Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

Compiling tentative statistics from the 2015 Annual Reports submitted by the Lodges of California, we see both good news and bad news for the Order. (The statistics are still “tentative” because – believe it or not – some Lodges have still not submitted their 2015 Annual Reports, even at this late date.)

On the bad news side of the ledger, the tentative numbers show the California Odd Fellowship had a net loss in 2015 of 166 members. Our membership as of December 31, 2015, is 4,453 (compared to 4,619 on January 1, 2015). But if we peel away the layers on the onion, on a more positive note, we showed a small net gain of female members (adding 198 while losing 195). This was, however, more than offset by a large net loss of male members (adding 337 while losing 506). We now see that women make up 26% of Odd Fellowship members in California. This is a not-fully-tapped and dynamic resource and the sooner our few remaining all-male Lodges figure that out, the better. We cannot ignore 50% of the human population (women) as we seek to grow our Lodges.

On the good news side, we added 535 new members in 2015. Our focus on membership, membership, membership seems to be bearing positive fruit because 535 new members is a 20% increase over new members added in 2014. That is a big leap forward and shows a very positive trend for the future.

And it bears noting that in 2015, there were several San Francisco Lodges that undertook massive reviews of their membership rolls, eliminating a significant number of members who had simply not paid their dues for years, but were being kept on the books of the Lodges. By some estimates, over 180 members were removed from the rolls as a result of this process. Accordingly, past year’s membership statistics were inflated, and this review and elimination of inactive members was long overdue. But to eliminate all those members in one year does skew the statistics in that one year. In other words, if that 180 had not been eliminated in 2015, the overall statewide statistics would have actually shown a modest net gain for the year. Certainly, we are trending in the right direction, and this is a positive sign for 2016 and subsequent years.

Another statistic worthy of note is that of our 117 Lodges, we have 57 Lodges in California showing a membership of 20 or fewer on the books. And drilling down even further, we have 13 Lodges showing membership of 10 or less. These statistics continue to concern me. If we take the rule-of-thumb that applies to virtually every club, organization or lodge in America, that only about half the members on the books are actually active and participating members, the numbers are daunting. A Lodge with 20 members on the books may actually only have 10 members who are active in the Lodge; and a Lodge with 10 members on the books may only see 5 members at meetings, the barest of quorums. Some of these Lodges may actually be quite active, but many may be in difficult straits, and should get extra special attention and assistance from our future leaders.

Of our 117 Lodges, only 6 Lodges have memberships of 100 or more, and only 15 have memberships of 51 to 99. All other Lodges have 50 or fewer members, and as noted, 57 of our Lodges have 20 or fewer. The combined membership of our 10 largest Lodges is 1,528 and that is 34% of the total membership of our Order in this state. That is, one out of every three Odd Fellows in California belongs to one of only 10 Lodges. Odd Fellowship in California continues to be a mile wide and an inch deep.

It’s also interesting to note that the 10 Lodges showing the largest number of initiations brought in a combined 205 new members in 2015. Compared to the 535 new members brought in by all Lodges in California in 2015, that translates into almost 40% of the new members coming from just 10 Lodges. The good news is that new members are not just coming into the biggest Lodges. Some of the middle-range Lodges and some of the small Lodges are also bringing in new members. And those are also positive signs for the future.

On balance, I am satisfied that the Order has finally come to grips with the the imperative to bring in new members. We may have turned the corner. In my opinion, 2015 was a very transitional year where we brought in a substantially increased number of new members, while at the same time purging our books of inactive members. I expect 2016-17, under the leadership of incoming Grand Master Peter Sellars, will be a breakthrough year. I expect 2016-17 to show the first net gain in our membership in a long time, and will set the trend for many years to come.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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