I have a question for you. And I know that you will answer this question honestly and sincerely.
Here’s the question: How many new Odd Fellows have you sponsored into our fraternal order?
Have you sponsored one new member? Have your sponsored two new members? Has it been five? Ten? Twenty?
I don’t mean to embarrass anyone with this question. But let’s get real. I suspect that the majority of Odd Fellows in our Order have not brought in even one new member. If you have been an Odd Fellow for a number of years and you have not sponsored even ONE new member, what’s that all about?
I will tell you that over my 17 years as an Odd Fellow, I have sponsored well in excess of 100 new members. I don’t say this to “brag” – but simply to make a point in this article. And I’m sure I’m not the only Odd Fellow who has sponsored a lot of new members. But that begs the question.
How is it possible that one Odd Fellow has sponsored over 100 new members, and yet other Odd Fellows have only sponsored one or two new members – or perhaps no new members?
Let’s analyze this question and let’s see if we can derive some insight that will help us grow our Order. And this is an important point. While our fraternity was booming and growing in its first Century, Odd Fellowship has generally been shrinking in membership over the past 100 years. Growth is vital to our continued viability, if not our very existence as a fraternity. So, if a current member has not brought in even one new members to replace him or her when the member retires, moves away or passes away, the Order is doomed. And if that member doesn’t bring in two new members, the Order will shrink. It’s just math.
So, as I see it, here are the factors that come into play as to why some members are rainmakers and others are not:
- Failure to ask. I think about my Lodge all the time, and take every opportunity to talk about it to colleagues, friends, and even new people who I meet. You will get no answer if you don’t ask the question. It’s important to talk about your Lodge and about the Order, and you will be surprised at the results. I’ll give you one example. My wife (who is also an Odd Fellow) and I were standing in a line to order pizza a few years ago, and standing behind us was another couple. My wife and I engaged them in casual conversation and learned that they had just moved to town from another state. They really knew no one. I took the opportunity to invite them to the Lodge on the next Thursday night when we had a social event. Within a year they both joined, developed an amazing circle of Odd Fellow friends, and are very happy in town and in the Lodge.
- Leaving it to the other members. There are many Odd Fellows who actually believe that bringing in new members is the job of the membership committee, or the membership chair, or some other members. Wrong. Bringing in new members is the job of every true Odd Fellow. In fact, I would suggest that it is the first duty of Odd Fellowship – for if we don’t plan for our succession, we have truly let down our fraternity. Don’t wait for “the other guy” to do it. YOU are the other guy.
- Not knowing who to ask. The universe of potential members if pretty big if you think about it. Trouble is, most members don’t think about it. The universe of potential members can start with your family: wife or husband, children (you can join as early as 16), brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Then think about the people you work with or who live in your neighborhood. And what about the professionals who work with you – your dentist, doctor, lawyer, bookkeeper, CPA, barber, hair stylist, etc. When you really think about it, the people you COULD ask number in the dozens.
- Not knowing what to say. This is a challenge to many Odd Fellows, and the challenge becomes exacerbated if you happen to belong to a Lodge that is boring or does very little. It is certainly a lot easier to talk about Odd Fellowship if you have a Lodge that is active in the community and provides a network of social activities for the members. But assuming that you are a member of a “boring” Lodge, you can still talk about the amazing history of Odd Fellowship, the Lodge Hall which is often an historic building located in the center of town, or the prospect of reviving and re-energizing the Lodge in your community.
- Not caring to change the status quo. I suggest that the biggest single impediment to the challenge of bringing new members to the Lodge is “complacency”. I’m not saying that there are Lodge members who are just lazy and couldn’t care less about the future of the Lodge. But I am saying that there are members of our Order who have become comfortable with the status quo – and they actually resist the change that comes with new members. New members can bring in new energy and new ideas – and for a member who is set in his or her ways, who likes the Lodge to remain frozen in time, to continue doing things in the Lodge just the way they have been done for the past ten or twenty years, new members can disrupt their comfort level. These complacent members don’t want change, and so they will resist new members who may very well bring change.
I ask every Odd Fellow who reads this article to re-commit yourself to the health, growth and future of your Lodge – bringing in new members is the single most important duty of a member of our Order. And it is Job Number One for each of us.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
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