Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
If it weren’t for DMC, I may have left Odd Fellows already. My frustration with how our lodge functioned after I joined was shocking and sad. After I discovered the DMC, I found there are others who see a bright future for Odd Fellows and a need to shed the behaviors that have shrunk the Order.
I could attribute my fondness for the DMC to a sort of commiseration about how things should be, but instead, I believe it’s because I can see a time when the thoughts and ideas about growing Odd Fellowship within the DMC start to take hold and these small lodges, like my own, grow beyond expectations.
With this possibility in my mind about our lodge growing, I have looked very hard for ways to grow Odd Fellowship in general because my formal training and job experience is in public relations. I was a public affairs representative for the largest military air show in the United States and my pictures ended up on the cover and middle of our local newspaper. You would be amazed at what goes on behind putting on such a huge event and all the details that are focused upon to make it great.
We tend to see things through our experience and training and I constantly see the things we could be doing that could make Odd Fellows great. But when I realized that my own lodge is going to resist every attempt I make to bring my experience and training to the task of bringing in new members, I realized that I need to turn to my outside-the-box thinking and come up with a solution.
One thing that occurred to me was to start doing the kinds of things I want to do for my lodge but without their permission; so how could I do that? The answer came to me in a flash. If I formed my own Odd Fellows non-profit organization museum, with the help of a couple Past Grand Masters as mentors and guides, then perhaps I could start organizing events in my town using the non-profit, then my lodge would benefit and it would all be legal (plus operating as a 501c3 would mean I could accept donations).
Initially, I was focused on the museum aspect and I had this idea to create a pop-up museum at a coffee shop with beautiful pictures of regalia and jewels in a very artful and reverential way. I have had several exhibitions of my photography already, so why not combine the beauty I see in these old works of art into a photographic exhibit that’s educational and functions as a museum display…in maybe a coffee shop? I secured a location for the exhibition and began to acquire pieces and take pictures. I was so excited with the idea of our town folk rediscovering how the Odd Fellows played such a central role in the establishment of our town and doing it through a photographic exhibition; true public relations!
Once I started moving forward on doing this, word got out quickly and I was not able to do the exhibition before it was discovered. Fortunately, the lodge member who got word about what I was doing made a motion for our lodge to support my efforts and the motion was passed. This was a pretty big surprise and a blessing. Maybe the way forward wasn’t without my lodge? Would I continue without the non-profit?
Although I wasn’t able to get an event organized fast enough while flying under the radar, I was able to accomplish quite a few things anyway. One of the first things I was able to do was to set up a website (https://oddfellows.net) offering a free lesson plan for teachers who want an “off-the-shelf” program that teaches 11th graders about Odd Fellows in the context of the “social safety net” and it’s compliant with Common Core standards. The idea is that any lodge can share this lesson plan with the appropriate teacher and entice them to use it…perhaps they could offer to sponsor their classroom supplies for a year? This lesson plan is being vetted by an educator so it’s not ready yet but as soon as it’s available, I’ll be posting it on our website.
Another major victory was the establishment of a free online Public Relations Training for Odd Fellows in 50 lessons that are 5-minutes each. So far I’ve published four lessons and my plan is to continue at the rate of one per week. Since I make e-learning programs, this is something that I’m quite good at and also allows me to educate our members on how to understand PR as it relates to their efforts to grow membership. One of the most important lessons I’ve come to realize is something we already know: events are the one key to growing membership and we can’t rely on “brand awareness” to do the job for us. You can view these 5-minute lessons and read all 50 topics that are planned at https://oddfellows.net/public-relations-training-for-odd-fellows/.
While there are many other things in the works for the benefit of Odd Fellows through this non-profit, I invite you to stay tuned on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oddfellowshistory/ and also join a group set up specifically to discuss the content of the Public Relations Training for Odd Fellows and to also discuss, from general to specific topics/polls/questions, about “Odd Fellows Public Relations” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/oddfellowspublicrelations/.
Thank You Brothers and Sisters,
Joseph Dowdy, Vice Grand
Lompoc Odd Fellows Lodge #248