Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Approximately ten years ago, during my term as Noble Grand of my Lodge (Davis #169), I developed a “Pledge” system as a vehicle for membership development. It has worked, over this last decade, in spectacular fashion. My Lodge adds, on average, between 20 to 30 new members every year, and we have shown a net growth, without fail, year after year after year. I have been asked by several members of other Lodges to explain this Pledge system, because parts or all of it may be of benefit to other Lodges. It has worked remarkably well for my Lodge, and may work for yours as well. So here goes.
I used the term “Pledge” based on my experience with fraternities, which typically use that word when defining the class of new applicants, seeking admission into the fraternity. The dictionary defines “Pledge” in its noun form as follows: “A solemn promise or undertaking.” Synonyms include “vow, word, commitment, covenant.” To me, it denotes someone who has gone beyond the point of simply filling out an application form.
When an individual expresses an interest in joining my Lodge, members refer that potential applicant to me. I serve as Chair of the Lodge Membership Committee. An important aspect of membership development for a Lodge is to have such a Membership Committee, which focuses on all aspects of membership. As Chair, I chat with the potential new member, give them a tour of the Lodge, introduce them to a few of the members, sit down and answer their initial questions, talk about the significance and meaning of the three links, and discuss some of the things that we do in the Lodge and for the community, and then explain the Pledge process which, if successfully navigated, leads to admission to membership. You see, we don’t just admit everyone who applies. We require that they go through a process where they become more knowledgeable about the Lodge and about Odd Fellowship. Frankly, we don’t make it easy on the applicant. But if they make it through the process we know they are committed, they become educated about Odd Fellowship, and they tend to be active and involved once they become initiated in the Lodge.
So, once they have submitted an application, we put them in what we call a “Pledge Class”. In the beginning, we had one Pledge Class per year. Then, as our applications increased, we had two per year. Currently, we have three Pledge Classes per year, each averages about a dozen Pledges. The Pledge process takes 4 to 6 months to complete. And when completed, results in initiation into the Lodge. We have three such initiations each year. About 2 out of every 3 Pledges successfully makes it through the process and is ultimately initiated as a member of the Order. As a Pledge, they can participate in everything we do (except they cannot attend closed formal meetings – and no secrets are shared with them). The Pledges can attend (and are encouraged to attend) our social meetings and events, and they can even serve as members of Lodge social committees.
The Pledges have requirements they must achieve during their Pledge period. All the requirements are spelled out in the Pledge Book. Pledges can find the Pledge Book on line at our Davis Lodge website www.davislodge.org (on the home page put your cursor over “Lodge Info” then click on “Forms and Documents” scroll down and then click on “Davis Odd Fellows Pledge Book”). They are required to print it out and carry it with them when they come to the Lodge. The requirements include reading the Pledge Book, attending a minimum of 8 meetings or events of the Lodge, and interviewing a minimum of 13 members. Many Pledges exceed these minimum requirements. The purpose of attending social meetings or events is to familiarize them with the Lodge activities (and Pledges are involved in our many committees). The purpose of the interviews is to break the ice and help them meet members of the Lodge (the interview sheets are contained in the Pledge Book, and are simple one-page forms). Toward the end of the Pledge period, the Pledges are each interviewed by the Membership Committee and as part of the interview they are asked questions about the content of the Pledge Book, and the book is checked to ensure that they have attended the minimum number of meetings and events, and that they have conducted the minimum number of member interviews. The Membership Committee reports to the Lodge as a whole and recommends whether the Pledges should be admitted to membership. The Lodge then uses the ball ballot to determine if the Pledge will be admitted.
A number of other Lodges have printed out the Pledge Book from our website and have modified it for their own use. The reports I have received have been quite positive.
Of course, there are other important components to the success of any Pledge system. One important component is that your Lodge has to have some social meetings and other events that the Pledges can attend. The more active the Lodge is, the more successful this Pledge system will be.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California