Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

It is my pleasure to pass along to you an article written by Linea Bredenberg, Past Grand of Mountain View Lodge #244, which provides some suggestions on how smaller Lodges can grow and be successful. The concept discussed in the article comes from the business world. Query: Can it apply to the fraternal world?

I commend this interesting article for your reading pleasure.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to take a moment to talk to you about the concept of scalability. This is something discussed in the world of entrepreneurship. Scalability is the capacity of an idea or an endeavor to be successful, both when a company is small and starting out, and also when the company gets larger.

I bring this up because, in this era of rebuilding and growth, Odd Fellowship has a lot in common with a Silicon Valley start-up. Lodges may run with a minimum quantity of members, and the leaders of the lodge often have to wear many hats in order for all of the work of the lodge to get done. Just like at a start-up, we’re interested in increasing the number of people involved, and we are especially, at this early stage, looking for “investors” to put in their time and energy before we are hugely successful.

In order to get someone to invest in a start-up, one needs to do two things: put out a credible “minimum viable product, and sell them on the dream of what the organization can grow into once it gets larger.

Minimum viable product is produced when a business idea or endeavor is scaled down to a proof of concept having the most basic functionality needed to be successful. Investors often want to see that the idea can work before they are willing to help something grow larger. In our case, this means asking ourselves what we can do well with the number of people we have. Whether we are putting on a degree or other lodge event, it is far better to do less and to do it well, than to allow our big dreams of what we should be as an organization trick us into biting off more than we can chew.

For one example of this, let us look at the Three Degrees. Two of these degrees come in two possible respective legal forms. There is the form with which you might be most familiar, wherein lodge members dress up and act out Bible stories. There is also a minimum legal version of the degree wherein an officer gives a charge that carefully explains the meaning of the story in question, explicitly connecting it to the values and virtues that the degree is meant to instill in the candidate.

Presently, across our
jurisdiction it is common to see people reading their dramatic parts out of books. The overall impression is not of a drama or play, but of a dry-reading or rehearsal. The reason that this happens is obvious: the members of our lodges have a great deal to do and making it to the sheer number of rehearsals required to do this version of the degree credibly is just not practical.

By contrast, the Initiatory does not suffer nearly as much from the lack of memorization. The important parts to memorize are each less than 20 sentences, in total. The rest of the parts can be read from podiums. Because this degree takes so much less effort to do credibly, the overall impression of it is far more favorable.

Many of us have also attempted events at our various lodges which would have been absolutely amazing, had they not required far more volunteerism than our small lodges could muster. The result was stressed-out lodge members, tension between people as a result of that stress, and a not-so-great final outcome. Other ideas start off well, but peter out because they require more person-power than we actually have.

In other words, many of our lodges would benefit from scaling down. In our every endeavor, whenever an idea is proposed, we need to start thinking, “What is the minimum viable product?” What is the smallest number of people that we need to pull the event off credibly? If the number needed to do it credibly is too large, how can we scale it down to suit the number of volunteer hours we have available?

If we pull off a smaller project more credibly, it is easier to convince our new and potential members that, if we only had the right number of people, we could also do larger event credibly. It is much harder for people to imagine an event being done well with more people when they have already seen it go badly. By understanding scalability and by focusing first on putting together a minimum viable product, we can begin to build a culture of success. Success begets more success and as we bring more people on board with what we want to accomplish our endeavors can grow larger and we will soon reach the sorts of achievements we are all striving for.

Linnea Bredenberg

Independent Order of Odd Fellows, IOOF, Davis Odd Fellows

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