Every Odd Fellows Lodge has a Register of Members which contains hand-written information on each member of that Lodge from the day of its institution to the present day. The name of each member, and his/her signature, is included as part of this historic book.
Recently, I had occasion to serve as Secretary pro tem at one of my Lodge meetings (the Secretary missed that meeting due to another community commitment helping foster children) and as I was setting up to do my duties, as pro tem, I flipped through the pages of our dd Fellows Lodge’s Register of Members. It’s an interesting historical journey – and I recognized some names of early members who were prominent figures in the early days of our community. Our particular Lodge – Davis #169 in California – was instituted in 1870. Since the Lodge formation, I saw that 780 men and women had signed the Register of Members as of the present date. Of course, I looked through the register to find my own name and signature and found it in March of 2004 as Number 411.
And then it struck me like a bolt of electricity. There were 410 members who had signed the Register before me, and there have been 370 members who have signed the Register after me. As I drilled down on these numbers, it was apparent that in the 134 years before I joined the Lodge 410 members had joined – an average of 3 members joining per year. And in the 14 years after I joined the Lodge 370 members had joined – an average of over 26 joining per year. In fact, almost as many members had joined the Lodge in the last 14 years as compared to the prior 134 years.
What had happened in the last 14 years to so dramatically change the trajectory of this Lodge?
The Davis Odd Fellows Lodge had moved from a small, static and generally moribund Lodge to a fast-growing and dynamic Lodge – currently the largest in the Jurisdiction of California . For over a century, membership had eked along, and then over the past decade membership in the Lodge had literally exploded. I attribute this sea change to SIX STEPS TO SUCCESS that were put into place during the years 2005-2009 – a period of time coinciding with my 4-year tenure as Noble Grand of the Lodge. (Caveat: It’s not normally a good idea for one person to serve as NG for so long a period – but it was necessary in this case in order to change the culture and the direction of the Lodge.) These six steps made all the difference in the world. And they are not exclusive to the Davis Lodge. Any Lodge can use these six steps (or facsimiles of them) to change its direction. Here are the six steps that made all the difference.
1. A conscious decision to open the Lodge to all. The Odd Fellows Lodge, for over a Century, had been composed almost exclusively of middle-aged or older white men. This was not reflective of our community or our State. We made a conscious decision to reach out to the community at large and welcome people of all ages, races and religious/philosophical beliefs. We have initiated folks in their teens and folks in their 80’s. We admit so many new members, that we have to schedule 3 Initiatory Degrees per year. In particular, we increased our outreach to women – encouraging many husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends to join. If we admitted only men, we would be excluding 50% of our population – what’s the logic and sense in that? But we also made a point of reaching out to the great diversity of our community. We wanted the Lodge to be a big tent reflective of the eclectic folks who live here. This diversity has greatly expanded the universe of potential members, and has made us stronger.
2. A clean Lodge Hall. Just as it is important to have a welcoming home, we endeavored to have a welcoming Odd Fellows Lodge. In 2004, the Lodge Hall was old, run down, and barely used. From 2005 till 2010, a major effort was undertaken to clean up, repair, upgrade and refurbish the Lodge – including new carpeting, wood-paneling on the walls, new ceilings and chandeliers, increased storage capacity, and a stage in the Upper Hall. We used money that had been saved and we took a loan from the Grand Lodge. You can’t invite the public if your Hall is not accessible, so we made sure it was. We removed the chairlift from the railing (what message does a chairlift send to the public) and we installed a modern elevator and four accessible restrooms. We converted our kitchen into a commercial kitchen so that we could host and cater events. We undertook a protocol of preventive maintenance of our roofs, heating and air-conditioning, carpeting and other fixtures to avoid large expenditures in the future. Members of the Lodge today take great pride in their Lodge Hall.
3. Increased visibility in the community. Prior to 2005, the Lodge Hall, and the Odd Fellows in general, were virtually invisible in the community. This changed. For example, there was no signage to identify the Lodge as an Odd Fellows Hall. We installed lots and lots of new signage, including a vertical neon IOOF sign (that is, by the way, lit 24 hours) we had purchased from a defunct Lodge in Pennsylvania and had shipped across the USA to Davis. We worked with community artists to put murals up on seven of our walls – in full color, depicting local community scenes. And most importantly, when the Lodge had an activity for the public, we made sure to publicize it beforehand and put out press releases and posters. We even installed two large poster boards in front of the our Lodge which highlight events coming up at the Lodge of interest to the public. Today, the Lodge Hall is brightly lit, visible and active. There is something happening at the Lodge Hall 15-20 days every month. Ask most members of the community where the Odd Fellows Hall is located, and they can tell you.
4. The Committee structure to serve the community and to have fun. A keystone to our success is the creation of a strong Committee structure. Now, every Lodge has some committees required by Code (e.g. Finance Committee, Visiting Committee, Bylaws Committee) and most Lodges conjure up one or more other Committees to accommodate administrative tasks or Lodge Hall maintenance. But in Davis, we embraced the Committee concept with both arms. We currently have over 50 Committees. Some of them have administrative functions, but most of the Committees are either for community service (e.g. Bingo Committee, Adopt-a-Highway Committee, Music Committee, Community Support Committee, Classic Film Festival Committee, Davis Chocolate Festival Committee, Taste of Davis Committee, Breakfast with Santa Committee, etc.) or internal so that Lodge members can have an active social life (e.g. OddtoberFest Committee, New Year’s Eve Party Committee, Needlework Committee, Halloween Party Committee, Gaming Committee, Cigar Lounge Committee, Ping Pong Committee, Take a Hike Committee, etc.) When Lodge members express an interest in launching a new Committee, we encourage them. Committees are given annual budgets, if needed, and then are allowed to “do their thing”. Lodge meetings at the Davis Lodge rarely have “old business” or “new business” – 75% of the meeting is taken up with Committee reports.
5. The creation of the Pledge Process. We decided that we didn’t want to make it too easy for folks to join our Lodge. Instead, we wanted them to learn about Odd Fellowship, and our Davis Lodge and earn admittance as a member of the Order. So, we created a Pledge system and a Pledge process. When a man or woman submits an application to join the Lodge, they are considered a “Pledge”, placed in a group with other Pledges – we have three such groups each year. (Did you know that the Initiatory Degree was once historically known as the “Degree of Trust”?) The process of joining our Davis Lodge takes 4 to 6 months. During that time period the applicants must read a “Pledge Book” (full of information about the Lodge and the Order), must interview a minimum of 13 Lodge members (a great way to break the ice and meet members) and must attend a minimum of 8 social meetings and Lodge events. Through this process, they learn a lot about the Lodge and when they are finally initiated, they appreciate membership even more. Attending their first meeting as a member does not scare them away. They are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about continuing their journey in IOOF.
6. A positive attitude, and a rejection of negativity. None of the above works if the Lodge is an uncomfortable place of bickering and negativity. No one wants to come to meetings to be distressed. No one will join a Lodge (or stay long as a member of a Lodge) where negativity reigns. We resolved early on to be an island of peace and enjoyment – a place to escape the turmoil of everyday life – just as early Odd Fellows envisioned. Rumors are immediately quashed. Negative comments are not welcomed. Every idea – particularly ideas from new members – are encouraged. Let me give you just one example. Years ago, a member proposed that the Lodge try to set a Guinness World Record. In other Lodges, this idea would not have gotten to the starting gate and would have been shot down as “that won’t work” or “it’s too much trouble”, or simply, “that’s stupid.” In our Lodge, we said, “Fine, let’s form a committee and see if we can do it.” Well, it took almost a year of work and planning by the “Bicycle Parade Committee”, but we did it. The idea ultimately involved thousands of people in our community, and generated lots of interest from television, radio and print media. Great publicity for our Lodge. And in the end, the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge set a Guinness World Record for most bicycles constantly moving in a single line.
These Six Steps to Success really do work and – in time – will allow your Odd Fellows Lodge to grow and prosper.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Brothers and Sisters, you volunteered to join the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You freely accepted an obligation to abide by certain conditions upon becoming a member, even after given the opportunity to leave at one point in the Initiatory Degree. There were no promises made to you, other than an offer to show you some principles and values, which could improve your character as a person.
Those principles of Friendship, Love, and Truth, have proven to be too much for some members. We do not always see sincere friendship exchanged between members of the Order. In fact, we probably wonder if we are friends at all. The same goes for love. Do you sincerely love your brothers and sisters? Truth also escapes many members, as they seem to be vying for some strategic position of leadership in the Order; they do not share information, which can be helpful to others for growth.
I will go back to the first paragraph in this writing: “You freely accepted an obligation to abide by certain conditions upon becoming a member.” You promised all of us, who were already members of the Order to live by certain principles when we asked for nothing in return.
Why do we see a reluctance to embrace each other and to lift each other up to greater heights? We see longtime members – not all of them – treat newer members with disdain and limit any creative ideas, which could otherwise improve the situation of the lodge. The older members recite code word-for-word to limit growth, as if it was the ends to all ends, when in fact our code has so many contradictions and allowances (probably done intentionally to offer lodges an opportunity for success). Newer, mostly younger members, look for answers and encouragement from members of other lodges. They look toward the successful lodges and see what these lodges are doing and ask questions. This scenario repeats itself over and over in this Order. Thus, deeper resentment grows between the longtime members and newer members. Does this sound familiar?
Brothers and Sisters, this is one of the biggest issues in our Order, today. As a longtime member who has served in different capacities and levels of this Order, this scenario is our number one killer. Not opening our minds and hearts to the members who bring the new ideas – and the ENERGY behind those ideas – is the number one killer! Our members must not only step back and allow every member to try new ideas, but embrace those ideas.
Look outside the doors of your hall. You see other organizations looking for new members. They are trying to survive, too. They want our members. This is as much a lesson on Membership retention as it is on reminding Odd Fellows to live by those grand principles of Friendship, Love, and Truth. Those basic principles if practiced, should melt away any blockage or barricade set by any member of the Order.
Strive to live by the principles of Friendship, Love, and Truth and you will find life gets a lot easier. The lodge becomes a better place for your efforts, too. You are in “it” when you live it. Now, go out and win it.
Peter V. Sellars
A longtime member.
Wines of the World
RSVPs are now being accepted for the next 4-course Gourmet Dinner with Wine Pairings, coming up on Friday, August 31, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Lower Hall. This time we will feature an international dinner with international wines in four courses featuring dishes and wines from France, Italy, the United States and Spain. The menu with wine pairings is attached. Please note that there is a vegetarian alternative presented, as well.
You can RSVP now to save your spot – contact Allison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let Allison know how many are in your party, if you wish the vegetarian alternative, or if there are any dietary restrictions.
At the last Gourmet Dinner, we had a wonderful gourmet dinner with beer pairings, attended by 22 guests. Everyone enjoyed the dinner and the beverages. We expect another successful dinner with wines of the world on August 31. Arguably, between our three Lodge Chefs, we have the best restaurant in town. This is a fixed price menu so all four courses, and the wine, are included in the price.
Presented by Gallo-August 31st @ 6pm
Four courses paired with wines- $65/person (gratuities appreciated)
RSVP to email@example.com and save your spot today! RSVP Deadline is August 27th.
Amelia Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé (Bordeaux, France) paired with Moules Farcies (French Baked Mussels), Vegetarian Substitution-Garlicky Baked Mushrooms
Talbot ‘Kali Hart’ Pinot Noir (Monterey, Ca) paired with Chopped Antipasto Salad
Brancaia “Tre” Blend -Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet (Tuscany, Italy) paired with Chicken Arrabbiata served with Crusty Bread, Vegetarian Substitution-Spinach & Cherry Tomato Arrabbiata
Las Rocas Garnacha from Calatayud, Spain paired with Chocolate Drizzled Rosquillas (Spanish Donuts)
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Rodney King, perhaps, said it best: “Can’t we all just get along?”
The surest way to turn off and drive away new members is to be in an Odd Fellows Lodge where one or two members act in a dominant or controlling way, or bicker, quarrel or criticize each other. The negative behavior can take many forms: The negative member may take the form of a bully – loud, aggressive, controlling, rude. The negative member may take the form of a contrarian – proposals are shot down because the Lodge never did that before, new ideas ideas are stupid, or motions violate the “Code”. The negative member has been in control of everything and anything that happens in the Lodge – and won’t let loose the reins of control to any other member.
This sort of negative attitude and behavior is toxic to a fraternity. Members who engage in this conduct can cause a Lodge to fracture and even disintegrate. Not only will it turn off and drive away new members, it will also affect existing members, make them uncomfortable and reduce attendance. Negative members indirectly affect efforts to retain and increase membership in the Order.
As members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, we are supposed to go to Lodge meetings to escape the turmoil of everyday life, to elevate our character, not to witness members sniping at each other, or criticizing ideas that are proposed, or being loud and belligerent.
I have had the misfortune to visit some Odd Fellows Lodges where it appeared that members had never heard the words “friendship, love and truth.” They certainly weren’t friendly to one another. There was little, if any, love shown. And truth had been replaced by slander and rumor. Frankly, it was the exact opposite of what Odd Fellowship is all about. The tension in the room was palpable.
Not only is this kind of negative culture anathema to our fraternity, it also discourages members from speaking at meetings or for that matter from even attending. Social times and meetings should be enjoyable, sometimes even uplifting. There is nothing in the ritual or Codes that prohibit members from having fun.
If you see this sort of conduct occurring in your Lodge, you have a moral duty to take action. The best solution is to talk directly to the member who is acting or speaking inappropriately, face-to-face and in private. In a brotherly way, let that member know how you feel about it. If that task is too difficult, uncomfortable or distasteful for you, then you should have a conversation with the Noble Grand or a respected senior member of the Lodge about it – hopefully the Noble Grand or senior member will take the appropriate action. If this doesn’t remedy the situation, then by all means bring the problem to the attention of the District Deputy Grand Master, and if necessary, the Grand Master. The future of your Odd Fellows Lodge may very well be at stake.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Without question, Odd Fellows Lodges need to change their culture, or they simply will not attract the lifeblood of a fraternity: new members. Men and women of the new generation (those born after 1980) will not join our Order simply to attend boring, do-nothing meetings.
This is not to disparage the basic tenets of this Order: Friendship, Love and Truth. Those tenets are timeless and have as great a meaning in the 21st Century as they did in the 19th Century. However, we continue to tout historical relics from our distant fraternal past that have little or no significance to potential new members today. For example, how does the ancient “command” to “bury the dead” or “educate the orphan” resonate with a 30-year-old potential applicant? It doesn’t. If anything, it is off-putting.
Here is an email from a member of a Odd Fellows Lodge that touches on issues relating to the culture of the Lodge. For the sake of privacy and peace, I will neither reveal the Lodge name nor the name of the writer of the email. Ponder it well . . . .
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
It is funny that you and Rick are touching on the very topic that I have been thinking about. It strikes me that too many lodge meetings have become “organ recitals.”
The meeting is proceeding just fine, taking care of business and then they get to the “sick or in distress” items and then we have to listen to dreary accounts of everybody’s ills and which members and members’ relatives are dead or dying. I know we are supposed to help “bury the dead”, whatever than means nowadays, but can’t there be some sense of proportion in a meeting?
I AM an old person and I get depressed hearing this stuff, over and over. Imagine you are a member in your 30’s or 40’s (those few we have) and you have to sit through this stuff, month after month! Why would you want to attend a meeting, merely to get bummed out?
At one lodge of my acquaintance, if you mentioned in a meeting that you had been suffering from a common cold, or a bum knee it would end up in the newsletter!
Why can’t we change the “sick or in distress” portion of a meeting to a portion that encourages reporting on both positive and negative things?
I would rather hear about somebody’s grandkid getting their degree, or a good job rather than that “Brother Fred is having knee surgery.”
Why not have a member outreach committee than not only checks up on people when they are ill but also that checks up on members who have not been attending to see if there is something the lodge can do to bring them back?
We need to change the Independent Order of Odd Fellows culture and encourage living while we are still alive!
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The article, below, was written by a relatively new member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows from a small Lodge in Southern California, and I commend it to you. The article highlights one of the great impediment to growth that I have personally seen in many, many Lodges. This impediment – unless corrected – will ultimately destroy the Lodge.
The problem? Long-time members of the Odd Fellows Lodge who just won’t let go of the control they exercise in the Lodge. Sometimes that “control” is abundantly clear and dominant, and sometimes it is subtle. Look, no one lives forever. Eventually, new members must assume all functions and responsibilities in the Lodge. It is critical that long-time members mentor the new members, and then allow the new members to assume responsibility in the Lodge. The long-time members are a great resource and should continue to be as active as is appropriate – but they cannot continue to dominate and control. To do so will stifle the new generation and will lead to a diminution of the Lodge. The long-time members may think that only they know the right answers and that only they can properly control the Lodge. But in reality, they are slowly strangling the life out of the Lodge, and they are ultimately destroying the Lodge.
The solution? The long-time members must simply mentor the new members, and then – with grace and dignity and the appreciation of their Odd Fellows Lodge – they must eventually release the reins of control. At the same time, the new members must show respect for the long-time members, exercise patience, and then slowly assume responsibility within the Lodge – they are, after all, the future of Odd Fellowship.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
From a New Member of a Small Lodge (by Veronica Dowdy)
I am a member of a small Odd Fellows Lodge. We have only maybe a handful of active members and many who are not active. I have been a member of the small community that we live in since 2009 and had been looking for a place/organization to be part of where I could feel more part of the community while contributing and being a valuable member of my town.
My husband and I joined the Odd Fellows because we saw the potential that the organization has and we have been inspired by who they are. Having lived in a large city prior to us moving to this town, it had me miss how much more we were involved in great activities geared to making a difference.
I have had over 20 years of experience planning events for large corporations. I have successfully raised funds for non-profit organizations. One such event included the Avon Breast Cancer 5K race in Los Angeles, where I was able to get the whole company I worked at to participate 17 years ago; and they still participate to this day after I moved on. I also raised funds for the AIDS Foundation through a San Francisco Marathon in which we gave away tickets to incredibly fun events such as Cirque Du Soleil, a Harbor Dinner Cruise and a piece of artwork valued at $10,000 all donated to us by different organizations and artists. I am very creative when it comes to ways to get the community and people in general involved in activities that benefit all of us.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were discussing ways to raise funds and awareness about the Odd Fellows. It has come to our attention that hardly anyone in our community is aware of who the Odd Fellows are or what we are about. So I figured it would be a great idea to organize special events such as whale watching, short trips to fun places for the community to be able to raise awareness of what we do and raise funds for different organizations as well as for our Lodge. There has been concern from a few members of our Lodge that I have been “holding back” in my participation and I figured that this would be a great way for me to step up and do what I do best – what I have had experience with and make a difference. Unfortunately, when I brought my motion up, instead of waiting for the discussion part of the motion, my motion was nit-picked and I felt shut down completely.
My motion was simply to head a “fun-raising” committee which was initially met with smiles and cheer.
My motion was never recorded because it was nit-picked by the secretary recording the motions until I could say nothing and so I sat silent. My husband stood in my defense to argue for allowing the motion to be made first and then discussion after. No one said a word and my husband and I were given the universal “shhh” symbol. The person who gave the “shhh” to us picked up the motion and it passed but garnered one “no” vote.
I voted for my own motion only because it had to come from someone else who had “been around” longer than I have. This really left a bad taste in my mouth and completely took away any desire for future participation in my lodge. My husband experienced the same thing when he brought up an idea that would make a difference for our lodge as well. Someone else who had “been around” made the motion after watching his contribution get picked apart before the motion was made because the discussion to shoot it down preceded the motion.
I have read that some of our lodges are dying. This is one of the reasons why. New members who can be a great contribution to our communities join and bring with them ideas and experience needed for growth. Unfortunately, if they encounter the SAME opposition that we have, there is no room for leadership or contribution or growth. Like another odd fellow member stated: stores and restaurants that have survived have found a way to diversify what they offer and bring new items and products into their establishments; how can our lodges expect to survive when any new ideas are nit-picked and shut down by senior members before there is even a record of the motion? And whose motion does it become if a member who has “been around” makes it instead; isn’t that belittling? And how can anyone question why new members are holding back instead of realizing that the only reason we hold back is because we feel that any contributions that we bring will face nit-picking opposition rather than procedural debate which is fair and just and both sides can be heard in an orderly fashion?
I will continue to participate in my lodge for now, because I know that this is important for my husband and I want to support him in his commitment to our community. But if I see no change in how things are being done, I may withdraw my participation from the lodge. It saddens me to think that we have such a great resource in our community and that it’s not being utilized the way it was meant to be. I am hoping that in writing this, other members can see how things need to improve. It should be up to the older members to shepherd and support new members instead of what I have experienced. This comes from the perspective of a newbie and is meant to bring awareness to something that needs to change in order to transform our lodges from something that is dying to something that is thriving.
This is not meant to be harsh criticism, but instead, constructive criticism on what needs to change in our lodges as we can’t be the only lodge where this happens. What I proposed was not something new, but has been asked of us as members from our grand lodge in several letters to members. We have been asked to do more than meet in session. It is one thing that older members do not do what is asked of members by our grand lodge, but it is a great hypocrisy to stymie the efforts of new people to do what is asked of us by our Grand Lodge. Such hypocrisy destroys whatever vitality that new members bring.