About GLoVAPortal.org

This site was created in response to a need for immediate, rapidly deployed, online services in support of the Grand Lodge of Virginia's committees, regions, districts, lodges, and members while the Grand Lodge of Virginia goes through its technology modernization process. In order to accomplish this goal, we came up with the following:

Identify 'Basic' Needs and Processes

One of the most common mistakes made when evaluating how to accomplish the goal of improving efficiency is to believe that our organization's needs are unique. This mistake is often made because the organization gets mired down in the details of what they want to accomplish.  After numerous discussions were had with a wide variety of VA Masons at various levels, we were able to abstract the 'basic' needs and processes that the various VA Masonic entities indicated they were in need of. The most commonly identified needs and processes are as follows:

  • Data collection
  • Reporting
  • Security
  • Scalability
  • Ease of use


What Could We Be Asked to Support?

Once the basic needs were identified, we sat back and asked ourselves what type of things would a Grand Lodge of Virginia committee, region, district, lodge, or member ask for.  By going through the official site of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, and a number of individual lodge sites, we identified several areas that we would most likely be asked to support. These include:

  • Philanthropy:
    • Collecting demographic information on donation reporters and donors
    • Collecting donation amounts
    • Correlating philanthropic activity with the lodges that conducted those activities
    • Reporting on philanthropic activity by donor, region, district, and lodge
    • Evaluating certificate and award criteria based on collected data.
  • Events
    • Publishing information on upcoming events
    • Online event registration
    • Sending reminders to those registered for events
    • Reporting on event registration and participation
  • Member Management
    • Tracking who has interacted with specific entity applications provided by the site
    • Communicating with GLoVA members
    • Keeping track of the various relationships GLoVA members have with supported entities, ex. Regional Blood Coordinator for, District Blood Coordinator for, Lodge Blood Chairman for, etc...
    • Ability to renew/expire those relationships as needed.
    • Allow members to update their own information without relying on an overworked Grand Lodge administrator to do it for them.
    • Membership reporting by such things as their relationship to an entity, their membership with an entity, membership expiration, and more.
  • Custom, Entity Specific, Content
    • Allow for members to post/update content within their specific domain without giving them access to everything else.
    • Allow members to register with the specific domain and that information be available only to administrators within that domain.

Although these are the primary areas of interest identified, we also understand there is a whole lot more and have implemented the most flexible solution we could find that can enable us to facilitate many more areas of interest.

Do Not Re-invent the Wheel

Many organizations and individuals feel the need to build thier own applications. Especially web applications.

There are a few advantages to this approach:

  • Flexibiliy in layout and design without the contraints of someone else's idea of how a site should look.
  • Functionality specifc to the organization.
  • Usually built on the same technology that has been in use for years and therefore familiar.
  • The feeling of accomplishment and ownership inherent with building something from scratch.
  • Code privacy. When only a few internal people know how the code was written, it can be less likely that some external entity can easily find security holes.

However, there are far more disadvantages to bulding a general web application internally:

  • When built by a few people, there becomes a reliance on those few for maintenance and for extending functionality. Using an application that is already written, and has a large community supporting it, means that the probability of a bug found and fixed, or additional functionality is added, is much higher.
  • Support. Internally developed applications require that there be someone available to address issues reported by end users. Most widely used open-source applications have extensive community support in the form of forums and optional commercial support services.
  • Risk Management, code security, and compliance. When only a few people are familiar with the code, it is up to those few people to continually review the constant flow of security bulletins and make sure the app is not susceptible to new holes. With a large user base, it is more likely that security holes will be discovered and reported.
  • Documentation.  Unless specifically required, small, internally developed apps tend to lack the type of documentation needed by those who come into the project later. Most of the most popular, and widely used, open-source applications have a number of books published on using, extending, and developing them.
  • Accountability. With internally developed apps, accountability falls completely on the internal developers whereas an application with a large user base spreads this accountability across thousands of users and provides automated mechanisms for notifying the community of reported issues. 

There are thousands of open-source applications out there that have been built to provide the kind of functionality necessary to accomplish our goals. However, a majority of those applications have limited support networks. We made a decision to forgo 'perfection' in favor of freely available support, optional commercial support, an active developer base, regularly available documentation, a long history of use, and has regular patches and security updates. With those requirements in mind, we settled on two very popular open-source applications.

For the front end we chose Drupal, http://www.drupal.org. Drupal is a free software package that allows anyone to easily publish, manage and organize a wide variety of content on a website. Hundreds of thousands of people and organizations are using Drupal to power an endless variety of sites.

For constituent management, we chose CiviCRM, http://civicrm.org. CiviCRM is a web-based, open source, Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software geared toward meeting the needs of non-profit and other civic-sector organizations. It has an extensive feature set which includes:

  • Contact management
  • Contributions
  • Communications
  • Peer-To-Peer Fundraisers
  • Advocacy Campaigns
  • Events
  • Members
  • Reports
  • Case Management


Scalable, Standardized, Accessible, and Usable

Between the two applications, we have implemented a scalable framework with extensive multi-user access control, data customization, and a flexible user interface. Use of the application's functionality is standardized. Two integrated applications, one framework to learn and use, consistent and well documented ways to interact with the application, no single person responsible for the code.

This site can also be accessed programmatically via an extensive web service interface. This is extremely important as we are endeavoring to support the Grand Lodge of Virginia. These webservices will ultimately be made available to select parties so we may share the information with those who have need of what we have.


If you, or your entity, is under the Grand Lodge of Virginia's jurisdiction and is looking to provide online services in support of the Grand Lodge's mission, or is interested in helping us out and would like to be involved with the support of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thanks for stopping by,

The team of glovaportal.org