Are you satisfied with the current membership numbers of your Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Lodge and don’t want to add any new members? If your answer is “yes”, then you should stop reading this article right now. There is nothing here for you.

On the other hand, if you do wish to add new members to your Odd Fellows Lodge, then I cordially invite you to read on. This article is all about how your Lodge can add new blood and grow.

First, my “credentials”. I have served as Grand Master, Grand Patriarch, and Department Commander in Odd Fellowship. For the past 15 years, I have served as Membership Chair of my Lodge, and I also serve as Membership Chair of the Grand Lodge of California. I have written three books on the subject of membership development in Odd Fellows. Over the past 15 years, my Lodge has shown a net growth of members every single year – that is, we bring in more new members every year than we lose members who move away, drift away or pass away. I have grown my own Lodge from less than 30 members to over 300 members. I do not speak in philosophy or theory. My approach to membership growth has been proven in the real world.

It can be done. But it requires some strategic thinking and an integrated approach. New applicants don’t just fall into the Lodge’s lap like ripe fruit. Like any successful garden, you need good soil, proper planting techniques, constant attention, and good air and water. A little fertilizer now and then doesn’t hurt either. Here are the important elements of an effective membership growth plan:

  1. Commitment. The Lodge must make a conscious decision, at a meeting, that it wants to grow and wants to add new members. Don’t take it for granted. Make a collective commitment of intent, time and money.
  2. Leadership. The Noble Grand, Vice Grand, and leaders of the Lodge must add their leadership skills to the commitment of the Lodge. And ultimately, the Lodge must designate a Membership Chair to head up the effort. Although bringing in new members to the Lodge is the job of every member, the commitment needs a foreperson to keep it on the front burner.
  3. Goals. We are a goal-oriented society. It’s best to set reasonable and achievable goals rather than pie-in-the-sky goals that are aspirational but unobtainable. So, for example, for a small Lodge that tends to lose 2 members each year, the annual goal might be to add four new members, and lose no more than two existing members (e.g. resulting in a yearly net gain of two).
  4. Activity. A lodge that does nothing (or next to nothing) is a boring Lodge and will not attract new blood. No one wants to join a Lodge where all the members do is sit around and talk about “members sick and in distress”, the need to replace light bulbs, and then recite words from a red book. A Lodge active in the community attracts interest from that community.
  5. Visibility. All the good works and fun activities mean little if the community is unaware of them. The effective use of email, the Internet, social media, posters, fliers, and print media is crucial to achieving a vibrant and growing Lodge.
  6. Committees. I have found that the single and most effective way to create energy and activity at the Lodge is to form and support a committee structure. If a member or members wish to start an activity, with the approval of the Noble Grand, a committee is formed, and then the committee is given authority (and if necessary, a budget) to proceed. So, for example, if two members want to organize a weekly “fun night” at the Lodge (e.g. playing cards, showing movies, etc.) let them start a committee and launch the project.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
Jurisdiction of California

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