Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Some have suggested that we can reverse the trend of declining membership if only we launch a massive advertising statewide campaign touting Odd Fellowship. The theory here goes something like this: American industry has grown and flourished as a result of advertising, so a strong ad campaign can help IOOF grow, as well. It’s certainly worthwhile to suggest idea to try to reverse declining membership, but with due respect, the advertising idea is not the magic-wand solution to our membership woes. Here’s why:
First, we have already tried it in the recent past, and it was expensive and ineffective. A few years ago, a prior Grand Master convinced the Grand Lodge representatives, in session, to approve the expenditure of $75,000 to undertake a television advertising campaign. Now, $75,000 is a great deal of money – but in TV advertising, it is a pauper’s budget. Television advertising in a large state like California is a rather expensive proposition. Not only do you have to professionally create the ad, but you have to pay quite a bit of money for air time, in quite a few media markets, to have any penetration whatsoever. And the ad, itself? The ad we ran featured a gentleman with a gray beard and gray hair touting the benefits of Odd Fellowship. The gentleman had a great voice, and was very sincere, but the ad had zero appeal to young men and women. As far as I am aware, no one joined this Order because they saw that ad. And we are $75,000 poorer.
Second, there are better ways to spend $75,000 – and these ways can achieve results. Rather than spend $75,000 on a statewide media campaign, we could help members and local Lodges with $75,000 allocated to membership development programs – and we would gain members in our Order. Two programs, in particular, have proven to be valuable in the past: Membership challenge grants and membership development grants. In membership challenge grants, Grand Lodge provides a grant of money (say $100) directly to a Lodge for each new member brought into the Order by that Lodge. Membership development grants provide a grant of money (say $1,000) for specific programs, conceived and run by a Lodge, to attract new members.
And finally, the ultimate solution to declining membership is, and has always been, local. It starts with you and me, the members of the Order. Recruitment of new members cannot be accomplished at the Sovereign Grand Lodge Level, or even the Grand Lodge Level. Sovereign Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge can certainly create programs which support Lodges and members in the task of membership development. But at bottom, the best recruitment happens locally, with members reaching out and talking to potential applicants, with support of the member’s Lodge. And it happens when two conditions are present: (1) A Lodge has to be active and engaging, because no one wants to join a do-nothing dull Lodge. When a Lodge schedules fun activities for its membership, and engages in worthwhile community support functions, it becomes an attractive venue for potential applicants. (2) And members of the Lodge must personally be aware of potential new members, reach out to them, and actually talk to them about joining the Lodge. Bringing in new members is a responsibility for each of us as Odd Fellows. We can’t just complacently sit back and wait for “the other guy” to bring in those new members.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master