The Knight of Pythias membership continues to shrink year after year. For our Order to sustain, we need talented innovative members who will come up with state of the art ideas. I met Allen Davis about 5 years ago at the Arizona Grand Lodge Convention. He has worked with Sir Bruce Nelson and me developing our new web site over the past year. Below he gives a brief description of multiple options for Enhancing your Lodge Meeting. I hope you may be able to use some of these suggestions. – Supreme Prelate D. Mark Mead
Enhancing Your Pythian Meetings
Times have changed. We often hear, “Back in the day, we would fill up this lodge hall.” We may never get the desired participation without changing our tools and approach. The Order needs to embrace new tools and strategies to provide you and your lodge some alternative options. The products and services mentioned are in use by members and do not constitute an endorsement by the Supreme Lodge. Please consider each idea to see which enhance your lodge communication.
We all have busy lives that can hinder our ability to attend committee meetings at the lodge hall. Members may be out of town on business, taking care of a sick child, or unable to drive safely. A conference line allows multiple people to join a conversation with a telephone. A free conference call service such as www.freeConferenceCall.com offers a long-distance phone number, a meeting code to secure meetings, and can support 1000 Knights joining a meeting. It also provides the ability to record meetings to share with members unable to attend and as an aid to creating accurate minutes. More advanced free features offer the ability to share your computer screen and host a video meeting with the phone app and website. A lodge can create as many conference lines as needed. You only need an email address to create an account.
Many lodges have members that can no longer attend the lodge meetings but still want to participate in lodge discussions and to share decades of ritual experience that is vital preserving our connection to Pythian history. The addition of a Bluetooth speakerphone allows the conference line to work for lodge hall meetings. A Pythian Brother at the lodge hall would connect their cell phone to the speakerphone and dial into the conference line phone number. The members unable to attend would dial the conference line phone number and enter the meeting code. The Pythian statutes do not allow the ritual portion of the meetings to be recorded or broadcast. Therefore, the speakerphone would have to be muted during the ritual and unmuted for the discussion. Speakerphones range in cost based on the number of people around the phone and if you need battery power. The battery-powered Jabra 510 is an excellent option for small groups. It can be placed near the Chancellor Commander and carried around if someone farther from the speaker is talking. It can also be left in a central location if the lodge has microphones and a sound system.
Targeted email Communication
We have all received group email messages that listed every person’s address. The sharing of general membership email addresses is a violation of privacy for those who request email updates but wish their email address kept private. It is also complicated to maintain member email addresses as other lodge members click “reply to all” on an older email message to save the time of selecting each person's name individually. New members then do not receive updates and emails to inactive or misspelled addresses are returned as undeliverable each time. It can also cause frustration in users who no longer want to receive officer emails when their office term ends.
An email distribution list can be created for free using Google Groups (groups.google.com) that allows recipients to remove themselves from the list. Members are only added to the group when the invitation is accepted. Users now send the email to a custom Google Group address which then delivers it to all group members without displaying the complete group email addresses. Google Groups allows any members to remove their name at any time. A lodge could create a group distribution list for the full membership, members who have not yet received the rank of Knight, people interested in information on social events, trustees, or an elected officers’ group.
Many community speakers now use fewer handouts and a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation to reduce expense and better captivate the audience. The audience sees colorful diagrams and energetic photographs from past events. It is typically viewed by connecting a laptop to a TV or projector. The presentation file can also be shared online in a video conference or emailed to any audience listening on a conference line.
Showing a presentation on a TV or projector can be as simple as plugging an HDMI cable into a laptop and TV. If you have Wi-Fi in the lodge-hall then a smart TV, Google Chromecast, or Amazon Fire Stick may offer the ability to share images from cell phones and laptops. Some TVs may also support displaying presentation slides from a USB stick.
Dues and Donations
Members are less likely to carry cash or their checkbook with each passing year as credit card use increases. The lodge can authorize the Treasurer to accept money via a credit card reader attached to a cell phone or tablet. The square reader (squareup.com) is the most popular reader not directly affiliated with a bank. This fee is small compared to the hassle of reminding members who forget cash or the cost of postage to send out membership letters to a larger unpaid group. This fee is more than offset if you can get more dues or donations compared to previous years. These services can waive the sales tax once you provide the id from your non-profit tax paperwork. The lodge could also create a free account for each bank account in cases where bingo or cemetery funds are kept separately from general funds.
Photo and File Submissions
It is common for a volunteer photographer to find pictures blurry, a mouth open, or a blinking eye. We can ask for photo submissions only to have a dozen emails with a few images each. There are cloud services like Dropbox (www.DropBox.com) that offer small storage for free and options like "File Requests" where anyone with the invitation link can submit pictures without seeing the rest of your files. These additional photos will give you more variety and a better chance of quality photos. Officers download the provided images to free the online storage space for submissions from the next event. The additional content will make newsletters, presentations, social media posts, and Pythian International submissions better.
Spelling and Grammar Assistance
Some people are natural writers, while the rest of us need help to make professionally worded presentations, member letters, and other documents sound. Grammarly (www.grammarly.com) has a free basic online service that makes professional grammar suggestions comparable if not superior to Microsoft Word. The more advanced features require a monthly subscription. I use both Microsoft Word and Grammarly suggestions to improve my writing.
Social Media Presence
Many people use online services like Facebook and Pinterest to share family events and activities. I have even heard people state that something did not happen if pictures were not posted online as proof. Show your community and your members that your lodge is active. Post reminders before each meeting, social event, and community service action. Post-follow-up posts with event details and pictures. We all love to see happy knights making a difference. Make sure to proof your spelling and grammar with a tool or a skilled Knight. Some online services like Facebook and Evite (evite.com) also offer the ability to invite others and RSVP for events.
The Supreme Lodge website www.Pythias.org will be adding articles that go into more details on these points. Please let us know if these ideas have bettered your lodge and if you have any tips to share. Don’t hesitate to reach out with your suggestions, questions, or plans. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Social Media Chair
Grand Lodge of Arizona