Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Odd Fellowship in California had a very good year in 2016. The California Odd Fellows had a net GAIN in membership last year, not a net loss, which finally bucked the trend of steady net losses year after year for decades. The net gain was small, but welcomed. We may finally have seen the nadir of the net loss trajectory. And that’s a very good thing for our Order. I am particularly pleased that the year of growth – 2016 – occurred in the year that Peter Sellars and I served as Grand Masters. We are both original members of Dedicated Members for Change, and we both focused on membership.
We once had over 500 Odd Fellow Lodges in California. We now have 116. Regrettably, some of those 116 Lodges will not be in existence in 10 years. The membership of those expiring Lodges is sleepwalking, and have been somnolent for years. They have failed to add new members, and the existing members are growing older. It’s just a matter of time before they lose a quorum and will either give up their charters or consolidate with another Lodge.
On a more positive vein, there are Odd Fellow Lodges in this jurisdiction that are awake – they “get it” and they are growing. These are Lodges with members who understand that an Odd Fellows Lodge must do more than just meet once or twice a month. To survive in the 21st Century, Odd Fellows must reach out into the community to do good works, and must organize enjoyable events for the members, their families and potential members. You can’t just sit around within the four walls of the Lodge reciting ritual and expect to flourish. In this regard, I am often asked – particularly by newer members of the Order – how to start the process of growing their Lodges. And it occurred to me that it would be useful to share that information more broadly. So, based on my own experiences in my own Lodge, and my observations of a few other successful Lodges, here is a “primer” on how to start growing your Lodge:
1. First and foremost, you have to work to change the culture of the Lodge. You have to move from an Odd Fellows Lodge that does little more than hold meetings, to become a Lodge that is involved in the community and that plans enjoyable social events for the members. The way to start this process is to have a meeting or two dedicated to setting goals. Talk it through and resolve to set three to five goals for the coming year. These goals should be in the nature of projects for the Lodge. There is hardly any limit to the projects you can consider: Lodge repainting, downtown clean-up, adopt a highway, form a hiking committee, organize a spaghetti feed with a community beneficiary, plan a trivia night at the Lodge, etc.
2. It is important that the Lodge members be ready to say “yes”, rather than “no”. Don’t let one or two members, or even a small group of naysayers, hold you back. The majority must rule. It is very important that your Lodge of brothers and sisters be welcoming, positive and supportive of suggestions and new ideas. The fastest way to discourage a new member is to shut down that member’s suggestions.
3. Try to establish some committees, and give them some authority, some direction (and a budget if necessary), and then give them the reins to carry on – reporting progress back to the Lodge.
4. Be inviting to husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends. Odd Fellows Lodges opened to women members in 1999 – it is incredibly short-sighted for any Lodge in the 21st Century to still be an all-male Lodge. Why should we turn our backs on 50% of the population?
5. Think outside the box. Just because it hasn’t been done in the past, doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea today. Be willing to try new things. Years ago, at my suggestion, my Lodge started having a second Saturday breakfast social meeting. No other Lodge in California did this at the time. It became incredibly popular and continues to this day, with great success and remarkable attendance. This is just one example of thinking outside the box.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Davis Odd Fellows Lodge #169