Predicting the future of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

Predicting the future of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

Last weekend, I wrote an article in this DMC Newsletter about the possible effects of the pandemic on Odd Fellow Lodges and Lodge members. The future of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), of course, is hard to predict. Plus, the pandemic has “only” been with us for only six months, and has hardly run its course. Under the best of circumstances, we are in this pandemic reality for at least another six months. Under the worst scenario, it may be as much as another year before we start to emerge from this dystopian universe. And even after the coveted vaccines are approved and distributed, there may be many members of the Order (a vast number of whom are in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond) who remain reticent about meetings and social gatherings.

So this pandemic is undoubtedly a punch in the gut of fraternal orders. How will this pandemic interlude affect Odd Fellow Lodges in the short and long run?

Some Lodges are holding “virtual meetings” using zoom. Other Lodges are not meeting at all. It is quite likely that marginal members will become even less engaged, and may very well not pay their dues for 2020. Even some moderately active members may become dispirited and move into the marginal realm. Almost certainly, the pandemic will have a deleterious impact on our membership rolls. Clearly, it will be difficult for Lodges to entice new members to join. It is predictable that more Lodges than normal will show net losses in membership. Some Lodges may actually hold their own and show a steady state, and only a precious few (if any) will show net gains.

I’ve received a fair number of emails in response to my pandemic DMC Newsletter. One of the most poignant came from a member (who will remain confidential) from a Lodge that is relatively active. If this member in an active Odd Fellows Lodge is discouraged, I can only imagine how difficult it is for a member of a low-energy Lodge.

I wanted to share the member’s email with you (I have deleted the name and the Lodge identification, and have otherwise excised content which would reveal the Lodge). Here’s the email:

“Hi Dave,

I have been thinking about this same topic. Our Lodge is conducting Zoom Business Meetings. As grateful as I am to be able to “see” folks on Zoom, it does not replace the regular dinners we could enjoy together.

A big problem for me (and others I am sure) is that with so few lodges left, they are geographically further apart and members live all over the place. Even if we had any younger members who wanted to help shop for groceries for older members it would be a hard sell to tell them, “Oh, by the way, Sister Mary lives twenty miles from the lodge.” And the willing volunteer may live 10 miles in the other direction.

For some members, a big draw is the regular meals we offer, both for social reasons and for some, just getting a free balanced dinner. I fear that there is going to be a big drop off in membership in our lodge at the end of the year because most of the reasons for belonging are not there anymore. No dinners, either in lodge or in restaurants, no intra-Lodge activities, etc.

You are absolutely correct about a lot of older people being unwilling to risk dining or even meeting inside the lodge until there is an effective vaccine. We were getting some younger members from local colleges but they are not around anymore either so pretty much everything has come to a screeching halt!

My spouse and I are active people, but have had to totally rethink what we can still do with our lives.

Odd Fellows provided a nice secondary social activity for us, but not really that large a part. Consequently I have thought of dropping out, but since the dues are not a killer for us to pay, we will likely hang in there for now.

I believe that all in all, this pandemic is going to accelerate the end of the Order. In some states the membership is going to die off even sooner than expected. Maybe California and a few other states or provinces will survive and can then effect the necessary changes that should have been started years and years ago.”

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Pandemic

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Pandemic

A few days ago a relatively new member of my Odd Fellows Lodge asked me a question that struck me as pretty straightforward. The member asked: “How do you think Lodges will do after this pandemic ends?”

The question only encompassed eleven words so I was poised to answer quickly, and off-the-cuff, by saying, “Oh, I think they will be just fine.”

But I didn’t.

As I reflected on the question for a moment, it seemed to me that the expected answer may or may not be the right one. For one thing, none of us can, with certainty, predict the future. We can, however, certainly visualize alternative futures. So, yes, one alternative future is that “they will be just fine” and all Odd Fellow Lodges will come out of the pandemic kind of where they left off when they went into the pandemic. We have very few guideposts to help us frame an answer. The closest event that parallels the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is the so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920 – a century ago. Some parts of society were absolutely devastated and took years, if not decades, to come back from that 1918-1920 event. Other parts of society bounced back quickly and strongly.

I can envision at least two other alternative futures for Odd Fellowship after the pandemic winds down.

On the one hand, this pandemic may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for some IOOF Lodges where membership was already small, inactive and/or dispirited. Without the ability to use the Lodge Hall, those Lodges may be pushed over the precipice of survival. Without strong leadership and a sense of togetherness, there will be little to bind the members. They will have grown apart. Even when the pandemic “ends” there will undoubtedly be members – particularly older members – who will continue (for months and perhaps years) to socially isolate themselves for fear of infection. For those Lodges with elderly members who do not use email or cell phones or cannot manage zoom technology, the year-long distance and disruption may be a road too far to traverse. These are the Lodges that will buckle, will never quite recover, and will ultimately fade away.

On the other hand, this pandemic may be the litmus test for the strength of the Lodge. If Lodge leadership and members use the opportunity to be imaginative in how they can stay connected, how they can meet virtually, and how they can help each other and the community, the Lodge will have proven its worth, staying-power, and stamina. These are the Lodges that don’t stand still – these are the Lodges that evolve and change to fit the times. There are Lodges out there that have been “meeting” using zoom technology even in these times of social distancing. There are Lodges where the younger members have been helping the older members with grocery shopping. There are Lodge that have had members volunteering to help at food banks, at making face masks for nursing homes, at organizing blood drives, at sending email communications to members on a regular basis to keep everyone connected. These are the Lodges that are going to be resilient. These are the survivors. And they will be “just fine” after the pandemic.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

The solution for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows recruiting new members

The solution for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows recruiting new members

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Recently, a long-time and distinguished member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows sent me this message in response to one of our DMC Newsletters:

“We need a program that all Lodges should try to implement that will attract the 20 to 40 year olds. When I joined, I was in my late 30s. I was so excited to be part of my lodge and have been responsible for over 100 members joining. The lodge is getting younger members to join but not many. The bigger problem is, to get them involved and come to meeting and take offices. I have been the FS for most of my time because no one will take it over. I believe the younger folks have different mentality than us older guys. They don’t write checks. They don’t carry cash. So what can attract them?”

This member has clearly identified an existential problem for the Odd Fellows: We are slowly aging, and we are failing to bring in younger members.

A century ago, the average age of Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodges hovered in the 30’s and 40’s. I have looked at records of Lodges which showed that desk officers were often in their 20’s and Nobles Grand were typically in their 30’s. About 50 years ago, Don Smith of California became Grand Master of the Odd Fellows of California and subsequently became Sovereign Grand Master of the Odd Fellows in the United States in his 30’s. Now, in the 21st Century, we see most of the leaders of our Order – both Odd Fellows and Rebekahs – in their 70’s and 80’s.

What happened?

Well, we have had two intertwined membership problems which have been hectoring our fraternal order for the past 100 years. If we fail to recognize and address these twin problems, we fail our Order. Here are the problems: First, we have failed to bring in sufficient new members to compensate for the existing members who depart (resulting in net losses in our ranks). Second, when members do bring in a new member, they tend to bring in members in the same general age range as the sponsoring member. This second problem is the main focus of this DMC Newsletter.

Here is what has happened over the decades: A Lodge member in his/her 70’s will tend to bring in new members who are also in their 70’s. And a Lodge member in his/her 60’s will tend to bring in new members who are in their 60’s. And a Lodge member in his/her 50’s will tend to bring in new members who are in their 50’s. Not always, but that is the tendency – and that is only natural because we tend to know people who are our peers. But this tendency is a self-fulfilling prophecy which will inevitably lead to demise as our Order ages, and ages and ages. Let me hasten to add that this is not a criticism of members in their 70’s and 80’s. I, myself, am in that age-range. We need members in every age range. However, if a Lodge only brings in older members, the long-range future of that Lodge is in peril. A Lodge composed almost exclusively of members in their 70’s and 80’s ten years from now will be a Lodge composed of members in their 80’s and 90’s. And what happens ten years after that . . . .

The solution? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward. The solution to problem #1, of course, is for every member of the Order to do his/her primal duty and bring in at least ONE new member to replace that sponsoring member when he/she departs (bringing in TWO new members will result in growth of the Order). The solution to problem #2, is equally obvious: members must sponsor new members who are younger than they are – preferably a decade younger. In other words, that member in his/her 70’s should sponsor a new member who is in his/her 60’s. The member in his/her 60’s should sponsor a new member in his/her 50’s. And so on.

Slowly, over time, this Order’s membership will stabilize, will grow, and will become younger. The problems are obvious. But the solutions are also obvious, and are in our hands as Odd Fellows.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Asking to Become a Member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Asking to Become a Member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Redgie Fleeman was recently elected Grand Warden of California, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and has submitted the following article to the Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) Newsletter. An issue of concern to Brother Redgie is to keep our fraternal focus on membership. We appreciate the article and the focus, Brother Redgie.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows


It’s a cool morning in my town. I live in a town not so different from yours. Sitting at an outdoor restaurant the other day, looking at folks passing by, I see people enjoying the day. Dozens and dozens of young adults.

Everyone looks happy, eager and energetic! I ask myself, why are they not members of my Lodge! Is it as simple as asking?

Among the 60 or more people that I see, only two of them are using their phones. That’s nice to see. They are talking to each other the “old-fashioned” way, face-to-face and verbally, the way people did before cell phones took over. They all seem to enjoy the interaction, person to person.

I don’t have the answer. I only pose the question. Why is membership dropping in some Odd Fellow Lodges, while it increases in others?

Every town is different, but every town has young adults with new ideas. I imagine many young men and women are looking for an organization that is composed of congenial people, who are outgoing and like to have some good social times together – whether it’s a meal together, or a hike, or enjoying some music. I also imagine that many young people are looking for an organization that cares about the community – that helps frail seniors who need help, that cares about the environment, that works with foster kids. The attitude for wanting to help others starts at an early age. Odd Fellowship can provide the vehicle to deliver that help to others. Because, bottom line, people want a sense of belonging. They want to be part of a greater good – a group that welcomes them, that accepts them for who they are, that values their ideas and suggestions. Those Odd Fellow Lodges that have recognized these realities are Lodges that thrive and grow.

So, to answer my original question: Yes, it may very well be as simple as asking. If you don’t ask, you will never know.

In F.L.&T.

Redgie Fleeman
Grand Warden
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

200+ years of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

200+ years of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in North America is over 200 years old. Very few institutions on this continent can say that. And Odd Fellows can be rightfully proud of that fact.

For over 200 years, hundreds of thousands of Odd Fellows throughout the United States and Canada invested their time, energy, money, blood, sweat and tears building Lodge Halls, furnishing them and upgrading them, bringing friends and neighbors into Odd Fellowship, and growing our Order. There was a time in America when over 1 million Odd Fellows held meetings, marched in parades, and provided cemeteries, orphanages, hospitals, retirement communities and many other resources for members and for the community.

What have YOU done to advance the Order?

It’s a fair question, albeit blunt. And I don’t mean to offend. No one will know your answer – except for you. Are you a member who pays your dues once a year, attends some meetings, and serves in a local elected or appointed office? That’s good. I commend you.

But what have your done to ADVANCE the Independent Order of Odd Fellows?

Membership in our fraternity requires more than paying dues and going to meetings. Paying dues and attending meetings is important, but it only maintains the status quo. To ADVANCE the Order you must assist in moving your Lodge into the future. That effort involves far more than maintaining the status quo. The main thing you have to do to ensure the future of your Lodge and of Odd Fellowship is to sponsor a new member. If you have done so over the last couple of years, you can pat yourself on the back because you have done the single most important thing that an individual Odd Fellow can do for his or her Lodge. Let’s face it. Without new blood, your Lodge will inevitably wither and blow away as the last of your old-timers passes away or moves away. You will have failed your Lodge if you do not bring in new members.

So, have you brought in a new member over the last two years? If so, kudos to you. If not, why not? How hard can it be to bring in ONE new member? Don’t look to anyone else in the Lodge to do it. Yes, it’s their responsibility, too – but it’s also your responsibility. In fact, sponsoring a new member is the primal responsibility of an Odd Fellow. It’s an infinite irony to me to contemplate the reality of our shrinking Order. Think about it: If every Odd Fellows brought in just ONE new member, we would not have a membership problem.

Look at it this way: If you bring in one new member, then you have done your duty to your Lodge. That new member will replace you when you move on so you have helped the Lodge to survive and continue. Now, if you were to bring in TWO new members, then you have not only done your duty for your Lodge but you have advanced the cause of Odd Fellowship because now you have facilitated growth in the Order, not just maintenance of the status quo.

And how hard is it to bring in new members? It shouldn’t be that difficult. You can ask a relative. You can ask a friend. You can ask someone with whom you work. You can ask a member or your church, temple, or synagogue. You can ask your dentist or accountant. And, assuming you are proud of Odd Fellowship and proud of what your Lodge does, telling that prospective new member about the Order and inviting that person to join with you should also not be that difficult.

The future health and viability of your Lodge is up to YOU.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

California Odd Fellows Use Technology to Connect

California Odd Fellows Use Technology to Connect

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The pandemic has hit the Odd Fellows all in ways, big and small. One of the major changes in our lives is the necessary lock-down of our Odd Fellow Lodge Halls. That’s a pretty hard hit for a social order like IOOF. But don’t despair! Many Lodges are coming up with new and imaginative ways to “meet” through zoom technology, to continue being social, and to continue doing good things for the community. The following Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) Newsletter may provide some ideas to you in terms of what you can still do during a pandemic. Below is a copy of the “Odd Gossip Page” emailed about once a week to the members, and prospective members, of Davis Lodge #169.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California


Dear Odd Fellows,

Here’s more “Odd Gossip” for your information and reading pleasure. Remember, this page is completely dependent on YOUR input. So make sure to send “Odd Gossip” in our direction. And remember, we only publish positive and uplifting information – nothing negative.

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Update from new Odd Fellow Theresa Hindle: Theresa got her new house and is in the process of moving things in next week, Thank you to all of those who provided her boxes and extra items that are no longer needed.

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Diane and John Steele have a double happy announcement: their daughter Avery and wife Jessica have relocated from Southern California to Davis! They bring with them their 2 black cats, Hyphen and Wednesday, shelter rescue dog, Professor Figgy Pudding aka “Figgy” and their now 9-week old daughter, Story Wonderland Steele. The happy grandparents are overjoyed and promise that there will be two new pledges very soon.”

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From Bill Grabert: Bill just came back from towing a trailer of stuff down on Friday and back on Sunday…

Matt Grabert, the bunny in “Breakfast with the Bunny” since 2015, has graduated from UC Davis with a BS in Civil Engineering and has moved to Encinitas to start his career with Swinerton Renewable Energy. He missed his final turn at being the bunny this year because it was canceled unfortunately (due to COVID). There is now an opening for the 2021 bunny!

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Alex Haider-Winnett has completed his time as a chaplain at Sutter Medical Center and has started a new job leading religious education programs for two Unitarian churches in the Bay Area. His wife, Christine, has just accepted a job as a palliative care chaplain at UC Davis Medical Center. They are planning on staying in Davis but are looking to move into a larger place in Davis soon.

* * * * * * *

Our Brother Joel Mandel is recovering nicely from him knee surgery – glad to be home.

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From the “Crazy But True” Files: Our daily “Odd Trivia” column has now hit Quiz #144. That translates into 1,440 trivia questions since the “shelter-in-place” order went out. Your trivia master Dave Rosenberg asks “when will this end?” But the demand is still there. Members enjoy the daily dose of “Odd Trivia” and many send it along to friends and relatives. So, Dave says he will continue it until the day the lockdown ends and we can open the Lodge back up for members and the public!

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Here’s a message from Sheryl Cambron, Noble Grand of the Davis Rebekah Lodge regarding a Rebekah Lodge project: I delivered some donations of gloves, masks and cleaning supplies to Davis Community Meals and Barb Geisler delivered the same to Empower Yolo. We didn’t receive many donations but I would like to continue the effort since there will absolutely be a continuing need for supplies for at least the next 6 months. If you are grocery shopping, think about picking up an extra cleaner, roll of paper towels or sanitizer to donate. Or if you are ordering supplies online, please order an extra to donate. They are much needed and appreciated. (If you are ordering supplies online – you can have them delivered directly to one of the locations. Please let the recipients know to expect them.)

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And here’s a message from Diana Schmiegel, Noble Grand of the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge reminding everyone of our informal Lodge Zoom meet-ups on Thursday evenings, beginning at 6 p.m. All invited.

Topic: Odd Fellows Meet Up Aug / Sept
Aug 6, 2020 06:00 PM
Aug 13, 2020 06:00 PM
Aug 20, 2020 06:00 PM
Aug 27, 2020 06:00 PM
Sep 3, 2020 06:00 PM
Sep 10, 2020 06:00 PM
Sep 17, 2020 06:00 PM
Sep 24, 2020 06:00 PM

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Check out this link. Joseph Benton, a member of the Order, has created what he calls his “Odd Cast” (a take off on Pod Cast) which features three Odd Fellows you may know.

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/eGFqzbIuMRE

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The Odd Fellows Blood Drive (working with Vitalant) is back at the Lodge on Tuesday, September 8, beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. The Lodge may be shut down for meetings and events during the pandemic, but we can still do a our share for public service and public health with a permissible use: A blood drive. Our last blood drive was an enormous success, our goal had been 40 usable pints and we wound up with 51 usable pints. So, we are doing it again – our new goal is 65 usable pints. The Upper Hall will be open and there are 80 appointment slots (note: the slots go fast). If you are interested in donating blood, mark that date and contact the organizer, James Bledsoe, if you want more information. James can be reached at bledsoe.davisioof@gmail.com.

Here is the link in case you want to sign up to give blood and help the community:

https://donors.vitalant.org/dwp/portal/dwa/appointment/guest/timeSlotsGenExt?token=8LK7V2ggHhzM%2FcCTOv0M7JwD1qFalhQ7ZoWUpGgMo44%3D

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Here is a message from Dave Reed: This is a reminder that the COVID Relief Committee is still around and ready to help Odd Fellows. If you are a senior citizen or at risk, we are willing to purchase supplies for you. It is expected that payment will be made at the time of delivery.

Here is how you start:

1. Use request form or send me an email. The information we will need is your name, address, phone number, email address, and list of supplies needed. If you have a preferred grocery store, specify it. Typically, our volunteers will only go to one grocery store for you. If you prefer certain brands of supplies, specify. If no brand preference is given, the volunteer will use their discretion, which could include purchasing generic or store brands. If you request a prescription pickup, make sure the pharmacy has all the information they need and that the volunteer has any documentation they may need.

2. Filling your request. Our goal is to fill each request within 24 hours. When we receive a request, we will connect you with a volunteer and they will call to confirm details. If you have not heard from me or a volunteer within two hours of your request submission, feel free to follow up by email or phone call to me.

3. Delivery of supplies. The volunteer will deliver your supplies to you and will collect payment for the purchases.

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Our very efficient and organized Odd Fellows Lodge Financial Secretary Raleigh Klein reminds all members that (if you haven’t already paid your dues for 2020) they are due and payable. Contact Raleigh if you want to work out a payment plan, or if you need help paying your dues this pandemic year (all that will be handled privately and confidentially). You can pay your dues online at the Lodge website www.davislodge.org or you can mail your dues check to Raleigh at Davis Odd Fellows Lodge, 415 2nd Street, Davis CA 95616.

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And we always try to end with a little “sheltering-in-place humor”: “The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to return to a society where pants and bras are required.”

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Gossip Wrangler

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