A Focus on Masonic Research, News, and other Tidbits

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Purpose of Grand Lodge and Lodge Web Sites

Masonic Traveler over at Freemason Information has got a pretty interesting project going on. He is going State-by-State and examining Grand Lodge web sites. He has recently examined and commented on the web site of the Grand Lodge of California and – in a comment to his postTom Accuosti has posed an interesting question about the web sites. “Are they geared toward public use, or are they geared toward existing members?”

That is a very good question that could equally be extended to lodge web sites. I know that my own lodge’s site is primarily for the benefit of the members and I would have to say that my Grand Lodge’s site leans the same way. I have seen some other Grand Lodge and lodge web sites that seem to be aimed more towards the general public.

But what should the purpose of the sites be? Should they be primarily for the membership or for the public? The answer is ultimately up to each Grand lodge and lodge, but I do think that there should be a happy balance – with the balance tilting in favor of the existing membership.

If a site is geared too much towards public consumption, it runs the risk of having the appearance of solicitation or advertising. If there is nothing there, however, for the public; then an avenue has been blocked for men in this “Google” age to inquire about Freemasonry. Besides, there are plenty of web sites that will mislead the public about Freemasonry and the Grand Lodge web sites probably should be balancing this out with some accurate information.

As for tilting towards the existing membership, I believe the primary purpose of web sites should be to provide a means for easily spreading information to the members in a cost saving way. Calendars, newsletters, research sources, and messages to the Craft are just some of the things that can be included on web sites – as long as sensitive information is not involved – and can go a long ways towards saving on the cost of postage.

Personally, I look forward to Masonic Traveler’s continued examination of Grand Lodge web sites. Once he has completed this large project, it might be interesting to rank the sites according to which way they are geared – to the public or to the membership.


47th Problem of Euclid said...

I found my lodge through a Google search. There are two lodges in my town, and only one had a website, so I visited there first. It was an old (mid-1990s) site obviously made using some web editor that no longer exists, like Netscape Composer, and the pictures were from the line from several years ago, and the brother who wrote and maintained it is no longer part of the lodge, but it had the secretary's number and an email address, and that was all I needed.
I have been asked by the incoming WM to create a new one. I know that it is preferable for a prospective member to ask a mason, but if he doesn't know that he knows a mason, he'll look for Freemasonry in the phone book or online, and these days, probably online.
If lodges want men under 40 to join, I hope they do not neglect this useful avenue of approach.

simon laplace said...

The Grand Lodge of Connecticut is considering this same question. It currently leans considerably towards being a member's site, but we don't want to neglect non-Masons. We have set up websites for every lodge, and have an extensive system to deal with membership inquiries. A quarter of men raised last year came through the process, and currently around 400 somewhere in the process. So being a "member's" site may not be so bad after all. But changing to an information site for non-Masons might be even more beneficial.

ticking said...

Why not just not have a site at all?
Or lock it down for members only that's real smart.

Jim said...

I designed and help manage our local lodge's Web site (Divver349AFM.org) and we try to gear it mostly to regional Masons, however we do provide "general public" information in our FAQ section. My goal on the initial design was primarily to provide a centralized place to present current event information for our local and surrounding districts. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

The site design (per South Carolina Grand Lodge policy) was reviewed and approved by the South Carolina Grand Lodge.