Odd Fellows: Returning to a sense of belonging

Odd Fellows: Returning to a sense of belonging

Updated: June 27, 2021

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

Why did we join Odd Fellows in the first place?

Why have we continued to be Odd Fellows?

What have we accomplished as Odd Fellows?

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

F – L – T

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

An Onion to a Beggar

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

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

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

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

This is what we need to return to.

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

In F., L., & T.,

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

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

Updated: [DATE]​Dear Dedicated Members for Change, One of the very first things we learn when we join Odd Fellowship is the ancient "commands" of this Order, instructing members to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan." I must...

What do you see in this photograph?

What do you see in this photograph?

Updated: September 6, 2021What do you see in this photograph? If you said "a group of Odd Fellows" you were absolutely correct. The three links symbol on the chair in the foreground and the banners in the background indicate that you are in a Lodge of Odd Fellows. And...

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

Updated: August 30, 2021I pass along to you an article just written by one of the preeminent Odd Fellows historians - Peter Sellars.   Peter has served this Order as a Grand Master and currently serves as a member of the California Grand Lodge Board of Directors and...

Why are some Odd Fellows Lodges Growing?

Why are some Odd Fellows Lodges Growing?

Updated: June 21, 2021

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

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

The Age of Odd Fellows

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

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

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

Highly Successful Off Fellows Lodges

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

1. Oceanview Lodge #143

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Franco-American Lodge #207

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

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

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

3. Oceanside Lodge #346

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

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

Hold on a Saturday morning

Bring coffee, bagels or donuts

Create a social area for members to use before meetings

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

Get the Internet!

HAVE A LODGE THAT IS ACTIVE IN THE COMMUNITY

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

Have a party and invite leaders of other local organizations.

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

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

DON’T RUN MEETINGS THAT SUCK

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

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

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

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

Third, how you run the meeting is crucial.

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

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

4. Yerba Buena Lodge #15

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

5. Davis Lodge #169

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

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

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

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Odd Fellows of California

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

Updated: [DATE]​Dear Dedicated Members for Change, One of the very first things we learn when we join Odd Fellowship is the ancient "commands" of this Order, instructing members to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan." I must...

What do you see in this photograph?

What do you see in this photograph?

Updated: September 6, 2021What do you see in this photograph? If you said "a group of Odd Fellows" you were absolutely correct. The three links symbol on the chair in the foreground and the banners in the background indicate that you are in a Lodge of Odd Fellows. And...

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

Updated: August 30, 2021I pass along to you an article just written by one of the preeminent Odd Fellows historians - Peter Sellars.   Peter has served this Order as a Grand Master and currently serves as a member of the California Grand Lodge Board of Directors and...

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

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

Updated: May 24, 2021

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

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

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

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

Let me explain what I mean.

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

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

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

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

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

F – L – T

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

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

Updated: [DATE]​Dear Dedicated Members for Change, One of the very first things we learn when we join Odd Fellowship is the ancient "commands" of this Order, instructing members to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan." I must...

What do you see in this photograph?

What do you see in this photograph?

Updated: September 6, 2021What do you see in this photograph? If you said "a group of Odd Fellows" you were absolutely correct. The three links symbol on the chair in the foreground and the banners in the background indicate that you are in a Lodge of Odd Fellows. And...

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

Updated: August 30, 2021I pass along to you an article just written by one of the preeminent Odd Fellows historians - Peter Sellars.   Peter has served this Order as a Grand Master and currently serves as a member of the California Grand Lodge Board of Directors and...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

20 great ideas to help grow your Odd Fellows Lodge

20 great ideas to help grow your Odd Fellows Lodge

Updated: May 10, 2021

Last December we hit the 10-year mark since the creation of the Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) and the start of DMC Newsletters. In celebration of this Decade Anniversary, we are republishing some articles that appeared in the DMC Newsletter over the past 10 years. Our focus has always been on ways to increase membership in our Lodges and in our Order. Today we offer an article that appeared on September 22, 2013. Hope you enjoy it.

This article is written for Odd Fellow Lodges that WANT to grow. Those Lodges that don’t care about adding new members and keeping them engaged can stop reading now.

I am often asked, “Our Lodge has stagnated. What can we do to help our Lodge grow?” This article will answer that question.

First of all, understand that this is not rocket science. It’s just simple math. To grow, a Lodge must add more new members each year than it loses members through death or withdrawal. In other words, you need to bring in new members. But equally important, once the new members have come into the Lodge, they need to be engaged so that they stick around. To bring in new members and to keep them interested, I have talked about “the three-legged stool“. If a stool has three strong legs, it will support the body. But if the stool is missing a leg, or has a weak leg, the stool will eventually topple. So what do the three legs represent? They represent (1) the rich history, customs and ritual of our ancient order; (2) good fellowship activities within the Lodge for the benefit of the members and applicants; and (3) reaching out into the community to do good works. Too many Lodges emphasize (1), but don’t really do much, if anything, about (2) and (3).

I assure you that if your Odd Fellows Lodge emphasizes all three elements listed above, you will be stronger and you will grow.

20 Examples to Help Grow your Lodge

So, in an effort to help you, here are 20 examples of things you and your Lodge can plan and implement to effectuate (2) and (3) above. Note that these are just examples – not an exhaustive list – to get your juices flowing. You may very well have other and better ideas that work for your Lodge. And, frankly, the suggestions should not come from me – they need to come from your members. You need to do things your MEMBERS want to do. Further, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you implement one or two or three new ideas each year, you are doing well. This is a process that builds year-after-year, not all at once. Here are some thoughts:

  1. A Lodge Bowling Night – carpool to a nearby bowling alley.
  2. A Lodge hike – start easy at first – on a local scenic trail.
  3. An Oktoberfest (or “Oddtoberfest”), complete with sausages, music and beer, for the Lodge members and guests, or even opened up to the community.
  4. Adopt a local group home of foster kids, and provide birthday gifts and other support (e.g. painting and minor repairs) for the home.
  5. A music night at the Lodge. Invite local musicians to play and open it up to the community.
  6. Odd Poetry. Members of your Lodge might enjoy reading their own poetry or poems by noted poets. Even cowboy poetry is encouraged.
  7. Start a wine tasting club, alternating monthly at the homes of your Lodge members.
  8. Organize a community project to paint a mural in town, perhaps on your Lodge Hall.
  9. Volunteer Lodge members to help deliver “meals on wheels”.
  10. A Halloween Party at the Lodge, complete with costumes and prizes – and some music for dancing and/or listening.
  11. Plant some trees in the community.
  12. Organize a downtown clean up day for the community.
  13. Plan a Bunko Night at the Lodge.
  14. Game Night at the Lodge – checkers, chess, scrabble, charades, you name it.
  15. Texas Hold ’em Poker Night at the Lodge.
  16. Co-host a spaghetti feed at the Lodge with a local charity, as a fundraiser for that charity.
  17. Rent a bus for Lodge members and guests and go visit some wineries.
  18. Bring in good local speakers once each month for a speaker’s series at the Lodge – invite the community.
  19. Plan and implement a “Breakfast with Santa” at the Lodge for the local children and their families.
  20. Plan a local fundraiser at the Lodge (or other community building) to raise money for a needed piece of equipment for your fire department, police department, or local hospital.

This is just a sampling of possibilities. YOU can come up with many more, I am sure. The point is, we can’t keep repeating the past in the same old way and expect anything to be different. We have to take a new a different tack to the future. And that new and different tack involves reaching out to the community and reaching in to the members.

What have we got to lose?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

Updated: [DATE]​Dear Dedicated Members for Change, One of the very first things we learn when we join Odd Fellowship is the ancient "commands" of this Order, instructing members to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan." I must...

What do you see in this photograph?

What do you see in this photograph?

Updated: September 6, 2021What do you see in this photograph? If you said "a group of Odd Fellows" you were absolutely correct. The three links symbol on the chair in the foreground and the banners in the background indicate that you are in a Lodge of Odd Fellows. And...

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

Updated: August 30, 2021I pass along to you an article just written by one of the preeminent Odd Fellows historians - Peter Sellars.   Peter has served this Order as a Grand Master and currently serves as a member of the California Grand Lodge Board of Directors and...

Odd Fellows of California – Focus on Membership

Odd Fellows of California – Focus on Membership

Updated: May 3, 2021

Focus on Membership. That has been the recurring theme of these Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) and Odd Fellows of California Newsletters. To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the founding of DMC, we are republishing DMC Newsletter articles from the past decade. Today we reprint an article which first appeared on September 19, 2013. Hope you enjoy it.

A few days ago I wrote about the need for each of us in the Odd Fellows of California to reach out and bring at least one new applicant for membership to our Lodge. I spoke about our great fraternal enemy: Complacency. Some members are simply too complacent and too comfortable in the status quo. I have heard from a number of Odd Fellows and DMC Members who feel strongly on the subject. Here’s an excerpt from one of the e-mails I have received:


I have met a lot of long-time members of our Order who would rather see their Odd Fellows Lodge die than change and see their Lodge grow. Sadly, the Lodge where I am now is like that. Every new member (mostly age 45 and below) who were initiated did not stay active and do not participate because of “older member’s attitudes” of being too comfortable, complacent and close-minded. For many years, it is the same people holding officer positions and the younger ones they initiate just sit on the sidelines. As a result, these young ones do not get the “value” of attending the lodge or appreciate Odd Fellowship.

Many younger members have tried through the years to uplift and update this Order. All they got is discouragement so they become inactive.


So very true. Some of our long-time members have become so entrenched in the status quo that they don’t want to change the way things are. They are comfortable with doing things the same way they have been done for the past 10, 20, 30, 40 or more years. They do not bring in new members, they cannot accept new ideas, and they will not step aside to let new members share in the leadership of the Lodge. These failures are each a recipe for decline. Simply put, we have three significant needs in this Order:

  1. New members.
  2. Active Lodges which keep new members interested and involved.
  3. Long-time members willing to “let go” of the reins of “power” and share leadership with newer members.

The need for new members is obvious. The decline in membership in the Odd Fellows is steady, shocking, and devastating. We cannot sustain the losses year after year. Each of us (not the other guy) has the responsibility to bring in new members and add a link the historic chain of membership. But equally as important, once new members are brought into the Lodge, we have to maintain an active Lodge to keep the new members interested and involved. I have been to Lodge meetings where there are no committee reports, no old business and no new business. The Lodge conducts a meeting with little more than a formal opening and formal closing. How boring is that! How will that situation encourage a new member to remain involved? Finally, it’s imperative that long-time members step to the side and allow newer members to share in the leadership of the Lodge. I have been to Lodges where I have overheard new members suggest new ideas for Lodge activities. And I have heard long-time members immediately pooh-pooh the new idea with comments such as, “that won’t work,” or “we tried that once before,” or even “that’s a stupid idea.” How discouraging is that to a new member!

The goal of an Odd Fellow should not just be to hang around till he or she receives a 50-year pin. The goal of an Odd Fellows should be to add links in our historical chain of membership – bring in a new member, nurture that new member into a leadership position, and be supportive if the new member proposes a new activity or a new idea for the Lodge.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Odd Fellows of California

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What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

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More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Odd Fellows Membership – The Elephant in the Room

Odd Fellows Membership – The Elephant in the Room

Updated: April 26, 2021

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The Official Report of the State of the Order Committee, presented to the 2013 Odd Fellows Grand Lodge in session stated the following:

“Membership, the Elephant in the Room.  This is our most important and vexing problem.  Each year we see a decline in members and the number of Lodges.  In 1998 we had 189 Lodges and 6,464 members.  In the Grand Secretary’s report this last May he reported 4,429 members and 131 Lodge.  In just 14 years we have lost 2,000 members and 58 Lodges.”

These words are true.  And sobering.   Unless you want to watch Odd Fellowship diminish and descend into irrelevancy, you and I and every true Odd Fellow needs to take heed.

Let me put this in the simplest possible terms:  The Independent Order of Odd Fellows cannot continue with business as usual.  We have operated that way for the last half century and we have seen in that time a continued erosion in membership and Lodges.  We cannot keep doing what we have been doing for the last half century and expect a different result.  To change the path of our descent, we have to change the way we operate.

We live in 2013.  We simply can’t continue to operate as if we were living in 1943, 0r 1953, or even 1963.

So, what can we do to alter the equation?  Again, in the simplest possible terms, the answer is right before our very eyes:  While our Order has been dropping in membership, there are a handful of Odd Fellows Lodges in California which have grown in membership.  Obviously, those few Lodges have re-calibrated the equation and are doing something that really works.  If we want our Order to grow, we should look to the successful Lodges and see if their formula for growth will work for our Lodge.

So, what are these growing Lodges doing that helps them to grow membership?  What makes these growing Lodges different?  If you dig deep, you will see that these Lodges are doing two things that make them unique, and that help grow membership in the 21st Century:  (1)  These Lodges are offering members a growing list of good fellowship activities.   Odd Fellowship is, after all, a fraternal order and people want to enjoy each others’ company and have a good time.  Certainly, that’s what the new generation wants to do.  A spaghetti potluck before a formal meeting just isn’t a selling point.  (2)  These Lodges are opening their doors and windows and reaching out into the community.  They are working on community and charitable projects of all kinds – helping feed the hungry, working with aged-out foster kids, working on environmental projects, etc.  Again, that’s what the new generation wants to do.

These growing Odd Fellows Lodges – and I emphasize this – are also holding more and more social meetings.   As Grand Warden, I strongly encourage Lodges to hold social meetings.  Grand Lodge encourages it and so does Sovereign Grand Lodge.  Reach out.  Open your Lodge doors to the community and to potential applicants.  Let the community and potential members see the Lodge and see the activities you are planning.  Don’t hide behind the Lodge walls.  At social meetings you can discuss and plan a wide range of social activities and community activities.  Of course, no secrets of the Order are revealed at these meetings.  And any decisions made can be ratified at the next formal business meeting of the Lodge. But such social meetings are a wonderful and effective tool to let applicants and potential applicants know about your Lodge and feel proud about pursuing membership.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

What do we learn as Odd Fellows?

Updated: [DATE]​Dear Dedicated Members for Change, One of the very first things we learn when we join Odd Fellowship is the ancient "commands" of this Order, instructing members to "visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan." I must...

What do you see in this photograph?

What do you see in this photograph?

Updated: September 6, 2021What do you see in this photograph? If you said "a group of Odd Fellows" you were absolutely correct. The three links symbol on the chair in the foreground and the banners in the background indicate that you are in a Lodge of Odd Fellows. And...

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

A Step Backwards for the Odd Fellows

Updated: August 30, 2021I pass along to you an article just written by one of the preeminent Odd Fellows historians - Peter Sellars.   Peter has served this Order as a Grand Master and currently serves as a member of the California Grand Lodge Board of Directors and...

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