Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Hubbard, Lea, PhD, Chairperson; Galloway, Fred J., EdD, Member; Newman, Christopher B., PhD, Member; Heisner, John R., JD, Member


fraternal organizations, membership participation, mixed methods, organizational leadership and change


Once considered the schools of democracy and cornerstones for advancing society, many of the 100,800 fraternal organizations in the U.S. have experienced a decline in participation over the past 60 years and their perceived relevance in contemporary society questioned. To date, existing literature has identified several conflicting explanations for this decline. Numerous scholars disagree as to whether external forces such as markets or the government, or internal factors such as member relations or the inability or refusal of organizational leadership to change, or the interrelatedness of these factors account for the decline. Only a few fraternal organizations have studied this issue and even fewer have made their results public. This study examines the decline in participation in fraternal organizations by employing a two-phased, modified exploratory sequential design. Using California Masonry as a representative case of fraternal organizations, twenty interviews of individuals with diverse membership status (nonmembers, former, and current) were conducted. Results from the interviews indicated that participation is influenced by several factors internal to the Masons such the extent to which individuals share a common objective, the organization’s focus on making a difference in community, the extent to which enacted and espoused values match, and how members feel valued and trusted influenced participation. External factors such as family and job commitment, and interaction with internal factors, also impacted willingness to participate in the Masons. These qualitative results contributed to the development of a new survey instrument, which was pilot tested and refined into the Participation Assessment Tool-Fraternal Organizations. Finally, conditions were set to administer the new survey to a stratified sampling of 28 of the 373 Masonic Lodges in California. This study contributes importantly to the identification of and the interrelatedness of the internal and external factors that have contributed to the decline in California Masonry. It provides important information to aid similar fraternal organizations in understanding this problem. The research also provides recommendations for interventions that can have a meaningful influence on organizational leaders’ ability to strengthen membership practices and more generally, to our understanding of fraternal organizations, organizational leadership and organizational change.


Theoretical frames uses: Resource Dependency Theory, Reverse Three Failures Theory, Mimetic Isomorphism, Bio-ecosystem Theory, Identity Theory, Invisible Leadership, Adaptive Leadership, and Theory U

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies