Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
At the end of this month, there is a Lodge in California that will be initiating 15 new enthusiastic and energetic new members into the Order. As I was reflecting on this fact, I also reflected on the fact that we have 31 Lodges in California (that’s 25% of this state’s Lodges) which show membership below 15. The juxtaposition of these two facts is, to be very frank, disturbing. And here’s another disturbing juxtaposition of facts: Last year, that Lodge initiated 28 new members. When I examined the statistics of California Lodges, I found that there are 70 Lodges in California (that’s almost 60% of this state’s Lodges) showing less than 28 members.
How have we come to this juncture? How can one Lodge add more new members in one year than the entire membership of 60% of the Lodges in California? How can one Lodge, in one initiation, add more members than the entire membership of 25% of the Lodges in California?
The statistics show an alarming trend for Odd Fellowship. Year after year, the statistics reveal that the vast majority of our Lodges show a net loss of members (a net loss occurs when a Lodge loses more members than it gains). A few Lodges show a “wash” – no net gain or net loss. And only a small number of our Lodges show a net gain of members. In short, while the bulk of our Lodges statewide are losing members year after year, or losing their charters or consolidating – a small cadre of Lodges are growing steadily, year by year.
Why are some Lodges growing, while others are diminishing?
Well, there’s good news and bad news in the answer to that question. On the plus side, the mere fact that SOME Lodges are growing is strong evidence that Odd Fellowship is relevant, alive and well and that folks do want to join this Order. On the negative side, however, the fact that most Lodges are diminishing in numbers shows that we are a shrinking Order – a fraternity showing a handful of large Lodges and a vast array of small Lodges.
But it doesn’t profit us to focus on the negative. Let’s focus on the positive. The secret of success for Odd Fellowship is right before our eyes. If we wish to sustain (and even grow) this Order, we must look to the handful of successful Lodges and find out what makes them tick – what makes them so successful at adding members. There is no better measure of success than to look at success, evaluate it, and try to replicate it.
So, what is the formula for growth of a Lodge?
If one studies the growing Lodges – as I have – one sees a commonality, a thread, that defines all of them. The growing Lodges know the formula quite well. It takes much more than putting on regalia and running a meeting pursuant to a script. That’s all well and good. But it won’t grow a Lodge in the 21st Century. The growing Lodges all do two other things: (1) They know how to have fun and enjoy each others’ company as Lodge members. They organize social events that bring out the true spirit of fraternity and good fellowship. (2) They invest their time and effort reaching into the community to do good works. And they open the doors of the Lodge to invite the community inside. We can no longer afford to be a secret society. Instead, we have to learn how to be a society with secrets.
Having some fun and doing good community works should not be for just a few Lodges. It should be the focus of all our Lodges.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master