DMC – Evolution and Change for Odd Fellows

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Odd Fellows Lodge members from throughout North America ask me for suggestions on how they can encourage membership development in their Odd Fellow Lodges. I commend these members for their interest and their desire to not only save their Lodges, but to find ways to strengthen and grow their Lodges. Here is an article that I first wrote in June of 2016 which addresses the question.

Evolution and change must be the hallmark for Odd Fellows going forward. If we continue to operate as we have for the last 50 years the results will be pretty much the same: membership losses and closed Lodges.

At present, I submit that there are three categories of Odd Fellows: (1) The progressive and energetic members who understand that Lodges can be transformed, and new members brought in, when the Lodge provides fun activities for members, their families, and prospective members, and also reaches out into the community to do good works. (2) Those members who, frankly, don’t really care about the future of their Lodge so long as it provides the same kind of experience that they have always enjoyed. Status quo is just fine for them. They care about the present, and not so much about the future. (3) Members who recognize the problem as their Lodge membership shrinks and as the Lodge members age, but don’t really know what to do about it.

This article is not written for the first category of Odd Fellows – those members are doing just fine, and their Lodges will, in time, experience a Renaissance. Nor is this article written for the second category of Odd Fellows. They live in their own bubble, and their Lodges will simply fade away in time. This article is written for the third category of Odd Fellow. For the members who care to reinvigorate their Lodges (but don’t know how), I provide ten tested, tried-and-true programs – pick one or two, and I guarantee the result will be rejuvenated Lodge members and new members who are interested in joining an active Lodge.

Here are ten methods you can take to the bank of membership development:

1. Every Lodge in North America has a date that it was instituted and given a charter. Spend at least three months preparing for a Lodge Community Open House to celebrate that date. Send out press releases, invite local elected officials, and plan an event open to the community. Make sure members invite their families and friends. Provide music, a cake, perhaps some historical tours of the Lodge Hall. You get the idea. This is an easy event and really opens your Lodge to the community.

2. Every community has local musicians, singers, and bands. Open your Lodge once a month to performances by these groups. Make it free to the public (donations accepted, of course). Set some chairs up for the audience. There is no reason you can’t use your Lodge Hall for such a music venue.

3. Plan and execute a spaghetti feed for a local charity or community group. If you don’t have a certified kitchen, then make it a catered event. Keep the cost low, charge admission to the members and the public and provide the donations to the local charity or community group. If you can line up at least 10 “sponsors” for the event – who will each donate $100 to the ultimate beneficiary – all the better. Put up some posters. Make sure you send a press release out before and after the event.

4. Rent a bus to take your members, friends and family on a day trip. Keep the cost down – you are not here to make a profit, just to cover your expenses. Visit local wineries, or breweries, or a cheese factory, and plan on either bringing lunch for a picnic, or visiting a restaurant for lunch.

5. Pick a community project, get some volunteers, do it, and make sure you get recognized for it in your local press. What community project? Let your imagination be your guide, and tailor your project to your community. Some examples of projects you could consider: A Downtown Clean Up Day. Volunteering at the local animal shelter. Adopt-a-highway. A social visit to the local convalescent or retirement home.

6. Plan a regular activity once a month for your Lodge members – and make it a regular feature. What activity? Again, let your imagination guide you, based on the ages and inclinations of the members. Some examples of activities you could consider: Bowling night. Poker night. Take a hike in a local park. Dinner and movie. Or show movies at the Lodge.

7. Carpool to an Odd Fellow/Rebekah facility and pay them a visit. Lots of options are available: The Meadows of Napa Valley. The Rebekah Children’s Home. The Saratoga Retirement Community. The Odd Fellow Museum housed at the historic San Francisco Odd Fellows Temple. Or visit another Lodge and take a tour. A phone call or two to coordinate the visit, and your members will be welcomed.

8. Sponsor a youth activity in your town. It can be a local Little League or Soccer team, or it could be a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troop. The kids and their families will appreciate it. And having the three link logo on sport’s jerseys is an added benefit.

9. Create a unique event for the members of your Lodge, family members and potential members. Make it an annual affair. It can be as varied as the community your live in and the membership of your Lodge. Perhaps a Halloween Party. Or an Oktoberfest. Or a karaoke night at the Lodge. Or a chocolate chip cookie baking contest. Or a bicycle trip. The list could go on and on.

10. And one of the simplest techniques of all: When you get to the point of inviting a new member to apply, make sure to also invite that potential new member’s spouse, significant other, boyfriend or girlfriend. Why settle for one new member when you can have two.

What have you got to lose?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master

DMC – The Top Ten Reasons That Lodges Fail

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this point in my year as Grand Master, I have visited in excess of 20 Lodges. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and even the ugly. Some Lodges are thriving. Many Lodges are trying. Other Lodges are fading. In the spirit of giving Lodges the warning signs of a failing Lodge, here – based on my experience – are what I consider the “Top Ten Reasons” that Lodges fail (with apologies to David Letterman and his Top Ten Lists):

Number 10. Inadequate signage. Most of our Lodges have been around for over 100 years, and many are located in the heart of downtown. Yet too often I have seen Lodges that are invisible. If you are an Odd Fellows Lodge, be proud of it and make sure that there is a large, distinct and easily visible sign that proclaims the building to be a Lodge of Odd Fellows.

Number 9. Decrepit halls. Nothing turns potential members off faster than a shabby Lodge Hall. A building with old paint, a clear need for repairs, and a dusty and dirty interior speaks volumes to the public. Such a building says, “we are old and we don’t care.”

Number 8. Failure to let go. In some Lodges, the same one or two people run everything, and have done so for 10 years, 20 years, or even longer. It’s time to let go. A new generation of leaders needs to be given their turn to be in charge of the Lodge. If you continue to do everything in the Lodge, you may think you are helping. But what you are doing is restricting newer members from enjoying the full IOOF experience. Don’t hold a position beyond your time. Better to train the newer members so they can flourish and continue the Order into the next generation.

Number 7. No, no, no. I have experienced the dreaded “no” in too many Lodges. Newer members are stifled, disappointed, frustrated, and even angered when the “long-time” members always say “no” to every new idea. Don’t always say “no”, or “we tried that a few years ago, and it doesn’t work”, or “that’s a stupid idea.” Learn to say “yes”. Let the newer members try.

Number 6. Constant comment. Nothing is more restricting and embarrassing for newer members than to always hear comments from the sidelines during a meeting such as: “You are standing in the wrong place” or “that word is pronounced ‘sectarian'” or “wait, it’s not your turn”. Don’t become the Lodge bully. Of course, you want to help the new members, but do it discretely, and perhaps following the meeting. Everyone makes mistakes in the beginning.

Number 5. Booooooring. Nothing says “this is a Lodge of grandfathers and grandmothers” louder than holding a boring meeting. Unfortunately, I have attended too many meetings where the meeting consisted of little more than verbatim reading of the minutes, sick and in distress, paying a couple of bills, and that’s it. Without committee reports, old business and new business, the message conveyed is that this is a moribund Lodge.

Number 4. Bicker, bicker, bicker. Many times I have heard from newer members who tell me that they attended a few meetings and then stopped because they couldn’t stand the bickering and sniping amongst the members. We are Odd Fellows. We are supposed to practice friendship, love, and truth. No one wants to hear about your petty complaints about other members. Get over it, shake hands and move on.

Number 3. Failure to have fun. The surest way to send a Lodge into its death spiral is to forget that we are a fraternal order and it’s OK to have fun. Lodges must plan social events that the members enjoy. Without such social events, the Lodge loses an entire dimension of its value to members.

Number 2. Failure to reach out. It is important to the work of this Order and the image of IOOF for Lodges to reach out into their communities to do good works. It’s also important to the new and younger members. This is the next generation who we wish to attract. These young men and women want to help out in the community and want to foster charitable causes. And it’s not just writing a check here and there. That’s too easy. Members want to engage hands-on in good charitable and community works.

Number 1. Failure to bring in new members. The #1 reason the Lodges fail is self-evident. I visited a Lodge recently that had not brought in a new member in over 5 years. The remaining members had dropped to less than 20 and virtually everyone was in his/her 70’s and 80’s. What do you think the future of that Lodge might be? That Lodge had skipped an entire generation (perhaps two) of new members. Obviously, the Lodge is heading down the path of demise. Without new members, a fraternal order ultimately perishes.

Do you recognize any of these “Top Ten Reasons” in your own Lodge?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee Committee

Dear Odd Fellows and Pledges,

We have a new Lodge Committee – the Odd Fellows “Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee” Committee – and we are offering our first film – open to the general public – on Sunday, September 3, in the Upper Hall of the Lodge. On that afternoon we will present some old-time cartoons followed by our feature film: Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This is the original classic film from 1971 with the late great Gene Wilder. Remember all the iconic aspects of this film: the coveted Golden Tickets, the eccentric Willie Wonka, Mr. Slugworth, the Oompah Loompahs, the river of chocolate, and more.

Bring your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and neighbors. This is not just for Odd Fellows and Pledges – it is open to the general public. It is free of charge (although small donations at the door are gratefully accepted). The attached poster (created by Chuck White) gives all the details, including start times. We will offer a number of snacks for sale at the Matinee, including ice cream, juice and chocolate. A number of “firsts” will be offered on September 3:

* This will be the first film in what we hope will be a series of Sunday matinees featuring children’s movies. All films will be suitable for children, and adults, and the entire family. Willie Wonka, for example, is enjoyable to children of all ages – but adults find it entertaining as well – there are nuances in the film (particularly in the performance of Gene Wilder) that only the adults in the room will pick up.

* This will be the first use of our new big-screen projection system which will be installed in the Upper Hall this summer. The equipment is state-of-the art and the screen is larger. There are no windows in the Upper Hall, so the reduced lighting will allow for increased visibility of the film. I expect a much better video and audio presentation in the Upper Hall. Be the first to see the new big-screen performance!

Members of the Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee Committee are Jean-Paul Montreuil, Juelie Roggli, Beth Dovi, Lea Rosenberg, Marisa Browne, Kelli O’Day, Lisa Salinas, and me.

No RSVP’s – just come by for the first Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee at the Lodge on Sunday, September 3. Mark your calendars!

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
For the Children’s Movie Matinee Committee

p.s. If anyone is interested in serving on this committee for future presentations, please let me know!

Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee – Claim Your Golden Ticket

The “Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee” Committee has scheduled the first Sunday Matinee for children of all ages in the Upper Hall at the Odd Fellows Hall: Sunday. September 3. Doors open at 12:47 p.m., old-time cartoons will start at 1:01 p.m. and the feature film will begin at 1:17 p.m. All Odd times. The film is a classic: The original 1971 “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate factory” starring Gene Wilder. Bring your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and the whole family. Our Sunday Movie Matinees are open not only to Odd Fellows and Pledges, but also to the general community – invite your friends and neighbors. Admission is free (although donations are accepted). There are no parking restrictions on Sundays.

In addition to the cartoons and feature film, we will have a snack bar where you and the kids can purchase ice cream, juice and chocolate. Come by the Lodge on September 3 to see the debut of our new Big Screen Projection System in the Upper Hall.

Bring your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and neighbors.   This is not just for Odd Fellows and Pledges – it is open to the general public.  It is free of charge (although small donations at the door are gratefully accepted).   The attached poster (created by Chuck White) gives all the details, including start times.  We will offer a number of snacks for sale at the Matinee, including ice cream, juice and chocolate.   Come to the Upper Hall to enjoy our new big screen projection system.   It is bigger and better than the one we have in the Lower Hall.

Members of the Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee Committee are Jean-Paul Montreuil, Juelie Roggli, Beth Dovi, Lea Rosenberg, Marisa Browne, Kelli O’Day, Lisa Salinas, and me.

No RSVP’s – just come by for the first Children’s Sunday Movie Matinee at the Lodge on Sunday, September 3.

DMC – What Can We Do To Grow Our Lodge?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While a handful of Odd Fellows Lodges are growing, and another handful are maintaining a static membership, the vast majority of Lodges are shrinking. The math is not complicated. Members move away, depart, stop coming to meetings, lose interest or pass away – and at the same time, the Lodge doesn’t add new members or, perhaps, adds one or two new members who might be close friends or relatives of existing members. And too, often, the new members added are of the same age as existing members. The result is inevitable: Lose three members and add one member and you have a Lodge in trouble. Clearly, we must do something to change this equation.

I am often asked: What can we do to grow our Lodge?

Well, talk is cheap. Action is required. So, here, for those who are truly interested, is a three-year plan to re-charge, re-invigorate, and re-new your Lodge. (For those members of the Order who are satisfied with the status quo of your Lodge, and who are happy to maintain your Lodge just the way it is for the balance of your life, you can stop reading here.) For those members who wish to build for the future of your Lodge, and guarantee that the tenets and ideals of this great fraternity live on and flourish, please read on. The secret of success is not just to hold meetings. We must also increase our internal good fellowship activities and increase our involvement with and exposure in the community.

Year One

  1. Open your Lodge to the public (and to potential members) by having open, social meetings – one such social meeting each month should do it. Of course, no ritualistic work is conducted and no secrets are revealed at such meetings.
  2. Bring in one or two major community leaders into membership in your Lodge. This can be a local elected official, a recognized business leader, a leader in his or her profession (like a lawyer, a CPA, a banker, a Judge, a physician, the County Sheriff, etc.) These people will dramatically raise the community profile of your Lodge and can become “rainmakers” in bringing in new members.
  3. Plan and execute one major community event, to benefit a local charitable or community group, and make sure it is publicized.
  4. Plan for and put on one social event each month for the Lodge members and their guests. This can include themed potlucks (for example, Italian potluck), “Bunko” Night at the Lodge, Trivia Night, Poker Night, Movie Night, a talk and demonstration on beer brewing, etc.
  5. Target husbands and wives, both, to consider membership in your Lodge.

Year Two

  1. Hold a “retreat” of your active members and lay out five goals for the year. These five goals should always include a goal identifying the number of Lodge applicants you intend to bring in during the year. Resolve at this retreat NOT to be negative. Positively listen to all ideas that are proposed and put on the table, and then decide which you will implement.
  2. Continue each of the Year One activities into Year Two.
  3. Develop a “signature event” that your Lodge will organize and put on for the community – which will become an annual event. For example: An “OddtoberFest”, a wine tasting event at the Lodge, Pasta Feed, etc.
  4. Organize a committee structure for the Lodge. These committees can include: A Good Fellowship Committee, a Community Support Committee, a Music Committee, a Photography Committee, etc. Give each committee an assignment and let them do their work.
  5. Target young potential members for your Lodge – from 30 to 40 years of age.

Year Three

  1. Continue each of the Year One and Year Two activities into Year Three.
  2. Find out what member’s are interested in doing, and do it. If members wish to take a wine country trip, figure out a way to do it. If members want to put on a Bingo night for the community, find ways to do it. If members wish to go on a hike, etc., let them organize to do it.
  3. Contact, personally, each of your “inactive” members and let them know about Lodge activities – see if you can bring them back into active membership in your Lodge.
  4. Connect with your members. Ideally, have all members connected through e-mail so that everyone can be kept posted and informed. For those who don’t have e-mail, set up a phone tree.
  5. Target even younger potential members for your Lodge – from 16- 29 years of age.

This Plan of Action can work for your Lodge! It does not diminish, in any way, the principles of our Order. It seeks only to increase your membership, and in this way will benefit your Lodge as well as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg

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