This was all originally written by V∴I∴ Brother Jason Mitchell in the comments of this post. All I’ve done is format it for easier sharing - many thanks to Brother Mitchell for writing this in the first place.
Funding a Lodge/Organization is something that is important to me. I’ve started a Mark Lodge, two AMD Councils, a Black Hat Club, an SRICF College, and been part of the planning for bodies for Athelstan and Acon.
In all that time, I’ve seen:
- seven ways to incorrectly fund a an emerging Masonic body;
- seven ways to incorrectly fund a brand new Masonic body;
- and at least a dozen incorrect ways to continue funding an established body.
Unlike your existing Lodges, the ability to see and take a Masonic organization from idea, to conception, to charter, to sustaining, and probably death, in the case of the Mark Lodge, has been fascinating, because I’d argue less than 1% of masons have ever seen a Masonic organization established from the ground up.
For me, it comes down to this: I don’t care about your sentimental attachments to your (misquoted) ritual, I don’t care about your statistical outliers of that one guy who is great but broke, etc.
I care about funding an organization that is self-sustaining, at least financially, for two, or three, or four generations in advance - with the foresight that there will be expenses and needs thenk, that I cannot even conceive of now. By that, I mean try explaining powered light to someone in the 18th century, or websites and online payments to someone in the 1950s, and so forth.
For me the measure of success, regardless of the actual dollar amount, is that all money coming into the Lodge today, is spent 30, 40, or 50 years from now. The paycheck-to-paycheck cash flow (if you can honestly call it that) is wrong. We are living, we’re barely sustaining - it’s scarcity survival.
What that does mean for Masons today, is whatever that dollar amount is that it takes to fund your Lodge as is, double it - at least - so you’re putting money back into the bank.
Use the following formula to find out what you need to get the Lodge off the ground:
Initial Funding = (Total funding from Part 1) + (Three times the double of the total from Part 2)
Initial Funding = P1 + 6(P2)
This will give you everything you need to get the Lodge off the ground, and three years of projected operational costs in the bank. There should be no further purchases to kit out the Lodge, and all the money coming into the Lodge is spent at a later time. If you never spend more than 80% of your income (no zero-sum budgeting), then as a function of time, you will be growing financially.
Oh, and most importantly - build in an exit strategy! Determine now, not later, financial performance thresholds that automatically trigger closing the lodge.
Part III is suggested on-going operational assumptions.
Part I: Getting Started - Outfitting
Here is where you decide, “do I want a solid gold apron, or is a shiny brass one enough, or do I want shiny plastic?” You need to determine:
- what it will cost to legally establish the body, be it fees to the sponsoring/chartering masonic body, legal fees (if incorporation is necessary), bank fees, etc…
- the total price to outfit the body. Using a Lodge, and assuming you have a building to meet in, and that building has chairs already, that means everything: from aprons to altars, to rods, to jewels, to patents, to ballot boxes, to ritual books - I mean literally everything. You’ll want at least one of everything, possibly two on things that may wear or get dirty.
- prices for boxes to securely store and transport all those things in, unless the building comes with storage, but even then, boxes help protect them in storage, so it’s good to have.
- if you need to insure these effects against loss or damage, and if so, and it requires a down payment, get that number too.
- the total price on all administrative tools: Dues cards, folders, paper clips, pens/pencils, laptop, printer, paper, ink, filing cabinets, desk, pens, envelopes, postage, business/calling cards, website, accounting software, etc - everything the Secretary, Master, and Wardens will materially need to have in their possession for their job (bearing in mind, we’re not talking about having 100 pencils for Brothers who suddenly need one in Lodge).
Part II: Get Going - Operational
Don’t go cheap here. Don’t try to cut corners. Again, you want real costs for real results. This will be expensive.
- What is the total cost of rents for the year? Stated and Special meetings, Educationals, Officer meetings, Everything.
- Are there dining costs the Lodge must absorb? Example: will there be refreshments at officer meetings? If so, there is an operational cost.
- What is the cost of education and training? What books and materials will you need to have for the first 36 months to fully train and prepare candidates, and officers, into Masonry, and the culture of the Lodge? Does your GL require officers to participate in any training/course, etc? This is one of the first places we start cheating ourselves and others. Prepare for the future. Is digital truly equivalent to physical for a new candidate?
- Do candidates get patents and/or presentation Bibles? You’ll need a supply on hand. What is your expected number of EA, FC, and MM?
- What other materials will Candidates receive from the Lodge, to commemorate their Initiation, Passing, and Raising, if any? Again, another number.
- What is the total cost for Lodge communication to members? I’d argue you need physical mailing, plus at least two other forms of communication (email, social media, texting, etc).
Part III: Preparing for the Worst and Other
- Always put 10% of your income into long term savings.
- Always set aside an additional 10% of your income as a buffer for a given fiscal year to cover cost overruns. Unused portions should go into long term savings.
- Assume you’ll never receive any money for degree fees.
- Assume you’ll have 30% voluntary dues compliance before the due date.
- Assume you’ll have an additional 20% within 60 days following the due date.
- Assume you’ll receive an additional 30% dues compliance with costs, 12 months late.
- Never assume more than 80% total dues compliance after any length of time.
- Always match your dues to a firmly establish economic indicator: DOW, COLA, etc., something. Increase dues constantly.
- Never, ever, ever, ever, take cash.
- Always take credit card payments - never pass on the processing fees, that’s a cost of doing business these days.
- Take ACH payments.
- Take EFT payments.
- Take checks.