Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

As you know, our annual reports and per capita payments for calendar year 2014 are due to be received at Grand Lodge by February 28, 2015. I have just seen the preliminary analysis of our 2014 annual reports, and it’s not a pretty picture.

As of the end of 2014, we had 120 Odd Fellows Lodges in California. So, one would expect 120 timely reports arriving on or before February 28, 2015 – that’s two full months after the end of 2014. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here we are in mid-March and fully 34 of our 120 Lodges have not submitted complete reports nor submitted their per capita payments. That’s 28% of our Lodges that are deficient and untimely in their filing. That’s a sad commentary, but I think indicative of the fact that many of our Lodges have shrunk to such a diminished level of membership that they have difficulty finding fully competent members to serve as Treasurer and Financial Secretary, let alone have sufficient members to staff a functional Finance Committee.

But let’s go to the substance of what we have. Understanding that we don’t yet have full reports from all Lodges, here are some statistics that should concern us all:

* Only 26 Lodges show a net gain of members for 2014 (in other words, only those 26 Lodges added more new members than they lost). That means that all the other reporting Lodges show either a stagnant situation (no net gain nor net loss) or show a net loss of members for the year.

* Of the 26 Lodges showing a net gain for 2014, fully seven of them showed a net gain of only 1 new member, three showed a net gain of 2 new members, four showed a net gain of 3 new members, three showed a net gain of 4 new members, and two showed a net gain of 5 new members. Only ten Lodges showed a net gain of 6 or more new members. And of all the Lodges in California, only two showed a net gain in double digits.

* The top six Lodges in membership showed 1,371 members on their books. That 1,371 constitutes some 32% of the membership of this Order in California. In other words, one out of every three Odd Fellows in California belongs to just six Lodges.

* There is one Lodge in California with more than 300 members, there are three Lodges with more than 200 members, and there are two Lodges with more than 100 members. All other Lodges in California have less than 100 members.

* Fully 46 of our Lodges have 19 or fewer members (that’s 38% of our Lodges). Further, 29 of our Lodges have 14 or fewer members (24% of our Lodges). And we have 8 Lodges which show 9 or fewer members on their books (6% of our Lodges).

What do these preliminary numbers show us? Here’s what we know:

1. We continue to shrink in membership as an Order. About 15% of our Lodges are keeping us afloat by growing. About 85% of our Lodges have no growth or are losing members.

2. By and large, the largest few Lodges are getting bigger while the many smaller Lodges are treading water or are losing members. In California, we continue to be a mile wide and an inch deep in membership.

3. If we understand that numbers of members on our books do not represent active members in a Lodge, then we have to seriously look at ways to help and assist our smallest Lodges and to make sure that they are still viable. Any Lodge with 9 or fewer members, to me, raises a red flag. Do they still meet, do they have quorums, do they have the financial checks and balances that we require, and are they still viable? And any Lodge with 14 or fewer members certainly raises a yellow caution flag. Those Lodges may be doing quite well, but they certainly merit a look and an inquiry: What can we do to help them succeed?

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Deputy Grand Master

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