DMC – Its All In The Numbers

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

In 1853, the Grand Lodge of California began to record statistics on the number of members in our Order. The number of members in 1853 was 985. Next to that number was the number 780, showing the net gain from the prior year. So, apparently, the starting point for statistic compilation was actually 1852 when the Order counted 205 members in California. The Grand Lodge has continued compiling these statistics for every year from 1853 to the present, showing either a “net gain” or a “net loss” for every year. A “net gain” is the increase in membership year-to-year when the Order has admitted more members than have been lost; a “net loss” is the decrease in membership year-to-year when the Order has lost more members than it has admitted.

The view of these statistics is nothing less than fascinating. And it shows certain cycles.

In the first cycle – which stretched from 1853 until 1893 – a period of some 40 years – the Order grew rapidly, year after year showing a net gain on occasion as high as 10%. In 1893 the membership number statewide was 30,741. In 1894 there was a momentary retrenchment for four years – showing net losses in those years, but then the Order snapped right back to show a steady stream of net gains from 1898 until 1913. In 1913, the membership stood at 46,099. The years of World War I showed an unsurprising shrinkage in membership as young men went to war. The years 1914 to 1918 showed net losses, except for a small net gain in 1917 (presumably as some young men started coming back home). From 1919 to 1928, with the exception of just one year, the Order had net gains every year. In 1928, the membership was 58,820. That number of 58,820, by the way, is the high-water mark of Odd Fellowship in California – a very large number considering the entire population of California at the time was just a shade over 5 million.

And then the Great Depression hit.

Membership dropped in 1929 and then continued to drop until 1942, with steady declines year after year. In some years, the net loss exceeded 10%. In 1942, the number of Odd Fellows in California had fallen to 25,567. From 1943 to 1947 – around the time of World War II – the membership increased with net gains every year. This was the last period of sustained growth in our Order in California. In 1947, the membership had increased to 30,739 as young men came back from war searching to reintegrate into society. Then, in 1948 the Order saw a net loss, and those net losses continued for 67 years (with the exception of 2002 when there was a small net gain) until 2015. This sustained period of net losses brought our membership down to 4,075 dues paying members in 2015. A statewide membership number of 4,075 is anemic in light of the overall population of the state which had skyrocketed to 40 million. There are several high schools in California which have more students than Odd Fellows have members.

The drop is breathtaking. In 1928 we had 58,820 members and in 2015 we had plummeted to 4,075 members – a descent of some 93% in our membership. Statistically, if this trend were to continue, the Order in California would number only in the hundreds in less than 20 years. These net losses are especially troubling in light of the fact that California, from 1850 until the present day, has experienced rather huge net gains in population. In some decades (particularly the 1950’s and 1960’s) California’s net population gains exceeded 5% per year. So, while California’s population was increasing, the population of Odd Fellows was in steady decline.

But then, in 2016, a remarkable thing happened. Statistics for Calendar Year 2016 showed a small net gain in the membership in California. And then for Calendar Year 2017 the statistics showed a small net gain for the second year in a row. The fact that the net gains for those years was small is of little consequence. The fact that California has finally stopped the tide of year-after-year net losses is of consequence. Because reversing a trend takes two steps: First you have to put the brakes on it, and second you have to move in a different direction on a consistent basis. We have entered phase one of this important process. We have finally put the brakes on decades of net losses. As if in a fraternal stupor, we had seemingly grown accustomed to year after year after year of membership losses. And now – in 2016 and again in 2017 – we are hopefully starting a new paradigm of membership gains. If it continues in 2018, we can truthfully say that we have reversed the trend and are starting a new trend of net gains.

How did this happen?

May I suggest that the creation of Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) at the end of 2010 was a significant factor in reversing the trend of declining membership. For the last eight years, DMC has focused the Order in California on the reality of membership losses, and more importantly, has suggested proven ways that Lodges can reverse the trend. While most Lodges continue to lose members, there are some Lodges that continue to show net gains in membership. So, by analyzing what the membership-gaining Lodges are doing, we can provide suggestions of “what works” to all Lodges. And more and more Lodges are starting to get it. A focus on ritual alone will not grow Lodges. To grow in the 21st Century, a Lodge cannot be so one-dimensional. Instead, growing Lodges expand their focus on good works in the community, and also on fun social activities for the members.

Without question, Odd Fellowship is relevant in the 21st Century and Odd Fellows Lodges can grow and prosper. We have proven it in California.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Davis Odd Fellows Club Night – March 22, 2018

Dear Odd Fellows and Pledges,

WHEN:  Tomorrow evening, March 22, from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Lower Hall, Davis Odd Fellows Lodge.

WHO:  Members and Pledges, and their Guests, are cordially invited.

WHAT: Thursday evening’s “Club Night at the Lodge” features: (1) Dinner at the Lodge. It’s a crowd favorite, prepared by our Chefs Sarun and Michael –  Lasagne (both Meat Lasagne and Vegetarian Lasagne), Greed Salad, House-Made Dressing, Garlic Bread. Delicioso! Dinner will be available soon after 6:05 p.m. (2) Our Full Bar will be open with a complete selection of mixed drinks, spirits, craft beers and wines. (3) Trivia Night. Trivia Master Raleigh Klein will return and will challenge you with three rounds of Trivia, including prizes for the winning tables.Trivia starts around 6:35 p.m. (4) Social Time. There will be plenty of time to chat and socialize with your Lodge mates. (5) Jigsaw Puzzles. Lea Rosenberg will supply the ever-popular jigsaw puzzles for the tables. (6) The Big-screen TV will be on with your favorite sporting event. (7) The Odd Fellows Store. Back by popular demand, Dave Rosenberg will have the coveted All-Seeing-Eye sweatshirts for sale, as well as the Little Red Books for sale, Odd Fellows pens for sale, magnetic bumper strips for sale, and Odd Fellows flashlights – all for sale.

WHY:  Club Night at the Lodge is brought to you virtually every Thursday evening – just to kick back with your Lodge mates, relax, socialize and have some fun.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
For the Club Night Committee

Club Night – March 1, 2018

Dear Odd Fellows and Pledges,

WHEN: Thursday, March 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (We end Club Night a bit early so folks can go to the Upper Hall to enjoy Thursday Live!)

WHERE: Lower Hall, Davis Odd Fellows Lodge.

WHO: Members and Pledges, and their Guests, are cordially invited.

WHAT: Thursday evening’s “Club Night at the Lodge” features: (1) Dinner at the Odd Fellows Lodge. Our excellent chefs have prepared – Vegetarian Chili, Homemade Cornbread, Green Salad and House-made Dressing. Just $7 per plate. Dinner will be available soon after 6:00 p.m. (2) Our Full Bar will be open with a complete selection of mixed drinks, spirits, craft beers and wines. (3) Trivia Night. Trivia Master Kevin Sitz is on stage and will challenge you with three rounds of Trivia, with prizes for the winning tables. Trivia starts around 6:35 p.m. (4) Social Time. There will be plenty of time to chat and socialize with your Lodge mates. (5) Jigsaw Puzzles. Lea Rosenberg will supply the ever-popular jigsaw puzzles for the tables. (6) The Big-screen TV will be on with your favorite sporting event. (7) Piano Lounge. Lodge Musician Blake Temple will entertain us with some background piano music.

WHY: Club Night at the Lodge is brought to you virtually every Thursday evening – just to kick back with your Lodge mates, relax, socialize and have some fun. The Club Night Committee is chaired by Kathy Hemness and Kevin Sitz.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
For the Club Night Committee

p.s. March 1 is the first Thursday of the month, so “Thursday Live!” music is back in the Upper Hall. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. It’s open to the public and always free of charge (although donations are gratefully accepted). The show this Thursday features “Old Timey Americana” music with the very talented and popular Meredith Axelrod.

DMC – SGL Update: Dues to Increase

Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

One of the most confusing, unjustified, and wrong-headed decisions in recent Odd Fellows’ history has just come down from the August 21-24, 2017, Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) Session, just concluded in St. Louis. In case you have not heard, a majority of SGL representatives voted to increase the per capita dues that you, and every member, will pay in 2018 and 2019. At DMC we wish to commend the SGL representatives who voted in the minority against this turkey of an idea. And for those SGL representatives who voted in favor, we say “shame on you.”. Let me explain why I call this decision “confusing, unjustified, and wrong-headed”.

Confusing

Here is the precise language that SGL adopted to amend Chapter XXIV, Section 1 A (3) of the Code of General Laws: “dues amounts for Odd Fellow and Rebekah members shall be increased by five ($5.00) United States dollars for each year, for two (2) years beginning at the close of 2017 session of The Sovereign Grand Lodge. The yearly increase shall not be assessed when in any year the dues paying membership from all branches of the Order shows a net gain from the previous year.”

To begin with, this language – which I assume must have been hastily drafted – is not clear as to the amount of the increase over the two-year period. I have been advised that some at SGL thought that the intent was to raise the dues $5 in 2018 and then $10 in 2019: total raise of $15. It would have been easy to draft the bill to say precisely that. However, that is certainly not the plain language of the adopted bill. As I read the bill, the dues increase would be $5 in each of two years – 2018 and 2019: total raise of $10. So, at best, we have unclear language in the bill.

Second, there is a proviso that may make it all inoperative: If the dues paying membership from all branches shows a net gain over the prior year, then the increase does not go into effect. Based on historical trends, this is an unlikely scenario, but nevertheless, we would have to wait until all Branches throughout all of SGL submit their reports to determine if the proviso prohibits the dues increase. That puts the dues amount to be assessed in 2018 and 2019 in some state of limbo. Further, there are members who pay their dues two or three years in advance. What should they be paying for 2018 and 2019?

Confusing? You bet.

Unjustified

Even more troubling is the fact that the dues increase was not justified at SGL. I have spoken to several individuals who attended the session where the issue came up. NO reason was given for the dues increase. The presented budget was balanced. The Finance Committee did not report a need for a dues increase or a reason that the additional funds were needed.

So why does SGL need the extra money? Is there a program that they wish to fund or increase? Is it to pay representative travel and lodging expenses (that would be strange since the number of reps attending has diminished)? Is it meant to pay for insurance? Litigation expenses? Who knows! The reason was not articulated. We are left to completely guess.

But the ultimate question is: Why did some representatives vote in favor of a dues increase without understanding the purpose for which the money would be used?

Wrong-headed

But the worst is yet to come. The decision is, in my opinion, completely wrong-headed.

Look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Odd Fellows single biggest challenge/problem is our diminishing membership numbers. That shrinkage has affected us for decades, and permeates everything we do as an Order and in our Lodges. Some Lodges have membership so low that they have trouble getting a quorum for meetings, or only survive because associate members prop them up. Some Lodges have a “gene pool” of talent that has diminished to such an extent that they don’t have sufficient officers to fill all positions, nor to maintain the checks and balances necessary for financial stability and accuracy. Some Lodges find themselves with no member younger than 65. Yet, at SGL, at Grand Lodges, and at the Lodge level, we go about our business pretty much the same way we have done so over the last Century – hoping beyond hope that if we can just run our meetings properly, all will be well.

The continued losses are debilitating, and not sustainable. We once had an Order that boasted 1 million members – the largest in the United States. Instead of growing – we have been shrinking. Today, we are a shadow of our former membership. And if the net losses continue, our Order will be decimated in North America in the next 20 years.

Here are some SGL statistics that should alarm every Odd Fellow:

* In 2015 there were 1,270 Lodges; in 2016 that number has slid to 1,236 Lodges – a diminution of 34 Lodges. I understand that the number in 2017 is even lower.

* In 2015 there were 33,745 dues paying members in the United States and Canada. The percentage drop in membership we have been experiencing in the United States and Canada is close to 4% year-to-year.

* There are 56 regular jurisdictions in the United States and Canada with 33,745 members and 8 other countries under the direct jurisdiction of the SGL with 696 members. I note that there are independent jurisdictions in Australasia, Europe, Latin America with 71,067 members. These other jurisdictions have far-surpassed the membership totals of the United States and Canada.

* Some of the jurisdictions in the United States and Canada have gotten paper thin in terms of membership. How thin? Let me give you an example. My own Lodge – Davis #169 in California – has more dues paying members than each of TWENTY jurisdictions (states and provinces) in North America. In fact, there are fully FOUR jurisdictions with memberships under 100.

So, unquestionably, the Number One concern of our Order, of our Lodges and of our members is, and must be, to INCREASE MEMBERSHIP. In light of that, here is a simple truth: Raising dues is anathema to increasing membership.

Increasing dues will make it more difficult to gain new members, and it will make it difficult for some members – who have limited resources – to continue their membership. Even if this were to affect only 2% of our Order, we can ill-afford lose 700 members or potential members because the dues increase has compelled them to withdraw or not to apply.

Members, Lodges and Grand Lodges need to resist this dues increase. SGL must revisit this bad decision. SGL should focus, instead, on membership, membership, membership. The sinking ship of Odd Fellowship can be righted, but not with a dues increase. When over 90 percent of our Lodges are showing net losses of members, while less than 10% of our Lodges are showing net gains, isn’t the solution obvious? We need to focus on the few Lodges that are gaining members, and replicate their formulas for success. Everything else is just whistling in the dark.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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