Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
This month of December marks an Odd anniversary of sorts.
It was early in the month of December 2009 that Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) was born. So, in this month of December 2019, we recognize the 10th anniversary of DMC.
DMC was the “brainchild” of three dedicated Odd Fellows – Don Smith, Rick Boyles and me. Don Smith – who has passed on – was a legendary Odd Fellow. Not only did Don serve a distinguished term as Grand Master of California, he was one of the very few Odd Fellows from this state of California who achieved the office of Sovereign Grand Master. Amazingly, Don was elected Grand Master in his 20’s and Sovereign Grand Master in his 30’s. Don possessed an incredible storehouse of knowledge of all things related to our Order, and he was a prolific and able writer, having composed a number of books and treatises regarding Odd Fellowship. Don was everyone’s friend and brother, and was beloved by all who knew him. Rick Boyles was an up-and-comer in Odd Fellows in 2009. Rick was and is a humble man with a refined sense of humor. In 2009, he was serving as a Grand Lodge Officer and would soon be elected on a track to serve as Grand Master of California. He served as Grand Master with an emphasis in making sure we all “have fun” in our Odd Fellowship experience. Rick was and is a writer of some mark, and in his easy-going way continues to serve the Order to this very day, chairing the important “Three Links Camp Committee” which is in the process of proposing a plan for its future. I was a relative newcomer in 2009, having just joined the Order in 2004, but – in an effort to change the culture of my Lodge – I had already served four successive terms as Noble Grand of my Lodge and was serving as a District Deputy Grand Master at the time of DMC’s formation. I started using my own Lodge (Davis #169) as a kind of laboratory, showing what a Lodge could do to and must do to increase membership. And we did: increasing our membership from less than 30 in 2004 to over 300 today – clearly proving that Odd Fellowship is alive and well and relevant in the 21st Century. Like Don, I was a journalist by trade. Subsequently, I have written and published three books about the future of Odd Fellowship, have served as both Grand Master and Grand Patriarch of California, and currently serve as Chairman of the California Grand Lodge Board of Directors.
The three of us had one overriding concern about the Order in 2009, and we decided to do something about it. Our overriding concern was the steady decline in our fraternal membership – a decline virtually unchecked for over 50 years (more than two generations). We recognized that such a decline was absolutely unsustainable, and if not frankly recognized and honestly addressed, spelled the diminution and ultimate demise of an ancient and worthy fraternity. So, we formed DMC with three goals in mind: 1. Membership. 2. Membership. 3. Membership. We knew that the track we were on was fatal. We recognized that our Order had to evolve and change to attract new members from the current generations.
Many progressive and distinguished members of the Order immediately joined up with us, and our email list grew from a few dozen in California, to hundreds far beyond the borders of our state. Charter members of DMC included leaders and thinkers like Peter Sellars, John and Carol Fraher, Brian Riehl, Rod Metoyer, Dave Reed, Lea Rosenberg, and Donna Morrison, and many others.
But it was by no means easy. At first, we met resistance – we were mocked and criticized by folks who (I imagine) thought we were some sort of insidious cabal of change. I still recall the voice of a leading, but conservative member who told me, straight up, “I would rather Odd Fellows die, than change.” One Grand Master refused to recognize DMC and would not even let us have our meeting at the hotel where Grand Lodge sessions met. We had to meet in a Mexican restaurant several blocks away from the hotel. But we continued on with laser-like focus: Our goal was simple – recognize the problem of declining membership, start talking about it, and (most importantly) start implementing changes to increase membership. We recognized that at the same time that most Lodges were showing repetitive net losses of members, there were a few Lodges showing steady net gains of members. If we could just bottle the formula those growing Lodges had achieved, we could stem the drain of our membership. And that formula for success and growth was remarkably simple. We called it the three-legged stool: (1) recognition of the unique history and ritual of our Order; (2) emerge from the four-walls of our Lodge to engage in good community service; and (3) engage in some fun social activities with our Lodge brothers and sisters.
How times have changed. Now, the DMC Committee is a recognized committee of California’s Grand Lodge. Now, DMC hosts an evening event during Grand Lodge Sessions – last session well over 150 Odd Fellows and Rebekahs attended our evening dinner, listened to music and had a great time. Now, DMC publishes a weekly “DMC Newsletter” that is distributed via email to hundreds – and those hundreds pass it along to hundreds of others on their email lists. Most importantly, our Order now clearly recognizes the need to attack the declining-membership gremlin. We are starting to see Lodges stem the riptide of declines. And we are starting to see small net gains popping up here and there, rather than net losses.
Of course, we have a ways to go. But for now, we can recognize that DMC is a positive force in the evolution of Odd Fellowship.
Happy anniversary, Dedicated Members for Change.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California