The annual membership numbers have arrived. Reports have now been compiled showing membership numbers of California Odd Fellows Lodges as of December 31, 2016.

What do those statistics reveal? Where does your Lodge fit in this spectrum?

On the plus side, there is a net yearly increase in the number of our members from 2015 – although the net increase is very small, it is at least and INCREASE in contrast to decades of net decreases. Kudos to all the members and Lodges that worked hard to finally stem the flow of losses. At the end of 2016, we had 4,157 Odd Fellows in California, a net increase from that number at the end of 2015.

On the minus side, however, there is little to cheer us. We have 116 Odd Fellows Lodges in California. At the top of the membership pyramid, we have 4 Lodges with over 200 members each. These 4 Lodges comprise 983 members which is about one-fourth of the total Odd Fellows membership in the State of California. In other words, one out of every four Odd Fellows belongs to just four Lodges. Two other Lodges have membership between 100-199 – if we add the numbers of those 2 Lodges into the mix, then the largest six Lodges have a combined membership of 1,222. Those largest 6 Lodges have a membership which is about 30% of the total membership in the State. In the next tier, we find just 16 Lodges with memberships between 50-99. So, in total, only 22 Lodges have a membership of 50 or greater. The 94 remaining Lodges in California have a membership of 49 or fewer.

That sounds OK, until you drill down the numbers.

Of the 94 Lodges with membership rolls of 49 or fewer, fully 50 Lodges show a membership under 20. Of those 50 Lodges, 34 have membership totals between 19-12, and 16 Lodges have membership totals of fewer than 12 (in fact, we have 6 Lodges with membership of 6 or fewer Odd Fellows). Those 16 Lodges with fewer than 12 members should be a great concern to all of us, and should be considered waving the yellow flag of caution. Assuming most Lodges get only half the membership to any given meeting, a Lodge with only 10 or 11 members must be skating close to the edge of the quorum precipice. And those 6 Lodges with 6 or fewer members must be viewed as a waving a red flag of danger. A Lodge with 6 members on its books must certainly be having quorum problems, unless that Lodge is being propped up by associate members.

We have a handful of large Lodges which seem to be growing, thriving and healthy. But the smallest Lodges are just hanging on. The loss of one or two members (through death or withdrawal) could spell doom for that Lodge. It should not have come to this. And it didn’t happen overnight. Loss of membership is like drip torture, it’s slow and takes time. It reflects a Lodge that did not take action to bring in some members every year. And that is the key. A Lodge must bring in new members on a constant basis – year after year – even one or two new members in a year is critical to ensuring the health and vitality of a Lodge.

Can it be fixed?

Yes, it can. But just as the diminution of membership took years, the growth of membership will also take years. Every Lodge must, however, take the first steps. And the first steps are setting some goals for the Lodge to enable it to bring in that one or two new members per year. The first steps must include a plan to make the Lodge active and interesting to potential members. A boring Lodge will not attract new members and will not sustain itself. And the first steps must also include developing a membership plan. Any membership plan must involve all members of the Lodge. As an Odd Fellow, your first duty must be to the continued life of the Lodge and the fraternity. You can’t ignore your personal responsibility to bring in new blood. You can’t expect “the other guy” to do it. YOU have to do it.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master

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