Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

It never ceases to amaze me: Sovereign Grand Lodge continues to operate as if our Order were still in the last century. Here’s yet another example of SGL’s 20th Century thinking in our 21st Century world.

By now, everyone accepts the truth that the #1 challenge faced by Odd Fellowship today (and, frankly, faced by all all fraternal orders) is the fact of our declining membership. Our Order – throughout North America – has been on a fairly steady trajectory of membership losses (and Lodge closures or consolidations) for some 70 years. That’s an existential fact. So, one would think that membership development would be the primal goal of SGL, and one would think that the SGL Membership Committee would be energetic, active and ubiquitous.

Yet, the SGL Membership Committee is almost invisible. The one program that it has been fostering for the past few years is the 2% growth recognition program – apparently, 2% growth is considered by SGL to be the goal for membership development. In this program, the Membership Committee sends a small certificate to Lodges that achieve a 2% growth rate year to year. Now, a program that has a 2% growth rate and recognizes Lodges for achieving such a rate of growth would have been spot on if we were living in the early 20th Century. At that time, Odd Fellowship in California and around North America boasted tens of thousands of members, and there were many Lodges where membership was in the hundreds. A 2% growth rate goal and achievement level made good sense in 1916. But it makes little sense in 2016.

We, frankly, deceive ourselves with a 2% growth rate goal. Such a growth program is a charade, a masquerade, an illusion. It has the veneer of progress, but it merely deceives our members into thinking that progress is being made. The truth is that it is of no significance to over 90% of our Lodges today. The reality of Odd Fellowship in the 21st Century is that the vast majority of our Lodges have less than 25 members – in fact, a significant percentage of our Lodges have less than 10 members, some with barely enough to have a quorum. So, while achieving a 2% growth rate is fine for a Lodge with, say, 200 members (that would be a growth of 4 members in the year), or even a Lodge with 100 members (that would be a growth of 2 members), or perhaps even a Lodge with 50 members (that would be a growth of 1 member), it is next to meaningless for a Lodge of 25 members, or 15 members, or 10 members.

And let’s think through the entire concept of a 2% growth rate as the ideal or goal for our Order. It really makes no sense. If followed and achieved, it is a recipe for failure. A blanket 2% growth rate creates a facade of achievement – but it is the exact opposite. Let’s be realistic: a fraternal order must constantly and regularly add new members. That is the nature of the beast. The human life-span is finite – and very, very few of our members ultimately achieve their 50-year jewels. In the course of time, members move away, withdraw, or pass away. A Lodge is continually losing members (particularly a Lodge where the average age of members is well into the 60’s), and so must add members to maintain even the status quo. A 2% growth rate envisions “replacing” 100% of the membership in 50 years. But a Lodge with 25 members, or 10 members does not have 50 years. Such Lodges, at best, will hang on for 10 years before it has quorum problems. Clearly, the smaller Lodges (which constitute the vast majority of our membership) need to add members at a much faster rate than 2%. More realistically, a Lodge with 10 members really needs to achieve at least a 20% yearly growth rate to get healthy and prevail into the future. So, while a 2% growth rate is acceptable for our very large Lodges, the growth rate for our smaller Lodges needs to achieve a significantly higher percentage. If we establish a recognition program for anything less than a 20% growth rate for our smallest Lodges, we are simply deceiving ourselves.

To get healthy again, our smallest Lodges need to have a 20% annual growth rate for five years. That would be worthy of recognition by the SGL Membership Committee. That would be a 21st Century goal that would, indeed, refresh and recharge our Order.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master

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