Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

When DMC formed in 2010 our goal was to shine a spotlight on IOOF’s need to increase membership in this Order. That has been our singular focus from 2010 to the present, and that light continues to shine. And it’s not just about bringing in new members to the Odd Fellows, but also about retaining existing members.

Here is an article from one of the founders of DMC, Past Grand Master Rick Boyles, on the subject of membership. Rick makes some worthwhile suggestions that may help your Lodge retain members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master

The Membership Mandate

At Grand Lodge Sessions this year, a friend of mine came up and said “what’s all this need for membership”? An honest question, but he was looking at the question from the wrong vantage point. Our state of California is somewhat insulated since we still have in excess of 4,000 members and statewide events normally attract in excess of 200 members. But in an historical context, one can see what a steep descent our order has taken. This descent is not endemic to the Odd Fellows. All fraternal groups are experiencing a decrease in membership and some groups are already defunct. In fact, in our own order, some states have already dwindled to such depths that a revival in their particular state seems almost impossible. However, there are different vantage points by which people may view the problem. I believe that we can survive if we all work together towards the common goal of growth. Whatever our personal agenda may be, it should be separate from the need for stemming our descent and initiating growth.

An interesting note in membership rolls is not just how many people join in a year but how many members leave? Many of the members I have met over the years have either left the order or are no longer active. Clearly some members were not meant to be part of fraternities – you have to have a certain temperament to deal with disparate personalities, but this only defines a fraction of those who have ceased to be active or have quit. The question should be asked of all of us, are we doing enough for our fellow members? In fact, there are some of us who feel that members who need or require anything are somewhat lesser than other members. In my year as Grand Master I made visits to lodges that did nothing at all for their members and yet experienced wonderment at their lodge’s failing. This is really not a difficult answer. People only attend events and lodges where they feel wanted and get something out of attendance. It should be crystal clear by now that virtually no one wants to attend a dry lodge meeting, chant a ritual, and then go home. I have a few suggestions that may seem obvious but some lodges fail to do any or all of this:

1) Always have dinner. Members who work don’t want to come to a meeting if they are in essence deprived of their evening meal. If your lodge can’t afford to feed your few remaining members, than surely your days are numbered.

2) Meet at the correct time. There are several lodges that still meet in the middle of the day. I asked one of them why they do that and they explained that one of the elderly members did not want to go out at night. Because of this the lodge has not gotten a new member in over a decade. Obviously no one with a job can attend a lodge in the middle of the day. A simple solution for the elderly member would be to give him/her a ride to and from the lodge.

3) Fine tune your meeting. No reports should exceed more than a few minutes. Some of the best lodges have a lot of committee reports, but there is no need to do more than to summarize the reports. Some of the dying lodges spend more time on sick and distressed than on anything else. We want to be connected to our members but too much time spent immersed in depression does not help anyone within or without the lodge. Sometimes these same dying lodges want to discuss the distressed but clearly don’t intend to help them. Look up the meaning of a “fraternal group”. You may find that it means caring for our members, not just chanting a platitude.

4) Keep it pleasant. Most failing lodges are depressing in general. Happiness is something that can be spread around.

5) Your lodge may be an old building on an old street, but work on your signage. You might be surprised that many citizens in your own vicinity have no idea that you even exist.

6) Be prepared to define yourself. In other words, what is your lodge? What does it do? What can you tell a prospective member? Don’t just chant “friendship, love, & truth.” It’s lovely, but everyone should follow that credo not just our own order.

7) People are different. All of them. No two alike. Remember, you may be hard pressed to find someone identical to you. Besides, do you really want someone just like you? Aren’t you unique?

This order can be a wonderful place and following these simple suggestions may help. There is no single answer for any lodge, but keeping your own lodge unique will clearly make your lodge stand out and help solve the Membership Mandate.

In Friendship, Love and Truth, Rick Boyles

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