Odd Fellowship has been in North America for 200 years. During the first century of its existence, Odd Fellowship exploded across the length and breadth of the continent. Lodges formed in cities and hamlets in virtually every state and province. Members joined in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and Lodge Halls were built. At one time, IOOF became the largest fraternal order in North America. But in the second century of its existence in North America, the burgeoning growth slowed and in many places, stopped completely. Following the war years of World War I and World War II, Odd Fellowship saw brief surges in membership as soldiers and sailors returned from their duty – but generally, our fraternal order moved into a period of decline where our membership numbers dropped and Lodges lost their charters or faded into the fog of consolidation.
Here is a simple truth: While it is very important to retain existing members, a fraternal order cannot long exist if it does not bring in new members. The human life span may last a century, but fraternal orders can continue for many centuries if current members bring in the next generation of members. Without that next generation, the Lodge will lack sufficient members to function and the order will founder. The landscape of North America is littered with the bones of dozens and dozens of other fraternal orders that sprang up, existed, flourished, and then expired.
DMC was founded in response to this trend, and to offer real-world proposals to reverse the declines in membership. When DMC first started, we were often criticized for our efforts to highlight the decline. But, you can’t offer solutions if you don’t articulate and understand the problem. So, DMC never hesitated to articulate the problem, and never faltered in offering solutions. We continue to do so, and we are seeing bright lights emerging from several Lodges that are actually showing increases in membership – and not just one-year wonders, but consistent net increases in membership. These Lodges prove that (1) Odd Fellowship (and fraternities in general) are still relevant in the 21st Century, and (2) Lodges that want to grow, can do so, if they follow best practices in achieving membership growth.
So, to continue DMC’s focus on increasing membership, this particular article is dedicated to the first and most basic unit of membership growth. That unit is not Sovereign Grand Lodge. That unit is not Grand Lodge. That unit is not the Lodge. That unit is YOU. As a member of your fraternal order, the survival and strength of your Lodge (and your order) is completely dependent on YOU, and each member of your Lodge. It is rare for potential new members to simply show up on the Lodge doorstep one day, or to write to your Lodge out of the blue, asking to join. Rather, it is up to YOU (and each of us) to be responsible for bringing in new blood to the Lodge. So, this article is dedicated to giving YOU the three tips you need to bring in a new member to your Lodge. Here we go:
- Prepare. Some folks think that Step One is asking people to join the Lodge. But asking people to join is really Step Three in the process. One must PREPARE or the “ask” will go nowhere. How does a Lodge prepare? Without a shadow of a doubt, the best way for a 21st Century Lodge to grow its membership is for a Lodge to be visible and active in the community, and for a Lodge to offer social amenities for its members. So, you and your Lodge brothers and sisters can exponentially increase your membership if you ratchet up the community involvement and the social activities of your Lodge. Investing in these two things will pay great dividends in membership development.
- Know. You have to KNOW your subject. If you want to talk to folks about joining a Lodge of Odd Fellows, you have to know something about your Lodge and about Odd Fellows. And you have to be proud and enthusiastic about those subjects. If your Lodge has an active program of community service and an active social calendar, then frankly, your job of recruitment is relatively easy. On the other hand, if your Lodge is inactive or boring, or if your Lodge Hall is dingy, dirty and disheveled then your job will be much, much harder. A Lodge where members do little more than sit in a room and read passages from a little red book has no attraction to young men and women in 2021.
- Ask. It’s a simple axiom that if you don’t ASK, you don’t know. After preparation, the next step is to simply ask the person if they might be interested in joining your Lodge. Who should you ask? Feel free to ask people that you know. This could be your spouse or significant other, your relatives, or the people with whom you work. But don’t be afraid to ask people you just met. There are many times that I have engaged in casual conversation with folks I have just met at a coffee shop, or while waiting in line at an event. You may be pleasantly surprised at their interest. Many people are honored just to be asked. And if they are interested, answer their questions, invite them to visit the Lodge Hall, show them around, introduce them to members of your Lodge, help them fill out the application form, be the person’s sponsor, and help them move toward initiation.
So, there you have it in a nutshell. Now go out into the world and see what you can accomplish. Simply put, if every member of the Order brought in just one new member, we would not have a membership problem.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...
Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...
When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...