quarrel, a fancied slight, a lack of interest caused by an unrealized ambition, etc.

These facts, if known or ascertainable, are valuable to the committee which now divides the names of the final list into as many groups as it has members; each takes an equal number and then through personal contact with the membership, discovers which brethren best know the delinquent ones.

The first and most important contact is through that brother who first proposed for membership the brother who is now delinquent. Brother A brought Brother B into the lodge; Brother B now fails to pay his dues. No plea, argument or representation made by any brother is apt to be as powerful as that presented to B by A. If it is at all possible, the first signer on a petition should be asked to see his delinquent candidate and persuade him to pay his dues and come back into the lodge.

But it may not always be possible. Deaths, removals from the locality, illness, may prevent Brother A from working on Brother B.

The next best point of contact is through personal friends. Suppose Committeeman A finds that Brother Q is well acquainted with Brother X, who was dropped three years ago owing four years dues. Committee A and Brother Q call on Brother X. Committeeman A makes the lodge proposal; “you can reinstate yourself, if you can pass the ballot, by paying just one half of what you owe.” Brother Q offers a personal appeal; “The lodge never seemed the same to me after you left.” Committeeman A uses perhaps that argument which never before has had so great an opportunity as now, when the nation is engaged in a war for survival: “Masonry is doing a great work for our soldiers and sailors. We need you. We need your support, your influence, your dues. Forget all the reasons which once seemed good to you, as to why you let yourself be dropped — come help your lodge uphold the flag — express by your Masonry your determination to help the nation.”

If Committeeman A and Brother Q are good at their jobs; if their appeal has been friendly, courteous, helpful — (never scolding, fault finding, critical) — Brother X may yield then and there. But if he does not, do not give up. Wait a week and have Committeeman C go to see Brother X. He should go all over it again, using other and new argument; “Brother X, the lodge is going to stage a play this spring. We know what a superb amateur actor you are. And we are so anxious to have you come back, we are glad to forget all about the dues you owed — come back and help us.” Or any other argument that fits.

If Committeeman C can’t succeed, have Committeeman D try it, and E and F also . . . if five visits of from six to ten members of the lodge cannot move Brother X he is probably immovable!

Sometimes a brother who will not yield has a reason he will not tell. His feelings may have been hurt in lodge. At sometime he may have felt slighted; he may have had a personal quarrel with some member. If any such causes of being dropped can be developed, the attack should be focused on remedying the trouble. Old animosities which live and thrive in darkness and silence often shrivel up in the light of sane and sympathetic discussion.

The committee on dropped brethren should meet frequently during the campaign; they should report to each other not only what brethren they have seen, but also what arguments were used and how successful they were. The experience of each is of value to all; moreover, if failure must be reported, a second, a third, a fourth committeeman must take the assignment to see the dropped brother the previous interviewer could not move. The committee is wise which never sends one brother alone to any brother who has been dropped. One man is as good as another and is apt to feel so; few of us can as well resist the appeals of two as we can of one. Moreover, traveling in pairs two members of a committee give each other encouragement and moral support and create in each other enthusiasm for the work they have undertaken.

The original committee selected to formulate plans and plan the drive should not ask too much of each brother they select to help. A member enthusiastic over the idea may well be discouraged if he has too many delinquents assigned to him at once. Ask him to see three or four and he will usually do it gladly. Ask him to visit a dozen or twenty and he is apt soon to lose his enthusiasm.

The plan here outlined works.

But it does not work itself. It is not enough to plan; the plan must be carried out and carried through. If it “bogs down” with the second visit to the brother who is wanted back, it will fail. But if a Master can be enthusiastic; if he can put the fear of failure and the confidence of success into a committee; if he can inspire his lodge to back the committee not only with words but with helpful assistance, a goodly proportion of those dropped for N.P.D. can be brought back, as has been demonstrated times without number.

Do not attempt this work either by mail or telephone. Both methods are attractive — to the lazy committeemen! But they are not one tenth as effective as the personal interview. It is far easier to fail to answer a letter, to say “no” over the telephone, than to resist the arguments and appeals of two earnest men who may also be friends.

The most important instruction the committee can receive and the one vital factor in their appeal concerns the only method of argument which has any chance of success.

The approach MUST be kindly, brotherly, friendly. There must NEVER be any hint of reproach; never “You know, Brother A, after all, you promised to pay — do you want to be a promise breaker?” Such a speech merely arouses resentment. Deep inside, many a man who has been dropped when he could pay reproaches himself; therefore he expects the committee to reproach him. Finding their attitude wholly different, and that he does not have to defend himself, is the best “softening” a prospect can have.

The appeal should be that the lodge needs you, the brethren need you, we need you. You can help; you can aid us to help the country; you can do a lot of good among the younger brethren! Never strike the note of how badly he needs Masonry or how much he is wronging it by remaining outside. Human nature is pretty much the same the world over. While men are men they will be — some in greater, some in lesser degree — amenable to flattery, to deference, to the thought that they are necessary. Be not ashamed to use a little good psychology! The committeemen are not out to “put over” a deal, to “sell” something, “to get the name on the dotted line.” But there is no reason why the same methods which succeed in commercial life may not be used in fraternal life!

If it were an easy job, it would hardly be worth the doing.

One more matter needs attention: having brought back the prodigal sons of the lodge, they are to be kept from wandering again, or it is all to do over.

The one and only way to keep them is to make the lodge worthwhile.

To many the mere fact of belonging; the right to see a degree; the thought of being a part of the Fraternity is enough. But others want more; more entertainment, more chance to take part, more good times, more Masonry in lodge.

If the Master is sufficiently on his toes to appoint, inspire and put to work a committee which really works at the task of recovering the lost members, he should also be clever enough to plan interesting meetings and carry them through.

There is nothing the matter with Masonry; there is nothing the matter with its lodges. The matter with both in any specific instance always boils down to the question of leadership, sustained and interested planning, enthusiasm for the fraternity and the lodge. Given these and members will not drop themselves; begin with these this year and many and many who have dropped themselves will return — and be happy in their homecoming!

The Masonic Service Association of North America