DMC – Did your Odd Fellows Lodge skip a generation?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

At the next meeting of your Lodge, take a moment to look around the room. What do you see?

Do you see a small group of members in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s? If that is the view, then your Lodge is in trouble. Not today, perhaps. Not even next year. But, mark my words, your Lodge is in its death spiral. Why? Because your Lodge has skipped a generation. Where are the members in their 50’s, 40’s, 30’s and 20’s? In fact, if everyone in the room is in the 60-89 age bracket, your Lodge has actually skipped two generations. And fraternal orders can’t afford to do that. As Lodge members age, it is imperative that the Lodge “back-fill” with younger members to keep the Lodge going. Otherwise, those 60-year-old members will become septuagenarians, and those 70-year-old members will become octogenarians, and so on. No one lives forever. If you don’t have children, your line will eventually perish. If a Lodge doesn’t bring in younger members, it too will perish.

And your Lodge won’t bring in new members if your Lodge is not relevant to them.

Following is an article I wrote on September 2, 2012, which is as pertinent today as it was six years ago.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California


Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

On the front page of one of my morning papers this morning – the Sacramento Bee – is an article entitled, “Band of brothers is fading with age.” I’m an active-duty US Army veteran myself, so it caught my interest. The gist of the article is that the established veterans organizations in America are losing membership because younger veterans just aren’t joining. These groups reached their peaks at the end of World War II and since then have found their numbers diminishing. Respected groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are rapidly dropping in their membership counts. Here’s a quote from a veteran in the article: “Younger veterans don’t want to join an organization with a bunch of older guys.”

Sound familiar?

What’s happening to the veterans’ organizations is the same phenomenon that is happening to fraternal orders – including the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The generations born in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s have different interests and different perspectives that the prior generations. Here’s another quote from the article: “Rather than hanging out . . . with their buddies and reminisce, younger veterans prefer family-friendly amenities, an emphasis on community service . . . . free Wi-Fi at the halls might help, too.” In fact, it struck me that as I am reading this article in the newspaper, the folks in their 20’s and 30’s and 40’s are probably reading the same article on line, and probably on their smart phones.

It’s just different now.

For example, ancient Odd Fellows admonitions from the 1700’s and 1800’s like “educate the orphan” and “bury the dead” have great significance in the history of Odd Fellowship, and historically were remarkable achievements in past ages when society had many orphans and many folks who died who had no way to be respectfully buried. But let’s face it. Today there are very, very few orphans in America, and virtually every county has a public guardian who provides for indigent burials. We need to “evolve” these ancient admonitions to the present age – for example, society is filled with foster children (and young adults who have recently “graduated” from the foster system) – we can “evolve” the concept of “educate the orphan” to “help foster children and children in need.” This is just one example (of many) of the modernization in which our Order must engage. If we have the courage to talk about it and actually deal with it.

The great teachings of our Order – exemplified in our degrees – are timeless. But beyond that, I submit that very, very few new members join this Order because they want to wear regalia or learn the secret grip and passwords. The vast majority of new members (and potential new members) want to join because this Order is a fraternity that offers social contact and friendships, and because our Lodges can do good works in our society and in our communities. Accordingly, those Lodges that actively develop social activities and functions for the membership, and those Lodges that are active in helping local charities and community groups (as well as Odd Fellows’ charities) will attract the young blood we need and will flourish and grow. Those Lodges that continue to sit behind closed doors and do little more than conduct formal meetings (with an occasional potluck) will continue to diminish as members pass on. Quoting another veteran from the article this morning: “We don’t have time to sit in three meetings every month.”

Food for thought.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

DMC – Happy Anniversary

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Happy anniversary, DMC. DMC was founded in December 2010. So, December 2018 marks the Eighth Anniversary of the start of “Dedicated Members for Change” and the eighth year for this DMC Newsletter. We are dedicated members who support a progressive, inclusive and modern vision for IOOF.

As regular readers of this newsletter know, the main purpose of DMC is to re-focus Odd Fellowship on the critical need for new members. A continuous flow of new members is the existential requirement of a fraternal order. With a steady influx of new members, a fraternal Lodge has the potential to continuous “life” for hundreds of years. On the other hand, if a generation of new members is skipped, the Lodge will find itself in trouble; and if two generations of new members are skipped, the Lodge will have essentially written out its death warrant.

So, “membership, membership, membership”, has been the refrain and rallying cry by DMC since its inception. And, we don’t just sound the alarm and blow the horn. We try to provide practical and proven methodologies to achieve membership growth. It doesn’t do much good to just talk the talk; we have to walk the walk. The constant drumbeat has worked in California and in a few other jurisdictions. These jurisdictions have reversed the trend of declines in membership, and they are showing growth. The fact that there are Lodges that are growing belies the notion that fraternal orders are no longer relevant in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, most Lodges in our Order have grown complacent and “satisfied” with the status quo. Those Lodges like things just the way they are. That attitude may be just dandy for the current members, but it is a mind-set that is fatal to the future of that Lodge. Well, DMC doesn’t give up.

In this week’s DMC Newsletter, I’m going to let you in on a little “secret”. I’m going to discuss one of the single best methods to bring new members into a Lodge.

We have used this method in my own Lodge – Davis #169 – and it works. I guarantee that, in some form, it will work for your Lodge. We call it “Club Night at the Lodge” and here’s how it works: Once a week, every week, we schedule “Club Night at the Lodge” at our Lodge Hall. We have chosen Thursdays. These gatherings are not Lodge meetings (we have two Lodge meetings each month, one formal and one social, which are separate and apart from our “Club Nights at the Lodge.” We start Club Night at 5:30 p.m. and we wrap it up at 8:00 p.m. Members are welcome to drop in and to bring family and friends, and potential new members. One of our members plays the piano to provide some background music, the bar is open (no host) with special reduced prices for participants, we have 100-piece jigsaw puzzles on the tables, and dinner is available after 6 p.m. for those who want it for $7 per person. Around 6:30 p.m. one of our members takes on the role of “trivia master” and we play 3 quick rounds of trivia (with prizes like cookies). Thursday nights are very well attended and very popular.

Club Night at the Lodge accomplishes the following purposes:

1. It is a great social event for the members and their families. Members often bring their spouses, and even children. There is plenty of time socialize and catch up with one another. A fraternal order, after all, should include a social element. Members really look forward to this event every week. Even trivia has a social element because we play by table and so the folks sitting around a table confer with each other in the game. From time to time, we will even celebrate a member’s birthday or anniversary.

2. There is essentially no cost to the Lodge for hosting this event because the attendees pay for the drinks and the dinner.

3. However, the most important element of this event is that it opens the Lodge up to potential new members. Members of the Lodge feel free to bring potential new members to “Club Night at the Lodge”. These potential applicants can meet Lodge members, tour the Lodge Hall, and speak to a member of the Membership Committee about Odd Fellowship and about what the Lodge does for the members and for the community. And it works. In our Lodge, literally dozens of applicants have come to us through the doorway of “Club Night at the Lodge.”

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – An introduction to becoming a Lodge officer

The interactions between the officers of the Odd Fellows Lodge and their duties are not always clear-cut and precise. For a lodge to be successful all elected officers must cooperate and assist one another in meeting the goals of the lodge and for the membership.

After many years of either, observing and performing the duties of all positions at one time or another, I have learned that the written duties contained within the Odd Fellow codes and bylaws do not cover all situations. Trustees and their duties should coincide with those of the other officers, too.

All should know the functions and tasks performed by the other officers in the lodge. It is extremely important that officers do not become so rigid or complacent in their duties, because I guarantee you, issues shall arise, unexpectedly.

The new Noble Grand is given many responsibilities in the Odd Fellows Lodge, but does the Noble Grand really understand the duties and responsibilities of all the officers? The Noble Grand is responsible for all the Rituals to be up-to-date and accounted for after each meeting. The Noble Grand is responsible for the codes and bylaw books to be updated and available in the meetings. The Noble Grand must have a grasp of parliamentary procedure to conduct a proper meeting. He or she deals with the not only the Ritual aspects, but the business of the lodge. More often than not, the Noble Grand does not have a grasp of all the responsibilities he or she must know. The Noble Grand must rely on the other officers and the Past Grands of the lodge.

One area not covered by Odd Fellow code or bylaws: Governmental requirements. Who files the 990 forms or state tax forms, files electronically, etc.? Who submits the 1099 form for those officers/members who receives $600.00 or more for a given year? Who submits the Agent of Service form? Who handles the many other possible government requirements?

All of these occur in a given year. If a lodge is operating legitimately, then all of these tasks are being completed by the lodge. Is this yet another task we ask of the Noble Grand to oversee?

Secretaries have their hands full, too. The annual per capita and financial forms come to the Secretary of the Lodge, but the financial report is not the task of the Secretary to complete. These reports are challenging reports for any one officer to complete. The Noble Grand is responsible for the completion of these reports; however, the work must be done by all the desk officers. Other members are required to sign the documents. For a Noble Grand, this could be a daunting task. If the Secretary is new to the office, then that task is difficult as well. Every officer should be familiar with each other’s tasks. It is not a requirement, but it is helpful to know who works on each required form.

A successful lodge employs the assistance of the trustees in some of these listed tasks. Trustees are usually Past Grands, longtime members, who handle the investments of the lodge, and sometimes oversee the interaction of the Finance Committee and the Treasurer. A lodge lacking trustees is most likely a struggling lodge.

Although all of this seems complex, it is easily handled with a Noble Grand willing to learn and to receive guidance from experienced members of the same lodge. Those members know the corporate memory of the lodge and can assist the Noble Grand as well as other officers.

What if your lodge, or a member, wish to change the ritual or the code? This knowledge comes experience, as well as following the guidelines or the code book. Do not always rely on one member to recite the code; learn to read the code. Then, ensure others read the code. (A warning: Use the code to encourage members, rather than discourage members.)

Any member desiring to become an officer in the lodge, is required to become familiar with the duties associated with a specific office. Those duties are located in the ritual. They are detailed in the code book. OPEN THE BOOKS!

In some jurisdictions, seminars, district meetings, Grand Instructors, and proactive District Deputies are available for assistance. A lodge may be fortunate to have a past officer who has experience in many areas mention here. Do not be embarrassed or shy about seeking advice and knowledge. All officers must work with each other to provide a positive atmosphere inside the Odd Fellows lodge room.

Peter V. Sellars

DMC – The Number One Impediment to Growth

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Of course there are many reasons membership growth lags in most of our Lodges. But in my experience – having visited many Lodges and having heard from many Brothers and Sisters from other Lodges – I can safely identify the NUMBER ONE IMPEDIMENT TO GROWTH in Odd Fellows Lodges. That’s certainly a bold statement, I know, but I have found it to be true across the board. And I am ready to share it far and wide – because it is prevalent, and it is a problem, but it is entirely fixable.

The number one impediment to growth is the long-time member who just won’t let go of his little realm of power. This member has been instrumental to the health and success of the Lodge. This member may have served in important positions in the Lodge (such as Noble Grand and/or Trustee). The Lodge owes this member a debt of gratitude for the member’s contributions to the Lodge and the Order. The member may be the one who has keys to all the locked cabinets, rooms and closets. The member may be the person who knows how to fix that troublesome toilet, turn on the hidden light switches, find the documents in the basement or attic, unlock and lock the front doors, etc. And that’s all well and good, but unless power and authority is shared – it is likely to foster resentment and it is likely to cause newer members to feel disillusioned and disenfranchised. This is the member who thinks he or she knows everything there is to know about “the Code” and who weighs in (often unsolicited) on almost every decision of the Lodge – indicating whether it is worthy or not. In truth, the member has become a bottleneck to progress, essentially holding a veto power over any new idea or change in the status quo. I often hear from members throughout the United States and Canada about their frustrations with these controlling members.

A true leader – who has the ultimate good of the Order in mind – knows when his or her time to lead is done, and then steps aside to allow new leadership to learn and flourish. A true leader is a great and valuable resource if they sit back and wait for the new leaders to ask for advice, rather than offering that “advice” unsolicited and often. A true leader takes on the role of mentor for younger members, rather that the apparent role of “Noble Grand For Life”.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A wise, experienced, and older member is a great resource, and that person should continue to play an important role in the Lodge, not only as a person who can provide good advice and mentoring to others, but as a person who can continue to help the Lodge through many roles, including service as Chair of a Committee such as Finance or Membership. But, the wise, experienced, and older member becomes an impediment to the growth and development of newer members, if that wise, experienced, and older member just won’t let go of those perceived reins of power. Look, no one on the planet is indispensable. Age, infirmity, and death will catch up with every single one of us sooner or later. The wise, experienced and older member would show his/her wisdom best as a mentor to others. Teach the newer members – help them learn, but don’t dictate to them. It’s OK for the newer members to make some mistakes (even the wise, experienced and older member has made mistakes at some point during their time with the Order). Sometimes we actually learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.

So, bottom line, if you happen see yourself in this article, please take this opportunity to step back; take a breather and revise and revisit your role in the Lodge. And if you see these characteristics in another member of your Lodge, feel free to share this article. The health, welfare, and future of your Lodge may be at stake.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – The Largest Odd Fellows Jurisdiction

By far, the largest Odd Fellows jurisdiction in the realm of Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) is the Jurisdiction of California. Yet Sovereign Grand Lodge treats California Odd Fellows like an unwanted child. How can that be? Let me count some of the ways:

1. SGL decided to raise the per capita fees they require from every Lodge by $10 (spread over two years). The leadership of SGL muscled this through without explaining why the increase is needed, notwithstanding repeated requests for an explanation. The dues increase is anathema to the most important challenge facing fraternal orders – membership growth. This increase in dues will have a negative impact on our efforts to encourage new members to join. Sadly, I am confident that the increase in dues will cause a drop in membership throughout the jurisdiction – thus sending a torpedo into the efforts to stop the decline in IOOF membership.

2. SGL “mislaid” legislation submitted by the California Grand Lodge to allow a modest increase in representation for the largest jurisdictions at SGL (without a decrease in representation for any jurisdiction) – thus making representation more reflective of membership. California, with over 4,000 members, currently has 2 reps to SGL – the same number as is given to jurisdictions with less than 300 members. Officials at SGL finally “found” the legislation, it was voted on, and overwhelmingly defeated. So, in fact, we are being taxed without adequate representation.

3. The ritual of SGL has language that is not gender-neutral and some language that is demeaning to people of color, and repeated efforts to eliminate those references have been delayed or rebuffed.

4. Recently, SGL voted to present its highest honor – the Decoration of Chivalry – to two Confederate States of America monuments. This action is completely tone-deaf in light of our times, and the concerns of our African-American community members. The Confederacy sought to continue the sanction and practice of slavery of black men, women and children. What message does this send about equality and justice?

5. And speaking about tone-deaf, how can we forget the recent decision by some leaders at SGL to deny access to the Pilgrimage for Youth to a young man with a disability – and then to attempt to defend the decision in the press. The actions of SGL were certainly not acceptable to the young man and his family, nor to any Odd Fellow who believe in F-L-T. The SGL decision also brought negative publicity to the Order and great derision of Odd Fellowship, angered the UN, and caused every Jurisdiction and Lodge to be concerned about negative legal consequences.

6. The recent Chair of SGL’s Membership Committee has rung the fire bell of our declines in membership and has warned that our Order is on a fatal path. Yet, SGL has essentially ignored these warnings, and blithely continues on the path of decline while giving lip service to the need to increase membership.

7. The Jurisdiction of California constantly orders supplies from SGL which take months, if not years, to fill – directly impacting our ritualistic practices. Why can SGL not fill a simple supply order?

Students of Odd Fellows history know that the annals of our Order are replete with instances of groups of Lodges breaking away from their particular “mother ship” when the disconnect and chasm between them becomes too great. Even the split that created the Manchester Unity was the result of a schism in the Order. How long can California continue to tolerate being unfairly taxed, neglected and ignored?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

The Yin & Yang of California & The Sovereign Grand Lodge

The State of California, in case you haven’t already heard, is more than twice as large as the next largest jurisdiction. And, we are growing; therefore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that California is looking for more attention to be focused in its direction. The rest of the order in the United States is shrinking. This is borne out by an examination of the annual population lists printed by the Sovereign Grand Lodge. Let’s look at a few ways in which California feels it is under-represented:

  1. Sovereign Grand Representatives – all jurisdictions have 2 representatives to Sovereign Grand Lodge. In a smaller jurisdiction with, say, 200 members (there are quite a few this small) – there is a representative for every 100 members. In California, there is a representative for every 2200 members. Therefore, by this ratio, California members feel much less represented, in fact, they are as much as 22 times less represented.
  2. Political Candidates – Elections, as well as Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions, are almost always held on the East Coast, therefore those running from the Western United States run at a distinct disadvantage, since transportation costs are substantially more.
  3. Politicking. Politicking, while specifically against the code, is recommended at Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions. Of course, politicking even by its textbook definition costs more for West Coast members. While listed as being against both the Roberts Code of California and the Code of General Laws, it is permitted at Sovereign Grand Lodge perhaps because the general membership may feel that West Coast members are helped by this, but in fact, it works against them. One must examine the records of those running from the West Coast to see how poorly this works for Westerners. The Sovereign Grand Lodge Code of General Laws states that an offense of the order is “using political or electioneering methods for the selection of officers”. How does Sovereign Grand Lodge, you might ask, operate differently than the State of California? At Sovereign Grand Lodge, candidates may circulate, shake hands, pass out leaflets, pens, and their candidacy may be promoted by a nominating person who can make a speech extolling their virtues. A candidate may place into print a flyer more extensive than allowed in California, with a formatted or banner heading. Naturally, the more contact a candidate has with a voter, the more probable their vote. Conversely, in California, the candidate is only allowed to have their name placed into nomination (no further discussion is permitted), after a formal letter of qualifications is given. Again, the perception may be that all things are equal, but if on a regular basis a local member on the East Coast hob knobs with his local voters, how is this a level playing field? Answer it is not.
  4. Membership, or the lack of it, is seldom discussed at Sovereign Grand Lodge. Look at the first day proceedings at Sovereign Grand Lodge this year. Only Manchester Unity from England brought this topic up. Why is that? It is clearly apparent that most elderly members are not looking for new, generally younger, members.
  5. California, conversely, is growing steadily. We are increasing our statewide events. Of course, everyone knows of our Rose Bowl Float, but our Grand Master Mel Astrahan is also leading the way with IOOF TV, we have another brother who is championing an app for cell phones to locate local members, and other new developments. Yet there are those out there that profess their hatred for California. Why is this exactly?
  6. California demonstrates by its actions that it truly wants new members. California members started and run the Dedicated Members for Change, which now numbers in the thousands, and has singlehandedly added many members. Since you are reading this, you are reading it because it is endorsed by the DMC. Where exactly is the Sovereign Grand Lodge Membership Committee? The Sovereign Grand Lodge Membership Committee is comprised of mainly Past Sovereign Grand Master Jon Peterson, who wrote a scathing yet excellent report on the state of our order which has been totally ignored. No one else seems the least bit concerned.
  7. California, showing several consecutive growth years, is positioning itself to grow even faster in upcoming years. Why? Simple. New members tend to be younger than long time members. Simple longevity charts will prove this out. It’s time for elderly members to at least not serve as an impediment to the younger joining members.

Sovereign Grand Lodge can still grow by learning from the example of California. A) Establish an actual membership committee, with nationwide participation. B) Make representation equally fair to all members. Hold fair elections, without regional preference. C) Encourage growth and younger thinking. D) Accept that newer technologies are here to stay. And finally, make this an order of today, not yesterday. We can do it. Let’s start now.

In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles

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