Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
DMC is all about membership development. In that regard, this newsletter offers a “Primer on Membership Development”. To be frank, it’s not for everyone or for every Odd Fellows Lodge. Some of the larger Odd Fellow Lodges do quite well on membership development in their own way and with their own style. And at the other extreme, some of the smallest Lodges are what I call “Zombie Lodges” – they are still on the books, but they have not added members in years and the remaining membership is so small, so inactive, and so on in years that there is really nothing that can be done to resurrect them. It’s just a matter of time before those Lodges surrender their charters or seek to “consolidate” with another Lodge.
This newsletter is targeted to the vast majority of Odd Fellow Lodges in “the middle”. So, for those Lodges here is a “Primer” of effective and proven ways to grow.
1. You must bring in new members. It seems kind of ludicrous to say it, but apparently some Lodges don’t get this basic concept. I have visited Lodges that haven’t brought in new members in years – sometimes over a decade. Because we are all mortal human beings with a lifespan, it is imperative to bring in new members. In fact. the quest for new members has to happen every year, year in and year out. If you skip a year, you imperil the future of the Lodge. College fraternities are a compressed model of this concept. Students typically graduate from college in 4 or 5 years. Accordingly, a member who joined that college fraternity as a freshman is “gone” once that member graduates. The college fraternity is in trouble if it skips a year of membership development, and that trouble is exacerbated if it skips even more years. The same is true in the case of a fraternal order. Eventually, every member will be “gone” when they move away, drift away or pass away.
2. You can’t just bring in members of your own age. We tend to bring in new members to our Lodge from the stable of friends and people we know. And we tend to know people who are generally of our own age. If the Lodge has a membership ranging in age representing every decade (those who are in their 20’s, 30’s, 40. 50’s, 60, 70’s, 80’s, etc.) that’s not a problem. However, if the Lodge membership is all in its 70’s and 80’s, that is a problem. Bringing in members who are of the same age as existing members will come back to bite the Lodge eventually. It is not sustainable. In the course of time, all the members will be in their 80’s, and then all will be in their 90’s, etc. A Lodge must strive to bring in members of all generations.
3. The Lodge must offer something more than sitting in a Lodge room reading the ritual. If you truly believe that folks want to join the Lodge because they can sit in a meeting and recite from the ritual, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell to you. Virtually no one joins a Lodge because they can’t wait to sit in the Lodge room and read from the ritual, month after month. Of course, people join a Lodge because of the rich history and core values of Odd Fellowship. But, particularly for the new generations that are coming up, a Lodge must offer more. And I’m not talking about a monthly potluck. People in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s want the Lodge to be active. They are interested in Lodge functions that are fun for the members and family, and they are interested in doing good works in the community. The options are endless and boundless – tethered only to the imagination of the membership. Lodges that are active are healthy and growing. Lodges that are not active, are boring. Boring Lodges do not attract new members, and certainly do not retain them.
4. You must work to retain your current members. While it is an existential requirement for a Lodge to attract new members on a consistent basis, it is also important to retain existing members. In most Lodges that I have visited, I have found that about half the membership rarely, if ever, comes to meetings or events. So for example, in a Lodge of 20 members, it is typical for the Lodge to attract 10 members to a meeting or event. This is a sad commentary, but it is reality. The pool of energy in a Lodge is the pool of members. So, it’s important for the Noble Grand and other officers and leaders of the Lodge to work with existing non-participating members to get them re-engaged in the work of the Lodge. It is a facade to have a member on the books of the Lodge who does little for the benefit of the Lodge.
5. Bringing in new members is a job for every member. There is no more important responsibility of an Odd Fellow than to sponsor new applications for membership in the Lodge. Let me repeat that: There is no more important responsibility of an Odd Fellow than to sponsor new applications for membership for membership in the Lodge. Some members seem to think that bringing in new members is the job of “the other guy”. Not true. YOU are “the other guy”. Lodges can’t just rely on the Noble Grand or the Membership Chair to bring in new applicants. Nor would you want to. To ensure a diverse membership, all members must participate in the process. Bringing in a new member is not an impossible burden. I have personally sponsored over 100 new members in my Lodge over the past 10 years. Surely, every member of a Lodge can bring in two new members in the course of three or four years. If every member brought in two, the Lodge’s health and survival would be assured. It’s that important.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California