DMC – Change is hard

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Change is hard. I understand that.

As progressive members who want to see our Order strengthen and grow in the coming years, we’ve all experienced meetings where new ideas, new concepts and new proposals are criticized, even ridiculed, and often shot down by long-time members who abhor any change to the status quo to which they have become accustomed. And even in the face of diminishing membership, the status quo adherents continue to cling to their conception of fraternity. I still vividly remember the long-time member who once told me (and this is an actual quote): “I would rather see this Order die, than change.”

Well, forgive me if I don’t subscribe to that view of our fraternal world. Personally, I believe that our Order must evolve to survive.

The resistance to new ideas and change is not limited to Odd Fellowship. We see it in other fraternal orders and clubs. Tom Barton, a progressive member of the Odd Fellows from San Francisco, recently sent me the clip, below, from Lions Clubs International. Have you heard these sorts of comments mentioned in your Lodge?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

 

How to kill ideas graphic

DMC – Are we really making progress?

As is evident from below, SGL – at least the members of the State of the Order Committee – recognize the advancements and needs of the Odd Fellows. However, very little is presented to progressively change those issues that need to be addressed. Despite the establishment of the Non-Discrimination Policy, issues must be faced. Those did not come to the committee, but because of some last day legislation submitted, there very well could be a need for clarification dealing with “religious ideology” and how we define a “supreme being” and a requirement to believe in such. Shall this contrast to the beliefs of the past and conflict with today’s beliefs in the ranks of society and membership of the Order? What if a member becomes an atheist after once believing? One cannot be treated differently because of his or her “religious” beliefs or change in such beliefs as this has never been addressed in code or ritual. Some have proposed removing a member from the Order because that member has, over time, changed his/her religious beliefs. But to simply propose removing a member from the Order because of his or her “religious” beliefs could be legally challenged as a violation of the current Non-Discrimination Policy. I understand where some would want to passionately go with this, but it could have serious ramifications far beyond anything this Order has seen in recent years.

For this year, though, the Order has made some progress.

What was supposed to be the State of the Order report, but was not used because it lacked one signature, still can be shared here as it is relevant to all of us and our concerns.

One of the most impactful detriments this Order faces is angry contradiction between members; even worse is public demonstration of such disagreements on social media.

As society has modernized our means of communications, more frequent and rapid exchanges, whether conjecture, opinion, or fact, we must always keep in mind and practice those absolute principles of friendship, love, and truth. Those who are not members could view us a hypocritical, thus destroying our own legitimacy as a fraternal organization.

All members must seek peaceful outcomes. If discord has reached your hearts, seek amends. Work toward resolutions, rather than persistent aggravation.

The State of the Order committee also found there is a need for the creation of historical literature to be drafted and published in every jurisdiction, as this is one of the greatest mediums to reach a segment of curious people, and history enthusiasts who enjoy historical and interesting stories. No matter which town or city a lodge is located, there is related history, whether to a historic event, a prominent member, or in the structure itself. People enjoy reading history. Our lodges are full of stories and history. Some of our lodges have attics and basements full of historical and interesting artifacts. Clean those spaces out and write about those items. How were they used? How old are they? Are they valuable? Write about them and take pictures and share this information with local news outlets (social media, news articles, magazines, short documentary(ies), pamphlets, and books). This is the kind of program this Order must embrace if it wants to assure its place in history.

The State of the Order committee also encourages the modernization of communications between lodges, members, and jurisdictions, with regard to the latest in electronic technologies. We must utilize and embrace that segment of our membership who can point us in the right direction.

We can also touch upon subtle, but important inclusiveness-achievements witnessed at SGL in the last two years:

  1. Having a representative of the GUOOF speak to the Grand Body in 2018.
  2. Having a representative for Cuba at our Annual Communication in 2019.
  3. Having the first woman elected as the Warden of SGL (2019).

These represent not only progressive change but is evidence of an organization embracing it’s evolution.

DMC – How do the Odd Felllows overcome the barrier of Religion?

A visit to the website of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at www.ioof.org is enlightening and inspiring. We see words such as “international”, “worldwide”, and “universal”. We read about our powerful fraternal purposes including: “To promote good will and harmony amongst peoples and nations through the principle of universal fraternity, holding the belief that all men and women regardless of race, nationality, religion, social status, rank and station are brothers and sisters.” We are told that within the Order’s “non-discrimination policy: “The I.O.O.F. will not exclude any individual based on disability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or other social identity . . . .”

These are principles around which every Odd Fellow can and should rally. They make us proud to be members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Yet, sad to say, the reality is not exactly synchronized to the ideal espoused on our sovereign website. The questions must be asked. Does this Order discriminate on the basis of religion? And has this Order systematically refused to become truly international?

Because Odd Fellows value truth as the cardinal principle, let’s drill down to that truth.

Members are required to believe in “a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe”. Lodges are required to maintain a copy of the “Holy Bible” in the Lodge room during meetings. The ritual of the Order is replete with references and stories springing from the Jewish and Christian religions. For the vast majority of people who live in North America, this is perfectly comfortable and fine. But what about the rest of the people in North America who are not Jewish or Christian, and what about the rest of the people on our planet? There are over one billion people who ascribe to Hinduism. This is not a monotheistic faith. Another half billion practice Buddhism. Again, this is not a faith that has a Supreme Being. The same is true for those who practice Confucianism, Taoism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism.

How can a member of these faiths take the oath that they believe in “a Supreme Being”? How can they be comfortable when the Holy Bible is maintained in the Lodge room, and their books of faith are not? And beyond this, certainly those who believe in Islam or who are Jewish ascribe to a “Supreme Being”, but how comfortable is the Moslem or the Jew with the ritual of the Order which is heavily Christian-based?

How is this not discrimination based on religion?

These are uncomfortable questions, but they are vital to the future of our Order. If we truly ascribe to be a worldwide fraternal order fostering friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice for all – then we must think through what we say and what we do. Have you ever wondered why Odd Fellowship only exists in 30 countries when there are almost 200 countries on this planet?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – A picture is worth a thousand words

Recently, we have published articles extolling the virtues of public relations and communications to the public.   It’s an important element to support growth of our membership.   If your Lodge operates in secret, closed from the public’s view, it’s unlikely your Lodge will grow and be robust.   Odd Fellowship at all levels now recognizes the importance of sharing our story of F-L-T with the public at large.

One of the best ways to share the story of our Lodges with the general public is to publish (in print media and social media) photos of our activities.   The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is as true today as ever.   However, the purpose of this article is raise a word of caution about the use of photographs.  A good photograph is powerful.   However, a bad photograph is counterproductive.   Better to have no photograph, than to publish a really bad one that might send the wrong message.

In this regard, I have conducted a little “experiment”.   Over the past month, I have randomly reviewed close to 100 photographs published by various Odd Fellows Lodges from throughout North America.   These are photos published almost exclusively by Lodge members, and virtually all were found on social media, although some were published in print media.   Let me start by commending the Lodges and Lodge members who reached out to tell the story of their Lodge to the public at large.  But, there is a big caveat.  Other than driving or walking past the Lodge Hall, or personally doing research on IOOF, or attending an Odd Fellows Lodge event, or having a rare conversation with a Lodge member, these photos are the window to the public about Odd Fellowship.   What does this window reveal?

I found that some 90% of the photos showed people.    The remaining 10% only showed buildings or objects.   The photos showing people, almost always included Lodge members.

Almost half of the photos showing Lodge members simply showed Lodge members standing or sitting in a group, smiling to the camera.    There were very few “action” photos – that is, members engaged in an activity like loading food on a truck, of providing meals to the public, or painting a building, or picking up trash from the side of a roadway.   But what struck me – again and again – was that over 75% of the photos showed members who were senior citizens.    There were no younger adults in the photo.  What message is conveyed to the public by a photograph of seven gray-haired people sitting around a table?

Now, I have absolutely nothing against gray-haired people.   I am one of those, myself.   But for a fraternal order that wishes to attract the next generations into its membership, a photo of seven sedentary septuagenarians may not accomplish that mission.   We must be mindful of the photos we post.   These photographs are the window through which the world views Odd Fellowship and your Lodge.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Start a Museum

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

If it weren’t for DMC, I may have left Odd Fellows already. My frustration with how our lodge functioned after I joined was shocking and sad. After I discovered the DMC, I found there are others who see a bright future for Odd Fellows and a need to shed the behaviors that have shrunk the Order.

I could attribute my fondness for the DMC to a sort of commiseration about how things should be, but instead, I believe it’s because I can see a time when the thoughts and ideas about growing Odd Fellowship within the DMC start to take hold and these small lodges, like my own, grow beyond expectations.

With this possibility in my mind about our lodge growing, I have looked very hard for ways to grow Odd Fellowship in general because my formal training and job experience is in public relations. I was a public affairs representative for the largest military air show in the United States and my pictures ended up on the cover and middle of our local newspaper. You would be amazed at what goes on behind putting on such a huge event and all the details that are focused upon to make it great.

We tend to see things through our experience and training and I constantly see the things we could be doing that could make Odd Fellows great. But when I realized that my own lodge is going to resist every attempt I make to bring my experience and training to the task of bringing in new members, I realized that I need to turn to my outside-the-box thinking and come up with a solution.

One thing that occurred to me was to start doing the kinds of things I want to do for my lodge but without their permission; so how could I do that? The answer came to me in a flash. If I formed my own Odd Fellows non-profit organization museum, with the help of a couple Past Grand Masters as mentors and guides, then perhaps I could start organizing events in my town using the non-profit, then my lodge would benefit and it would all be legal (plus operating as a 501c3 would mean I could accept donations).

Initially, I was focused on the museum aspect and I had this idea to create a pop-up museum at a coffee shop with beautiful pictures of regalia and jewels in a very artful and reverential way. I have had several exhibitions of my photography already, so why not combine the beauty I see in these old works of art into a photographic exhibit that’s educational and functions as a museum display…in maybe a coffee shop? I secured a location for the exhibition and began to acquire pieces and take pictures. I was so excited with the idea of our town folk rediscovering how the Odd Fellows played such a central role in the establishment of our town and doing it through a photographic exhibition; true public relations!

Once I started moving forward on doing this, word got out quickly and I was not able to do the exhibition before it was discovered. Fortunately, the lodge member who got word about what I was doing made a motion for our lodge to support my efforts and the motion was passed. This was a pretty big surprise and a blessing. Maybe the way forward wasn’t without my lodge? Would I continue without the non-profit?

Although I wasn’t able to get an event organized fast enough while flying under the radar, I was able to accomplish quite a few things anyway. One of the first things I was able to do was to set up a website (https://oddfellows.net) offering a free lesson plan for teachers who want an “off-the-shelf” program that teaches 11th graders about Odd Fellows in the context of the “social safety net” and it’s compliant with Common Core standards. The idea is that any lodge can share this lesson plan with the appropriate teacher and entice them to use it…perhaps they could offer to sponsor their classroom supplies for a year? This lesson plan is being vetted by an educator so it’s not ready yet but as soon as it’s available, I’ll be posting it on our website.

Another major victory was the establishment of a free online Public Relations Training for Odd Fellows in 50 lessons that are 5-minutes each. So far I’ve published four lessons and my plan is to continue at the rate of one per week. Since I make e-learning programs, this is something that I’m quite good at and also allows me to educate our members on how to understand PR as it relates to their efforts to grow membership. One of the most important lessons I’ve come to realize is something we already know: events are the one key to growing membership and we can’t rely on “brand awareness” to do the job for us. You can view these 5-minute lessons and read all 50 topics that are planned at https://oddfellows.net/public-relations-training-for-odd-fellows/.

While there are many other things in the works for the benefit of Odd Fellows through this non-profit, I invite you to stay tuned on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oddfellowshistory/ and also join a group set up specifically to discuss the content of the Public Relations Training for Odd Fellows and to also discuss, from general to specific topics/polls/questions, about “Odd Fellows Public Relations” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/oddfellowspublicrelations/.

Thank You Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph Dowdy, Vice Grand
Lompoc Odd Fellows Lodge #248

DMC – Recruiting members for your Lodge

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

I have been an Odd Fellow for 15 years – a relatively short time compared to many (perhaps most) of you. In that time I have sponsored well over 100 new members to join our Order. As surprising as that may sound, there is one statistic that I have found even more surprising: Most Odd Fellows that I know have not brought in even 1 new member into our Order.

Let’s explore this. How is it that one person is able to bring in over 100 new members, but others haven’t brought in even 1 new member? It’s an important an intriguing question. Think about it. If every member of our Order brought in just one new person each year, we would not be discussing a “membership problem.” Our Order and our Lodges would be be healthy and burgeoning.

So, let’s break this into two questions: (1) Why don’t (can’t) some members bring in even 1 new member into their Lodge? (2) How does one member bring in over 100 new members into his/her Lodge?

I can think of many possible reasons why members don’t sponsor new members. It could be that they are members in name only – paying dues, attending an occasional meeting, and little else. It could be just laziness or inertia. It could be that they have other membership priorities – belonging to other clubs and lodges – and bring new members into those organizations but not the Odd Fellows. Perhaps they don’t really care about or even enjoy being an Odd Fellow. And unless they are hermits or live in caves, surely they must have some relatives or know a few people who they could ask. And, conceivably that is the problem: they know people but they are afraid to ask, or don’t know how to ask them to consider joining the IOOF. I suspect that in some cases, their Lodge is so small and so inactive, and the Lodge Hall is so run down, that there is really nothing for them to offer the potential new member. No one wants to join a group that just reads by rote passages from a little red book in a shabby room that smells vaguely of disinfectant. And perhaps they like the Lodge just the way it is – they are comfortable with their small circle of Lodge members and leery of any new member that could alter that comfort zone.

So, how did I find over 100 new members to sponsor for my Lodge? It’s not a secret. I’m happy to share the methods, and I can summarize it in four words: AWARE, PREPARE, REPAIR, and WELFARE. Let’s review each.

First, as a member of the Order you must be AWARE at all times of prospective applicants you can ask about joining the Order. This is not just an occasional exercise. A good membership “rainmaker” is constantly alert to men and women who might be interested in the benefits of fraternal life. It could be a son or daughter, nephew or niece, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, cousin – and don’t forget your spouse or significant other. It could be a colleague at work, or your lawyer, dentist, gardener, plumber, or clerk at the grocery store you’ve been chatting with over the past five years. Open your eyes, and ears and heart. If Odd Fellowship has been an enjoyable experience for you, and made a difference in your life, then it might do the same for others.

Second, you have to PREPARE for the moment. Do you have a brochure about your Lodge handy? Do you have an application form in the glove compartment of your car? Do you have something concrete to talk about besides the philosophical concepts of friendship, love and truth? How has Odd Fellowship proven rewarding for you? Why will membership in the Lodge prove rewarding to the new member? Does your Lodge have an important community project? Do members of your Lodge organize fun social events for members and family? If your Lodge has community projects and fun social events, it makes recruitment of applicants infinitely easier.

Third, are you proud of your Lodge Hall? if not, its time to work with your brothers and sisters to bring it into REPAIR. A dirty Lodge is a turn-off to potential members. A Lodge Hall in disrepair shows a certain lack of care. That’s not the message you want to send.

And finally, is the concept of WELFARE. By this, I’m talking about the very essence of Odd Fellowship. What makes us unique is that we care about one another. We are not only a social organization – we are a fellowship. It today’s divided and disaffected society – that means a great deal. Brothers and sisters who truly enjoy each other’s company and care about each other is a cardinal benefit of membership.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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