Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Let’s think this through.

We know that we have a significant problem in the IOOF. The problem has been with us for over half a Century. The problem is the loss of members, year after year after year after year. This membership loss is the elephant in our Lodge rooms. For years, the problem was given a modicum of lip service, but generally ignored. Today, it’s safe to say that virtually everyone in the Order recognizes the problem. And the decline in membership has affected a majority of our Lodges in significant and debilitating ways, including but not limited to difficulty getting quorums to meetings, a constant revolving door of officers, a failure to have sufficient talent to implement financial checks and balances, and a great drop in competency. Many of our Lodges have become Lodges of grandfathers and grandmothers, with very few – and in some cases no – younger members. In a fraternal Order, a dearth of young members in a Lodge means the slow but certain demise of that Lodge.

But what to do?

[SARCASM ALERT – Please be aware that the following article is full of sarcasm and irony. It is not intended to be taken literally. Strap on your seat belts and prepare yourself for a ride into Sarcasm Country.]

I’m delighted to report that a number of proposals have been made at the Sovereign Grand Lodge level, by some of the Grand Bodies of this Order, and at some of our Lodges that will surely solve the problem and reverse the trend. I’m confident that when the proposals are implemented, Lodges will experience a sudden burst in applications for membership, much like a Ferrari just out of the shop. I can’t wait to tell you about these remarkable proposals.

First, Sovereign Grand Lodge is considering raising the annual dues for members. In fact, the proposal to raise dues is on the table for consideration in 2016. What an inspired idea! The Order is bringing in fewer members, so let’s make it extra attractive to potential new members by charging them more. And let’s ensure that existing members who might be wavering in their desire to renew for another year are given incentive to do so. Some might say that the concept of raising dues is a benighted idea – anathema to increasing membership. To those nay-sayers, I say “nay”. The aging leaders at Sovereign Grand Lodge have clearly thought this through and figure that if they can raise more money to pay for travel, that sort of commitment will inspire members to pony up more dues money. And obviously, if dues are raised, then the Order becomes even more important and attractive. Like pricey caviar. That stuff tastes fishy and terrible, but it’s expensive so it must be good. If you pay more, then it must be worth more, right?

Second, the Grand Encampment and the Military Department (PM) continue to believe that week-long conferences are the ticket to a brighter future – and more members. And who can argue with success? There are now less than 250 members of Encampments and less than 100 members of Cantons in California. These numbers are even smaller in other states. So, clearly, one of the solutions to the declining membership is to make the conferences so long (spanning an entire week) that young working men and women are not interested in joining. And who needs them anyway? The Encampments and Cantons need more retired folks, and fewer working folks. With retirement comes wisdom and time. More time for meetings. Younger members would want the Encampments and Cantons to engage in community projects, and that would distract the older members from their mission which is not to be distracted.

Third, some of our Lodges have moved their meeting times to mid-afternoons on a weekday. If we could wear hats to meetings, I would say “hats off” to another inspired idea. They have done this so that some of the much older members don’t have to drive in the dark. Certainly, a kind and generous thought to accommodate the older members of our Order. Clearly, its more important to help out the older members than to concern oneself with younger members who might have children, or a job, or commitments on a weekday afternoon. Anyway, those young working men and women who are interested in joining Odd Fellows can easily take time off from work, or vacation time, to attend the meetings. And what could be more fulfilling and enjoyable than to come to a formal meeting at 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, go through the ritual opening and closing, pay the electric and water bills, and discuss the date of the next meeting?

Keep those great ideas coming! Odd Fellowship has been a force in the United States for about 200 years. Let’s see if we can survive another 20.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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