Dear Dedicated Members for Change,

If you were to ask the average man or woman on the street what they know about “Odd Fellows”, the likely response would be a blank look. On the other hand, if you ask the average man or woman on the street what they know about “Shriners”, you will get quite a few who will say “Children’s Hospitals” (and some might even say they are those guys in the fezzes who drive around in parades in tiny cars). Statistically, there are more Odd Fellows than Shriners, yet the latter are better known.

Why the difference?

In my opinion, the difference is “branding”. In business and marketing, “branding” is defined as creating a name, symbol or design that differentiates a product from other products. Carrying the definition forward to the fraternal world, Shriners have established a brand in the national mind, while Odd Fellows have not. The Shriners are focused; the Odd Fellows are not.

How important is branding? Very. Here’s just one example: Muscular Dystrophy was in the backwaters of charitable giving until comedian Jerry Lewis developed the MDA telethon. Muscular Dystrophy went sky-high in the national consciousness – and raised a lot of money in the process to combat the disease.

And I suggest that the Shriners have done something very similar by focusing on one major and all-encompassing aspect of charitable giving: Children’s Hospitals. On the other hand, Odd Fellows have no focus – rather, we are diffused and spread across several charitable ventures. It’s almost as if every time a Sovereign Grand Master had a bright idea, the Order embraced it for the year, and then continued to embrace it year after year. The result is that Odd Fellowship at the national level is into a half dozen different charitable ventures including the Educational Foundation, SOS Village, the Living Legacy Program, United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth, Visual Research, and Arthritis Research. Additionally, state jurisdictions have more charitable works, and of course, local Lodges have their own ventures.

I suspect that, collectively Odd Fellows provide funding and support in an amount equal to any fraternal order. But the contributions are so spread out and diffuse that the fraternal order (the Odd Fellows) get a very low degree of public recognition. That’s a real shame, because fraternal recruitment, to some extent, is affected by public recognition of the fraternity. Why join the Redmen or the Knights of Pythias if you don’t know anything about them or what they do. Similarly, the effect is the same for Odd Fellows.

The solution is obvious.

Rather than diffuse our efforts at the national level, we should choose ONE great cause and focus on that going forward. The great cause must be one that can make a difference. In a recent Harris Poll of Americans, the following were the top five causes that Americans believe in and support, in order:

Medical Research
Disaster Relief

Let’s collectively as Odd Fellows, choose a cause, focus on it, and become identified with it. I invite the Sovereign Grand Lodge, in session, to attend to this important issue.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California

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