Endowments allow a Mason to pay a single payment and become an endowed member. This is also known as lifetime, or perpetual membership. Once a Mason is an endowed member he no longer owes any further annual dues payments. Most lodges charge a multiple between 10 to 20 times their regular annual dues. This allows the members to lock in a specific dues rate and not have to pay ever larger dues in the future.
In return these endowment payments are then passed on to the Grand Lodge, who in turn invests these funds. The individual lodges then receive a certain percentage return annually based on how many endowments have been purchased. Unfortunately the same lodges also owe annual per-diem charges that the Grand Lodge charges per member during their lifetime. Most often the endowment funds that are being paid out annually do not cover the costs that the individual blue lodge is charged per member. Additionally the lodge is losing out on the funds that could help with paying taxes, rent / mortgages, utilities, repairs and improvements, and any other expenses that might occur.
What at first glance looks like a mutually beneficial idea turns out to benefit only the member and the Grand Lodge. However, the individual lodge hurts financially due to this arrangement. Depending on how many members of a particular lodge are endowed, this can lead to crippling financial distress that might even cause a lodge to close its doors permanently. This has led many lodges to ask their endowed members to help out financially by making additional donations to at least cover their annual Grand Lodge per-diem costs.
This is just a little look behind the curtain of the day-to-day operations of Masonic Lodges and their ongoing struggle to stay financially solvent in times of decreasing membership, and increasing costs.