DMC – When was the last time you read your Lodge’s by-laws?

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

When was the last time you read your Lodge’s Bylaws?

Come on, you can be honest, because the only person who will “hear” your answer to the question is you.    And I don’t mean skim them.   I mean actually sat down and read them word for word, to understand what is contained in those Bylaws?

I suspect the answer to this question (if you are exercising the Third Degree of Truth) is very, very few of you have read your Lodge Bylaws.   And I further suspect that of those few, even fewer have read them in detail, word for word.

This truth is troubling, at many levels.   Other than the Ritual (contained in that “little red book) and the Codes (the SGL Code of General Laws and the Roberts Code of California Law or the Code of your Grand Lodge jurisdiction), your Lodge Bylaws are the most important document in the Lodge.   And in some respects, it can become the most important document because it governs the operation of your Lodge – it is specific to your Lodge.   Yet, in most Lodges, very few members have read their Bylaws, essentially leaving the Bylaws to the two or three members who serve on the Lodge Bylaws Committee.   Technically, every member of the Lodge should have been given a copy of the Bylaws at the time of initiation, and certainly every member of the Lodge is entitled to see the Bylaws and have his or her own copy.

Why are the Bylaws important?

The following is a non-exclusive list of issues that are typically dealt with in Lodge Bylaws;

*  The dates and times, and locations of your Lodge meetings.
*   Who may call a special meeting, and how is it noticed.
*  The special functions and duties of your Lodge officers, over and above the duties spelled out in Code.
*  How often and when officers are elected (most Lodges elect annually, but a few elect semi-annually).
*  Compensation or reimbursement for officers.
*  Quorum requirements.
*  Membership attendance requirements.
*  How abstentions are handled.
*  Rules of decorum at Lodge meetings.
*  Rules that apply to deaths of members and members sick or in distress.
*  Fee structure for various cards.
*  Duties of Lodge Trustees.
*  How are employees hired and fired, and who supervises them.
*  Who has authority to sign contracts and purchase items for the Lodge.
*  Proper handling of funds and signing of checks.
*  Management of Lodge property.
*  Election of representatives to Grand Lodge, and reimbursement for attendance at Grand Lodge.
*  Lodge Committees and responsibilities of Committees.
*  How committee members are appointed, and by whom.
*  Associate Member requirements and dues.
*  Alcohol use in the Lodge Hall.
*  How to amend the Bylaws.

Does your Lodge’s Bylaws contain these items?   Bylaws should be reviewed, updated, and modernized at least once every three years.   Is that being done in your Lodge?

In the meantime, I recommend, as a first step, that you obtain a copy of your Lodge Bylaws.   Hopefully, they are readily available to you on your Lodge’s website.  Read them over.   What you read will inform you, and it may even surprise you.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Negativity Will Destroy Your Odd Fellows Lodge

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

For over 10 years I have been writing about our existential need to add more members to our Lodges. Without question, a lodge in a fraternal order must add new members year after year or the lodge will surely diminish and, inevitably, die. But there is one other major lodge killer out there, and I have written about it from time to time. It is just as insidious, and it is just as detrimental to the continued good health and, ultimately, viability of a lodge.

This other lodge killer can be summed up in one word, but it can manifest itself in many different ways. What is that one word? It is “negativity”. And it is toxic to a lodge. If you see it in your own Lodge, it must be halted and the source must be marginalized, and if necessary, invited to change his/her ways or depart the Lodge. Because if the source continues the negativity, the Lodge will surely suffer and the friendship, love and truth to which we aspire will be but an illusion.

How does negativity present itself? Let me count the ways:

Bullying at Meetings. We are all equal. No one should dominate the Lodge, nor should anyone dominate the meetings. Do you have a member who talks on virtually every subject that is raised at meetings? Does that member constantly offer his/her opinion on all subjects and insist that it must be the member’s way or the highway?

Behind-the-back Talk. We are brothers and sisters who are obligated to display friendship, love and truth to each other. If a member has something to say to another member, it must be done kindly, quietly, confidentially and face-to-face. Talking about a member behind that member’s back is unfriendly, and it can be hurtful.

Shooting Down All Ideas. Have you attended a meeting where one or two members essentially say “no” to every new idea, suggestion, or program? Well, they are not the font of all good ideas. Other members are entitled to present their ideas and have them considered openly without Mr. No or Ms. No heading them off at the pass.

Spreading Rumors. Rumors are almost always negative. Spreading those rumors can serve no good purpose, and may be painful to members who are the subject of rumors. The rumors certainly do not foster a feeling of friendship. Lodges are meant to be peaceful places where members can escape the turmoil of everyday life. Continuing to spread a rumor is poisonous to the camaraderie we seek in Lodge life.

Never Letting Go. No one is indispensable. Yet, a few members think that they are. Do you have members who have served as Secretary of the Lodge, or Noble Grand, or Treasurer who simply won’t relinquish that office to anyone else? Holding on too long creates a choke point for the future of the Lodge. Other members – particularly newer members – need to have their opportunity to serve and to lead.

Failing to Practice FLT. And we all know the member who is just not a nice person. He or she may always be looking for ways to critique or to criticize. He or she may never have a friendly smile or a pleasant greeting to another member. One has to wonder why they became an Odd Fellow in the first place. Or what caused them to change over time to become the curmudgeon they are today?

What can be done if some or all of these negative traits are displayed by a member (or members) in your Lodge? The situation may be uncomfortable and even dire, but it is not unsolvable. Step One is for you to directly talk to the person who is showing this negativity. The conversation should not be itself negative or confrontational. And it should be done in private, in the spirit of FLT. Sometimes, this direct and friendly communication works. If it does not, however, then Step Two if for you to take the matter up with the Noble Grand or another trusted and respected elder of the Lodge. And ask that NG or elder to have the conversation with the negative person. Step Three, if none of the other steps achieve results, is to th raise the issue to the level of the District Deputy to provide some intervention, or mediation.

Let’s face it: Our numbers are too few to waste our time and energy on negativity.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Buy a Board for an Odd Fellow

DMC is making a difference. One Lodge at a time. It is my pleasure to publish the letter, below, sent from Lewisburg Lodge 96 from the Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. I urge you to read the letter from Lewisburg. This Lodge has decided to open its windows, toss complacency out one of those window, and move into the 21st Century. The journey to change is never easy, but the journey is invigorating and the results are remarkable. This Lodge is adding members and is growing! Congratulations to Lewisburg, and all the other Lodges that have become three-dimensional Lodges. (A three dimensional Lodge is one that honors the history and ritual of our Order, but also reaches out to do worthy projects in the community, and makes sure to organize fun social events for the members. All three elements are necessary for success in this new century.)

If you or your Lodge wish to help Lewisburg Lodge raise funds to pay for the costs of their barn restoration and construction project (they are hoping to raise $100,000 through donations), you can do so by mailing your check (payable to IOOF Lewisburg Lodge #96) to the following address:

IOOF Lewisburg Lodge #96
10491 River Road
New Columbia, PA 17856

This is an amazing story of grit and progress. Let’s help this Lodge write another chapter.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Dave –

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken. Our Lodge has been very busy, growing and building! Since we started the journey of revitalization, we now have an historic property, and 1870’s farm. Complete with a beautiful Victorian brick house and a huge barn. We’ve grown from 5 active members to 20 active members…several in the pipe to join…and an Oddziliary! So, in the span of about 2 years, we are doing amazing things with only a handful of members and supporters! We have an outreach PR presentation, are filming a documentary of our journey, and have presented to local groups, the Masons, Rotary, businesses, etc.

We are still in the process of doing modifications to the house to make it ADA compliant, and have started restoring the barn and designing our Lodge for the inside of the barn. We’ve spent close to $100k of our own money just to stop the deterioration of the barn and repair 150 years of weather damage and age. We even preserved and re-built the interior silo – a very rare and historic feature. We have designed the Lodge, and the venue section of the barn, and are now ready to begin construction on that phase. We’ve also got a lot of furniture, a pipe organ, and a complete Bingo set up, and the historic door knockers and wickets from the Allentown Lodge that recently closed. So we are doing amazing things, not only for our Lodge, but the entire organization. We are active in the community, helping people, and folks once again know who the Odd Fellows are! We also have our first female member and teenager since 1844! Now we are getting more women to join and it’s great! We lost several members in the process, but we knew that would happen. Our Lodge is now viable once again and we see a bright and prosperous future!

We are even reproducing beautiful collars to replace the old and worn collars. They make us look great and are real eye-catchers! We just celebrated our 175th Anniversary a few weekends ago with a great ceremony and dedication.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting, and your DMC newsletters really hit home. With purchasing the property, modifying the house, and barn repairs, we are almost our of money. There is no way we will be able to finish the new Lodge and the barn with the remaining funds. So, we approached our Amish builder (God bless him!). He holds a special place in his heart for us, not only because of the work we are doing for others and the community, but, at the age of 10 he was orphaned, and he knows the history of the Odd Fellows. He also sees the income potential of the barn as a venue. We are one of only 2 in the entire region that would be a LEGAL venue barn. Other barns in the area are renting from $4,000-$6,000 for a one-day event….and they are not legal, just wait until someone gets hurt! Not good. So he knows we will be making money in the future. We asked him if he could help us out financially and “pay it forward.” He didn’t even hesitate and said yes! Love the Amish! But, we don’t want him to foot all the costs, nor should he, so we are doing fundraising events and campaigns. One of the campaigns is “Buy A Board.” Folks and corporations can buy a board in the barn and we will laser-etch an inscription on it. See our website for the campaign. We have also reached out to other Pennsylvania Lodges.

Here’s where it really gets interesting… The PA Grand Master wants to see this project complete so we can hold our Spring rally in the barn, and he wants to help! So we began reaching out to other Lodges for financial assistance (donations). Crickets. Really? About that “helping others”, “we are in this together”, “open your hands and hearts”, etc. I am learning that we really are “Independent”. A neighboring Lodge is sitting on over $600k and they are renting space from the Masons. Their average member age is in the 70’s, and they do nothing…meet and go home. Another Lodge just closed and had nearly $700k in the bank! Yet another Lodge is sitting on over $2m. What the heck? They won’t help us? What we could do with even a fraction of their funds! We are working our butts off to make this happen, and other Lodges won’t help! Wow.

A Lodge told us that they would try to get us a sizeable donation. Well, it went to the meeting and got shot down. Why? We were told, “They will never finish the barn”, and …this one really gets me… “They are running it like a business, not a Lodge.” Well, duh, yes we are! I just don’t get it. One would think these other Lodges would want to be a part of a success story, and make our organization great! But, I guess not. It’s a shame.

Your newsletters hit home, and I share them with the movers and shakers of our Lodge, and use the Davis Odd Fellow Lodge as an example of success. But, with the no-help, no-reaching out, and I hate to say it, but selfish attitudes of some of our Lodges I really wonder about the viability of the other Lodges. It is very discouraging that our own Lodges don’t see the future potential and won’t lend us a hand. In spite of them, we will be a tremendous success and we will be THE Lodge in Pennsylvania….and we will continue to collect things from the Lodges that fold (LOL!). We will just have to work a bit harder to get there and we will have to do it on our own.

I wanted to touch base and thank you for all of your advice that you have shared to get us on this road, and thank you for the DMC newsletters! I will continue to use the Davis Lodge as our example of what a Lodge can and should be! We will complete our new Lodge and the barn. We will grow the organization. We will be a success story….heck, we already are!

You can check out our website and see some of the stuff we are doing.

Thank you for everything you are doing for our organization, and the one thing we need in the IOOF…change!

Regards,

Scott Robinson
Vice Grand
IOOF Lewisburg Lodge No 96
(570)541-3494
www.iooflewisburg.org

DMC – Top 5 Ways to Save the Odd Fellows

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Last week I forwarded to you the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) 5-year Plan which, in my opinion, left much to be desired. If you have been reading my articles for the past decade you know that I don’t just critique, I also offer positive alternatives. So, in the spirit of such positive alternatives, here are my own suggestions of elements for a 5-year Plan for SGL and the future progress of our Order.

1. Membership. The first priority of any Plan for our Order must begin with the issue of membership. In a fraternal order, there is no more important issue to the well-being of the fraternity than ensuring a steady influx of new members. With such a steady influx, the fraternity’s future is secure. Without it, the fraternity will diminish and pass into history. There are literally hundreds of fraternities that have popped up, flourished, diminished and passed away in the history of the United States. And this is a concern even to our great Order. Even though we have been in existence in North America for 200 years, the decline in our membership over the past 60 years should be of primal concern to every brother and sister, and certainly to the leaders at SGL. So what’s the solution? Well, the solution to halting the decline and increasing membership is right before us, if we just take the time to see it. In my opinion, we should identify the 10 or 12 Lodges in our Order that have shown great and sustained growth in membership over the last decade. While most Lodges have been declining in membership, these 10 to 12 have been gaining members. These Lodges have discovered the “best practices” for growth. Analyze what these 10-12 Lodges have done and provide a listing of their methods and methodologies to all Lodges. These 10-12 Lodges are clearly doing something right, and we should share these “best practices” far and wide in our Order.

2. Representation. Brothers and Sisters in our Order are not fairly represented at SGL. Every Grand Lodge in the jurisdiction of SGL receives, essentially, the same number of voting representatives. While this sounds fair on its face, it is objectively not fair. There are jurisdictions with less than 300 members that receive about the same number of votes as jurisdictions with thousands of members. Therein lies the inequality. We must afford more recognition to jurisdictions based on their population of members. Now, to swing the pendulum completely in the other direction would also create unfairness. What I propose is that every jurisdiction would retain at least the number of representatives that they currently have (e.g. no jurisdiction’s representation would be cut), but the larger jurisdictions would receive 1, 2, or 3 more representatives based on their membership numbers. This would create a fairer system of representation and would reward jurisdictions with growing membership.

3. Modernization. Students of the history of Odd Fellowship know that the Ritual of this Order has not remained in stone. It has changed over the years. As we enter the 21st Century, it’s time to modernize the Ritual again. Our Ritual contains important teachings and great truths. Yet, it contains stilted phrases from another era, passages that are offensive to protected classes of people, and verbosity that must be curtailed. For example, the obligation in the Initiatory Degree is lengthy, exhausting and repetitive. It could easily be shortened and streamlined without any loss of content. The oath taken by the President of the United States is 35 words in length. Does the obligation taken by an Odd Fellows really need to takes hundreds of words?

4. Non-sectarian. Odd Fellowship professes to be non-sectarian. Sooner or later this Order must come to grips with the reality that we are not. The ritual is replete with Judaeo-Christian content. But the world is not just composed of Jews and Christians. Have we turned our backs on those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem, etc? How can we say we are non-sectarian when we quote only the Holy Bible, but not the other great works of faith? How can we require only the Holy Bible in the Lodge Room? And Odd Fellowship (which professes to be non-sectarian) requires belief in “a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the Universe”. Yet there are other religions – such as Hinduism – which believe in many deities. Are we saying that members of the Hindu faith need not apply? And is that being non-sectarian?

5. Merger. Odd Fellowship is broken into too many pieces. We have Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Encampments, LEA, PM and LAPM. Dividing us into these fragments, while our membership declines makes little sense. One of the symbols of Odd Fellowship is the bundle of sticks – it is an appropriate symbol to express the strength of togetherness. Once, a Century ago when our numbers where ten times larger, these branches made sense. In the new Century, the divisions make little sense. We need to be one Order with many degrees. Accordingly, plans must be made for the PM and LAPM to merge together; then the Encampments and LEAs, and finally Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. Separate, but equal units for men and women make no sense in 2020. Better to have one Order – one Lodge – with many degrees.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

DMC – Odd Fellows Five-Year Plan (2011)

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Attached is a document you may not have seen before. It is the 5-year Plan adopted by the Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL). If you have never seen this 5-year Plan, you might rightfully and righteously wonder: Why haven’t I seen this plan before? But putting that rather basic question aside, let’s explore what this Plan says, and what it doesn’t say.

By way of preface, let me say that it is perfectly appropriate that a Plan was developed. An organization as large and sprawling as SGL should have a plan. And I commend SGL for the foresight to have one.

But, I must also say that I am immediately struck by the vagueness and generalizations contained in the plan. Take a look at the plan yourself, and see if you agree. In most respects it is as plain as vanilla and as nourishing to the Order as tapioca. A plan that says “Improve Communications” doesn’t tell us much. And very little is added by saying we must improve communications both “within the order” and “outside the order”. Well, yes. That’s a good thing. But saying we must improve communications gives us little insight into how. And the only suggestion ventured by SGL is to “foster public awareness of the order.” OK. And again, how?

“Apply positive action to contribute to the quality of the order.” What does that really mean? How does that translate into action? It’s almost as if SGL hired a facilitator who sat with some SGL leaders in a room and asked folks to throw out some good words that the facilitator could put on a sheets of butcher paper stuck to the wall with blue tape. How about “action”? No, let’s make it “positive action.” Well what about positive action? Someone else suggested we should “apply” it. To what, someone else asked? Let’s apply it so that it can “contribute” to something, someone else suggested. How about “the order”. Gee, guys, I like quality. Good, good. Let’s apply it to the quality of the order. No, not quite. Let’s apply it to contribute to the quality of the order. Hey, that’s great. Let’s go with that. And we should encourage the member of the order to “active participation.” Yes, agreed. We don’t want inactive participation. Members should participate, but it should be active.

Ultimately, in the 21st Century, no 5-year Plan can avoid technology, and the SGL 5-year Plan does make the obligatory reference to it. The plan encourages the use of social networking. Good plan. But how? Again, the Plan offers little in the way of clues. To be fair, the Plan does says we should employ the latest technology in communications. But this Plan was in effect in 2011-16 and here we are three years later in 2019 with any number of Lodges that have no technology, no presence on social media, and minimal use of email. And why do most Lodges still use minutes that are handwritten in a book, and then read verbatim at meetings? That’s the way it was done in the 19th and 20th Centuries. How have we not progressed in our 200th year?

Toward the end of the SGL 5-year Plan, I read a line that stumped me. I actually read this line several times: “Involve all ages and life issues.” Why does the Plan speak in tongues? I certainly can understand the desire to “involve all ages”. (Although the plan leaves us guessing as to “how” we accomplish this all-age involvement.) But what is meant by “life issues”? Does this mean the SGL urges the Lodges to include members who are gay or transgender, or members who are not Christian or Jewish, or members who are poor or homeless? Does this mean that SGL wants us to reach out to those who are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, poor and homeless? Does this mean that SGL will finally raise the red flag on Odd Fellows Lodges that have not yet admitted even one woman some two decades after Odd Fellows Lodges opened membership to women? A little explanation would go a long way.

Finally, the 5-year Plan seeks to “Promote positive attitudes.” Well, who can argue with that. Positive attitudes are better than negative attitudes. Good is better than evil. Happiness is better than sadness. And, apparently, pablum is better than a real plan that addresses real issues facing our Order (e.g. how about a real plan to reverse the decline in our membership).

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Five-Year Plan (2011)

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