Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
I have been an Odd Fellow for 15 years – a relatively short time compared to many (perhaps most) of you. In that time I have sponsored well over 100 new members to join our Order. As surprising as that may sound, there is one statistic that I have found even more surprising: Most Odd Fellows that I know have not brought in even 1 new member into our Order.
Let’s explore this. How is it that one person is able to bring in over 100 new members, but others haven’t brought in even 1 new member? It’s an important an intriguing question. Think about it. If every member of our Order brought in just one new person each year, we would not be discussing a “membership problem.” Our Order and our Lodges would be be healthy and burgeoning.
So, let’s break this into two questions: (1) Why don’t (can’t) some members bring in even 1 new member into their Lodge? (2) How does one member bring in over 100 new members into his/her Lodge?
I can think of many possible reasons why members don’t sponsor new members. It could be that they are members in name only – paying dues, attending an occasional meeting, and little else. It could be just laziness or inertia. It could be that they have other membership priorities – belonging to other clubs and lodges – and bring new members into those organizations but not the Odd Fellows. Perhaps they don’t really care about or even enjoy being an Odd Fellow. And unless they are hermits or live in caves, surely they must have some relatives or know a few people who they could ask. And, conceivably that is the problem: they know people but they are afraid to ask, or don’t know how to ask them to consider joining the IOOF. I suspect that in some cases, their Lodge is so small and so inactive, and the Lodge Hall is so run down, that there is really nothing for them to offer the potential new member. No one wants to join a group that just reads by rote passages from a little red book in a shabby room that smells vaguely of disinfectant. And perhaps they like the Lodge just the way it is – they are comfortable with their small circle of Lodge members and leery of any new member that could alter that comfort zone.
So, how did I find over 100 new members to sponsor for my Lodge? It’s not a secret. I’m happy to share the methods, and I can summarize it in four words: AWARE, PREPARE, REPAIR, and WELFARE. Let’s review each.
First, as a member of the Order you must be AWARE at all times of prospective applicants you can ask about joining the Order. This is not just an occasional exercise. A good membership “rainmaker” is constantly alert to men and women who might be interested in the benefits of fraternal life. It could be a son or daughter, nephew or niece, brother or sister, uncle or aunt, cousin – and don’t forget your spouse or significant other. It could be a colleague at work, or your lawyer, dentist, gardener, plumber, or clerk at the grocery store you’ve been chatting with over the past five years. Open your eyes, and ears and heart. If Odd Fellowship has been an enjoyable experience for you, and made a difference in your life, then it might do the same for others.
Second, you have to PREPARE for the moment. Do you have a brochure about your Lodge handy? Do you have an application form in the glove compartment of your car? Do you have something concrete to talk about besides the philosophical concepts of friendship, love and truth? How has Odd Fellowship proven rewarding for you? Why will membership in the Lodge prove rewarding to the new member? Does your Lodge have an important community project? Do members of your Lodge organize fun social events for members and family? If your Lodge has community projects and fun social events, it makes recruitment of applicants infinitely easier.
Third, are you proud of your Lodge Hall? if not, its time to work with your brothers and sisters to bring it into REPAIR. A dirty Lodge is a turn-off to potential members. A Lodge Hall in disrepair shows a certain lack of care. That’s not the message you want to send.
And finally, is the concept of WELFARE. By this, I’m talking about the very essence of Odd Fellowship. What makes us unique is that we care about one another. We are not only a social organization – we are a fellowship. It today’s divided and disaffected society – that means a great deal. Brothers and sisters who truly enjoy each other’s company and care about each other is a cardinal benefit of membership.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California