The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which began in the mid-1920’s. I have written about the causation of this decline in the past.

Just because our numbers are diminishing does not mean we are less of a force as an organization. It does not even mean that all lodges are weak in numbers. Some lodges are thriving today. Some lodges steadily bring in new members. I am fortunate to belong to a lodge that limits its membership to 275 members. In European countries, Odd Fellowship is expanding. In the Philippines, lodges are being instituted often. But in America and Canada, Odd Fellowship is struggling and may never return to those great numbers of lodges and members the Order once maintained.

In California, our decline has been steady. One of the problems limiting us on expanding growth is that we sold our properties every time a charter was surrendered. Combine that with the escalating prices in buildings, it is no wonder why we cannot expand in many areas throughout the state.

Our Deputy Grand Master, brother Redgie Fleeman recently worked on a project to identify how many lodge halls we actually own in California. We once owned hundreds, close to 300 lodge halls. Today, we own 84 lodge halls. The Deputy Grand Master also writes we have 109 lodges remaining. In 1990, just three decades ago, we had 227 lodges and 7,819 members. Today, we have approximately 4,200 members.

The numbers for the Rebekahs are more dismal. In 1990, they showed a number of 257 lodges. Today, that count is at 41 lodges! The number of Rebekahs in 1990, was 17,268. Today, in just 30 years, that number is a dreary 1,047. The Rebekahs are barely holding on to dear life. They no longer appear sustainable. The Grand Lodge has been assisting over the past few years to keep them going, but as their numbers continue to collapse, it will become more difficult.

Using those numbers along with some simple math, a projection could be forecast. By no means is this shared to alarm anyone, as “that alarm” was sounded years ago. This is to simply state the plain truth – fact we must all face as members.

Basing the following numbers on the past 30-year decline, here is an interesting projection: If we keep on the pace we have been on, the Odd Fellows in California would end by 2048. However, because the rate of losing members is slower than the rate of losing lodges, that projected end would arrive in 2056. Perhaps there will be a few super lodges existing between 2048 and 2056. Somewhere during that time frame if we remain on the current pace, Odd Fellowship will end like so many other organizations have done over the centuries.

For the Rebekahs, it is more devastating. Using the same rate of decline, the Rebekahs would lose all of their lodges by 2027. The rate of losing members would indicate that the end would come in 2023 or soon after. Sovereign Grand Lodge figured this out several years ago, most likely looking at similar numbers for the entire North America. But, the Rebekahs have been resilient in the last few years by fighting off the inevitable. They may just keep hanging on for years.

The math is not always the sole factor. As we have seen over the years, lodges rebound. Some emerge in a sudden growth spurt. Some lodges are not near their conclusion. Nobody knows when or if the Order will come to an end. One thing is for sure, the past 30 years give us a reality none of us have been able to change. Keep working hard and enjoy yourself while you are doing it.

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times.

  1. Change the methods of dues payments. I own a retail business, making dozens of financial transactions daily, and yet last year I only wrote six checks all year. Four of the checks were for my member’s dues to our order. (I often have to search for my check book.) I also received only about a dozen checks all year as payment. Half of them were from an elderly customer friend of mine. The public no longer writes checks as a rule for a number of reasons. First, there is no longer any “float” to checks, they are verified immediately upon being presented, so they are the same as cash or a debit card. Second, the argument that checks are an easily listable way to track spending in a checkbook is really no longer true. The best way to track long term spending is to simply examine bank statements, which banks can present with many in depth ways in which to track expenditures, including photocopies of all transactions, interest accrued or other types of expenses or deposits. Of course, since time marches on, checks will become increasingly an obsolete method of payment. Many businesses no longer accept checks, period. My son is a CFO for a company with ten commercial outlets, and they rarely write checks as payments, nor do they like to accept them. He laughs at our rigid adherence to an old form of payment. This is not a suggestion that we immediately abandon the idea of lodge check books, but merely the idea that we should change our general techniques so as to notify the public that we are aware of this fundamental change that is occurring in the outside world and learn to accept dues payments in more modernized forms. If one were to study the history of financial transactions, one would find that even banks have changed the methods of transactions repeatedly throughout time. For instance, did you know that in the 1800’s, there were over 5,000 types of dollars bills printed by different banks within the United States? One bank had a dollar bill with Santa Claus featured, backed by the U.S. Treasury! It was not until 1877 when the U.S. Treasury was the solely authorized source of the one-dollar bill. A study of the history of monetary exchange would yield many such fascinating discoveries. It’s simply illogical to presume that things such as dues payments should continue to only be accepted in check form. In fact, many people, particularly younger people, may no longer have checks. Again, this is not a suggestion to do away with lodge check books (not yet at least), but if we genuinely want a verifiable listing of members who have paid their dues, it is more accurately done using electronic media.
  2. Dismiss the idea of bullies running every aspect of our order. We have many people in our order who refuse to budge from their various positions. Some do a wonderful job and are liked universally, but others practice a scorched earth technique that challenges everyone and every lodge in their path. The order in its wisdom originally set term limits to elected positions. It’s wise to look at all positions to determine that person’s ability to lead. If a lodge, or a jurisdiction is failing, obviously there is something wrong. I have often listened to people who seem to use the code as a bludgeon, and only are concerned with keeping themselves in power. Each lodge is its own little entity and should not have to bow to every bully who feels the need to solidify the bully’s own agenda. It’s easy to see that many lodges and whole jurisdictions have been decimated by those who think their way is the only way for a lodge or jurisdiction to exist. Our order is incredibly old, and none of us are immortal, so it should be obvious that we want the order to continue on without us. Isn’t it enough to know that bullies exist in the real world? I thought the idea of our order is to be a refuge from the turmoil of the outside world, not the instigator of it.
  3. Go virtual. Many lodges now have online sites, Facebook principally, but beyond that, we need to engage prospective members in electronic media more aggressively. The wonderful thing about electronic media is that we can be more specific, speak eloquently, and reach a greater mass of individuals. Of course, what we do in a lodge is sacrosanct, but we can go forward watching ourselves dwindle away while others progress, or we can choose to compete in a unique environment that the public has obviously embraced. Of course, we almost all do email now, or respond in some electronic manner, but we need to do more to open up to the public. Again, our inner rituals or practices may be private, but we don’t want to be invisible altogether. During the pandemic, many of us been zooming for many months, but because this tends to be a closed circle of members, that alone is not conducive to gaining members.
  4. Good grief! Do something new. Of course, we need to engage those younger than ourselves. We can do this in several ways, but clearly, if your lodge is failing, doing the same old things will not succeed in attracting new members. If you have had a dinner 49 years running now, in the same location, with Doris and Ethel and their extended families (and precious few others) and really expect new people to join in, I probably won’t be the first person to wonder what you’re smoking?! I have been to a number of functions where the hosts call it “the 97th annual wingding or shindig or what have you and it really becomes an exercise in absurdity when all those in attendance are in their eighties or nineties and yet they talk about attracting new members. Talk about a disconnect. I have tried repeatedly to get my relatives and friends to attend, and they may do so once, but truth be told, they can’t be enticed twice with the idea of repeatedly attending such ponderous gatherings. This is the 21st century! It’s time to try something new.
  5. Rumors not needed. Too many members not only like to bully others, but also like to circulate rumors. Often these are the same individuals. Whatever happened to friendship, love, and truth? We should do our best to resist the urge to vilify anyone. If members gather just to trash others this serves no purpose other than to weaken the order. We should remember why we joined and try to remain on our best behavior.

There are clearly many ways in which to modernize our order, but these are a few I have been pondering lately. If we want to grow, let’s all think of ways to modernize and connect with those around us.

In F., L., & T.,

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

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members – an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of those seventeen years. (“Net gain” is defined as adding more members in a year than the number of members deducted in a year.)

How is a gain in Odd Fellows membership possible?

It is, in fact, not only possible, but it is a fact. So, I’m going to tell you the story of the growth of my Odd Fellows Lodge – not to toot my own horn or the horn of my Lodge – but because it is possible that what we did in my community can be replicated in other communities. It provides a possible roadmap to fraternal growth in your Lodge. Every Lodge and every community is, of course, unique. But what we accomplished in my Lodge might offer some insights and approaches that your Lodge might find helpful. At a minimum, we can be secure in the knowledge that the growth in my Lodge belies the canard that fraternal orders are washed-up relics of the past, proves that fraternal Lodges are relevant in today’s world, and shows that fraternal Lodges can, indeed, flourish and grow.

When I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004 I was dumb as a stump about IOOF. However, by a series of unfortunate events, I found myself quickly elected Vice Grand, and then almost immediately assuming the position of Noble Grand of my Lodge: Yolo Lodge #169. I found myself in a Lodge that occupied a large building in the heart of Davis, California. The building was dark and shuttered most of the time, with no IOOF sign. And the Lodge had minimal interaction with the community. A church rented the Lodge Hall on Sundays and had a sign out front. Most folks thought the building was a church. Virtually no one knew it was a Lodge of Odd Fellows.

One thing was crystal clear to me: To ensure the health and future of my Lodge, I had to ensure growth in our membership. That required a new direction and younger members. To change the direction of the Lodge, I knew that I had to change the culture of the Lodge.

Here are five things I did to change Lodge culture

  1. Branding and Signage. My immediate goal was to ensure that my Lodge would be recognized as one of the premier organizations in my community. One of the first things that I did was to give us a new name. We had been known as Yolo Lodge #169 since we were instituted in 1870. Working with the Grand Secretary, I received a new name and a new charter: henceforth we were to be known as Davis Lodge #169. Other than one small metal plaque on the building (thanking a generous Odd Fellow who, in his will, donated the funds to build the Lodge Hall), there was no identification of the building as an Odd Fellows Hall. I had a large neon sign constructed and affixed to the building which displays, in blue, the letters IOOF. And then we found a vertical sign (from a defunct Lodge back East) which shows the three links and the IOOF letters in full color. I had that sign shipped across the USA and found a company that could affix it to the building and another company that could restart the neon. Those neon signs are on full display, day and night. Everyone in the community now knows that this is a Lodge of Odd Fellows.
  2. The Building. Using some funds which the Lodge had accumulated over the years, and taking a significant loan, we also undertook a major remodel of the exterior and the interior of the Lodge Hall – new carpeting, wood paneling, new bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, new lighting, projection and audio equipment, new curtains, construction of a stage, a stage, installation of an elevator, new roof, creation of two levels of storage space, new HVAC, new paint on the exterior, and more. You can’t welcome new members into your Lodge if the Lodge Hall is not welcoming.
  3. The Committee Structure. When I assumed the position of Noble Grand, the Lodge had less than five committees – the obligatory ones – Finance Committee, Visiting Committee, Bylaws Committee – but we needed to include the membership in the advancement of the Lodge. Just holding meetings once or twice a month to read from a little red book wasn’t going to be enough. So, I surveyed the membership to find out what they wanted to accomplish. As a result, we created a vigorous committee structure. When members suggested a committee, we didn’t say “no”. We said “yes” and got volunteers. Half of our committees cater to the membership, and half produce community events. We created a Music Committee, a Good Fellowship Committee, a Membership Committee, and more. Today, in 2021, we have over 50 committees in the Davis Lodge. If members have an interest, we accommodate them. So, for example, we now have a Hiking Committee, a Classic Film Festival Committee, a Bingo Committee, a Taste of Davis Committee, a Breakfast with Santa Committee, a Zombie Bike Ride Committee, and more. Over 90% of the work of my Lodge is handled through the committee structure. The Lodge gives them a budget and they do their thing.
  4. Community Visibility. Through our committees, we have attained a remarkable degree of visibility in the community. When we initiate members we put an article in the local paper and we post on social media. When we have community events we do the same. At our recent Zombie Bike Ride, over 2,000 local residents attended. It was a fun family-friendly event for the Lodge and the entire community. The event included performances by a dance company, little vignettes along the bike trail by a local theater company, and even zombie skydivers. We had many community sponsors who donated money which not only paid for the costs of the event, but allowed us to work with a company to build a number of specialty tricycles for disabled children which we donated to the families – allowing the children to have some freedom and mobility.
  5. A Big Tent. Because of our high degree of community visibility, we do not “recruit” for new members any longer. Most of our new members come to the Lodge sponsored by existing members who are proud to show of the Lodge and bring new members into the fold. However, a significant number of new members come to us through our high profile in the community. I imagine that this is how Odd Fellows Lodges grew so strongly in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Our Lodge has a presence on the web, on Facebook and on other social media. We bring in new members who are reflective of our community in terms of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, and more. We welcome husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends. We have opened the doors and windows of our Lodge Hall to our greater community.

We are proud to be Odd Fellows and proud to say that our fraternal order is alive and well and can continue its good works on behalf of our members and our community.

F – L – T

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

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...

One Lodge. Nine Degrees. The future of the Odd Fellows

One Lodge. Nine Degrees. The future of the Odd Fellows

A decade ago, in the pages of this very DMC Newsletter, I opined that the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was too diffused, with too many separate units, and that our fraternity needed to merge and consolidate our units into one strong Unit:   The Odd Fellows Lodge.  Even though our membership numbers were shrinking (and had been shrinking for decades) we still continued to perpetuate units which were outmoded one or two generations ago.

Let me tell you what I mean.

There was a time when women were not permitted to join an Odd Fellows Lodge.   Thankfully, this changed in 1999, and effective 2000, women were no longer barred from becoming Odd Fellows.   In spite of this past discriminatory policy towards women, Odd Fellows created a “separate-but-equal” entity, called the Rebekah Lodge.   (Ironically, men could always join Rebekah Lodges while women were barred from joining Odd Fellows Lodges.   The hypocrisy should not be lost on any of us.)  So, there was a time when Odd Fellows Lodges were known as “the men’s Lodge” and Rebekah Lodges were known as “the women’s Lodge.”   In fact, when I joined Odd Fellows in 2004, older members (both men and women) continued to refer to the Lodges in this fashion – and some still do, even today.  

Women were barred from membership

But because women were barred from membership in Odd Fellows Lodges, and the advanced units such as the Encampment, and the Cantons of the Patriarchs Militant, there was also created a parallel chain for the advancement of women.   So, because Odd Fellows could advance to become members of the Encampment (which also barred women), Rebekahs created the Ladies Encampment Auxiliary (L.E.A.) as the next progression.   And, because members of the Encampment could advance to become Chevaliers in the Patriarchs Militant (which also barred women), Rebekahs created the Ladies Auxiliary Patriarchs Militant (L.A.P.M.) as the final progression in their advancement in the Order.

So, as the result of this past separation of the sexes, and the past discrimination against women, Odd Fellows wound up with six units:   Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Encampments, L.E.A.’s, Patriarchs Militant, and L.A.P.M.’s.   (And for this discussion, I’m not even counting the Junior Odd Fellows for boys and Theta Rho for girls as two more units.)

No longer making sense

But here we are in the year 2021, and these separate units make no sense either philosophically or practically.   As a matter of philosophy, continued separation of units based on gender is a throwback to another time and another age.   And as a practical matter, these diverse “female” units are shrinking in membership even faster than we see shrinking in Odd Fellows Lodges.  

Ten years ago, I suggested that we need to start merging and consolidating our units.  I received a lot of blow-back at the time because Odd Fellowship was not yet ready to accept the reality and truth.  But now, even Sovereign Grand Lodge has seen the writing on the wall.   Membership in these extended units is very small, and is diminishing over time – the members get older every year, and new younger members are just not coming in fast enough, if at all.   So, bottom line, we need to consolidate the P.M. with the L.A.P.M.   And then we need to consolidate the Encampments with the L.E.A.’s.   That is starting to happen.   SGL has ordered that the L.A.P.M. will no longer exist after December 31, 2021, and members of the L.A.P.M. may join existing Cantons, or form their own Cantons, or may honorably leave the L.A.P.M.    That has now happened in California at the recent gathering of the California Department Council and the California Department Association – the California L.A.P.M. members were all mustered into the Patriarchs Militant and all became Chevaliers.  The L.A.P.M. in California no longer exists.   And it will be happening throughout the jurisdiction of the Sovereign Grand Lodge.   The next step is inevitable:   The L.E.A. must come to a close as a separate unit, and members must merge with the Encampments or start their own Encampments.   I predict that this will happen within the next two or three years.   At that point, we will have only four units: Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Encampments, and Patriarchs Militant.

But the merger cannot stop there.   Inevitably, the final steps must be taken.  This is not meant to be taken in a negative way.   It’s really just math.   When the numbers of new dues-paying regular members joining the Order is far less than the numbers of dues-paying regular members leaving the Order, then the result is fated.   The first phase will be the phasing out of the Rebekahs as a separate unit.   Members of Rebekah Lodges must then be permitted to become Odd Fellows, and should be able to join existing Odd Fellows Lodges or be given permission to form their own Lodges of Odd Fellows.  I predict that – as the membership numbers continue to decline on the Rebekah side – this merger will occur within the next five to seven years.   And the second phase is equally important.   To strengthen Odd Fellowship, we must eliminate all the separate units while retaining the degrees.   The result will be one unit – the Odd Fellows Lodge – with many degrees – preserving the important teachings of our Order, and allowing members to advance to higher degrees.   I envision the following degrees:   The Initiatory Degree (which I would rename the Degree of Trust – this is what it was called in a prior century), the Degree of Friendship, the Degree of Love, the Degree of Truth, the Rebekah Degree (which I would rename the Degree of Equality), the Patriarchal Degree, the Golden Rule Degree, the Royal Purple Degree, and finally, the Degree of Universal Justice.   One Lodge – nine degrees.   That is the inevitable future of our Order.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Who are the “Givers” and “Takers” in your Odd Fellows Lodge?

Who are the “Givers” and “Takers” in your Odd Fellows Lodge?

Allow me to be a bit philosophical for a moment.

I am convinced that if every member of every Lodge truly followed the path of “Friendship, Love, and Truth” our fraternal Order would have no membership problem. Lodges would be robust, growing and active, and members would be invested, engaged and happy.

But, of course, that’s not the reality in most places. Unquestionably, there are Lodges that display all the qualities of FLT and there are members who happily attend meetings and events, contribute in many ways big and small, and thoroughly enjoy their Lodge experience. On the other hand, there are Lodges that are on the edge – drifting and barely hanging on.

In one sense, a “Lodge” is just a building. But in a real sense, a Lodge is the the composite of its members. Ultimately, a Lodge is only as strong or as weak as its membership.

At its most basic level, people who join organizations (including fraternal organizations) can be roughly divided into two categories: You have the “Givers” and you have the “Takers.” There are (not surprisingly) precious few 100% Givers, and (thankfully) very few 100% Takers. Most of us are a combination of the two, to a lesser or greater degree.

In a fraternal Lodge like a Lodge of Odd Fellows, you pretty much know who are the Givers and who are the Takers.

When the call to volunteer goes out, the Givers step up and volunteer to help. They may work in the kitchen, or help make repairs, or pitch in to clean up. They volunteer for assignments and readily assist their brothers and sisters. They contribute money when the call goes out to sponsor an event or give to a cause. They serve in Lodge office and don’t mind doing the hard work of keeping the minutes, or going to the bank to make a deposit, or chairing a committee. They will visit or call a sick member, and they will inquire how your kids are doing in school. You know that if they say they will get something done, it will be done, and done pretty well.

And in the Lodge, you generally can identify the Takers. When the members line up for a buffet, the Takers don’t hesitate to secure for themselves an early plate (and then may complain about the food). They come early to events and often stay late – rarely offering to help out in any way. They are often critical of others, including other members. Takers view the world with the philosophy of “what’s in it for me”? There are Lodge members who self-deal themselves Lodge money, or take benefits denied to other members, or even live in the Lodge Hall – these are all Takers.

If your Lodge is composed entirely or mostly of Takers, then the membership has forgotten FLT and it’s only a matter of time until your Lodge will fade away into the historic record. On the other hand, if all or most of the members in your Lodge are Givers, then your Lodge is a paragon of FLT and it will certainly live long and prosper.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Pasts Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...

A peek into the Odd Fellows member register

A peek into the Odd Fellows member register

If you ever get a chance, talk to the Secretary of your Odd Fellows Lodge and ask to look at the Member Register. This is the document that provides information on all members of your Lodge from the date of institution of the Lodge till the present. It’s really a fascinating historical document, and I think you will enjoy the interlude in your Lodge’s past. (Most registers are very old, so make sure to handle them with care – clean white gloves are recommended to protect the ancient pages.)

A Fascinating Discovery About Odd Fellows

But the purpose of this newsletter is more limited. I’ve thumbed through a number of Member Registers from different Lodges during my time as the Grand Master of California, and here’s a fascinating fact that I discovered: If you look at the register from a Century or more ago, you will find the vast majority of members initiated into the Lodge were in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. And if you compare that to members initiated into the Lodge over the past decade, you will find the vast majority of members initiated into the Lodge fall into the age range of their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Why do you suppose that is?

Well, no one knows for sure, but I have a pretty good theory. You see, 100 or 150 years ago, Odd Fellowship was new and fresh in North America. Fraternal Orders in general were popular as gathering places for social, community and fraternal activities. Odd Fellowship, in particular, offered young men (and eventually young women) an opportunity to gather, meet and mingle. There was no television or Internet, of course. It was fun and exciting to start a new Lodge, build a building, and grow a fraternity. Over the decades, however, the shine has worn away. Members became comfortable and complacent. The newness was gone. The edge was no longer there. Members settled into a familiar routine – the status quo was the norm.

And the reality is that when we bring in new members to our Odd Fellows Lodges, we tend to bring in people that we know, in the same general age range as ourselves. So, a Century ago, the 30-year-old members tended to bring in other 30-year-old members. Today, there are precious few 30-year-old members in our Lodges. But there are a lot of 60-year-old members. And those 60-year-old members tend to bring in other 60-year-old members.

Obviously, this is a self-defeating prophesy. This can’t continue.

What is the Solution

The solution is apparent. To survive and flourish, our Lodges need to bring in new members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Those Lodges that have skipped a generation of members (and there are a lot of those Lodges) must focus on recovering that lost generation.

Not an easy proposition, however. Why would a Lodge composed of members in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s be of any interest to a young person in his/her 20’s, 30’s and 40’s?

In future DMC Newsletters we will explore this vital existential question. And we invite other Lodges – which have found solutions to the challenge of bringing in younger members – to write with your success stories.

F – L – T

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

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

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​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times. Change the methods of dues...

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

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When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members - an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

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