Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Odd Fellows Lodge members from throughout North America ask me for suggestions on how they can encourage membership development in their Odd Fellow Lodges. I commend these members for their interest and their desire to not only save their Lodges, but to find ways to strengthen and grow their Lodges. Here is an article that I first wrote in June of 2016 which addresses the question.
Evolution and change must be the hallmark for Odd Fellows going forward. If we continue to operate as we have for the last 50 years the results will be pretty much the same: membership losses and closed Lodges.
At present, I submit that there are three categories of Odd Fellows: (1) The progressive and energetic members who understand that Lodges can be transformed, and new members brought in, when the Lodge provides fun activities for members, their families, and prospective members, and also reaches out into the community to do good works. (2) Those members who, frankly, don’t really care about the future of their Lodge so long as it provides the same kind of experience that they have always enjoyed. Status quo is just fine for them. They care about the present, and not so much about the future. (3) Members who recognize the problem as their Lodge membership shrinks and as the Lodge members age, but don’t really know what to do about it.
This article is not written for the first category of Odd Fellows – those members are doing just fine, and their Lodges will, in time, experience a Renaissance. Nor is this article written for the second category of Odd Fellows. They live in their own bubble, and their Lodges will simply fade away in time. This article is written for the third category of Odd Fellow. For the members who care to reinvigorate their Lodges (but don’t know how), I provide ten tested, tried-and-true programs – pick one or two, and I guarantee the result will be rejuvenated Lodge members and new members who are interested in joining an active Lodge.
Here are ten methods you can take to the bank of membership development:
1. Every Lodge in North America has a date that it was instituted and given a charter. Spend at least three months preparing for a Lodge Community Open House to celebrate that date. Send out press releases, invite local elected officials, and plan an event open to the community. Make sure members invite their families and friends. Provide music, a cake, perhaps some historical tours of the Lodge Hall. You get the idea. This is an easy event and really opens your Lodge to the community.
2. Every community has local musicians, singers, and bands. Open your Lodge once a month to performances by these groups. Make it free to the public (donations accepted, of course). Set some chairs up for the audience. There is no reason you can’t use your Lodge Hall for such a music venue.
3. Plan and execute a spaghetti feed for a local charity or community group. If you don’t have a certified kitchen, then make it a catered event. Keep the cost low, charge admission to the members and the public and provide the donations to the local charity or community group. If you can line up at least 10 “sponsors” for the event – who will each donate $100 to the ultimate beneficiary – all the better. Put up some posters. Make sure you send a press release out before and after the event.
4. Rent a bus to take your members, friends and family on a day trip. Keep the cost down – you are not here to make a profit, just to cover your expenses. Visit local wineries, or breweries, or a cheese factory, and plan on either bringing lunch for a picnic, or visiting a restaurant for lunch.
5. Pick a community project, get some volunteers, do it, and make sure you get recognized for it in your local press. What community project? Let your imagination be your guide, and tailor your project to your community. Some examples of projects you could consider: A Downtown Clean Up Day. Volunteering at the local animal shelter. Adopt-a-highway. A social visit to the local convalescent or retirement home.
6. Plan a regular activity once a month for your Lodge members – and make it a regular feature. What activity? Again, let your imagination guide you, based on the ages and inclinations of the members. Some examples of activities you could consider: Bowling night. Poker night. Take a hike in a local park. Dinner and movie. Or show movies at the Lodge.
7. Carpool to an Odd Fellow/Rebekah facility and pay them a visit. Lots of options are available: The Meadows of Napa Valley. The Rebekah Children’s Home. The Saratoga Retirement Community. The Odd Fellow Museum housed at the historic San Francisco Odd Fellows Temple. Or visit another Lodge and take a tour. A phone call or two to coordinate the visit, and your members will be welcomed.
8. Sponsor a youth activity in your town. It can be a local Little League or Soccer team, or it could be a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troop. The kids and their families will appreciate it. And having the three link logo on sport’s jerseys is an added benefit.
9. Create a unique event for the members of your Lodge, family members and potential members. Make it an annual affair. It can be as varied as the community your live in and the membership of your Lodge. Perhaps a Halloween Party. Or an Oktoberfest. Or a karaoke night at the Lodge. Or a chocolate chip cookie baking contest. Or a bicycle trip. The list could go on and on.
10. And one of the simplest techniques of all: When you get to the point of inviting a new member to apply, make sure to also invite that potential new member’s spouse, significant other, boyfriend or girlfriend. Why settle for one new member when you can have two.
What have you got to lose?
F – L – T
Past Grand Master