Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
For the last decade, I have been talking about the elephant in the living room of this Order. That elephant is our continued decline in membership. As I have said time and time again, this Order cannot continue to experience a net loss of members year after year, decade after decade, and survive in its current configuration. Without significant change in the way we operate as a fraternity, we will continue to diminish with all the attendant misfortune that that entails: Inability to fill all offices in a Lodge, failure to maintain quorums for meetings, diminution in talent in the Lodge to handle the duties (particularly reporting and financial) that are required, inevitable suspension, closure and consolidation of Lodges. The landscape of America is littered with the bones of great fraternal orders that once thrived and then lost members and died.
The solution is before us, because we do have some Lodges that are thriving and growing. Why so some Lodges thrive, while others wither? Because the thriving Lodges are three dimensional Lodges, emphasizing not only the rich history and ritual of our Order, but also making sure that Lodge members enjoy a fun social life, and also reaching out into our towns and neighborhoods to do valuable charitable and community works.
All that as preface, it’s now time for my annual review of the statistics for Odd Fellowship in California. This time we review the statistics for the year ending December 31, 2014. Here is what I have found:
* We have now dropped to 120 Lodges and 4,252 dues paying members. That is fewer Lodges and fewer members than 2013. In fact, we dropped from 123 Lodges in 2013 to 120 Lodges in 2014, and we had a net loss of 148 members.
* In 2014, we have 49 Lodges that have experienced a net loss of members for the year (that means, they lost more members than they added); we have 38 Lodges that were static (no net gains or losses or no report); and we have 33 Lodges that experienced a net gain in members (that means, they gained more members than they lost). Of the 33 Lodges that had a net gain, 17 Lodges had a net gain of 3 or more members.
* Of our 118 reporting Lodges, 62 have 25 or fewer members; 45 have 20 or fewer members; 29 have 15 or fewer members; and 8 have 10 or fewer members listed on their books.
* In California, we have 17 Lodges with 50 or more members; we have 6 Lodges with 100 or more members.
What do these statistics tell us?
First, regrettably, the losses continue. We now have fewer members on our books than we had in 1860 – a very sobering thought.
Second, the vast majority of our Lodges – some 75% – are losing members or treading water. Only about 25% of our Lodges are actually gaining members.
Third, some of our smallest Lodges appear to be in significant difficulty. When one assumes that only about 50% of the members on the books typically participate in Lodge activities, then a Lodge with 10 members has got to be experiencing quorum problems. Further, we have an Order that envisions 19 officer stations – any Lodge with fewer members cannot fulfill the goal of filling all officer positions. How can a Lodge with 6 or 8, or even 10 members, have the expertise to fill all officer positions, and the knowledge to create the financial checks and balances that are required.
But it’s not all gloom and doom. There are some positive notes. To begin with, the net loss of 148 members includes a major purging of records by California #1 (once the largest Lodge in North America). That Lodge showed a net loss of 85 members primarily as a result of that purging. This is a one-time event. Second, while the overall net loss is 148, it is the result of the loss of 183 Brothers – but it is somewhat balanced by the net gain of 35 sisters, continuing a trend which has seen an increase in the gender balance of this Order. Female members now comprise 25% of Odd Fellows Lodge membership in California, and growing. Third, one new Lodge was instituted last year – a rare, but welcome event. And finally, we should be heartened by the fact that 33 of our Lodges showed a net gain of members in 2014. There is hope for the future of Odd Fellowship because those 33 Lodges are (currently) carrying the water for our Order.
We are at the cusp of reversing the trend of net losses. If those 33 Lodges continue to show net gains, and if just a few other Lodges can switch themselves from the “net loss” column or the “static” column to the “net gain” column, then California can show an overall net gain for the year. If that were to happen, California would reverse a trend of losses that has been our albatross for the past three generations. To do this requires a commitment from each member and each Lodge. Bringing new members to our Order must be the major focus of our efforts in 2015-16.
F – L – T
Jurisdiction of California