DMC – An exclusive environment

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Lucky California

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Following is an article recently written by one of the founders of DMC – Past Grand Master Rick Boyles. One of the main tenets of Odd Fellowship is “truth” and DMC believes in telling the truth. The focus of DMC, from its very beginnings in 2009, has been to highlight the declining membership of the Order, to encourage members and Lodges to increase their membership, and to suggest practical and effective ways to do so. This focus has proven effective for many Lodges around the world. And it has proven remarkably effective in the Jurisdiction of California where, once again, California shows increases in membership.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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Lucky California

If one makes a study of the Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions Book, one would quickly take note that California is the biggest jurisdiction by far. It is also the wealthiest, by virtue of several factors. It becomes readily apparent that quite a few jurisdictions are deteriorating quickly, with less than 200 members each. Of course, this is a sad fact, often ignored by Sovereign Grand Lodge, for some even sadder unapparent reason. Perhaps it’s because bringing up reality to all of us elderly is too much reality to maintain the veneer of invulnerability each of us old-timers appears to want to sustain. I’m an old-timer as well, but I don’t believe we should ignore the facts, old-timers or not. We must face facts rather than hide from them.

Getting members is not that difficult, it just means you have to offer the prospective member something. No one joins anything as a lark. Everyone at one time had a reason for joining. But now, in some jurisdictions, they have become so small that they have little or nothing to offer. It would not be an exaggeration to state that other jurisdictions are run by members in their seventies, or older, with no real grasp on the future. Why? Clearly, because their own future is limited. And it is evident that not only do they want no new members, they don’t want to even hear the suggestion of new members. In that case, and in that jurisdiction, the order is truly dying on the vine. Last year, in my first year running for the position of Sovereign Grand Warden, I made the well-known mistake of discussing “membership” with our members. Most members at SGL don’t want to hear about it. But ignoring it doesn’t make the issue go away. Ignoring it only makes prospective members go away. And yet, we have the happy enigma that is California.

California is lucky. We have money and we have members. But the luck of California is not a lark. It comes from honest people working consistently towards a common goal. Everyone who joins our order, and maintains their membership does so for a reason, but leadership is another story. Those who lead must do so democratically, otherwise we as an order may easily suffer. We are lucky in California because we have had good people in all branches who lead with intelligence, and ability. Of course, the most pertinent example right now is the two men we have had working in our Grand Lodge office for a decade, Brothers Jay Johnson as Grand Treasurer, and Ray Link as Grand Secretary. Both men served with distinction, and lead with exemplary work habits and the ensuing results that accompany knowledge. Brother Jay made our Grand Lodge millions of dollars, and Brother Ray did a similar job managing the harried work that involves the secretarial end. I don’t believe anyone realizes the work involved in these two positions unless they see it first-hand. In the case of the Grand Treasurer, there can be every temptation to dole out money to every lodge for every repair, to cover all projects, but that can only result in the ultimate mortgaging of our future. In the case of the Grand Secretary, that position is responsible for overseeing 115 (or more) per capita reports, coordination with other branches, lodge communications, and many other facets unseen by the ordinary member. When I served as Grand Master, I always sought their counsel, and was never disappointed.

Unfortunately, these two gentlemen have both decided to retire this year, leaving us in the unfortunate position of having to pick successors. Both positions pay a salary, but it would be hard to imagine two more difficult positions to climb into than these two. Anyone thinking these positions are easy or stress free will be quickly disappointed. The Sovereign Grand Lodge Code of General Laws, and The Roberts Code of California describe the duties of both positions in detail. Of course, the Grand Treasurer must have a firm grasp of financial and accounting procedures, while the Grand Secretary must have experience in legislation, the filing of reports, and a general knowledge of office procedures. Assistants may perform many duties but to rely on employees because of one’s own inadequacies might put the office itself in jeopardy. Clearly, these two positions are not brain surgery, but a glance at many other jurisdictions will illuminate the simple fact that not all people should be given these titles. The Grand Lodge of California has millions of dollars in savings so the person overseeing such funds should certainly have some modicum of financial acumen. Similarly, the Grand Secretary is responsible for many lodge reports and filings; clearly some type of official expertise must be warranted. I would never seek these positions, but here’s hoping that our next two central officers will continue our ascent within the order and not diminish our own hard-earned luck.

Therein lies the glory of California. We are lucky enough to have great members, and we are skilled enough to realize that our members will tailor make our future.

In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles

DMC – More on Millenials

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The gist of last week’s DMC newsletter, this week’s newsletter, and next week’s newsletter is an examination of the unique qualities of the Millennial generation and how those qualities compare to prior generations. The point is to understand the nuances of this new generation of men and women – because they are, ultimately, the future of our Order, and of your Lodge. If you wish to increase the membership of your Lodge, and continue your Lodge into the future, you really need to understand these young men and women.

Think I’m joking? Well, chew on this statistic for a moment: Recent estimates have found the Millennial generation numbers 66 million persons in the United States today. Fortune Magazine has predicted that by 2025 (a mere six years from today) Millennials will comprise 75% of the American workforce.

Look, Millennials are not aliens from another planet. In a great many ways, Millennials are just like the generations that currently make up the vast majority of membership in our Lodges (folks in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s). We all want a good life, a life of meaning, and a life of happiness. Yet, there are vast differences in the aspirations and goals of Millennials as we compare them to the aspirations and goals of the prior generations. A recent study found the following traits among the members of the Millennial generation:

1. Millennials face remarkable pressure in society and in the workplace. The traditional American Dream of owning a home seems a long way off to the members of this generation. At work, they have to cope with longer work hours, corporate downsizing, lack of job security, work overload, global competition, and job ambiguity. These pressures naturally create anxiety and even depression among many members of this generation.

2. Millenials often feel disconnected and powerless in society today. They take a more passive role in life, and want to be pushed and encouraged by their families, bosses and mentors. They appreciate continual feedback.

3. Rather than conforming to societal norms, Millennials prefer to disrupt the status quo. It doesn’t matter to them that things have always been done a certain way. They prefer to try new ways to reach their goals.

4. Millennials care more about the planet and people, and less about profits. They strive for intellectual challenges, and want to make the world a better place, both locally and globally.

5. They have access to a huge amount of information, and greater technology which is second nature to them. They dislike slowness and desire instant feedback.

So, how do we use this information in our recruitment and membership efforts? Tune in to the DMC newsletter next week, where we take the information we have gleaned and apply it to our fraternity. Bottom line: ls it possible to recruit young men and women in the 19-39 age range into Odd Fellowship?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Generational Change in the Odd Fellows

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

There are, essentially, five generations living in America today. We have the “Silent Generation” (sometimes called the “Greatest Generation” or the “Traditionalists”) – born between 1925-1945. There are the “Boomers” – born between 1946-1964. We have “Generation X” – those born between 1965-1980. The “Millennial Generation” – born in the time period 1980-2000. And “Generation Z” – born after 2000. The differences between these generations are profound. And if Lodges in America wish to grow their memberships, they need to have a much better understanding and appreciation of those profound differences.

Let’s be frank. The average Odd Fellows Lodge in America is composed almost exclusively of members of the Silent Generation, with some Boomers in the mix. So, how does a Lodge of Septuagenarians and Octogenarians attract members of these other, younger generations to join? This question is so significant to the future viability of the Order, and so complex, that I will devote the next three DMC articles to its exposition. Let’s first get an understanding of the great distinctions between the generations at the extreme ends of the spectrum.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found 7 significant differences between the Silent Generation and the Millennial Generation.

1. Millenials are much better educated than the Silent Generation. And this difference is most profound among women. Only 9% of women in the Silent Generation had completed at least four years of college while they were young. By comparison, 36% of Millennial women have a bachelor’s degree at the same age. Three in ten Millennial men (29%) have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 15% in the Silent Generation. The Millennials are a highly educated cohort.

2. A higher percentage of Millennial women have a bachelor’s degree than their male counterparts. This is just the opposite of the Silent Generation. Among Millennials, women are 7% more likely than men to have finished at least a bachelor’s degree. In the days when members of the Silent Generation were young, women were 6% less likely than men to have finished at least four years of college education.

3. Young women today are far more likely to be working as compared with women in the Silent Generation. When women in the Silent Generation were young in the mid-60’s, 58% were not participating in the work force, and only 40% were employed. Today, 71% of young Millennial women are employed and only 26% are not in the labor force.

4. In terms of marriage, Millenials are three times more likely to have never married compared to the Silent Generation when they were young. Among Millenials, 57% have never married. But when members of the Silent Generation were of the same age as Millennials are now, only 17% had never married.

5. It is much more likely that members of the Millennial Generation will be racial or ethnic minorities than were the members of the Silent Generation. It’s no secret that 50 years ago, America was less racially and ethnically diverse than it is today. The change is the result, primarily, of large-scale immigration, primarily from Asia and Latin America, and the rise of racial intermarriage. Among the Silent Generation, 84% were non-Hispanic whites, compared to Millennials who are 56% non-Hispanic whites. The share who are Hispanic is 21% among Millenials compared to just 4% in the Silent Generation.

6. Young Silent Generation men were more than 10 times more likely to be veterans than Millennial men are today. Only 4% of the Millennial men are veterans compared with 47% of Silent Generation men.

7. In 1965 when members of the Silent Generation were young, 67% (two-thirds) lived in a metropolitan area. Today, however, a whooping 88% of Millennials live in metropolitan areas.

Armed with this basic information, how should the Lodge address the Millennial Generation and encourage those young men and women (in the age range of 19 to 39) to consider Odd Fellowship? Tune in to the next two DMC newsletters for some answers!

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – More on Membership

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

DMC was founded in 2006 with one singular goal: To encourage Odd Fellows membership growth. We have focused on this goal with laser-like dedication year after year, month after month, week after week, and day after day. And the reason is simple. Odd Fellowship has been on a steady decline in membership for the past three generations. Unless we stop, and then reverse, this free-fall, the Order will be diminished and may very well pass away into the annals of fraternal history. Every true Odd Fellow who cares about our three-links fraternity should heartily applaud and support this goal.

One of the methods by which DMC fosters the goal of membership growth is that we, from time to time, offer helpful suggestions to help your Lodge grow. This newsletter will continue the effort, and will focus on challenges faced by the very small Lodge – that is, the Lodge of 6-12 members. These very small Lodges often have great difficulty even maintaining a bare quorum so that they can have a meeting. If you are a Noble Grand, or a Vice Grand, or a member of such a very small Lodge, this newsletter is directed to YOU. Is your very small Lodge destined to die? Inevitably, yes, if you make no effort to save it. Eventually, the very small Lodge will diminish and will literally expire (e.g. surrender the charter or seek to consolidate) as your older members move away or pass away. This scenario, however, is not inevitable for members who make the effort to change the trajectory. Is it worth the effort? Certainly. If your Lodge has been in existence for a century or more, shame on you if you let it die during your watch.

So what can the very small Lodge do to increase membership and revitalize the Lodge?

Plenty. Following is a five-point revitalization plan that will work in your Lodge, if you have the energy and determination to do it. Here goes:

1. The Retreat. The first step in the process of revitalizing the very small Lodge is to talk about it. After all, declining membership has to be the elephant sitting in the middle of your Lodge room. You can step around the elephant and choose to ignore it, or you can recognize that you have a pachyderm in your midst and deal with it. In this regard, you need to convene a meeting of the Lodge (call it a Lodge Retreat if you will), solely dedicated to one topic: Membership. Have a frank discussion about the topic and see if you can move to point two of the revitalization plan.

2. The Commitment. Membership development is not accomplished by Sovereign Grand Lodge, nor by Grand Lodge, nor even by your Lodge. Only members of the Lodge can ultimately bring in new members. It is a task for each member, not just one or two. Imagine, in the very small Lodge if each member brought in just one new member – the Lodge would double in size. Now, you may find that the members of your Lodge are too tired, too lazy, too old, or too complacent to care about bringing in new blood (in fact, you may find that some members actually don’t want new members, because new members might change the status quo to which they have become accustomed). If that is the consensus of your Lodge, then (to be completely frank) your Lodge is just a zombie Lodge, going through the motions, but not the spirit of a fraternity. It is destined to diminish and perish. On the other hand, if at least a majority of the members are ready to grow and save the Lodge, then there is hope for your Lodge’s future. Get the commitment from the membership to move on to point three of the revitalization plan.

3. The Ask. So, what can the very small Lodge do to change the trajectory? Plenty Unless you are a member of a Lodge of hermits and recluses, then it’s fair to say that everyone knows someone. It could be a wife or husband, a son or a daughter, a grandson or granddaughter, bothers and sisters, nieces and nephews – just to mention family members. Then there are the business people you know, colleagues at work or in the retirement community, town leaders, members of your church or temple, your barber or hairdresser, doctor, lawyer, chiropractor, etc. Every member of the Lodge should identify at least three people to whom the will talk about the Lodge and whom they will actually ask to consider joining the Lodge. But a word of caution: point three of the plan won’t work unless point four is in place.

4. The Reveal. OK. So, you have talked to Fred and Mary about your Lodge and about Odd Fellowship, and they have expressed some interest. That is a huge step forward. But, all this effort will be for nothing unless you can present something that will capture Fred and Mary’s interest. Let me let you in on a little secret. No one will join your Lodge if all you do is read from the ritual book and have nifty passwords and signs. When you finally “reveal” your Lodge to the new prospect, what can you show them? Does your Lodge have a community project? Does your Lodge have some enjoyable social events for the members? Without the ability to do good works in the community and without a fun social aspect – there is, frankly, little that Lodge membership can offer. Even the smallest Lodge can have one community project. Even the smallest Lodge can plan and schedule fun and meaningful social events for members and family.

5. The Next Generation. Any revitalization plan – even for the very small Lodge – must focus not only on the present, but also on the future. If, for example. the membership of the Lodge are all in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, it makes little sense to bring in new members in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Nothing wrong with that generation, of course. However, if all the new members brought into the Lodge are, essentially, the same age as existing members, your Lodge is doomed to failure. In 10 years, the membership of the Lodge will be a bit larger, but it will be a group in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. While you bring in members of your own age and generation, it is imperative that you also bring in younger members of the next generation.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Odd Fellows Time Machine

Please join me on a little trip in the Odd Fellows’ time machine.

Let’s visit America in 1919, 100 years ago. In 1919 you could get a dozen eggs for 34 cents, a quart of milk cost 9 cents, and a loaf of bread cost 6 cents. First class postage stamps cost 2 cents and a gallon of gas was only 12 cents. Typical yearly take-home pay was $687. Very few people had cars, but you could buy one for around $500. And an average house cost $3,500. On January 6, 1919, Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, died in his sleep at the age of 60. On January 16, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution, went into effect authorizing prohibition. In February, Oregon placed a 1 cent tax on gasoline, becoming the first state to do so. And Congress established the Grand Canyon as a national park. In May a race riot broke out in Charleston, South Carolina, and three black men died. UCLA was established in May, as well, becoming the southern branch of the University of California system. In June, the Congress approved the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing suffrage to women. In July, the US Army sent the first convoy of motor vehicles across the continental United States – the motorcade arrived in San Francisco in September

In 1919 social security didn’t exist and many elderly lived in poverty conditions. Americans in 1919 spent one-third of their income on food. And food wasn’t particularly good or healthy. The average American ate 11.5 pounds of lard and 14 pounds of chicken per year. (In 2019, Americans are expected to consume 57 pounds of chicken and 1.5 pounds of lard per year.) Half of all families lived in rural areas or in towns with populations less than 2,500. The average household was crowded, with more than four people (today it’s less than 2.5 people in a household). Owning homes was a rarity in 1919 – there were about four times as many renters as homeowners 100 years ago. (Today, more than 60% own their own home.) In 1919, only 100 million people lived in the USA and more than half were under 25. A century later, the population has more than tripled, and the share of people under 25 has fallen to one-third. Meanwhile, the share of people over 65 has tripled from 5% to 15%.

In 1919, hardly anyone drove cars. People generally walked, rode horses, and occasionally took the trolley. There was very little commuting. People generally lived close to their work and typically walked to work. Men wore blue serge suits to work, and women wore long dresses or long skirts. Entertainment was the player piano or the photograph. Fraternal Orders, including Odd Fellows, were flourishing across the country.

Now, let’s come back to reality in 2019. In 2019 America is a completely different place than it was in 1919. America in 2019 is a place that folks in 1919 could not even imagine: a place of airplanes, fast cars, computers, laptops, cell phones, smart watches, equal rights for women, credit and debit cars, maternity leave, movies, television, refrigerators, washers-dryers, bikinis, etc. etc. And yet, there are Odd Fellows who believe that if the Order would only go back to the way we operated in 1919, all would be well and we would grow again. That bit of whimsy makes no sense. To flourish and grow, Odd Fellowship needs to evolve and change. Only then will the men and women of the 21st Century be attracted to Odd Fellowship. The landscape of America is littered with the corpses of fraternal orders that rigidly refused to change. Odd Fellowship must evolve with the times.

One cannot attract the electric car generation to a horse-and-buggy Lodge.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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