Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
Last week, I published a DMC Newsletter where I highlighted the fact that my own Odd Fellows Lodge in Davis, California, has shown net gains in membership, year-after-year, for the past 18 years. In that article, I talked about the diverse ages and interests of our members (covering three generations), and I highlighted our numerous committees and our community activities as the twin drivers in our remarkable growth.
Within hours after I published this article, I received an email from a member in another Lodge who asked a number of good questions. I’d like to address three of those questions at this time.
1. How do the “interest committees” work?
My Lodge has (at last count) 63 committees, which I am sure dramatically exceeds the number of committees found in most other Lodges. In my opinion, our committee structure is one of our great strengths – it adds to the diversity and vibrancy of the Lodge, and it encourages folks to join, to participate, and to remain as members. We give our committees a mission, a budget (if needed), and then we let them do their work without interference. Frankly, 90% of the work of the Lodge is done by and through our committees. Generally, our committees can be divided into three categories, although there is overlap, on occasion, between the categories.
One category contains “Administrative Committees”. These committees address the administrative and governance aspects of the Odd Fellows Lodge. Such committees include the Visiting Committee, the Finance Committee, the Bylaws Committee, the Membership Committee, the Historical Committee, the Initiation and Ritual Committee, and others. One would expect to find most of these administrative committees in almost every Lodge in some form or another. In particular, a Membership Committee is vital to the sustainability and growth of the Lodge – and if your Lodge doesn’t have such a committee, you need to address that vacuum as soon as possible.
A second category contains what I call “Social Committees.” These committees organize fun activities for the membership as a whole, and/or cater to interests of some members. In our Lodge, we have LOTS of these committees. After all, Odd Fellowship is a fraternal order, and social activities provide a venue for fraternal friendship (the first link in our chain) and fun. Some of these committees provide activities which cater to most, if not all, members. These include our Club Night at the Lodge Committee, the OddtoberFest Committee, the St Patrick’s Day Committee, the Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner Committee, the Saturday Morning Breakfast Committee and the like. Other committees have a much more limited focus that might appeal to a small group of members (usually between 5 and 15). Our philosophy is that if some members wish to create a committee that gives them joy, we allow it and (where appropriate) let them use the Lodge Hall for their meetings. Examples of these committees include the Odd Needleworkers Committee, the Cigar Lounge Committee, the Odd Hiking Committee, the Gaming Committee, the Barn Owl Box Committee, the Odd Ukulele Committee, the Wine Club Committee, the Zymurgy Committee, and many more. In my Lodge if a few members wish to form a committee, we encourage it.
The third category of committees contains “Community Serving Committees”. These committees reach out into the world outside the Lodge to do good works and provide benefits to the greater community – while also providing fun and satisfying activities for our members. Such committees include the Breakfast with Santa Committee (providing an opportunity for children and their parents/grandparents in the community to have breakfast with Santa), the Chase the Chill Committee (providing warm clothing for the homeless and unhoused in our town), the Thursday Live Music Committee (offering free music venues for the community at the Lodge Hall), the Classic Film Festival Committee (showing classic films, free, at the Lodge for the community), the Odd Fellows Bingo Committee (offering real cash-prize Bingo to the community with a charitable beneficiary every month),the Blood Drive Committee (working with the blood bank to encourage local residents to donate blood), the Senior Helper Committee (helping frail seniors with small projects in their homes), the Taste of Davis Committee (providing a community event at the Lodge featuring local restaurants, breweries and wineries), the Chocolate Festival Committee (opening the Lodge for the community featuring vendors and providers of chocolate products), and lots of others. Most of these committees raise sponsorship money which is provided to a local charity or community organization.
2. What community events seem most effective in every way?
We offer a number of community events which have proven not only very popular with the community and the members, but which have also dramatically raised the profile of our Lodge in town. We have a Publicity Committee and a Promotions Committee which make sure that the events are publicized in the local news media, but also in social media (to reach the younger generations). To be very candid, not only are these events satisfying to the members of the Lodge, but we have done much good in the community. I’ll give you an example of an event that has proven remarkably successful – even during the pandemic – at many different levels: for three years now the Zombie Bike Ride, hosted by the Zombie Bike Parade Committee has been a four-star success. This event is scheduled on or near Halloween and encourages families to dress up as zombies (or other Halloween characters) and ride their bikes on a local bike loop. Last Halloween, we had over 1,500 adults and children participate. A local theater group put on zombie tableau throughout the bike ride, lots of local businesses participated in different way, and we even had zombie skydivers join the festivities. We had many community members and businesses (including the local cemetery) donate funds as sponsors, and we used the sponsor monies to build seven special tricycles for disabled children in the community. Regionally, we had a great deal of publicity for this event, including radio and television. A large number of our Lodge members helped as zombie volunteers. And a youth group also joined as volunteers. All around, this sort of event was “effective in every way.” Because this event is all outdoors, in the fresh air, with folks constantly moving on bicycles, it has been especially popular during the pandemic. Oh, and several community members – citing the Zombie event – have contacted the Lodge inquiring how they could join.
3. How do you get the diverse three generations of members to work together?
The generational divide found in many Odd Fellows Lodges can be a point of friction. How does one get members in their 70’s and 80’s to work cooperatively with members in their 20’s and 30’s? Well, we know that it can be done. Witness the Odd Fellows-Rebekahs Rose Bowl Float. That is an example of a project where the Baby Boomer Generation and Generation X (and others) work cooperatively toward a common goal. In my Lodge, we offer so many diverse options that there is, literally, something for everyone. A Lodge that has a committee for video gamers as well as a committee for folks who like to work with needle craft offers a big tent. But we also have big projects that encourage the generations to work together on a common goal. Breakfast with Santa is a an event where over 50 members of our Lodge participate as volunteers to set up, cook and clean up. Our Picnic Day Float allows a committee of volunteers to work together designing, building, painting, etc. a float for our local Picnic Day Parade. Even our Self-Portrait Art Show turned out to be popular among members who were 25 and members who were 75. It was fun to create the art and it was fun to walk around the Lodge viewing the creations.
A strong committee structure can enhance opportunities for Lodge members to enjoy their fraternal experience and it can be an effective tool to sustain and increase membership.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
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