Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Updated: July 26, 2021

​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code…

It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus (“The Clampers” – 10 times bigger than us), The Shriners (look at their funny hats and tiny scooters in parades – 7 times bigger than us), the Freemasons (41 times bigger than us, like to still display a vast array of mysterious symbols).

Why would it be, then, that our group, the smallest of these four, insists upon taking things more seriously than other groups much larger? And how does taking things too seriously attract new members?

Anyone who has served as a statewide appointive or elective officer has encountered many lodges in their journeys. Those of us lucky enough to have done so certainly have encountered a varied selection of members, meetings, and Odd Fellow events.

What surprised me in my own journeys was the almost stupefying belligerence, and outward critical nature some members seem to have. Of course, there are many wonderful members, always congenial, outgoing, and happy to see new faces. But there are some who seem to resent anyone and sometimes everyone.

If we are serious about wanting to encourage growth, we need to lose this type of outward resentment many of us have. Clearly, there are a myriad of reasons for resentment in life, but really there should be no logical reason for resentment in lodge. And yet, it seems like at almost every IOOF event and lodge there is someone really upset about something. We need to give serious thought about how best to approach our fellow members without causing friction. A few pointers might help.

  1. Our individual mandate is not to police the order. Too many times, I have seen people belittle others because perhaps one party is poorer than the other, or they feel they are less fitting to be a member. But this is not the case, and it is not our job to get rid of people, or even to pass judgment. Friendship, Love, and Truth, remember?
  2. Lodges often become hotbeds of gossip. But this does nothing but cause animosity among those attending. Nothing constructive comes from animosity.
  3. Longstanding members tend to air grievances publicly, and talk about their take on our code, rituals, and by-laws as if they are the only ones able to interpret them. These documents are merely guidelines and not meant as bludgeons with which to wield punishment.
  4. Nothing really is required of a member. Many members like to guilt trip other members into attending events, often because otherwise the events may be ill-attended. We are all volunteers in a fraternal group. We should seek nothing but our own happiness. If something we do seems like just a boring chore, eventually we will stop doing it. It is inevitable.
  5. Have fun. That should seem like a no-brainer, but many of us have forgotten how to do so. If you are unhappy within your lodge, ask yourself what would make you happy? Others may be happy to join you in whatever idea you may have.
  6. Young people have new ideas. This does not mean that the young are crazy. Being elderly does not make us better. All members should be treated equally.
  7. Try something new. Just because an event has been held since the landing of the Mayflower does not mean that it should continue ad infinitum. If attendance is waning, perhaps it’s time for a new event.

Shake things up but be happy. There is no need for unhappiness in a lodge. If you are unhappy, help make changes. This order can survive if we just remember that we are here mainly for our own enjoyment.

In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Updated: July 26, 2021​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code… It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus...

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Updated: July 22, 2021​ Today's DMC Newsletter could be entitled "Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge." I'm going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge - my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can...

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

Updated: July 7, 2021​In 2014 our Odd Fellows Lodge launched the Davis Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival, offering classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood, twice each year. Due to the pandemic, we had a one-year hiatus. But now, we're BACK! The 14th Odd Fellows...

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Updated: July 22, 2021

Today’s DMC Newsletter could be entitled “Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge.”

I’m going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge – my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can rightfully say we are a “healthy” Lodge. We have over 320 members, making us the largest Odd Fellows Lodge in California in terms of number of members – and to my knowledge, we may very well be the largest Lodge in North America, and perhaps the world. But, of course, the quantity of our membership alone doesn’t make for a healthy Lodge – but the quality of our membership experience is strong and vibrant.

It wasn’t always that way. When I first joined the Davis Lodge in 2004, we had less than 30 members on the books of the Lodge – similar to the vast majority of Lodges in this jurisdiction and elsewhere. And the Lodge in 2004 didn’t really do much for the members or for the community. How in the world did we increase our membership over ten-fold in that time period? The answer is that we followed a methodology that I first laid out for the Lodge when I became Noble Grand of the Davis Lodge in 2005. It has resulted in a net gain in our membership every single year since 2005 and a healthy, enthusiastic and thriving Lodge for our community. Perhaps we’ll call it “the Davis Method” – but whatever you call it, it works. Other Lodges in California have tried it to great success. Here, simplified, are the three components that have enabled us to be healthy:

1. Focus on Membership. Human beings can live for 100 years. Fraternal Orders can live for centuries. But the only way that a Lodge can be sustained beyond the current generation is to focus on membership and to bring in members of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic categories. Bringing in new members is vital if a Lodge (or a fraternal order) is to survive beyond the current generation.

Too many Lodges have simply failed to keep pace. And the membership just gets older and older. A Lodge is in trouble where the average age of members is 70 or more.

Recently, I asked our Lodge’s Financial Secretary Raleigh Klein to give me a breakdown of the ages of our 322 members. Most of the current leaders of the Lodge are in their 60’s and 70’s. The results showed that the average age of our Lodge membership is 59. Drilling down, we found that 79 of our members were in their 50’s – that’s significant because that’s the next generation of leadership for our Lodge. Drilling down even further, we found that 67 of our members were in their 40’s, 30’s, 20’s or teens – that’s perhaps even more significant because that’s the upcoming generation of leadership.

Our Lodge is healthy because we represent the spectrum of ages.

It’s important to have a strong Membership Committee, but frankly, membership is the responsibility of each and every member of the Lodge. And we don’t make it easy for our applicants for membership. We call the applicants “Pledges” and we require that they go through a process of reading about the Order and our Lodge, taking a test, attending events at the Lodge, and interviewing members of the Lodge. Through the process they are initiated with much more knowledge of who we are, and they are enthusiastic about membership.

2. Focus on Committees. No one wants to join a boring Lodge. Lodges need to be active to attract and to maintain membership. The Davis Lodge displays good health in this area because we have 57 Lodge Committees. Our committees run the gamut of administrative committees (such as the Visiting Committee, Bylaws Committee, Finance Committee, and the like), Lodge social committees (such as our weekly Club Night Committee, the OddtoberFest Committee, the Hiking Committee, the Cigar Lounge Committee, the Knitting Committee, and the like), and community-serving committees (such as Breakfast with Santa, Thursday Live! music at the Lodge, Classic Film Festival Committee, the Davis Chocolate Festival Committee, and the like).

Our Lodge has very high visibility in the community and because of that. potential members come to us to explore joining the Lodge.

In our Lodge, when members come to leadership with ideas for new endeavors, we don’t automatically say “no” – we explore the idea and in virtually every cases, we wind up saying “yes” – we form a committee, get volunteers and make it happen. Most of our committees started with an idea. Recently, for example, it was suggested that we form a “Zombie Bike Ride” committee. We did it, and it was a resounding success. At Halloween, we had over 1,000 Lodge and community members (including families) on their bicycles, in costumes, dressed like zombies. We also raised funds and paid for six specially built tricycles for disabled children that we donated to families. A few days ago, one of our members (who is a teacher and sketch artist) suggested that we host a “self-portrait art show”. There was a lot of enthusiasm for this simple project and it’s off and running. And what a great idea to get “reacquainted” after the pandemic lock-down and social distancing.

3. Focus on the Social Aspects. Lodges must follow the ritual – we are. after all, a fraternal order. But Lodges that only have formal meetings where members sit around in a darkened room reading from a little red book, are one dimensional Lodges. Of course, we have to have a formal meeting once a month with full ritual and regalia. But it’s OK to have social meetings, and it’s OK to open the doors and windows of the Lodge to the community, and it’s OK to have social events for the members, members’ families, and the community at large. Don’t forget – when Odd Fellowship first started centuries ago, the members gathered in pubs to enjoy each other’s company, drink and eat, tell stories and just have a good time. Let’s not forget the social aspect of our fraternal life.

In the Davis Lodge (when we’re not locked down in a pandemic), there is something happening at the Lodge most days of every month. For example, we have a weekly “Club Night at the Lodge” which is an informal social gathering of members and applicants. The bar is open, dinner is available, and we play trivia with a trivia master. One of our members plays a baby grand piano in the background and the big-screen television is on with sporting events. It’s a regular feature every Thursday evening and typically 50 folks stop by to enjoy the social time. Other activities include monthly Bingo for the members and community, monthly music venues for members and the community, and a monthly Saturday morning breakfast meeting, among other gatherings.

All in all, the Davis Lodge is alive, well and healthy. I mention all this because there may be some kernels of truth which may be of benefit to your Lodge.

F – L – T

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

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Updated: July 26, 2021​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code… It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus...

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Updated: July 22, 2021​ Today's DMC Newsletter could be entitled "Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge." I'm going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge - my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can...

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

Updated: July 7, 2021​In 2014 our Odd Fellows Lodge launched the Davis Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival, offering classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood, twice each year. Due to the pandemic, we had a one-year hiatus. But now, we're BACK! The 14th Odd Fellows...

Necessary adjustments in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of California

Necessary adjustments in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of California

Updated: July 2, 2021

Peter Sellars is a long-time leader of this Order. He is a Past Grand Master of the Jurisdiction of California, and a current member of the Grand Lodge Board of Directors of California, as well as one of our two elected Grand Lodge Representatives to the Sovereign Grand Lodge. He is a leader of the Lodges in San Francisco, and is well-recognized in the Bay Area and the State for his in-depth knowledge of IOOF, the rules and the ritual. He has written several excellent books about Odd Fellowship. He is a founding member of “Dedicated Members for Change.”

In short, Brother Peter has been around the Odd Fellows’ block. In this article, he presents a viewpoint that will help this Order survive and flourish into the next century.

F – L – T

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

By Peter Sellars, Past Grand Master

California leads the way for progressive Odd Fellowship! We look at the numbers and must investigate the reason behind this larger jurisdiction. Surely, it has to do with the more liberal interpretation of our codes and rituals.

Too many jurisdictions live by the strict rule and letter of the law per se. We find those strict jurisdictions struggling to entice new applicants and in keeping the members they have found. Too many of these other jurisdictions don’t incorporate the ideas and suggestions of their newer members, so that adjustments can be made to help the Order fit the community in which it resides. This doesn’t mean changing everything we know as our traditions. It means adjusting events to fit the community around us, so we – as an organization – fit in. This concept seems rather difficult for some members to accept.

We know that most jurisdictions based on geographical locations across the country and around the world whose demographics are different than California, won’t need to adjust.

However, In many of our larger and more fluid and more diverse areas, we have made adjustments and continue to blend with our populace. We find what is effective within our ritual and code to make it work.

Continual applicants are sought as we seek to maintain our existence. There has been a steep decline for too long and we must share the methods of acceptance we use in California with other jurisdictions. For example, using one demographic, in San Francisco we participate in all of our city’s parades. We walk and display our banner in the Pride Parade, Chinese New Year Parade, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Pistahan (Filipino) Parade, etc. Because our membership is made up of all these peoples, we embrace each celebration. We fit in our particular community.

Biases and racist attitudes had hurt this Order for a long time, including California. We seem to be making acceptance regular and it has benefited several lodges.

The state leadership has also embraced this improvements to the Order and are aware of the need to reach out to everyone in our ever-changing world. We now seek to expand our successes to other jurisdictions.

We must spread the word and be universal in practicing Friendship, Love, and Truth. We must truly embrace each other as brothers and sisters!

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Updated: July 26, 2021​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code… It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus...

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Updated: July 22, 2021​ Today's DMC Newsletter could be entitled "Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge." I'm going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge - my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can...

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

Updated: July 7, 2021​In 2014 our Odd Fellows Lodge launched the Davis Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival, offering classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood, twice each year. Due to the pandemic, we had a one-year hiatus. But now, we're BACK! The 14th Odd Fellows...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Odd Fellows: Returning to a sense of belonging

Odd Fellows: Returning to a sense of belonging

Updated: June 27, 2021

California Odd Fellows Past Grand Master Rick Boyles is a gifted writer and one of the founders of DMC.   He has written many columns for this newsletter. There are times when Brother Rick’s writings inspire, provoke, and disturb. And that’s perfectly fine. At a minimum, Rick takes us out of our personal comfort zones, and causes us to think.

Why did we join Odd Fellows in the first place?

Why have we continued to be Odd Fellows?

What have we accomplished as Odd Fellows?

Here is a thought-provoking article for your reading pleasure.   

F – L – T

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

An Onion to a Beggar

An Onion to a Beggar” is a religious parable originally used in the classic work “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. But it has been reused again and again, both in later prose, and real life. It means that if someone can give an onion, unaltered, to a poor person, the giver may indeed go to Heaven, or, conversely, if the onion is damaged, or otherwise inedible, the giver goes to Hell.

Of course, it is more complex than that, because the book is devoted to that subject, but you get the idea. Before you say, well, hey, this was a darned Russian, while that is true, Russia, at that time, in the 1870’s to 1890’s was full of Christians, guided by the Russian Orthodox Church. Dostoevsky was devoutly Roman Catholic. This phrase has been used in American works as well. The point of this discourse is something that has been haunting my mind for years.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), in a historical context, have been known, or reputed to be, charitable, but are we really? We are at a critical juncture both within and outside the order. Due to the pandemic, many of us are communicating remotely, while millions are wondering about their own future once our country reopens. The news is full of these issues. Millions are facing eviction, and enduring hunger, and other embarrassments they have never encountered before. Some of us have been lucky, either to be still employed or in a fixed retirement state, however, we probably have all seen those needier than us. We should each do something to ease someone’s pain. If anything, it at least corresponds to our historical narratives.

IOOF membership in California really heated up during the California Gold Rush in the 1840’s. Many people were in need. The illusion of the rush for gold in California is that many got rich. The opposite is true. Some got rich, certainly, but most spent years in futility, hoping for wealth. Many of the rich were the shopkeepers and saloon owners in suddenly exploding towns becoming refuges for those tired from their search for wealth. Similarly, lodges, such as the Odd Fellows, Masons, and other groups became full of people who were both tired and low spirited. Local leaders of the fraternal groups were often town mayors, sheriffs, and other local dignitaries. Why did so many become members at that time? It clearly was not due to a ritual, or other fraternal characteristic, it was entirely due to need – the need for nourishment, for safety, and a sense of belonging.

This is what we need to return to.

Of course, we can’t afford to personally house the homeless, or pay the rents of those closing upon eviction, but we can help ease their pain. The counts of the homeless in California throughout the state are exploding. We can each do something, anything, to help. This is not a political stance, or a social issue, so much as it is a human issue. We must see each human as an integral part of our society and their need should be somehow aligned within our own view of the world. We can certainly afford a symbolic onion to a beggar. If your lodge is reopening, invite at least one needy person to your dinner, or something else that says you care. The homeless and the needy are now not only in homeless encampments, but many also now walk our streets in almost silent desperation. Those reading this have by most counts survived the pandemic, now we must seek to help those who have been harmed by it and help pave our own way to a better future.

In F., L., & T.,

Rick Boyles
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Laughter is not against the Code of the Odd Fellows

Updated: July 26, 2021​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code… It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus...

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge

Updated: July 22, 2021​ Today's DMC Newsletter could be entitled "Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge." I'm going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge - my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can...

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

The Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival Returns

Updated: July 7, 2021​In 2014 our Odd Fellows Lodge launched the Davis Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival, offering classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood, twice each year. Due to the pandemic, we had a one-year hiatus. But now, we're BACK! The 14th Odd Fellows...

Why are some Odd Fellows Lodges Growing?

Why are some Odd Fellows Lodges Growing?

Updated: June 21, 2021

Why are some of our Odd Fellows Lodges growing in membership while other Lodges are shrinking?

This is, to be brutally frank, an existential question for Odd Fellowship: a question which goes to the very core of our fraternal order’s existence. Can we survive? Yes, we can. Will we survive? That remains to be seen.

The Age of Odd Fellows

The vast majority of our Odd Fellows and Rebekah members are over the age of 65. Many of our members are over the age of 75. Clearly, there are Lodges that have essentially skipped an entire generation of potential members, sometimes two generations. Where are the members in their 50’s and 40’s, let alone their 30’s and 20’s? And when the over-65 generation of members resign, move away, or pass away – who will take their places to continue our Order?

Recently, I was given the job of Membership Chair for the Jurisdiction of California – the largest jurisdiction in North America. I welcome the assignment and the challenge. The first thing I did was to analyze the statistics. I looked at the numbers of members in each of our Lodges as they existed on December 31, 2019, and compared them to the numbers of members on December 31, 2020. Overall, our jurisdiction showed an unfortunate net loss in that year. But I didn’t stop there. I looked at each Lodge and found that 57 of our Lodges reported a net loss of members, 31 Lodges were static (no net gain nor net loss), and just 25 showed a net gain of members. Granted, this is just a one-year snapshot, and it’s on top of a pandemic year, to boot. But if this were to continue as a trend, it points to a dismal future for our fraternity. And I am confident that there are many other jurisdictions in North America in similar, if not more dire, straits.

But there is a small, but important, silver lining in the statistics. While the overwhelming majority of our Lodges are showing net losses (or are in a steady state), there are a few Lodges (25 to be precise) that showed net gains, notwithstanding the pandemic year. And as I drilled down those statistics over the past several years, I found an even smaller number of Lodges that were not just “one-hit one-year wonders” – they showed net gains for many years, year after year. Based on that, I have checked in with the leaders of some of those growing Lodges to find out what they are doing which not only retains members, but also brings in new members – and I would like to share with you what I have learned. Make no mistake: this is important. Because if we can “bottle” what these growing Lodges are accomplishing, we can bring hope to the Lodges that are static, or which might be on the downward slide.

Highly Successful Off Fellows Lodges

So, here is what I learned from five remarkably successful Lodges. My intent here is not to toot their horns, but rather to share what they have done so that other Lodges might find helpful hints to future achievement. I have re-printed, in their own words, what these Lodge leaders have told me. Here we go:

1. Oceanview Lodge #143

We went to one business meeting and one social meeting a month which livened things up and increased attendance and participation

Each meeting begins with a pot luck meal with the Lodge providing the meat or anchor dish(es) and members bring sides, salads or desserts – a true “Pot-luck” are there is no coordination or assignments.

We are open to suggestions which have led to some wonderful one time experiences and also some events which have become annual.

One timers: attending a baseball game, riding the train to John Steinbeck National Center in Salinas, Cruising the Bay on the FDR’s Presidential Yacht Potomac etc.

Repeaters: Women’s Clothing Swap a roping St. Valentine’s Day, History walk in Odd Fellows Cemetery near Halloween, Cowboy Christmas Banquet and Auction, Music concerts, Film series, Lecture Series,

Sprucing up the Lodge has always been a priority, it inspires volunteerism, pride in our place and has made immense improvements over time.

Reaching out and supporting other groups has establish us as an appreciated, consistent and viable organization in our community; Boys and Girls Club, Adopt-A-Family Christmas program, Square Peg (horses as therapy), Local Farmers’ Market, HEAL Project (kids growing food), Second Harvest food distribution, CORA (women’s shelter), High School Literary Club, Continuation School farm to table program, etc.
We always march in the Fourth of July parade and have won many ribbons.

We have always done our own Initiations and use as many members in the cast as possible. It is not only a cherished rite but fun and welcoming and we always have a welcoming dinner on that evening. Participation is empowering and expands a member’s sense of belonging.

One member suggested a morning coffee meeting just to be social and BS. This has become a regular thing and is coming out of its Pandemic hiatus. This has been an easy place (since one of our tenants is a Coffee House) to invite prospective members to meet some of us informally…

2. Franco-American Lodge #207

Our membership increase is mainly due to having more fun times with the members. It was a trip to Seattle that attracted more members. Then a trip to Louisiana brought in more members. Nashville is on our plans for 2022.

The second BIGGER DEAL was the video initiation process. The previous three day training was a “deal killer” for new young members. Too big a time commitment.

Nice monthly dinners at our social meeting has made it easy to find directors for our board of directors meeting. The fact that we are very good friends and we have fun at our meeting helps to retain board of directors. We almost always vote unanimously for decisions (except next month’s dinner). Two years ago we added in $300 annual Collegiate scholarships for members and their kids. Finally we like speaking French and we enjoy our ritual. It was pretty simple. Inform friends of the member benefits and they join.

3. Oceanside Lodge #346

Make the Lodge usable and inviting
Hold a “give your lodge some love day”

Pick a small area, room, or task to clean, paint and/organize. Throw unnecessary stuff away.

Hold on a Saturday morning

Bring coffee, bagels or donuts

Create a social area for members to use before meetings

We turned an office into a social room with pool table and tv. Members now come well before the meeting and stay long after to socialize and plan events.

Get the Internet!

HAVE A LODGE THAT IS ACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY

Participate in local events – we participate in the annual Oceanside 4th of July parade and events at our harbor.

Have a party and invite leaders of other local organizations.

Partner with other organizations in your community. We regularly partner with a local Moose Lodge for friendly competition. Each lodge commits a sum of money and it is donated to a local charity of the winning lodge’s choice. We have had competitions in bowling, pool, and golf. We plan to have a softball game. We will make these annual or at least regular events.

Support Local Charities. We have partnered with Moose and Elk Lodges holding food and clothing drives to benefit a local charity. The leader of that Charity has joined and is an active member of our lodge. We are planning a poker tournament to benefit this charity.

DON’T RUN MEETINGS THAT SUCK

If your meetings are filled with bickering over how to do rituals – you are doing them wrong – plain and simple. Meetings are the reason for our decline. If you cannot retain members it is because of your meetings. Be honest. If you do not believe me then reach out to some of the people that quit.

Formal Meetings that simply contain reading ritual from the red books, members bickering or correcting each other over the ritual and last more than 45 minutes are awful and killing your lodge. Remarkably the fix is easy.

First, have only one formal meeting per month. If this meeting lasts more than 45 minutes and contains bickering, majority of focus on ritual, and/or has no items that relate to community involvement or being social then you are doing it wrong.

Second, if you are not having a social meeting each month then you are doing it wrong.

Third, how you run the meeting is crucial.

  • Have an agenda. 
  • Email the agenda to your member before the meeting.
  • Ask members for agenda items – especially new business – It’s new business NOT surprise business. 
  • Have committee members provide updates to include in the agenda. 
  • We have included draft motions in the agenda – so there are no surprises
  • Stick to the agenda during the meeting
  • Follow Rosenberg’s Rules of Order. Learn them. Print out and hand them out to members. Use them in the meeting

Having an agenda, sticking to the agenda and following Rosenberg’s Rules of Order will cause your meetings to last 30-45 minutes. It will also allow more time for socializing which will improve the overall health and wellbeing of your Lodge.

4. Yerba Buena Lodge #15

Our lodge, Yerba Buena Lodge No. 15, kept its composure throughout this recent pandemic by doing what it needed. Our membership did not falter; however, this was due to several fortunate circumstances. Our Odd Fellows Building never closed its doors, as our many tenants required continuous access. Our officers came regularly to maintain the paperwork and send dues notices and collect and deposit the dues received. Our newsletter staff saw the success in sending our tangible newsletters on a periodical basis. Members were always informed. A key to our maintaining the interest in our lodge was having our event committee, led by brother “Stark” Dagesse, still plan our monthly outings and list them in the newsletter and online; if by chance the venue was open, the event could still take place. As things reopen, our events are already in place. We do not have to work up plan or wait for someone else to say, it’s time to do x, y, & z. We opened the sign-up sheet for our members to attend our annual weekend outing (to the gold country) for September and in 48 hours, 60 members signed up! Like most of the other lodges and organizations and everybody else, we held zoom meetings; but we also started holding hybrid meetings early this year, where members who felt safe could attend in-person meetings and those still concerned with COVID risks could attend by zoom. For some, the whole point of belonging to a fraternal group like the Odd Fellows is to physically interact and socialize, which our Noble Grand, David McLaughlin, who recently assumed his duties in January, realized. One of David’s projects in January was to distribute free face coverings to the public in front of the Odd Fellows Building. This was an opportunity for the lodge members to meet and participate in an activity unique to the moment. Members who normally stayed involved, kept up their involvement. As mentioned, the officers came to the building and did their work. Those who attended Grand Lodge session, all 17 of us, still participated this May by zoom. Those who worked on legislation still drafted several pieces of legislation for the jurisdiction, not only for our lodge members, but for others. We shared with the legislation with several lodges with the most representatives to ensure these were properly written and benefited the lodges first. Yerba Buena members kept the energy alive,. And, what would we be without our infamous social media page – Facebook? We have always been “entertaining” and progressive enough to stir the audience and to create reactive responses by speaking our minds. Our members know we do not censure anyone on our page,. We allow open opinion and dialogue. Most of the time members check in to see what activities we are having. We faired better than many lodges, because we were fortunate and we have enough members with diverse opinions who were willing to continue their activities. Being just edgy enough worked well during this pandemic.

5. Davis Lodge #169

Our Lodge has shown a net gain in members every year for the last fifteen straight years. We started fifteen years ago with less than 30 members, and now have over 300 members. We have done this with a simple formula that does the following:

  1. Our Lodge is open to men and women without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender or orientation. We particularly encourage husbands and wives and couples to join. We are almost equally divided – men to women.
  2. We emphasize social meetings. Every month we have two meetings. One meeting is a formal meeting, normally with ritual, passwords and signs. The other meeting is a social meeting where we hear reports from our committees and have a good time together in the Lodge. Our social meeting takes place on the Second Saturday of each month and is a breakfast meeting. This has proven very popular with members, and is also a good place for potential new members. Even at our formal meeting we have a social hour just prior to the meeting with snacks and drinks. Members want to socialize and we facilitate that.
  3. We have over 50 Lodge committees. If members have an interest, we encourage them to form a committee and enjoy their interest. For example, we have a committee that likes to go on hikes, another committee that likes to do needlework, another committee that enjoys fine cigars, yet another committee of members who enjoy golfing. These committees have no budgets, they just enjoy the social time. We don’t say “no” when members suggest a committee – we say “how can we help”.
  4. We are actively involved in the community in a myriad of community support functions. For example, we have a Breakfast with Santa Committee where we provide breakfast and quality time with Santa to hundreds of children – funds raised from this committee go to support foster children and foster youth in the community. We have a Zombie Bike Ride Committee where community members dress up like zombies and ride their bikes along a bike loop – our last such event attracted over 1,000 community members of all ages. Funds raised from this event were used to build special tricycles for disabled children. We have a Taste of Davis Committee which features local restaurants, breweries and wineries. Community members enjoy sampling their wares, and funds raised from this event go to support the local food bank and meals on wheels.
  5. We provide a vehicle through our 501 (c) (3) entities to give scholarships to local high school graduates. When a local female police officer was shot and killed, we set up a scholarship in her name and have handed out three to five $1,000 scholarships every year. The fund now has over $100,000 and is self-sustaining. When a popular local newspaper columnist recently hit the 50-year mark, we set up a scholarship fund to provide $1,000 scholarships to high school grads who wish to go into journalism. Again, sufficient funds were raised to make the fund self-sufficient. And through a generous corporate contribution, our Lodge has provided scholarships of up to $10,000 to excellent students who are also former foster children or orphans. These charitable endeavors go a long way to providing membership satisfaction.
  6. We rent out our Lodge Hall to community groups, and often provide the hall without charge for certain charitable groups. This creates high visibility of and good feelings about Odd Fellowship in our community. Our various Lodge Committees organize events every month that are for both the members AND the community. For example, once every month, we support local musicians and do live music at the Lodge, open to the town. We also do monthly Bingo for the community – each Bingo event provides money to Bingo winners, but also provides the proceeds to a community group. We have a classic film festival twice each year at the Lodge (using our big-screen television) which has proven very popular with the Davis community – the film festival is hosted by a local movie critic. We put on an annual “Davis Chocolate Festival” for the town – who doesn’t like chocolate?
  7. When members wish to sponsor potential new members into our Lodge, we have created a “Pledge” process where the potential new members have to go through a process to learn about the Lodge and Odd Fellowship, and get to meet and interview members, before they can be initiated. We don’t make it easy, but we make it attainable and valuable for those applicants who make it through. They become more knowledgeable and invested members.
  8. In addition to our meetings, one of our most successful events is “Club Night at the Lodge”. Every week, on Thursdays, the Lodge is open for members and their guests to just come and relax. Dinner is available at $10 per person, our full bar is open, there is live music, there are jigsaw puzzles on the table, we play trivia with prizes for the winning tables, and there is lots of time to socialize. It’s a winning formula.

So, there you have it. Five Odd Fellows Lodges that have successfully increased their membership year after year, and have grown. Hopefully, there have been some helpful hints for YOUR Lodge to consider.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Odd Fellows of California

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Updated: July 26, 2021​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code… It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus...

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Updated: July 22, 2021​ Today's DMC Newsletter could be entitled "Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge." I'm going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge - my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can...

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New (and old) ideas for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

New (and old) ideas for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Updated: May 24, 2021

​A few weeks ago, a long-time, quite traditional member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) told me, “I like new ideas.”

I think it was his way of saying that he is open to suggestions made by me and the Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) which, to many, are perceived as “new ideas”.

I took it as a compliment. But, frankly, I must say that the “new ideas” espoused by DMC are really “old ideas”.

DMC is, as you know, all about increasing membership in the IOOF. We simply can’t continue to lose Odd Fellows at the rate we’ve been declining for the past 60-plus years. But DMC wants the Odd Fellows to move into the future with a clear understanding and appreciation of our past. The “new ideas” are no more, nor less, than a re-dedication to what made Odd Fellowship the premier organization in the United States over a Century ago.

Let me explain what I mean.

There was a time in America when Odd Fellowship was the largest and most vibrant fraternal Order in the country. We had one million members. In towns all across the USA, the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall was the center of the community, both in location and in activity. The Odd Fellows Lodge was the place to be. Everybody who was anybody wanted to join this fraternal order. Lodges typically had rosters in the hundreds of members, and scores of new members applied every year. No one had to really seek out and recruit new members – those potential new members coveted joining the Lodge and there was never a dearth of applicants. Memberships included the prominent citizens of the community: police chiefs, physicians, lawyers, university professors, bank presidents, ranchers, mayors, county supervisor, judges, senators – even Presidents of the United States were among the notable Odd Fellows. Odd Fellows marched through the streets in parades on holidays. Odd Fellows ran cemeteries, retirement communities, orphanages, and hospitals. Members of the Order were visible in the community, and Lodges actively supported community projects. Newspaper articles touted the good works of IOOF, and recognized members who were leaders in their towns.

Odd Fellowship was remarkably successful a Century ago because Lodges reached out into their communities and Odd Fellows were very visible in those communities.

But then Odd Fellowship turned inward. Lodges focused more on secret ritual, fancy regalia, grips, signs and passwords – and focused less on the outside world. Odd Fellows spent their time and energy memorizing the unwritten works, and meetings focused primarily on reciting memorized scripts. Odd Fellowship became all about “secrets” and less about “community.” Ultimately, this inward focus may have pleased some of the members, but it was the beginning of a death spiral for the Order as it tended to create an exclusive “club.” It certainly excluded the public and thereby diminished applications for membership from the world outside. Odd Fellowship, in many communities, became a true “secret society.” In some communities, Odd Fellowship became invisible.

And so, when DMC talks about “new ideas”, we are really talking about the “old ideas.” We are talking about being active in our communities, reaching out to our towns, and engaging in good community projects and good community works. We are talking about getting outside of the four walls of our Lodges. We are talking about opening the windows and doors of Odd Fellowship to the outside world, and being part of the world – not just fixtures in a Lodge Hall.

When we engage with the public, the public will engage with us.

F – L – T

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

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Updated: July 26, 2021​News Flash – Laughter is Not Against the Code… It’s a real oddity, the fact that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows may take themselves a bit too seriously. The name alone should signal congeniality. Other groups, such as E. Clampus Vitus...

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Updated: July 22, 2021​ Today's DMC Newsletter could be entitled "Anatomy of a Healthy Odd Fellows Lodge." I'm going to talk about the Lodge that I know far better than any other Lodge - my own Lodge: Davis Lodge #169 in Davis, California. I believe that I can...

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Updated: July 7, 2021​In 2014 our Odd Fellows Lodge launched the Davis Odd Fellows Classic Film Festival, offering classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood, twice each year. Due to the pandemic, we had a one-year hiatus. But now, we're BACK! The 14th Odd Fellows...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

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