We have 115 Odd Fellows Lodges in California (not counting the jurisdictional Gene J. Bianchi Lodge). Of those 115 Lodges, there are 17 Lodges that have a unique distinction. These 17 Lodges are:
Diamond Springs #9 15 members
Suisun #78 32 members
Mountain Brow #82 95 members
Vacaville #83 85 members
Santa Crux #96 30 members
Scio #102 21 members
Coulterville #104 18 members
Evergreen #161 42 members
Saint Helena #167 59 members
Montezuma #172 55 members
Ventura #201 62 members
Santa Barbara #232 17 members
Lodi #259 124 members
Little Lake #277 14 members
Grafton #293 19 members
Spring Valley #316 46 members
San Fernando #365 22 members
These 17 Lodges have a combined membership, as of January 1, 2017, of 756. The unique feature about these 17 Lodges is that of their 756 members, 756 are men and 0 are women.
In the “old days” of Odd Fellowship, men joined the Odd Fellows Lodges and women joined the Rebekah Lodges. That changed at the turn of this Century. At that time, by a vote of the membership at Grand Lodge sessions, Odd Fellows Lodges in California were opened to female applicants. And the first women joined Odd Fellows Lodges in the years 2000 and 2001. So, it’s been about 18 years since membership in Odd Fellows Lodges opened to female applicants – that’s almost a full “generation” in sociological calculation. Yet, after all that time, why do 17 of our Lodges have not even one woman as a member?
Interestingly, a majority of these 17 Lodges stay very low-key, not even sending representatives to Grand Lodge Sessions. It’s almost as if they wish to be “out of sight, out of mind.” I have talked to members of some of these Lodges and have asked them the question as to why they have no female members. The answers have varied. In some cases, the members have been brutally frank: “If a woman joined this Lodge, I would leave.” Or, “It’s the one night of the month that I can get away from my wife.” Or, they have simply changed the subject and ignored the question. In one case, I am aware of members who tried to sponsor a well-respected woman as a member in the Lodge, and by a vote of the Lodge, a majority did not vote to admit her. In other cases, I have heard interesting “reasons” such as, “We don’t have any women in the Lodge because no woman has applied,” or “We have an active women’s club in this community and the women would rather join that.”
After 18 years, the “reasons” don’t wash. Frankly, it defies all reason to brlirbr that not one woman has applied in 18 years. But assuming for a moment that is true, then the men have turned the Lodge into a “Men’s Club” and de jure or de facto have hung out a virtual sign that says, “women are not welcomed.” That is not only a violation of the Odd Fellows Codes – which we have all taken an oath to follow – but it is just wrong at so many levels. At a purely pedestrian level, it is illogical to exclude half of our community’s population, particularly at a time when Lodge membership is shrinking. Look at it this way: Would we all not agree that it is intolerable and unacceptable to think that a Lodge would exclude a potential member because of the color of that person’s skin, or that person’s ethnic heritage, or that person’s religion? Is it not just as unacceptable for a Lodge to exclude a person because they don’t have a Y chromosome in their DNA?
A couple of generations ago, our society had policemen, and firemen, and mailmen. Today, we have police officers, and firefighters, and postal carriers. Odd Fellows had better catch up with the rest of modern American society or we may go down the “manhole” of history.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Let me start by stating the obvious: A person who is 22 years old has a different set of childhood memories, history, and interests than does a person who is 82 years old – or, for that matter, a person who is 42 or 62.
For an Odd Fellows Lodge to be truly viable, strong and active, it needs members who encompass ALL those generations. And you can’t be effective in attracting other generations to your Lodge unless you understand their language, interests, and priorities. A Lodge composed of members who are exclusively from one generation is like an orchestra composed entirely of tubas. A Lodge composed of members of many generations is like an orchestra of many instruments. The former is boring and does not attract new members. The latter is dynamic, and the symphonic sound will attract a wide variety of interest.
At the recent California Membership Educational Seminar held earlier this month, Michael Greenzeiger and Linnea Bredenberg, members of Mountain View Lodge #244, presented an informative and well-received lecture on the subject of “communication between generations.” The talk by Michael and Linnea highlighted the different perspectives of the generations, and gave us a great deal of insight. It is my pleasure to forward, as an attachment, their Power Point presentation entitled “Communication Between Generations.” I think you will find it fascinating! More importantly, it has direct application to your Lodge’s membership development activities.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Michale Greenzeiger Seminar Presentation
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
I wanted to highlight two matters in this Newsletter.
First, attached to this Newsletter is a letter from Grand Master Dave Reed, with an explanation of the concept of “restricted funds”. Lodge members often ask what “restricted funds” are about and GM Reed has provided a straight-forward and cogent explanation. I hope it is informative and useful for you.
Second, I wanted to mention the successful 2018 California Membership Educational Seminar we had last weekend in Reno on January 5-7. We had a remarkable 150 Odd Fellows and Rebekahs register for the seminar from 50 different Lodges! Over the Saturday and Sunday seminar, we covered a wide range of topics of value to current and incoming officers of the Lodge, as well as interested members of the Lodge. We also had breakout sessions to provide detailed explanations and answer questions for those members who will serve as Noble Grand, Vice Grand, Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer. We focused a lot on the ways Lodges can increase membership. And we did not shy away from difficult and contentious issues. In the evaluation sheets, attendees particularly enjoyed the presentations entitled “Communication Between Generations in Your Lodge” presented by Michael Greenzeiger and Linea Bredenberg, “Difficult Issues” presented by GM Dave Reed and PGM Peter Sellers, “Running a Proper Lodge Meeting” and “Effective Membership Development”, presented by PGM Dave Rosenberg. Attendees also enjoyed connecting with old friends and new friends on Friday and Saturday evenings. All in all, I believe everyone who attended learned something which will help them make their Lodges stronger.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows now face yet another one of its social issues; that being the manner of how we treat a segment of members and exclude them for unjustified reasons. As controversial as some members may view this writing, it must be said. Where else do the members share their concerns when they feel an injustice has been done?
There was a time when potential members who were “not of pure white blood” were not allowed to join the Order. There was a time when those owning bars, taverns, or selling alcoholic beverages could not become members. There was a time women could not join an Odd Fellows lodge. If Sovereign Grand Lodge does not reconsider a decision made at its 2017 session in Kansas City, Missouri, then next year, in 2019, the Order shall be on its way to discriminating against those who are on fixed incomes, without jobs, or otherwise poor. The decision to raise the dues by $5.00 next year, and then again another $5.00 the following year, was one of the worst decisions made by the Sovereign Grand Body.
It was a sure way of telling members in many hard-working lodges, even those lodges that add new members each year and do wonderful deeds in their communities, that they are being punished. They are being penalized due to the lack of hard work of the overwhelming majority of inactive lodges. Most lodges fail to show growth in membership.
It was a sure way to hide the underlying effect this unjustified dues increase shall have upon our indigent and poorer members. Without consideration or a voice made in their behalf at last summer’s session, the silent prejudice against our members who cannot afford the increase is social division and the creation of “class” indifference.
For those who see this statement as an overreaction, you must ask yourselves, “What was the reason for the increase in dues?” The explanation for this increase was not an explanation whatsoever; it was merely a way to punish the entire Order for not growing in membership. In the past, SGL raised dues to meet costs. In other words, if only one jurisdiction does not show an increase membership, despite others showing increases, we must all pay the increase. What is the likelihood of every jurisdiction showing an increase?
In several discussions with members these past few months, I have been told that anyone should be able to afford a simple increase of $5.00. Really? This is, of course, a relative statement. For example, a couple on a fixed income, who may belong to both Rebekahs and Odd Fellows, that five dollars turns into a $20.00 increase for the year. Add a second year of the increase in dues, and this turns into a total $40.00 increase! Believe or not, some of our members live on a tight budget!
A dues increase, if justified, should occur. But, an unjustified or punitive dues-increase could be viewed as discriminatory against those who cannot afford an increase. For those who are saying, “It’s only $5.00” I say to you, this is as insensitive, as it is offensive, as I know members who cannot afford the increase. Do you really believe those members having a tough time of paying their dues, are only facing increases by the Odd Fellows? For many, local taxes have increased, utilities have increased, interest on loans have increased, insurance has increased, food prices have increased, and much more. What has gone down in price? – Very little, if anything. Now, the Order raises its dues for nothing more than a “PUNISHMENT” – period.
This should be appalling to the membership. In fairness, there were many who voted against this increase last August; and frankly, many probably did not know what they were voted for or against. Even my own jurisdiction had two representatives against the increase, while a third voted in favor, which tells us that this group was lost.
During 2017 SGL sessions, the Finance Committee was asked to approach the microphone and tell the Sovereign Grand Body how the money would be used. The speaker for the Finance Committee stated that the SGL was “in the black.” He did not have an answer as to how any additional revenue would be used because there was not a need for the money, nor was there a new budgeted item requiring funds.
Then, in one discussion I had with a member – who was most likely personally financially secure – that member stated, “If a member loves and values the Order, he or she will have no problem paying the dues increase.” There are many things we value and cherish in our everyday lives. There are people who we wish we could to assist but we often simply cannot afford it. Our members who love the Order show it by their participation rather than their donations to mysterious causes.
By helping those in need and giving comfort to those we see struggling is how we meet our Order’s values. Punitive dues increases has NO value! The argument that members will pay their dues if the love the Order, has no merit, as the dues increase had no purpose or justification. One can only see it as an attack on a certain kind of member within our ranks – our less affluent members, our homeless members, and our indigent members.
This opinion has probably been lost on some of you, but for those who can think out-of-the-box and view life beyond this Order, the following passage from the Third Degree is something to ponder, because we do have “poor” members in our Order:
“In the lodge room, the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlearned, meet as brothers and sisters, and untidily engage in the promotion of benevolence and truth.”
Finally, we are not critical of the members who proposed this increase or voted to burden our less fortunate members, but rather critical of the lack of justification to increase the dues. Why stop at $5.00 a year for two years? What if local jurisdictions need money? Do they raise their dues, too? This is more of an awareness message, than a message of criticism. There is a simple solution. Reconsider the dues increase in 2018.
In Friendship, Love, & Truth,
Peter V. Sellars PGM/PGP California
It’s a new Year in a new Century, and Odd Fellowship has to find new ways to be modern and relevant in a rapidly changing society.
The old ways are not working so well, and our Order in North America continues to lose members. Running our Lodges and our Order in the same old ways will render the same old results; and that’s just unacceptable – we cannot sustain these losses indefinitely. We have to be open to new ideas and new ways. Lodges that are evolving and changing the way they do business in this new Century have shown that they can flourish and increase membership.
Regrettably, there are too many Lodges that haven’t added new members in years. There are also too many Lodges that have added some new members, but those new members are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Unless Lodges start bringing in new members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, they are inevitably going to go out of business as members age and no new members in sufficient numbers are available to take their places. While the human lifespan may typically be 80-90 years, a fraternity has the potential to live for centuries. We have Odd Fellows Lodges in California that have been around for over 150 years, and have the potential to continue for many more years. But that potential can only be realized if there is a fairly constant flow of new members. The caveat to all this is that the new members cannot be of the same age range as existing members. If we have a Lodge where all the members are in their 70’s, it will not do for the Lodge to initiate a dozen new members who are also in their 70’s. In ten years, that Lodge will have a bunch of members who are all in their 80’s, and who wants to join a Lodge of great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers? It’s vitally important that the Lodge bring in members from all generations. Otherwise, the Lodge will have generational gaps that are very difficult, if not impossible, to fill in.
Generation X is that generation of people who were born in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Millennial Generation is that generation of people who were born in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The younger members of Generation X are in their 40’s. The Millennials are in their 30’s and 20’s. These are the folks who we must bring into our Lodges to sustain us through the 21st Century. If Lodges only bring in new members who were from the Baby Boom Generation, we are bringing in folks in their 60’s and 70’s.
And we should not make it too easy for people to join our fraternal order. Some Lodges are so happy to find a warm body who submits an application that they rush them to initiation. It does us no good to initiate a new member only to have that member leave the order after a few months or a year because they are disillusioned or disappointed. It is far better that we develop a process by which a potential new member can learn about Odd Fellowship and the Lodge before they are permitted to join by way of initiation. They need to know what they are getting into, and the Lodge members need to know who this new member really is.
Davis Lodge #169 (my Home Lodge), at my urging, developed and instituted a special process for applicants, and we have been using this process for the past decade. It’s worked pretty well. Over that past decade, my Lodge has shown a net increase every year. In 2017 alone, we initiated 39 new members into the Lodge. We have so many applicants for membership that we break them into three groups and hold three initiations every year. The new members we bring in range in age from the 20’s to the 80’s, and are enthusiastic about being Odd Fellows. Over 90% of the new members obtain their three degrees within months of initiation. The process we use is interesting (perhaps counter-intuitive) but it works. You see, we don’t make it easy on applicants. We give each applicant a “Pledge Book” and we expect them to read it. The Pledge Book tells them about Odd Fellowship and the Davis Lodge. We encourage applicants to join one or more of our Lodge’s 57 committees. We also expect the applicants to attend a minimum of 8 Lodge social meetings or events, and to interview a minimum of 13 Lodge members (the Pledge Book contains one-page interview forms). The interviews, in particular, are useful as they allow the applicants to get to know the members, and they also allow the members to get to know the applicants. The process takes at least 4 months, and often 6 months, before the applicant is interviewed, voted on, and initiated. We lose some applicants along the way. But the ones who make it through the process are better informed, and are more committed to becoming Odd Fellows and staying the course.
My own Lodge doesn’t recruit new members any more. We haven’t done so for years. Some of our applicants contact us through our website, or stop by the Lodge Hall because our doors are typically open and our signage invites people in. But most of our applicants come to us because of our Lodge’s visibility in the community through our contributions to the town, and the community events that we host. Members of the public are invited by Lodge members to attend our numerous Lodge events (e.g. live music once a month open to the public, monthly bingo for the community, breakfast with Santa, Taste of Davis, the Davis Chocolate Festival, the Davis Classic Film Festival, the annual New Year’s Eve Party, and many more), and they want to learn more about Odd Fellowship and the Lodge. I imagine this is the way Odd Fellowship was in the 19th Century – when the Odd Fellows Lodge was the place to be and the best show in town.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
The modern business author Patrick Lencioni entitled one of his books “Death by Meeting” to illustrate that oftentimes in business and life at large we tend to talk things to death. He explains that there is a time for talk and a time for action. Our lodges can serve to illustrate this fact; many of our lodge meetings drag on interminably. I have attended quite a few meetings that last more than 2 hours. Why is this, exactly? Sometimes these are the same lodges that are shrinking in attendance. Is that any surprise, really? In today’s world, there is no earthly reason for a meeting to go over 45 minutes unless it is filled with rancor, endless debate, or some other trivial rationality. Some members just like to hear themselves talk. Others are just plain upset about every aspect of the order. But this is no excuse to punish everyone else in a lodge. Unless your lodge is doing something of interest to each attending member, you might reconsider your 2-hour meeting. I often sit and watch lodges diminish in attendance month after month simply due to the length and often the solemnity of the meeting. Is it any wonder that these are the lodges that diminish in attendance? And I find that the non-attending members find every excuse not to attend. Most are too polite to say, “I find our meeting more boring than chopping wood”.
Of course, there are reasons for some meetings to take longer than others. Some lodges have extensive committee reports, but if this is the only reason for a longer meeting, there are ways to shorten these reports as well. Many lodges now print or post their event listings and minutes for all members, which shortens the secretary’s report, but also serves to notify all members of all pertinent news. If your lodge is having personal issues between members, consider if it is proper to have arguments within the lodge at large or whether these issues can be resolved by meeting privately before or after a meeting. Some lodges have turmoil because members simply don’t talk with each other enough. Unfortunately, lodge meetings in and by themselves often don’t resolve personal disputes since they are more public than the disputing members may prefer. Many of the lodge meetings I attend seem to have members who arrive at the exact time of the meeting, and seem to have an issue to deal with. If this is the case, why not appear earlier than meeting time, and discuss it with your fellow members in a more casual setting prior to the meeting? I have seen many seemingly prickly issues alleviated simply because the members discussed the nuts and bolts of an issue prior to bringing it up in lodge.
A funny story involving my own lodge happened a couple years ago. The movie theater in my town shows classic movies the same night as our lodge meeting. A friend of mine from lodge called me and said he was under the weather and would not attend lodge since he did not feel well. I said, no problem, since I was sick also. That same night we ran into each other at the classic movie showing which had “Double Indemnity” running the same time as lodge. When we saw each other, we laughed and agreed that the movie was much better time spent then a similar expense of time at lodge. This is what we as an order are up against. We must compete for people’s time, and it’s not easy. We should ask ourselves how can we hold our members’ interest?
If we have a sincere desire to get and retain new members, we must look at our members as an entertainer or public speaker would view an audience. Would you sit and listen to someone drone on interminably without some rationale for doing so? Conversely, if you are a leader in your own lodge, why do you expect other members to sit and watch paint dry endlessly? And, if you do, is it any wonder that eventually all members refuse to do so? Lastly, lighten up. What to one person may seem to be a life and death issue may be trivial to another. To get along, we need to empathize with each other, and not just punish someone for a difference of opinion. A smile and a friendly word can make a world of difference, and perhaps keep your lodge from dozing off.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles