Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
This may very well surprise you, but there is an insidious side to “Associate Membership” in our Order.
I am sure that when associate membership was first created, it had a worthy purpose. It allowed Odd Fellows to branch out from their home Lodges and affiliate with nearby Lodges. It expanded our fraternal relationships and encouraged members to visit and participate with Lodges outside their own communities. And, frankly, that is still true even today in many Lodges.
But, today, in a few Lodges, there is a darker side to associate membership. Let me explain.
Throughout California (and I suspect, throughout the United States) we have many Lodges where membership has fallen to unacceptably low levels. We have a significant number of Lodges where the membership on the books is 20 or fewer. We even have a number of Lodges where the members on the books total 10 or fewer. We have Lodge meetings where we find only 8 or 7, or even 6 or 5 in attendance. In some of these Lodges, quorums are maintained only because those Lodges have associate members who fill their ranks, and hold offices (including Noble Grand) in the Lodge. These associate members are of the same age as the regular members – typically in their 60’s and 70’s. And so we have an image of a functioning Lodge which, in reality, may be a facade. These Lodges are held together because of associate members. While that may be a good thing in the short term, it is absolutely disastrous in the longer term.
The problem is that neither the regular members nor the associate members of the Lodge are NEW members. They are, in actuality, members of the Order who have been Odd Fellows for 20, 30, 40 or more years. They are holding the Lodge together with chewing gum and bailing wire. When these members move away or pass away, there will be no one to take their place and carry on the functions of the Lodge.
There are Lodges where the regular membership hovers around the minimal quorum threshold of five, held together only because the regular members have prevailed upon their friends from other Lodges to join their failing Lodge as associate members. There are associate members who perform this function for two or three Lodges that need to be “held together”. But it is a mirage and a temporary band-aid solution, at best.
Unless the Lodge brings in its own NEW members (and preferably younger members), and starts empowering those new members with knowledge about the Order, and the responsibility that comes with Lodge office – that Lodge that is being “held together” by associate members is simply delaying its inevitable demise.
So, should we have associate members? Certainly. But should we use associate members as a substitute for recruiting and initiating regular dues-paying members? Most decidedly we should not.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California