Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
I recently received an article that’s worth sharing with you. It was sent to me by Duff Devine, who is the Financial Secretary of my Lodge, and a long-time supporter of DMC.
The article quotes a long time member who says, “We weren’t getting enough people at the meetings for a quorum, which is five people.” The organization, nationally and in the state. has been steadily losing members. “The average age is 67.” And a large number of the membership is 80 and older. “The organization has lost over one third of its membership in the last few years”, and “without an influx of new blood” the numbers will plummet even further in the next decade.
Well, it’s not what you think. The article is all about membership declines in Veterans organizations like the VFW and the American Legion. But frankly, the article could have been written about the Odd Fellows, or the Masons, or the Elks or any fraternal order in America. It is a phenomenon that has overtaken many organizations over the past few decades. And it is inevitably fatal unless these organizations – including our own IOOF – can attract new members in excess of our losses.
Why are these organizations losing members? Probably, a variety of factors, but ultimately it’s due to the evolution and changes in our society. Yet, while society is evolving and changing, many of these organizations – including IOOF – have pretty much stayed the same. If you think a 1950’s-style organization appeals to a person living in 2016, think again. It doesn’t, and the numbers reflect the rejection by folks in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Sure, some younger folks may join, but the influx of new members has not (and will not) keep pace with the deaths and withdrawals of older members. Ultimately, it boils down to math. When you take a given number, and subtract more than you add to it, you will ultimately wind up with zero.
Interestingly, in the face of declining membership and closing of posts throughout the USA, there are a few posts which have bucked the trend and are growing in membership. How did they do it? These posts are attracting members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s by being completely open to the diversity of our communities: men, women, all sexual orientations, all ethnic and racial groups and all religions. The posts invite members to bring their families to events, and focus on events that appeal to all age groups. In short, they are OPEN to new ideas, not CLOSED. As the article noted, there is now “a national trend in which veterans groups have sought to arrest decline by reaching out to t new generation – with promising, but not yet conclusive, results.” They are promoting “family-friendly activities”, there are photography and acting classes, yoga and tai chi, spaghetti dinners, fish fries, and family nights.
The same thing is true in Odd Fellowship. There are actually a few Lodges in California that have changed their culture, and changed the way they do business. They retain the basic tenets and message of Odd Fellowship, but they have supplemented it with numerous activities for their members (and family of members), and they have reached out into their towns to do good charitable and community works. These few Lodges have evolved and changed, and they are showing growth in their membership. More importantly, they are bringing in younger members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. That is what fraternal orders must do to survive in this new Century.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California