As so many of us were, I was deeply concerned by the recent alarming article by Brother Dave Rosenberg, our Past Grand Master, describing the precipitous decline of our beloved Order – Independent Order of Odd Fellows, giving us the picture and the numbers showing the sharp reduction in Odd Fellows Membership and Lodges over the past few decades. I trust that his thoughtful letter is a wake-up call to all who love our Fellowship, by implicitly, but firmly pointing out that THE IOOF MAY BE DYING ON OUR WATCH!
At the risk of being labeled as Rita and her 3 Rs, I must say that are some things that all of us who are committed to the Odd Fellows and its Mission must understand and vigorously undertake in response.
Recognition – Although we may be warmed and comforted by the fellowship and camaraderie we experience in our respective Lodges, we must recognize the overall trend for the IOOF is pointing us toward irrelevance in our communities and possible extinction. Put another way, that while we may be relaxed and cozy on a cruise in our individual state rooms, the ship is taking on water at an alarming rate! And we must recognize and accept that each of us must energetically take part in turning this dreadful trend around.
Recruitment – Every Odd Fellows Lodge that is to survive must have a high-priority Recruitment Program led by a high-energy, can-do, Member who has the full support of the Lodge. This Recruitment Program will encompass a Plan with Goals, Schedule, Events, Budget, and adequate staffing. The recruiting effort should target specific high-potential targets, individuals in life transitions, such as recent retirees, recent military discharges, recent graduates, new Americans, the newly divorced, newly bereaved, and newly arrived residents. Potential members will only seldom walk through our doors unbidden. No, we must go out and get them.
Retention – Obviously, energetic recruitment alone will not save us if we do not retain the members, their presence and active participation, by those members we have obtained from recruitment as well as those Brothers and Sisters that we already have. That means that those of us that are pledged to work for the survival of our Home Lodge and our international Order must work to make our Lodges inviting, comfortable and relevant to newcomers and old-timers alike. This may include up-grading and up-dating our Halls and their facilities, revising our programs and procedures, perhaps refreshing the look, feel, and content of the Lodge and its activities. Possibly of even greater importance, each of us must make a particular effort, perhaps just as a one-person welcoming committee, if required, to engage and embrace new members or candidates, to integrate them into the life and spirit of the Lodge, so that our words of FRIENDSHIP and LOVE are seen to be our TRUTH, and so that quickly our Fellowship, becomes their Fellowship too. This assertive out-reach should apply to members that are drifting away, who no longer seem to need the fellowship of the Lodge. Find out how we can make the Odd Fellows relevant and rewarding to them again, and see what we can do about it.
The Odd Fellows organization must be saved, and can be saved, but it will require the well-considered collective effort of the individual members of our endangered Fellowship. Who wants to be part of this noble effort to keep alive the message of Friendship, Love and Truth ?