Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

The Jurisdiction of California – with about 4,000 dues-paying members – is the largest jurisdiction of Odd Fellows in North America. The next largest jurisdiction is Pennsylvania, and that state has about half the dues-paying members of California. We have, in California, 119 Lodges. Recently, I took a look at the most current statistics of Lodge membership (reflected in the number of dues-paying members in each Lodge) and found them to be very revealing. Here’s what I found.

At the top of list are the four Lodges which have 200 or more members on their rosters. These four are the powerhouse Lodges in California. The impact of these four Lodges cannot be underestimated. The membership of just these four Lodges totals over 1,000. In other words, fully one-quarter of the entire membership of the Order in this state is attributable to just four Lodges. One out of every four Odd Fellows in California belongs to the Big Four. They are California #1, Yerba Buena #15, Apollo #123, and Davis #169. Three out of these four are based in San Francisco. These Lodges are all active, three-dimensional Lodges. They are strong Lodges.

In the next tier are two Lodges with membership in the 100-199 range. It is interesting that there are only two Lodges in this category. I have looked at the statistics of these two Lodges over the years and note that one of them seems to be on an upward trend in membership, while the other seems to be tracking in the other direction.

We find 12 Lodges in the range of 50-99 members and 27 Lodges with 25-49 members. These are good-sized Lodges and are probably healthy and active. But, the numbers may be deceiving. Some of these Lodges show growth over the years. But others show a decline in membership – they were once larger and healthier and over time have been diminishing in membership.

In the final tier are 68 Lodges with less than 25 members. Statistically, over half the Lodges in California have less than 25 members. Drilling down further, we find 52 with less than 20 members, 39 with less than 15 members, and we even find 15 Lodges with less than 10 members. To be perfectly frank, any Lodge with less than 25 members raises, in my mind, a yellow flag of concern. This is because, realistically, we all know that only about half the members we list on the books actually participate actively in a Lodge. We all have members who pay their dues (sometimes after a little prodding) but do little else. So, a Lodge with 24 members probably has about 12 members who are active in the Lodge and regularly attend meetings. And a Lodge with 19 members probably has only 9 or 10 who are active. A Lodge with 14 members on the books, probably is looking at only 6 or 7 who are active. And a Lodge with 9 members on the books almost certainly has quorum problems.

Certainly, some Lodges with less than 25 members may be doing just fine, particularly if they maintain a steady state by bringing in new members when needed. But I suspect that there are a significant number of Lodges with less than 25 members who are experiencing internal problems: rotating officers among a very few members, lack of competence in some of the financial positions, deficient checks and balances relating to money, etc. And perhaps the biggest concern is an aging membership. When a Lodge fails to bring in new members over time, the average age of the Lodge creeps up. And then, before you know it, we have a Lodge where the average age of the members is in the 60’s, perhaps even the 70’s. Such a Lodge – having essentially skipped a generation of new members – finds it difficult to recruit younger members. A potential new member in his or her 20’s or 30’s may hesitate to join a Lodge where the membership reflects the population of a retirement community.

Where does your Lodge fall in these categories? Take a look at your Lodge statistics for the past 10 years. How are you trending? Is the membership edging upward? Is the membership static? Is the membership creeping downward? Bottom line: Every Lodge in California needs to, at a minimum, maintain a steady state of membership – adding members in equal number to those who leave the Lodge or pass away. Ideally, every Lodge in California should show a net gain in membership every year, even if that net gain is just one or two members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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