Here's an interesting and useful exercise you may wish to try. It's easy, and it may tell you a great deal about the future of your Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge. Gather the Necessary Information Talk to your IOOF Lodge's Financial Secretary (or Secretary if...
This article is dedicated to the following subject: How to Bring Younger Members into Your Odd Fellows Lodge. So, fair warning. If your Odd Fellows Lodge is satisfied with a membership of Septuagenarians and has no interest in bringing in new generations of members, then you can stop reading now.
On the other hand, if your Lodge is interested in revitalizing and reviving itself, and in surviving and flourishing for future decades – then read on.
Let’s start with the understanding that bringing in a new generation of members is never going to be simple or easy. Folks who are in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s usually have different interests and viewpoints than folks in their 50’s, 40’s, 30’s or 20’s. The range of divergence can be huge on subjects such as music, books, television, hobbies, clothing, movies, vacations, recreational activities, jobs, living situations – you name it. That said, it is imperative for the long-term survival of the Lodge (and the Order) to bring in new blood. It is a sad truth that many Lodges have skipped an entire generation of members (sometimes even skipping two generations) due to complacency.
5 Helpful Tips
So, to help you out in the task, here are five helpful hints to bringing in younger members to your Lodge:
- Be realistic in your expectations. Folks usually have friends and acquaintances in their same general age range. That means that folks in their 70’s usually know other folks in that general age range; and folks in their 60’s typically know other folks in that general age range; and so on. Accordingly, if you are in your 60’s don’t try to bring in potential members in their 20’s or 30’s. It doesn’t do the Lodge much long-range good to bring in new members who are also in their 60’s, but you can certainly shoot for folks who are in their 50’s. So, rule of thumb: try to bring in new members who are about 10 years younger than you are. Over time, that will reduce the average age of the Lodge.
- Get modern. Email is ubiquitous. Social media is key to folks under 50 years of age. The old-school concept of paper posters and ads in the newspaper simply don’t reach the younger generations. There was a time when the telegraph was the “latest thing”, then it was replaced by the telephone. The fax machine had its hey-day but that day expired when scanners were invented. Desk top computers are passe, and laptops are in. The telephone on wall or desk has been replaced by the smartphone. Bottom line: Do your best to be current with technology. If your Lodge is still notifying members by way of “telephone trees”, you are laboring in a prior generation, and you will not attract the newer generations.
- Spruce up your Lodge hall. A Lodge Hall that is dingy and dark, with peeling paint, stained carpets, odoriferous restrooms, and the faint odor of disinfectant sends the wrong message to the public and to potential new members. Take the time to paint the Lodge with vibrant colors, display lively signs proclaiming “Odd Fellows” to the world. I’m not suggesting that you spend thousands of dollars to repair creaking floors, but the expenditure of some funds (and some physical labor) in cosmetic improvements to the Lodge Hall will pay dividends.
- Include activities that recognize and appeal to younger members. The ritual, regalia, passwords and signs resonate for members of every generation. Sure, the ritual is old and stilted, but it conveys important messages and can be credible for those who are 17 or 70. But beyond the trappings of Odd Fellowship, it’s important to recognize that if an Odd Fellows Lodge wants to invite younger members, it must be cognizant of activities that younger members enjoy. And don’t automatically say “no” if a new member suggests something that the Lodge has never done before. Think about it. For example, if a new member wants form a hiking committee – consider it and try to make it work. Further, be aware of the agenda for meetings. I have attended meetings of Lodges where the overwhelming majority of time at the meeting was spent in discussing “members sick or in distress” and repair of a leaking toilet. It’s important to discuss these items. But if a Lodge spends most of its time on such items, to new members it conveys the aura of a retirement home, and not a fraternal order.
- A picture tells the story. Be aware of your Lodge’s public image. If every photo sent to the newspaper, or posted on your Lodge’s website or Facebook page displays members with gray hair, what image does that convey to the public or potential new members? Now, there is nothing wrong with gray hair (I have quite a bit of it myself). But if EVERY photo of your Lodge includes only the elderly members, that sends a certain message to the public and potential applicants.
Good luck in your efforts. Your Lodge and Odd Fellowship need the energy and involvement of younger members. That’s what has kept us around for over 200 years. Don’t drop the ball while you are in the game.
F – L – T
Pasts Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
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The Independent Order of Odd Fellows has been around for hundreds of years. But in the 21st Century, it's no exaggeration to assert that bringing new members into our Lodges is the existential question of our time. For decades our membership numbers have slowly...