Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
The article, below, was written by a relatively new member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows from a small Lodge in Southern California, and I commend it to you. The article highlights one of the great impediment to growth that I have personally seen in many, many Lodges. This impediment – unless corrected – will ultimately destroy the Lodge.
The problem? Long-time members of the Odd Fellows Lodge who just won’t let go of the control they exercise in the Lodge. Sometimes that “control” is abundantly clear and dominant, and sometimes it is subtle. Look, no one lives forever. Eventually, new members must assume all functions and responsibilities in the Lodge. It is critical that long-time members mentor the new members, and then allow the new members to assume responsibility in the Lodge. The long-time members are a great resource and should continue to be as active as is appropriate – but they cannot continue to dominate and control. To do so will stifle the new generation and will lead to a diminution of the Lodge. The long-time members may think that only they know the right answers and that only they can properly control the Lodge. But in reality, they are slowly strangling the life out of the Lodge, and they are ultimately destroying the Lodge.
The solution? The long-time members must simply mentor the new members, and then – with grace and dignity and the appreciation of their Odd Fellows Lodge – they must eventually release the reins of control. At the same time, the new members must show respect for the long-time members, exercise patience, and then slowly assume responsibility within the Lodge – they are, after all, the future of Odd Fellowship.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
From a New Member of a Small Lodge (by Veronica Dowdy)
I am a member of a small Odd Fellows Lodge. We have only maybe a handful of active members and many who are not active. I have been a member of the small community that we live in since 2009 and had been looking for a place/organization to be part of where I could feel more part of the community while contributing and being a valuable member of my town.
My husband and I joined the Odd Fellows because we saw the potential that the organization has and we have been inspired by who they are. Having lived in a large city prior to us moving to this town, it had me miss how much more we were involved in great activities geared to making a difference.
I have had over 20 years of experience planning events for large corporations. I have successfully raised funds for non-profit organizations. One such event included the Avon Breast Cancer 5K race in Los Angeles, where I was able to get the whole company I worked at to participate 17 years ago; and they still participate to this day after I moved on. I also raised funds for the AIDS Foundation through a San Francisco Marathon in which we gave away tickets to incredibly fun events such as Cirque Du Soleil, a Harbor Dinner Cruise and a piece of artwork valued at $10,000 all donated to us by different organizations and artists. I am very creative when it comes to ways to get the community and people in general involved in activities that benefit all of us.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were discussing ways to raise funds and awareness about the Odd Fellows. It has come to our attention that hardly anyone in our community is aware of who the Odd Fellows are or what we are about. So I figured it would be a great idea to organize special events such as whale watching, short trips to fun places for the community to be able to raise awareness of what we do and raise funds for different organizations as well as for our Lodge. There has been concern from a few members of our Lodge that I have been “holding back” in my participation and I figured that this would be a great way for me to step up and do what I do best – what I have had experience with and make a difference. Unfortunately, when I brought my motion up, instead of waiting for the discussion part of the motion, my motion was nit-picked and I felt shut down completely.
My motion was simply to head a “fun-raising” committee which was initially met with smiles and cheer.
My motion was never recorded because it was nit-picked by the secretary recording the motions until I could say nothing and so I sat silent. My husband stood in my defense to argue for allowing the motion to be made first and then discussion after. No one said a word and my husband and I were given the universal “shhh” symbol. The person who gave the “shhh” to us picked up the motion and it passed but garnered one “no” vote.
I voted for my own motion only because it had to come from someone else who had “been around” longer than I have. This really left a bad taste in my mouth and completely took away any desire for future participation in my lodge. My husband experienced the same thing when he brought up an idea that would make a difference for our lodge as well. Someone else who had “been around” made the motion after watching his contribution get picked apart before the motion was made because the discussion to shoot it down preceded the motion.
I have read that some of our lodges are dying. This is one of the reasons why. New members who can be a great contribution to our communities join and bring with them ideas and experience needed for growth. Unfortunately, if they encounter the SAME opposition that we have, there is no room for leadership or contribution or growth. Like another odd fellow member stated: stores and restaurants that have survived have found a way to diversify what they offer and bring new items and products into their establishments; how can our lodges expect to survive when any new ideas are nit-picked and shut down by senior members before there is even a record of the motion? And whose motion does it become if a member who has “been around” makes it instead; isn’t that belittling? And how can anyone question why new members are holding back instead of realizing that the only reason we hold back is because we feel that any contributions that we bring will face nit-picking opposition rather than procedural debate which is fair and just and both sides can be heard in an orderly fashion?
I will continue to participate in my lodge for now, because I know that this is important for my husband and I want to support him in his commitment to our community. But if I see no change in how things are being done, I may withdraw my participation from the lodge. It saddens me to think that we have such a great resource in our community and that it’s not being utilized the way it was meant to be. I am hoping that in writing this, other members can see how things need to improve. It should be up to the older members to shepherd and support new members instead of what I have experienced. This comes from the perspective of a newbie and is meant to bring awareness to something that needs to change in order to transform our lodges from something that is dying to something that is thriving.
This is not meant to be harsh criticism, but instead, constructive criticism on what needs to change in our lodges as we can’t be the only lodge where this happens. What I proposed was not something new, but has been asked of us as members from our grand lodge in several letters to members. We have been asked to do more than meet in session. It is one thing that older members do not do what is asked of members by our grand lodge, but it is a great hypocrisy to stymie the efforts of new people to do what is asked of us by our Grand Lodge. Such hypocrisy destroys whatever vitality that new members bring.
By Peter V. Sellars, PGM
One of the most important factors of making people aware of an organization, is publicity. The Odd Fellows need publicity. Every lodge needs publicity. How does an Odd Fellows Lodge gain publicity?
There are many promotional ideas to gain publicity. Some take very little money. Other ideas require more money. Some ideas only take action, as simple as writing an article and sending it to a local newspaper or the posting of an article or idea on social media. It comes down to simply sharing what the Order has to offer.
This article could take off in so many directions, as I think of all the ways Odd Fellows Lodges have sought publicity and the numerous promotions lodges have done, and there have been many ideas tried.
Does promoting an Odd Fellows Lodge work? Yes! Will many ideas work for one lodge? Sometimes, it takes many different ways to promote a lodge. Sometimes, it may take only one great idea. Sometimes, ideas must be repeated. Some become regular occurrences. Ideas that promote the lodge should become publicity for the lodge.
So far, you should know promotion of a lodge is important and that publicity may be gained through the fruits of that promotional event or idea. Now, let’s look at some examples of ideas:
1. Submit an article (or multiple articles) detailing the success of a recent event to a local publication.
2. Placing an advertisement in the newspaper or on social media of an upcoming event – or that membership is open to all those interested (included benefits and activities of the lodge)
3. Have patches, hats, t-shirts, polo shirts, made for members and non-members to wear (either give away as a promotional or sell for a fundraiser; newer members appreciate and like our symbols of the skull & cross bones, hourglass, all-seeing eye, etc.
4. Take the Odd Fellow members on outings (at least once a month). Members enjoy activities. Go to local arcades, ballgames, museums, theatres, theme parks, boat/ferry trips, etc. The lodge can subsidize to reduce the costs for such outings; this would be considered a promotional to gain and retain members.
5. Adopt-A-Highway, Clean-up-a-Street, Clean-up-a-park, Clean-up-a-Creek, and other related great opportunities where the Odd Fellows Lodge name is posted for its good works.
6. Billboards work, if an Odd Fellows Lodge (or collective lodges) can afford. Simply place the Three-Links or another cool symbol to get the attention of the public.
7. Pay for uniforms of a little league baseball team, soccer team, basketball team, or any other type sports team where the participants wear clothing with the logo of “Odd Fellows” or the three-links, etc. This is advertisement. There are adult leagues as well. You may even pull in some new members as a result of support.
8. YOU FILL IN THE SPACE! ________________________________.
All of these ideas have been employed at one time or another by various Odd Fellow Lodges. All are very good promotional ideas. It is not a question of what is good or not; the main concern is getting every lodge participating in advertising and promoting the Order to the public.
There actually are lodges that do none of the above. There are lodges that only meet and go home and wait until the next meeting. They do not promote the Order. They do not share anything with the public. These are the lodges that won’t grow or attract new members or gain support or positive attention of the public.
Paying for the promotion of a lodge or organization is the same as promoting a business. The expense of advertising and promoting of such entities is allowable by the Internal Revenue Service, as long as your idea conforms to local law and our own Order’s code.
Every Odd Fellows lodge should join in on creating ideas to promote the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Let’s join this effort and continue being a presence in our communities.
The Davis Odd Fellows are pleased to announce our First Annual “Texas Hold ’em Poker Tournament” coming to the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall, 415 2nd Street, Davis, on Saturday, September 29. Doors open at 6:01 p.m. and the Texas Hold ’em tournament starts promptly at 6:35 p.m. This is real Texas Hold ’em Poker in a professionally run tournament, sanctioned by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Gambling Control. The Texas Hold ’em Poker Tournament is open to the general public and you must be at least 21 years old to play.
Only 75 tickets will be sold for this event, costing $55 per person, with buy-ins costing just $20. The first-place winner of the Davis Odd Fellows Texas Hold ’em tournament will receive $500; the second-place winner will receive $250. And the third-place winner will get $125. Snacks and desserts will be available and are included in the ticket price. Players must be in their seats by 6:30 p.m. and the poker tournament starts promptly at 6:35 p.m.
Advance tickets are available online at oddfellowspoker.eventbrite.com. Hard-copy tickets for the Davis Odd Fellows Texas Hold ’em tournament may also be purchased at Avid Reader Active on Second Street in Downtown Davis. A no-host bar will be open starting at 6 p.m. and throughout the tournament, serving an assortment of beers, wines, and spirits.
F – L – T
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Some members believe that consolidation of Odd Fellow Lodges is a fine thing, and a major accomplishment. There is even a formal consolidation ceremony in our ritual that is performed when the merger of two (or more) Lodges is consummated. In the ceremony, the absorbed Odd Fellow Lodge is called the “consolidated” Lodge and the absorbing Lodge is called the “consolidating” Lodge. There is a fair amount of pomp, circumstance and ceremony involved in the consolidation ceremony. You can find it in the ritual (the “red book”).
But to me, consolidation speaks more of failure than success. It should not be the subject of a celebration. It is a cause for concern.
A consolidation is just a fancier way to saying that an Odd Fellow Lodge has gone out of business. It is a more genteel way, if you will, of pulling a Lodge’s charter. When two Lodges consolidate, it means that one Lodge has gone out of business because the membership has fallen so low that it is no longer viable. And it doesn’t happen overnight. Typically, Lodges that consolidate into another Lodge have not been viable for many years. The demising Lodge has lost a quorum of regular members, and has often been kept on life support by the kindness of associate members – typically from the gaining Lodge. The failed Lodge may have gone for months without meetings because of the lack of quorum. Truth be told, the absorbed Lodge’s leadership and members have failed their Lodge and have failed the Order. They have allowed the membership to age and to dwindle. In the past, the absorbed Lodge may have been sustained for decades, sometimes well over a Century, by members who lovingly cared for the Lodge Hall, were proud of their history and accomplishments, and happily brought in new members to continue the fraternal experience. But the current generation of members was too old, or too complacent, or too distracted, or too clueless, or too incompetent to continue that history. They let the Lodge lapse on their watch. They let the Lodge become a mere historical footnote. What a shame.
In the California jurisdiction, we have three consolidations that have just occurred or are pending. I am sure that other jurisdictions have consolidations in some phase of devolution. In two of the three California consolidations, the demising Lodge had five dues-paying member on its books. In one case, the books showed eight dues-paying members. But it’s probably smoke-and-mirrors to some extent. Of the few dues-paying members, some may have been too old or ill to travel to meetings, some may not even live in the jurisdiction, and some may have simply stopped attending even though they write a dues check once a year. The absorbed Lodges have really been defunct for years- they are zombie Lodges, going through the motions of life, but long since derelict, decrepit and deceased
Odd Fellow Lodges that have five dues-paying members on the books have gone past the point of no-return. But Lodges with 10 or fewer dues-paying members should be concerned as well – and there are 18 Lodges in California with 10 or fewer members. Having 10 or fewer members should be a red flag for the leadership and members of those Lodges. It is critical that they bring in more members. There is no time to delay. Under the theory that only about half the members truly participate in Lodge meetings and activities, a Lodge with 10 or fewer members is skating perilously close to the precipice of consolidation. (I note that there are another 14 Lodges in California with 11 or 12 dues-paying members. Should those Lodges be concerned, as well? You bet they should.)
Surrendering an Odd Fellow Lodge charter or having it pulled by the Grand Master is the ultimate indignity in a fraternal order. For a Lodge to be absorbed through consolidation is, perhaps, a step up, but it’s no cause for celebration.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
There are DMC members throughout California, the United States, Canada, and Europe. From time to time those members send me newspaper articles that are of particular interest. Below is a link to the Akron, Ohio, newspaper. Please click on the link – I think you will find the newspaper article intriguing and revealing.
It shows what Odd Fellowship was like in a small town in 1918, a Century ago. The article presents a fascinating vignette of the times. There are those in this Order – including many at Sovereign Grand Lodge and in leadership positions in Grand Lodges around the country – who believe that if we simply went back to the way it was one hundred years ago, all would be fine and dandy and we would grow and flourish as an Order. They are wrong. We cannot take an Odd Fellows’ time machine to the past. Those were completely different times, with different issues, lifestyles, views of the world – not to mention different modes of transportation, communication, education, employment, attire and entertainment. The way to the future is to embrace the future, not attempt to live in the past.
While some in leadership at SGL seem to have given up and predict the death of this Order, DMC has not given up. We know that Odd Fellowship is relevant and can not only survive but can grow. In California we are actually showing net gains in membership. In my own Lodge over the last 10 years we have grown from 30 members to over 300. Don’t tell me Odd Fellowship is dead. It is just asleep in some Lodges and in some jurisdictions. We need to simply wake up to welcome the next generation of members.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Local history: Odd Fellows paid tribute to their dead with 1918 monument