DMC – Buy a Board for an Odd Fellow

DMC is making a difference. One Lodge at a time. It is my pleasure to publish the letter, below, sent from Lewisburg Lodge 96 from the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. I urge you to read the letter from Lewisburg. This Lodge has decided to open its windows, toss complacency out one of those window, and move into the 21st Century. The journey to change is never easy, but the journey is invigorating and the results are remarkable. This Lodge is adding members and is growing! Congratulations to Lewisburg, and all the other Lodges that have become three-dimensional Lodges. (A three dimensional Lodge is one that honors the history and ritual of our Order, but also reaches out to do worthy projects in the community, and makes sure to organize fun social events for the members. All three elements are necessary for success in this new century.)

If you or your Lodge wish to help Lewisburg Lodge raise funds to pay for the costs of their barn restoration and construction project (they are hoping to raise $100,000 through donations), you can do so by mailing your check (payable to IOOF Lewisburg Lodge #96) to the following address:

IOOF Lewisburg Lodge #96
10491 River Road
New Columbia, PA 17856

This is an amazing story of grit and progress. Let’s help this Lodge write another chapter.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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Dave –

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. Our Lodge has been very busy, growing and building! Since we started the journey of revitalization, we now have an historic property, and 1870’s farm. Complete with a beautiful Victorian brick house and a huge barn. We’ve grown from 5 active members to 20 active members…several in the pipe to join…and an Oddziliary! So, in the span of about 2 years, we are doing amazing things with only a handful of members and supporters! We have an outreach PR presentation, are filming a documentary of our journey, and have presented to local groups, the Masons, Rotary, businesses, etc.

We are still in the process of doing modifications to the house to make it ADA compliant, and have started restoring the barn and designing our Lodge for the inside of the barn. We’ve spent close to $100k of our own money just to stop the deterioration of the barn and repair 150 years of weather damage and age. We even preserved and re-built the interior silo – a very rare and historic feature. We have designed the Lodge, and the venue section of the barn, and are now ready to begin construction on that phase. We’ve also got a lot of furniture, a pipe organ, and a complete Bingo set up, and the historic door knockers and wickets from the Allentown Lodge that recently closed. So we are doing amazing things, not only for our Lodge, but the entire organization. We are active in the community, helping people, and folks once again know who the Odd Fellows are! We also have our first female member and teenager since 1844! Now we are getting more women to join and it’s great! We lost several members in the process, but we knew that would happen. Our Lodge is now viable once again and we see a bright and prosperous future!

We are even reproducing beautiful collars to replace the old and worn collars. They make us look great and are real eye-catchers! We just celebrated our 175th Anniversary a few weekends ago with a great ceremony and dedication.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting, and your DMC newsletters really hit home. With purchasing the property, modifying the house, and barn repairs, we are almost our of money. There is no way we will be able to finish the new Lodge and the barn with the remaining funds. So, we approached our Amish builder (God bless him!). He holds a special place in his heart for us, not only because of the work we are doing for others and the community, but, at the age of 10 he was orphaned, and he knows the history of the Odd Fellows. He also sees the income potential of the barn as a venue. We are one of only 2 in the entire region that would be a LEGAL venue barn. Other barns in the area are renting from $4,000-$6,000 for a one-day event….and they are not legal, just wait until someone gets hurt! Not good. So he knows we will be making money in the future. We asked him if he could help us out financially and “pay it forward.” He didn’t even hesitate and said yes! Love the Amish! But, we don’t want him to foot all the costs, nor should he, so we are doing fundraising events and campaigns. One of the campaigns is “Buy A Board.” Folks and corporations can buy a board in the barn and we will laser-etch an inscription on it. See our website for the campaign. We have also reached out to other Pennsylvania Lodges.

Here’s where it really gets interesting… The PA Grand Master wants to see this project complete so we can hold our Spring rally in the barn, and he wants to help! So we began reaching out to other Lodges for financial assistance (donations). Crickets. Really? About that “helping others”, “we are in this together”, “open your hands and hearts”, etc. I am learning that we really are “Independent”. A neighboring Lodge is sitting on over $600k and they are renting space from the Masons. Their average member age is in the 70’s, and they do nothing…meet and go home. Another Lodge just closed and had nearly $700k in the bank! Yet another Lodge is sitting on over $2m. What the heck? They won’t help us? What we could do with even a fraction of their funds! We are working our butts off to make this happen, and other Lodges won’t help! Wow.

A Lodge told us that they would try to get us a sizeable donation. Well, it went to the meeting and got shot down. Why? We were told, “They will never finish the barn”, and …this one really gets me… “They are running it like a business, not a Lodge.” Well, duh, yes we are! I just don’t get it. One would think these other Lodges would want to be a part of a success story, and make our organization great! But, I guess not. It’s a shame.

Your newsletters hit home, and I share them with the movers and shakers of our Lodge, and use the Davis Odd Fellow Lodge as an example of success. But, with the no-help, no-reaching out, and I hate to say it, but selfish attitudes of some of our Lodges I really wonder about the viability of the other Lodges. It is very discouraging that our own Lodges don’t see the future potential and won’t lend us a hand. In spite of them, we will be a tremendous success and we will be THE Lodge in Pennsylvania….and we will continue to collect things from the Lodges that fold (LOL!). We will just have to work a bit harder to get there and we will have to do it on our own.

I wanted to touch base and thank you for all of your advice that you have shared to get us on this road, and thank you for the DMC newsletters! I will continue to use the Davis Lodge as our example of what a Lodge can and should be! We will complete our new Lodge and the barn. We will grow the organization. We will be a success story….heck, we already are!

You can check out our website and see some of the stuff we are doing.

Thank you for everything you are doing for our organization, and the one thing we need in the IOOF…change!

Regards,

Scott Robinson
Vice Grand
IOOF Lewisburg Lodge No 96
(570)541-3494
www.iooflewisburg.org

DMC – Top 5 Ways to Save the Odd Fellows

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Last week I forwarded to you the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) 5-year Plan which, in my opinion, left much to be desired. If you have been reading my articles for the past decade you know that I don’t just critique, I also offer positive alternatives. So, in the spirit of such positive alternatives, here are my own suggestions of elements for a 5-year Plan for SGL and the future progress of our Order.

1. Membership. The first priority of any Plan for our Order must begin with the issue of membership. In a fraternal order, there is no more important issue to the well-being of the fraternity than ensuring a steady influx of new members. With such a steady influx, the fraternity’s future is secure. Without it, the fraternity will diminish and pass into history. There are literally hundreds of fraternities that have popped up, flourished, diminished and passed away in the history of the United States. And this is a concern even to our great Order. Even though we have been in existence in North America for 200 years, the decline in our membership over the past 60 years should be of primal concern to every brother and sister, and certainly to the leaders at SGL. So what’s the solution? Well, the solution to halting the decline and increasing membership is right before us, if we just take the time to see it. In my opinion, we should identify the 10 or 12 Lodges in our Order that have shown great and sustained growth in membership over the last decade. While most Lodges have been declining in membership, these 10 to 12 have been gaining members. These Lodges have discovered the “best practices” for growth. Analyze what these 10-12 Lodges have done and provide a listing of their methods and methodologies to all Lodges. These 10-12 Lodges are clearly doing something right, and we should share these “best practices” far and wide in our Order.

2. Representation. Brothers and Sisters in our Order are not fairly represented at SGL. Every Grand Lodge in the jurisdiction of SGL receives, essentially, the same number of voting representatives. While this sounds fair on its face, it is objectively not fair. There are jurisdictions with less than 300 members that receive about the same number of votes as jurisdictions with thousands of members. Therein lies the inequality. We must afford more recognition to jurisdictions based on their population of members. Now, to swing the pendulum completely in the other direction would also create unfairness. What I propose is that every jurisdiction would retain at least the number of representatives that they currently have (e.g. no jurisdiction’s representation would be cut), but the larger jurisdictions would receive 1, 2, or 3 more representatives based on their membership numbers. This would create a fairer system of representation and would reward jurisdictions with growing membership.

3. Modernization. Students of the history of Odd Fellowship know that the Ritual of this Order has not remained in stone. It has changed over the years. As we enter the 21st Century, it’s time to modernize the Ritual again. Our Ritual contains important teachings and great truths. Yet, it contains stilted phrases from another era, passages that are offensive to protected classes of people, and verbosity that must be curtailed. For example, the obligation in the Initiatory Degree is lengthy, exhausting and repetitive. It could easily be shortened and streamlined without any loss of content. The oath taken by the President of the United States is 35 words in length. Does the obligation taken by an Odd Fellows really need to takes hundreds of words?

4. Non-sectarian. Odd Fellowship professes to be non-sectarian. Sooner or later this Order must come to grips with the reality that we are not. The ritual is replete with Judaeo-Christian content. But the world is not just composed of Jews and Christians. Have we turned our backs on those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem, etc? How can we say we are non-sectarian when we quote only the Holy Bible, but not the other great works of faith? How can we require only the Holy Bible in the Lodge Room? And Odd Fellowship (which professes to be non-sectarian) requires belief in “a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe”. Yet there are other religions – such as Hinduism – which believe in many deities. Are we saying that members of the Hindu faith need not apply? And is that being non-sectarian?

5. Merger. Odd Fellowship is broken into too many pieces. We have Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Encampments, LEA, PM and LAPM. Dividing us into these fragments, while our membership declines makes little sense. One of the symbols of Odd Fellowship is the bundle of sticks – it is an appropriate symbol to express the strength of togetherness. Once, a Century ago when our numbers where ten times larger, these branches made sense. In the new Century, the divisions make little sense. We need to be one Order with many degrees. Accordingly, plans must be made for the PM and LAPM to merge together; then the Encampments and LEAs, and finally Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. Separate, but equal units for men and women make no sense in 2020. Better to have one Order – one Lodge – with many degrees.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – The Four Horsemen of the Odd Fellows Collapse

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The Biblical “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” represent conquest, war, famine, and death. Together, they present a frightening image. The biblical message, in modern terms, is: “Get your act together, humans, or the end to humanity is coming.”

Odd Fellowship, on a much, much smaller scale, also has what I call it’s own “Four Horsemen of the Collapse”. They represent isolation, incompetence, inertia, and illusion. Let’s explore how each of these “horsemen” work to slowly bring Odd Fellowship down.

Isolation. There are a significant number of Odd Fellows Lodges that do not attend Grand Lodge Sessions – and many of these Lodges have not attended for years. They have disconnected themselves from their Grand Lodge, and the Sovereign Grand Lodge. In the recent Grand Lodge Session in California, for example, 111 Lodges could have sent representatives, but 47 of those Lodges did not and were not represented at sessions. These 47 Lodges have isolated themselves from IOOF leadership and from their sister Lodges. Many of these Lodges do not even read communications coming from that leadership or from other Lodges. The members of these isolated Lodges have, essentially, withdrawn from IOOF and have hunkered down within the four walls of their Lodge Halls.

Incompetence. There was a time when your typical Odd Fellows Lodge had membership in the hundreds, and many Lodges had membership in the thousands. Now, the typical membership numbers run in the 20’s and 30’s. There is yet another, perhaps more insidious, component of shrinking membership numbers that should concern all of us. Once upon a time, Odd Fellows Lodges contained lawyers, doctors, bankers, ranch and retail managers, CPA’s, mayors, even governors. Those days are long gone. Now, Lodges often have no members with substantial business acumen, or legal abilities, or even the ability to manage property or prepare financial spread sheets. Because of this brain drain, Lodges make bad choices. I am aware of one Lodge that literally lost their Lodge Hall because of a right to purchase the building (at a very low price tag) given to a tenant. I am aware of another that gave an easement against part of its property in perpetuity for a one-time payment of a few thousand dollars. I recently saw a posting on Facebook from a Lodge that needs to fix its roof, and has no funds (or available resources) to do so – they were making a general Facebook solicitation, hoping other Lodges might send them some money. Every year these brain-drained Lodges struggle even to file their annual reports, and when one key member is ill, there is no one to take that member’s place.

Inertia. This may be better described as complacency. And complacency is toxic to our Order. For years, often decades, Lodges have ignored their infrastructure needs. Repairs and maintenance were deferred. Reserves were not set up to deal with the inevitable need to replace the roof, or furnace, or to paint the building, or replace the plumbing. Eventually, this inertia will catch up with a future generation of members. And what a rude shock to the generation to suddenly find that they must pay for repairs and maintenance without the funds to do so. Complacency has also affected our membership. Past generations of Odd Fellows were complacent (e.g. lazy) and generally ignored the first rule of fraternal existence: You must bring in younger members on a constant and consistent basis. Failure to do so will result, inevitably, in a Lodge of senior citizens.

Illusion. I have visited Lodges where the members live in a kind of fantasy land. They gather for meetings once a month, and recite the ritual. And the members fervently believe that if they just hold those meetings and recite the ritual with even more vigor, they are true Odd Fellows. But these Lodges are typically composed of members who are all over 65 years of age, and they haven’t brought in new members in years. Somehow, they believe that if they simply say “friendship, love and truth” often enough, that all will be well. But the reality is that young men and women (in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s) will have little desire to join a Lodge of septuagenarians. The coming generation has little desire to join a Lodge that does nothing in the community, and has no activities other than a monthly formal meeting.

“Get your act together, Odd Fellows, or the end of Odd Fellowship is coming.”

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Millenials, Part 3

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The last two DMC Newsletters focused on the interesting and unique qualities of the Millennial Generation – those men and women born generally between 1980 and 2000. Many of these Millennials are in their 20’s and 30’s and should be prime prospects to become Odd Fellows and members of your Lodge. What have we learned about the characteristics of this upcoming generation?

Well, at the risk of generalizing too much, we know the following:

  • They are highly educated. The number of women receiving degrees exceeds the number of men. And more women are in the workforce than in prior generations.
  • They are less likely to be married than their counterparts in prior generations.
  • They are much more ethnically diverse than in prior generations, with an increasing number of Latino-Americans and Asian-Americans.
  • There are far fewer veterans of the military among Millennials.
  • The number of Millennials in urban areas far exceeds prior generations.
  • They face pressure in society and the workplace creating anxiety. The dream of owning their own home seems far away.
  • They feel disconnected and powerless in society today.
  • They do not accept the status quo. They are not afraid to try new ways to reach their goals.
  • They care less about money, and more about the planet and people. They want to make the world a better place.
  • They have access to information, and rapidly, like no other generation. They know technology. They dislike slowness.

This information provides a valuable roadmap to encouraging the members of this upcoming generation to consider joining your Lodge.

First, Lodges that continue to ignore women and ethnic minorities are turning their backs on both reality and history. Just focusing on white men as potential members is not only morally wrong, but it is illogical to disregard the majority of our population. It further violates the non-discrimination policy of our Order. The future of Odd Fellowship is diversity. Lodges ignore this at their own peril.

Second, Lodges should seek out the enthusiasm and energy of this new generation. They are educated and motivated. At the same time, Lodges that continue to simply hold meetings (and do little else) will turn off this generation. We cannot continue to painstakingly read every piece of correspondence word-by-word and read the minutes verbatim at every meeting. We cannot produce only hard copy newsletters. Lodges much become adept not just at email, but also Facebook and all forms of social media. If we fail to modernize and change, we become further disconnected with those who will soon be the majority in our population.

Third, Millennials should welcome the camaraderie, fellowship and fraternity of an Odd Fellows Lodge. In this huge and crazy society, the Lodge can be a home away from home for these younger members. That said, however, the Lodge must encourage these new members with activities that interest them. Potlucks won’t do it. It’s time for Lodges to try some new things. If, for example, some of the new members want to adopt a highway, or participate in a community collection of plastic bags, or help homeless or mentally ill folks, or sign the Lodge up for a community fun run, or organize a New Year’s dance or Halloween party, the Lodge must encourage them, not throw roadblocks in their way.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – What do the numbers tell us?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

First, the good news.

Our collective work in California is paying off as we see yet another year with a small net gain in membership. This is particularly welcome news because the Order had been in membership free fall for decades. In fact, for two generations, membership had fallen year after year after year. And then, coinciding soon after the formation of DMC, and a renewed focus on membership, we have halted the drop, have stabilized, and are now seeing modest net gains in membership. When we review 2018, we see that the membership total on January 1, 2018 was 4,557 Odd Fellows, and then on December 31, 2018, preliminary numbers show the membership had increased to 4,573 Odd Fellows – a net gain of 16. A small positive number, to be sure. But a net gain – any net gain – is much more desirable than a net loss.

Interestingly, the net gain in California comes as a result of a significant increase in female members. Male members actually experienced a net loss in 2018, but the significant increase in sisters resulted in an overall net gain for 2018. Kudos to California for showing net gains in membership again! The hard membership focus of members, Lodges and Grand Lodge is paying off.

Now, the not-so-good news.

When we start peeling away the layers, however, we see that the vast majority of our California Lodges either experienced a net loss or were static – no net gain or loss. (Again, these are preliminary statistics because several of our Lodges were very late in submitting their annual reports for 2018, and some reports were incomplete.) Only 37 of California’s Lodges showed a net gain, and many of those were net gains of 1 or 2 members. Only a few Lodges showed significant net gains. But those few apparently carried the others that were static or showed losses. In fact, only six Lodges showed net gains (not from consolidations) in double-digits. These six fast-growing Lodges (with their respective net gain numbers in parenthesis) are: Morse (25), Franco-American (24), Ocean View (24), Davis (13), Odin (12), and Saratoga (11). Kudos to these fast-paced Lodges; they show that Odd Fellowship is alive and well, and quite relevant in the 21st Century.

Yet, when analyzing the total picture of Lodges as of 2018, we see, once again, that the Order is a mile wide and an inch deep. We have 111 Lodges in California (when one removes the Jurisdictional Lodge and the Volcano Historical Lodge). We have only 4 Lodges with memberships in the 200’s – Davis (296), California (261), Yerba Buena (231), and Apollo (221). We have only 3 Lodges with memberships in the 100’s – Franco-American (139), Golden West (134), and Lodi (119). The membership of these 7 large Lodges comprises about 30% of the membership of the California IOOF. Put another way: 1 out of every 3 Odd Fellows in California belongs to these 7 Lodges.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, California has 20 Lodges (that’s almost 20% of our Lodges) with 12 or fewer members. And of that 20, we have 10 Lodges where membership is 10 or less. Many of these very small Lodges function only through the help and support of associate members. Needless to say, a Lodge with 10 or fewer members is just a heartbeat away from losing a quorum. If any of these very small Lodges continue to fail to add new members, their days are surely numbered. Renewed attention should be given to these Lodges with very small membership numbers. At a minimum, the yellow flag of caution is raised.

Overall, California – the largest jurisdiction in North America – shows positive membership results. California should be proud that membership is growing.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – An exclusive environment

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

As you know, I reflect from time to time, on the future of Odd Fellowship. And each time that I venture into that zone of reflection I am led, inescapably, to the same conclusion: Some of the older, long-time members of this Order do everything in their power to maintain the status quo, and to keep out younger members (from the Millennial Generation and Generation X) who might wish to join.

Yes, I know, that’s a harsh statement. But it is the reality of our Order today. Here is why I say this.

I have attended meetings in some Lodges that I can only describe as stultifying. The meetings have no new business, no committee reports of activities. Half the meeting is taken up with “reports of members sick and in distress” and the painstaking reading, verbatim, of all correspondence and the minutes of the last session. Imagine the new member (perhaps in his or her 20’s or 30’s) , who has just been initiated into the Lodge, coming to his or her first meeting and experiencing only this. Now, it’s perfectly appropriate to report on members who are sick and in distress – that is fraternal – but brief updates are acceptable; lengthy, detailed medical reports are not. Boredom is the surest way to keep young members from joining our Order, and to quickly lose them once they join.

And negativity at meetings is the surest turn-off to new members. Negativity can take two forms. One form of negativity is the sniping, arguments, criticisms and put-downs we hear at some meetings when members disagree with one another. It is perfectly acceptable to disagree, but it is not acceptable to be disagreeable. This sort of conduct makes folks uncomfortable and they will surely find the exit doors if this persists and is not immediately stopped in its tracks. The other form of negativity is the shut down of ideas proposed by new members. When we hear the long-time members say “we tried that before – and it doesn’t work”, or “we can’t do that”, or even “that’s a really stupid idea” – what we are really saying to new members is, “we know what is best for our Lodge – just sit back and be quiet.” Once again, new members who propose new ideas will find the exits if that is what they face at meetings. Far better to listen to the proposals, and to try to encourage them. Just because the Lodge has tried a garage sale 10 years ago that didn’t work out to everyone’s satisfaction, does not mean that the Lodge can’t try it again with new ideas, new energy and new blood.

It is apparent that the new generations are computer-savvy, and social media is a way of life for them. Lodges where there is no presence on Facebook, where members don’t use email to communicate, where events are not advertised on social media, where some members refuse to touch a computer or an iPhone, and where minutes and newsletters are only produced on paper, send a message to new members that the Lodge has never progressed beyond the thinking of the 1940’s-1950’s.

And another thing is the display of pride in Odd Fellowship. How clean is the Lodge Hall? What is the condition of the restrooms and the kitchen? Does it smell old and musty? Is the paint fresh and clean? Is the IOOF sign in good repair? Do the members wear shirts with Odd Fellows’ logos? If the Lodge displays an image of faded glory, it can hardly be expected to attract interest from potential younger members.

But, you say, there are older members who work very hard to support Theta Rho and Junior Odd Fellows, professing that these young men and women “are the future of Odd Fellowship.” Well, their enthusiasm is commendable, and it’s wonderful that we can engage and encourage these teenagers. But the idea that six teenage boys or eight teenage girls will fill the ranks of our membership, and are going to save this Order is a chimera. Far better that we expend our energy to bring young men and women from the Millennial Generation, or Generation X, into our Lodges.

And as I start packing for my annual journey to the Grand Lodge Session which begins in just a few days, I am struck by the fact that even our sessions are structured against younger men and women. Our sessions in California – and many sessions around North America – start on a Wednesday and continue through Saturday night – four full days. In fact, some representatives arrive on Tuesday (for various meetings and training) and depart on Sunday (for more meetings) – so more like six days. Young men and women who work for a living, or have small children, simply cannot afford to attend four, five, or six day sessions. The Grand Lodge Sessions (and Rebekah Assemblies) are structured to accommodate retired folks, not younger members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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