Knowing Odd Fellows legislation and its importance

Knowing Odd Fellows legislation and its importance

Odd Fellows cannot advance as an organization if we are not effectively proposing new ideas and changing with the times. To achieve certain successes, via new ideas, in most instances, require writing legislation. These are proposals to alter code passages or resolutions to utilize funds.

Each year, at the session of Grand Lodge, we see new legislation come to the Odd Fellows Grand Body, which is made up of Representatives, Grand Lodge officers, and Past Grand Masters. These members number over 200 when in a live in-person session. During the COVID period, this number of Representatives was over 300, because the voting was done by mail. It these members who cast their votes to either change the code or not.

Bills and resolutions are brought up during the session. The members attending would have had ample time to review and try to understand each item being presented. These items we call “legislation.” These are assigned to various committees so they can be reviewed and determined whether such legislation is beneficial to the Order. Sometimes, these are required changes by the Sovereign Grand Lodge, the parent corporation; i,e. the recent Non-Discrimination Policy.

The Legislation committee would be reviewing all bills which change the code. This committee would not handle resolutions; this is the way it is done at Sovereign Grand Lodge as well as other jurisdictions. Other committees would receive the bills as well, such as State of the Order, Financial, Membership, etc. Resolutions, which are temporary, and not a change to the code, would normally be assigned a committee (or committees) the matter pertains. For spending money, it would be assigned to Finance. If it is a resolution to spend money for a membership idea, then it would go to the Membership Committee as well, and perhaps more committees.

The reason for knowing the Odd Fellows code, is to enhance your lodge’s ability to do activities and what those perimeters are and how far they extend.

In the last 17 years or so, our code has been somewhat in conflict, as a major change took place. We shortened our five-day business meeting-session to only three days. When this occurred, those changing the code, by drafting bills to those items related to the five-day session, did not change everything uniformly. We ended up with conflicting code passages. This created stalemates as well as heated discussions over past 17 years. It was left up to who could make the best argument and the most sense of a code passage. This is why knowing the code is important, if one wishes to change the code. All related passages within the code must be addressed. Some are easy and straight forward; others take a bit of reading. Then, knowing the Code of General Laws of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, is more important, because this code takes precedence over our own California Odd Fellows code. This is what the Legislation Committee would be cross-reference with those bills that it receives for review.

At our last Grand Lodge “session,” in May (2021), which was voting by mail, we replaced an entire chapter of our state’s code with a chapter of the Code of General Laws (SGL). This is a planned effort to correct those conflicting passages. But, that is the first positive step for all of us. The author of that bill that replaced the code has been working to fit this chapter to California, by identifying all of the permissible and attractive passages from the code that were removed, to be “in addition” to what was approved (May, 2021), as well as what was passed and approved by the Sovereign Grand Lodge in August (2021). Hopefully, this proposal will be supported as well.

Peter V. Sellers
Grand Representative
Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

I admit it. When I first started out as Noble Grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in Davis, California (Davis Lodge #169), I viewed it as a laboratory. Soon after I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004, I found a Lodge (and, frankly, an entire fraternal...

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

What makes Odd Fellowship unique among organizations is that we have a history. In North America, our history goes back 200 years. Some of our Lodges go back well over a century in time. One of the outstanding historians of Odd Fellowship is Past Grand Master Peter...

Odd Fellows Newsletter

Odd Fellows Newsletter

​ Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Does your Lodge have a newsletter? If you do, good for you! If you don't, consider starting one. They are valuable tools (particularly during the pandemic) to keep the members informed of comings-and-goings and happenings, and to...

4 steps for increasing Lodge membership

4 steps for increasing Lodge membership

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

I admit it. When I first started out as Noble Grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in Davis, California (Davis Lodge #169), I viewed it as a laboratory. Soon after I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004, I found a Lodge (and, frankly, an entire fraternal...

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

What makes Odd Fellowship unique among organizations is that we have a history. In North America, our history goes back 200 years. Some of our Lodges go back well over a century in time. One of the outstanding historians of Odd Fellowship is Past Grand Master Peter...

Odd Fellows Newsletter

Odd Fellows Newsletter

​ Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Does your Lodge have a newsletter? If you do, good for you! If you don't, consider starting one. They are valuable tools (particularly during the pandemic) to keep the members informed of comings-and-goings and happenings, and to...

4 Steps to Advance the Odd Fellows

4 Steps to Advance the Odd Fellows

​Once a member has obtained the third degree (the Degree of Truth) in a Lodge of Odd Fellows, the next step in his/her Odd Fellowship journey would be to join an Encampment and obtain three more degrees – the Patriarchal Degree, the Golden Rule Degree, and the Royal Purple Degree. Obtaining these degrees is a mark of distinction in our Order and shows a strong commitment to the principles and tenets of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. One would think that this movement into advanced degrees would be viewed as a goal of many, if not most, members of our Order.

And yet, there is relatively little movement into these advanced degrees. Today, we have some 4,200 Odd Fellows and 109 Odd Fellows Lodges in California. But there are only 259 Encampment members and 15 Encampments in California today. Why are only 6% of our Odd Fellows also members of an Encampment? This is an abysmally low number.

One reason, perhaps is that the pool of potential members for the Encampments does not come from the general public – the pool of potential Patriarchs and Matriarchs comes only from members of Odd Fellows Lodges. As the number of Odd Fellows Lodges shrink and the membership diminishes, so does the challenge to increase the number of Encampments and the membership in the Encampment unit.

I firmly believe that the future of the Encampment degrees will be dependent on individual Patriarchs and Matriarchs assigning themselves a mission, or if you will, a purpose. I am not speaking theoretically. In my own Encampment in Davis California, some 20% of the membership of my Davis Lodge also belongs to the Davis Encampment. I have served as Grand Patriarch of the Grand Encampment of California. I have visited many Encampments and have observed what they do. I have found that most of them are content to have their monthly Encampment meeting – formally opened and formally closed – and little else. In the abstract, it is a good thing to be able to properly run an Encampment meeting and to understand the degrees. But if that is essentially all the Encampment does, it will not attract new members and it will certainly not attract active and committed members. Who really wants to just sit in a room and read passages from a book, month after month? You can do that in your church or temple.

That said, there are a few (precious few) Encampments that do more. And these are the Encampments that are growing and retaining members. These Encampments have developed a “mission” and a “purpose” that goes beyond holding meetings, conferring degrees, and electing each other to office. So, what are some examples of a mission or purpose for Encampments?

  1. Mentoring. Encampment members have committed themselves to Odd Fellowship and have all obtained advanced degrees. These members can serve as important resources and mentors to the officers and the members of nearby Lodges.
  2. Degree Teams. Along these lines, Encampment members are perfect subjects to participate in degree teams, conferring the Degrees of Friendship, Love, and Truth in nearby Odd Fellows Lodges.
  3. Sending Youth to Camps. What better mission could the Encampment have than sending boys and girls to summer camp, or other summer activities. Working together, Encampments can develop projects to raise money to provide full or partial scholarships for children in their communities.
  4. Developing a Community Project. Some Encampments have developed a reputation in the community for a signature event that raises the visibility of the Encampment and the Lodge. For example, one Encampment has developed a reputation for cooking for the community with great barbecues. This has raised the visibility of the Encampment and the Lodge in that community.

Does your Encampment have a mission in life?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

I admit it. When I first started out as Noble Grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in Davis, California (Davis Lodge #169), I viewed it as a laboratory. Soon after I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004, I found a Lodge (and, frankly, an entire fraternal...

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

What makes Odd Fellowship unique among organizations is that we have a history. In North America, our history goes back 200 years. Some of our Lodges go back well over a century in time. One of the outstanding historians of Odd Fellowship is Past Grand Master Peter...

Odd Fellows Newsletter

Odd Fellows Newsletter

​ Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Does your Lodge have a newsletter? If you do, good for you! If you don't, consider starting one. They are valuable tools (particularly during the pandemic) to keep the members informed of comings-and-goings and happenings, and to...

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

The plain truth about the Odd Fellows – a fact we must all face

Like many of you, I have read various articles of declining membership. I have seen the numbers shared by other writers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which thrived just 100 years ago before its steady decline. There are reasons for this steep decline which began in the mid-1920’s. I have written about the causation of this decline in the past.

Just because our numbers are diminishing does not mean we are less of a force as an organization. It does not even mean that all lodges are weak in numbers. Some lodges are thriving today. Some lodges steadily bring in new members. I am fortunate to belong to a lodge that limits its membership to 275 members. In European countries, Odd Fellowship is expanding. In the Philippines, lodges are being instituted often. But in America and Canada, Odd Fellowship is struggling and may never return to those great numbers of lodges and members the Order once maintained.

In California, our decline has been steady. One of the problems limiting us on expanding growth is that we sold our properties every time a charter was surrendered. Combine that with the escalating prices in buildings, it is no wonder why we cannot expand in many areas throughout the state.

Our Deputy Grand Master, brother Redgie Fleeman recently worked on a project to identify how many lodge halls we actually own in California. We once owned hundreds, close to 300 lodge halls. Today, we own 84 lodge halls. The Deputy Grand Master also writes we have 109 lodges remaining. In 1990, just three decades ago, we had 227 lodges and 7,819 members. Today, we have approximately 4,200 members.

The numbers for the Rebekahs are more dismal. In 1990, they showed a number of 257 lodges. Today, that count is at 41 lodges! The number of Rebekahs in 1990, was 17,268. Today, in just 30 years, that number is a dreary 1,047. The Rebekahs are barely holding on to dear life. They no longer appear sustainable. The Grand Lodge has been assisting over the past few years to keep them going, but as their numbers continue to collapse, it will become more difficult.

Using those numbers along with some simple math, a projection could be forecast. By no means is this shared to alarm anyone, as “that alarm” was sounded years ago. This is to simply state the plain truth – fact we must all face as members.

Basing the following numbers on the past 30-year decline, here is an interesting projection: If we keep on the pace we have been on, the Odd Fellows in California would end by 2048. However, because the rate of losing members is slower than the rate of losing lodges, that projected end would arrive in 2056. Perhaps there will be a few super lodges existing between 2048 and 2056. Somewhere during that time frame if we remain on the current pace, Odd Fellowship will end like so many other organizations have done over the centuries.

For the Rebekahs, it is more devastating. Using the same rate of decline, the Rebekahs would lose all of their lodges by 2027. The rate of losing members would indicate that the end would come in 2023 or soon after. Sovereign Grand Lodge figured this out several years ago, most likely looking at similar numbers for the entire North America. But, the Rebekahs have been resilient in the last few years by fighting off the inevitable. They may just keep hanging on for years.

The math is not always the sole factor. As we have seen over the years, lodges rebound. Some emerge in a sudden growth spurt. Some lodges are not near their conclusion. Nobody knows when or if the Order will come to an end. One thing is for sure, the past 30 years give us a reality none of us have been able to change. Keep working hard and enjoy yourself while you are doing it.

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

I admit it. When I first started out as Noble Grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in Davis, California (Davis Lodge #169), I viewed it as a laboratory. Soon after I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004, I found a Lodge (and, frankly, an entire fraternal...

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

What makes Odd Fellowship unique among organizations is that we have a history. In North America, our history goes back 200 years. Some of our Lodges go back well over a century in time. One of the outstanding historians of Odd Fellowship is Past Grand Master Peter...

Odd Fellows Newsletter

Odd Fellows Newsletter

​ Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Does your Lodge have a newsletter? If you do, good for you! If you don't, consider starting one. They are valuable tools (particularly during the pandemic) to keep the members informed of comings-and-goings and happenings, and to...

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

How to modernize the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times.

  1. Change the methods of dues payments. I own a retail business, making dozens of financial transactions daily, and yet last year I only wrote six checks all year. Four of the checks were for my member’s dues to our order. (I often have to search for my check book.) I also received only about a dozen checks all year as payment. Half of them were from an elderly customer friend of mine. The public no longer writes checks as a rule for a number of reasons. First, there is no longer any “float” to checks, they are verified immediately upon being presented, so they are the same as cash or a debit card. Second, the argument that checks are an easily listable way to track spending in a checkbook is really no longer true. The best way to track long term spending is to simply examine bank statements, which banks can present with many in depth ways in which to track expenditures, including photocopies of all transactions, interest accrued or other types of expenses or deposits. Of course, since time marches on, checks will become increasingly an obsolete method of payment. Many businesses no longer accept checks, period. My son is a CFO for a company with ten commercial outlets, and they rarely write checks as payments, nor do they like to accept them. He laughs at our rigid adherence to an old form of payment. This is not a suggestion that we immediately abandon the idea of lodge check books, but merely the idea that we should change our general techniques so as to notify the public that we are aware of this fundamental change that is occurring in the outside world and learn to accept dues payments in more modernized forms. If one were to study the history of financial transactions, one would find that even banks have changed the methods of transactions repeatedly throughout time. For instance, did you know that in the 1800’s, there were over 5,000 types of dollars bills printed by different banks within the United States? One bank had a dollar bill with Santa Claus featured, backed by the U.S. Treasury! It was not until 1877 when the U.S. Treasury was the solely authorized source of the one-dollar bill. A study of the history of monetary exchange would yield many such fascinating discoveries. It’s simply illogical to presume that things such as dues payments should continue to only be accepted in check form. In fact, many people, particularly younger people, may no longer have checks. Again, this is not a suggestion to do away with lodge check books (not yet at least), but if we genuinely want a verifiable listing of members who have paid their dues, it is more accurately done using electronic media.
  2. Dismiss the idea of bullies running every aspect of our order. We have many people in our order who refuse to budge from their various positions. Some do a wonderful job and are liked universally, but others practice a scorched earth technique that challenges everyone and every lodge in their path. The order in its wisdom originally set term limits to elected positions. It’s wise to look at all positions to determine that person’s ability to lead. If a lodge, or a jurisdiction is failing, obviously there is something wrong. I have often listened to people who seem to use the code as a bludgeon, and only are concerned with keeping themselves in power. Each lodge is its own little entity and should not have to bow to every bully who feels the need to solidify the bully’s own agenda. It’s easy to see that many lodges and whole jurisdictions have been decimated by those who think their way is the only way for a lodge or jurisdiction to exist. Our order is incredibly old, and none of us are immortal, so it should be obvious that we want the order to continue on without us. Isn’t it enough to know that bullies exist in the real world? I thought the idea of our order is to be a refuge from the turmoil of the outside world, not the instigator of it.
  3. Go virtual. Many lodges now have online sites, Facebook principally, but beyond that, we need to engage prospective members in electronic media more aggressively. The wonderful thing about electronic media is that we can be more specific, speak eloquently, and reach a greater mass of individuals. Of course, what we do in a lodge is sacrosanct, but we can go forward watching ourselves dwindle away while others progress, or we can choose to compete in a unique environment that the public has obviously embraced. Of course, we almost all do email now, or respond in some electronic manner, but we need to do more to open up to the public. Again, our inner rituals or practices may be private, but we don’t want to be invisible altogether. During the pandemic, many of us been zooming for many months, but because this tends to be a closed circle of members, that alone is not conducive to gaining members.
  4. Good grief! Do something new. Of course, we need to engage those younger than ourselves. We can do this in several ways, but clearly, if your lodge is failing, doing the same old things will not succeed in attracting new members. If you have had a dinner 49 years running now, in the same location, with Doris and Ethel and their extended families (and precious few others) and really expect new people to join in, I probably won’t be the first person to wonder what you’re smoking?! I have been to a number of functions where the hosts call it “the 97th annual wingding or shindig or what have you and it really becomes an exercise in absurdity when all those in attendance are in their eighties or nineties and yet they talk about attracting new members. Talk about a disconnect. I have tried repeatedly to get my relatives and friends to attend, and they may do so once, but truth be told, they can’t be enticed twice with the idea of repeatedly attending such ponderous gatherings. This is the 21st century! It’s time to try something new.
  5. Rumors not needed. Too many members not only like to bully others, but also like to circulate rumors. Often these are the same individuals. Whatever happened to friendship, love, and truth? We should do our best to resist the urge to vilify anyone. If members gather just to trash others this serves no purpose other than to weaken the order. We should remember why we joined and try to remain on our best behavior.

There are clearly many ways in which to modernize our order, but these are a few I have been pondering lately. If we want to grow, let’s all think of ways to modernize and connect with those around us.

In F., L., & T.,

Rick Boyles
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Creating change within the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

I admit it. When I first started out as Noble Grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in Davis, California (Davis Lodge #169), I viewed it as a laboratory. Soon after I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004, I found a Lodge (and, frankly, an entire fraternal...

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

Keep writing the Odd Fellows History

What makes Odd Fellowship unique among organizations is that we have a history. In North America, our history goes back 200 years. Some of our Lodges go back well over a century in time. One of the outstanding historians of Odd Fellowship is Past Grand Master Peter...

Odd Fellows Newsletter

Odd Fellows Newsletter

​ Dear Dedicated Members for Change, Does your Lodge have a newsletter? If you do, good for you! If you don't, consider starting one. They are valuable tools (particularly during the pandemic) to keep the members informed of comings-and-goings and happenings, and to...

More Information about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

Odd Fellows Lodge Experiences 1200% in Growth

When I first joined my Odd Fellows Lodge in California in 2004 we had 27 members on the books. Today, in 2021, we have 325 members – an increase of 1200%. And in the seventeen years between 2004 and 2021, my Lodge has had a net gain of members each and every one of those seventeen years. (“Net gain” is defined as adding more members in a year than the number of members deducted in a year.)

How is a gain in Odd Fellows membership possible?

It is, in fact, not only possible, but it is a fact. So, I’m going to tell you the story of the growth of my Odd Fellows Lodge – not to toot my own horn or the horn of my Lodge – but because it is possible that what we did in my community can be replicated in other communities. It provides a possible roadmap to fraternal growth in your Lodge. Every Lodge and every community is, of course, unique. But what we accomplished in my Lodge might offer some insights and approaches that your Lodge might find helpful. At a minimum, we can be secure in the knowledge that the growth in my Lodge belies the canard that fraternal orders are washed-up relics of the past, proves that fraternal Lodges are relevant in today’s world, and shows that fraternal Lodges can, indeed, flourish and grow.

When I joined Odd Fellowship in 2004 I was dumb as a stump about IOOF. However, by a series of unfortunate events, I found myself quickly elected Vice Grand, and then almost immediately assuming the position of Noble Grand of my Lodge: Yolo Lodge #169. I found myself in a Lodge that occupied a large building in the heart of Davis, California. The building was dark and shuttered most of the time, with no IOOF sign. And the Lodge had minimal interaction with the community. A church rented the Lodge Hall on Sundays and had a sign out front. Most folks thought the building was a church. Virtually no one knew it was a Lodge of Odd Fellows.

One thing was crystal clear to me: To ensure the health and future of my Lodge, I had to ensure growth in our membership. That required a new direction and younger members. To change the direction of the Lodge, I knew that I had to change the culture of the Lodge.

Here are five things I did to change Lodge culture

  1. Branding and Signage. My immediate goal was to ensure that my Lodge would be recognized as one of the premier organizations in my community. One of the first things that I did was to give us a new name. We had been known as Yolo Lodge #169 since we were instituted in 1870. Working with the Grand Secretary, I received a new name and a new charter: henceforth we were to be known as Davis Lodge #169. Other than one small metal plaque on the building (thanking a generous Odd Fellow who, in his will, donated the funds to build the Lodge Hall), there was no identification of the building as an Odd Fellows Hall. I had a large neon sign constructed and affixed to the building which displays, in blue, the letters IOOF. And then we found a vertical sign (from a defunct Lodge back East) which shows the three links and the IOOF letters in full color. I had that sign shipped across the USA and found a company that could affix it to the building and another company that could restart the neon. Those neon signs are on full display, day and night. Everyone in the community now knows that this is a Lodge of Odd Fellows.
  2. The Building. Using some funds which the Lodge had accumulated over the years, and taking a significant loan, we also undertook a major remodel of the exterior and the interior of the Lodge Hall – new carpeting, wood paneling, new bathrooms, a commercial kitchen, new lighting, projection and audio equipment, new curtains, construction of a stage, a stage, installation of an elevator, new roof, creation of two levels of storage space, new HVAC, new paint on the exterior, and more. You can’t welcome new members into your Lodge if the Lodge Hall is not welcoming.
  3. The Committee Structure. When I assumed the position of Noble Grand, the Lodge had less than five committees – the obligatory ones – Finance Committee, Visiting Committee, Bylaws Committee – but we needed to include the membership in the advancement of the Lodge. Just holding meetings once or twice a month to read from a little red book wasn’t going to be enough. So, I surveyed the membership to find out what they wanted to accomplish. As a result, we created a vigorous committee structure. When members suggested a committee, we didn’t say “no”. We said “yes” and got volunteers. Half of our committees cater to the membership, and half produce community events. We created a Music Committee, a Good Fellowship Committee, a Membership Committee, and more. Today, in 2021, we have over 50 committees in the Davis Lodge. If members have an interest, we accommodate them. So, for example, we now have a Hiking Committee, a Classic Film Festival Committee, a Bingo Committee, a Taste of Davis Committee, a Breakfast with Santa Committee, a Zombie Bike Ride Committee, and more. Over 90% of the work of my Lodge is handled through the committee structure. The Lodge gives them a budget and they do their thing.
  4. Community Visibility. Through our committees, we have attained a remarkable degree of visibility in the community. When we initiate members we put an article in the local paper and we post on social media. When we have community events we do the same. At our recent Zombie Bike Ride, over 2,000 local residents attended. It was a fun family-friendly event for the Lodge and the entire community. The event included performances by a dance company, little vignettes along the bike trail by a local theater company, and even zombie skydivers. We had many community sponsors who donated money which not only paid for the costs of the event, but allowed us to work with a company to build a number of specialty tricycles for disabled children which we donated to the families – allowing the children to have some freedom and mobility.
  5. A Big Tent. Because of our high degree of community visibility, we do not “recruit” for new members any longer. Most of our new members come to the Lodge sponsored by existing members who are proud to show of the Lodge and bring new members into the fold. However, a significant number of new members come to us through our high profile in the community. I imagine that this is how Odd Fellows Lodges grew so strongly in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Our Lodge has a presence on the web, on Facebook and on other social media. We bring in new members who are reflective of our community in terms of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, disability, and more. We welcome husbands and wives, and boyfriends and girlfriends. We have opened the doors and windows of our Lodge Hall to our greater community.

We are proud to be Odd Fellows and proud to say that our fraternal order is alive and well and can continue its good works on behalf of our members and our community.

F – L – T

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

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