It is a basic truth of fraternal life that for a fraternal order, such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, to survive generation-to-generation, it needs to constantly replenish itself with new members. To accomplish this mission, a fraternity needs a membership program. In truth, a strong membership program can mean the difference between an active, vibrant and growing Odd Fellows Lodge on the one hand, or a floundering and slowly diminishing Lodge on the other.
Since its inception in 2010, the Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) has been dedicated to helping this Order grow, and to suggesting smart ways to keep us on that growth track. So, today’s DMC Newsletter is focused on the existential subject of membership development. Specifically, I am going to lay out for you the very successful membership development program that I have developed and chaired for the past 15 years in my own Davis #169 Lodge. That program has a proven track record. Last year (2020), which was a year impacted by the Covid pandemic, my Lodge brought in 25 new members. Over the past 15 years, my Lodge has experienced a net gain in members every single year for those 15 years, and has grown by over 1200%. The program works. I am happy to share it with my Brothers and Sisters in other Lodges, and hope that there are some components that you may find useful. While every Lodge and every community is different, the process of membership development should be similar whether the Lodge exists in an urban, suburban or rural setting.
So, here are the four (4) components of the Davis system:
- Membership Committee. In my opinion, membership development is the primary responsibility of each and every Odd Fellow. Members of our Order are remiss if they believe that bringing new members to the Lodge is the job of “other members”. Nonsense. Bringing new members into the Lodge is the job of every single member – in fact, I would suggest that it is the first priority of an Odd Fellow. That said, it is critically important for the Lodge membership to make a conscious decision that membership development is important, that it cannot be random and haphazard, and that a membership development plan must be established. Any such plan needs a Membership Committee at its center, headed by a strong Membership Chair, as the leader of the effort. So, start with the Lodge commitment, develop a plan that works for your Lodge, and create a Membership Committee to make sure the plan is followed.
- The Pledge Book. In my Lodge, we have given our applicants a traditional fraternal “name.” We call them “Pledges” while they go through the process of becoming members. To facilitate the process, we have developed a “Pledge Book.” You will find our Pledge Book on our website at www.davislodge.org. Feel free to use it, and to modify and revise it to fit the parameters of your Lodge. In my Lodge, we expect the Pledges to read the Pledge Book.
- The Pledge Process. Some Lodges move their applicants into initiation very quickly – sometimes within weeks or even days. That’s not how we do it in my Lodge. We require the Pledges to go through a process which we call the “Pledge Process.” We get so many applicants for membership that we put the Pledges into a group, called Pledge Class. Before the pandemic, we had three such Pledge Classes each year; during the pandemic, we have two such Pledge Classes. Sometimes the group is as few as 6 or 8, and sometimes we have a group with as many as 25 or 30. Currently, my Lodge has 24 Pledges going through the process in the “Spring 2022 Pledge Class”. Membership is not automatic for those who apply. We require that the Pledges have to earn the right to be voted on by Lodge members and to be initiated. They go through a process. As noted, they must read the Pledge Book. Once they have accomplished that task, they must successfully take and pass a 25-question test on Odd Fellowship and Lodge data that they will learn from reading the Pledge Book. Once they pass the test, the next step is to meet with and “interview” a certain minimum number of members, either personally or by phone. We give them 11 questions to ask the members. It’s a great ice-breaker. This part of the process allows the Pledges to get to know the members, and vice versa. Finally, once the Pledge has read the book, passed the test, and interviewed the requisite number of members – then the penultimate step is for the Pledge to be interviewed by the Membership Committee. That committee makes recommendations to the Lodge and the Lodge ballots on each Pledge recommended for membership. The final step is the conferring of the Initiatory Degree. We initiate new members who are knowledgeable about IOOF and the Lodge, and who really want to join. We make them earn it.
- Club Night at the Lodge. Years ago we developed “Club Night at the Lodge” as an important component of our Pledge Process. We hold a Club Night every Thursday, with very rare exceptions. It is separate and apart from our two Lodge meetings that are scheduled every month. Club Night at the Lodge is a very casual and informal gathering that we have in the Lower Hall of the Lodge, every Thursday from 5:30 p.m. till 8:00 p.m. Members are invited as are Pledges, plus we open Club Night up to family members and guests (e.g. future applicants) as well. At Club Night, attendees enjoy an open no-host bar, plenty of social time, dinner (at $10 per plate), and three rounds of trivia. We play trivia by table so it becomes a real social exercise. Prizes (e.g. cookies or other desserts) are given to the winning tables (which are always shared with other tables). Club Night was developed, in major part, so that Pledges (as well as future applicants) could come to the Lodge and experience a fun, informal evening with Lodge members. It is an opportunity to get to know the applicants, to give them tours of the Lodge Hall, and to answer their questions.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
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