California is the largest Odd Fellows jurisdiction with the most Lodges and the most members in the United States. As California reflects membership trends, so inevitably goes the nation. Let’s take a look at the membership statistics of the Jurisdiction of California.
First, let’s take a look at the number of Odd Fellows Lodges in the state. In 2022, there are 108 Lodges (and one historical Lodge). In 2012 (ten years ago) there were 126 Odd Fellows Lodges, a significant decline of 18 Lodges in just one decade. If this rate of decline were to continue, we could envision our Order in California with less than 20 Lodges within our lifetime.
Odd Fellows Lodges in California
Next, let’s examine the membership numbers over the years. Today, in 2022, there are 4,486 members in Odd Fellows Lodges in the state. (Query: How many of these 4,486 members are active, participating members who actually attend meetings. But that’s another issue for another day.) In 2012, there were 4,754, a loss of 268 members over the 10-year span.
Odd Fellows Membership Since the 1950
Examining the membership numbers over each decade back to the 1950’s shows the following:
1952 – 27,379
1962 – 20,247
1972 – 13,029
1982 – 9,550
1992 – 7,444
2002 – 5,812
2012 – 4,754
2022 – 4,486
Let’s drill down even further and take a look at the present membership of California’s 108 Lodges. The largest Lodge in California, in terms of membership had 326 members at the start of 2022. By contrast to the smallest Lodge had 8 members – and there were two Lodges which each had 8 members. The breakdown of membership within the 108 Lodges looks like this:
Lodges with more than 300 members: 1
Lodges with more than 200 members: 3
Lodges with more than 100 members: 3
Lodges with 51 – 99 members: 24
Lodges with 26 – 50 members: 25
Lodges with 16 – 25 members: 24
Lodges with 11-15 members: 21
Lodges with 10 or fewer members: 7
In comparing membership numbers year to year, we look at whether the Lodge had a net gain of members, or a net loss of members, or stayed static. A net gain means that a Lodge membership increased because the Lodge brought in more members than the Lodge lost. A net loss means that a Lodge membership decreased because the Lodge lost more members than the Lodge brought in. If the Lodge stayed static, it means that the Lodge had neither a net gain nor a net loss – the membership numbers stayed the same (however, it doesn’t mean that the Lodge had no new members or didn’t lose members – it just means that the membership number didn’t change year to year).
Odd Fellows Net Gain/Loss
In looking at the membership numbers in 2022, we compare the membership numbers reported in the per capita report for December 31, 2021, versus the per capita report numbers reported for December 31, 2020. In that comparison, we find the following:
Lodges showing a net gain 34
Lodges showing a net loss 52
Lodges static 22
Of the 34 Lodges showing net gain, 9 of them showed a net gain of only 1. Of the 52 Lodges showing net loss, 12 of them showed a net loss of only 1. The Lodge with the largest net gain showed a net gain of 19; two Lodges each showed net gains of 14 members. Five Lodges showed nets gains of 10 or more. On the other side of the ledger, three Lodges each showed net losses of 9 members. No Lodge showed a net loss of 10 or more.
What do these statistics show us?
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that as Lodges shrink in size, the average age of members increases. This is because Lodges experience net losses of members because the Lodges fail to bring in new (younger) members at the same time that the older members move away, pass away or let their memberships expire. This creates the “double-whammy” of Lodge membership numbers shrinking while at the same time the average age of members increases. A Lodge where the average age of members is in the 70’s will find it very difficult to attract applicants in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Over 25% of the members of our Order are in the 7 largest Lodges. These large Lodges will have the best odds of surviving the long-term decline of membership. The 7 smallest Lodges, with memberships of 10 or fewer, will have great difficulty sustaining themselves in the coming years, and should receive special attention from future Grand Masters.
The decline in Lodges and in membership has been a predictable constant over the last 50+ years. It is unsustainable. Eventually, Odd Fellowship is destined to fade into oblivion unless significant changes occur in our Ritual and Codes which will encourage more new, diverse and younger members to join our Order.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
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