​Many things about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows are admirable. Some time-tested ideas and philosophies have held up well over the centuries, but there are also ways in which we can tell the world we are keeping pace with the times.

  1. Change the methods of dues payments. I own a retail business, making dozens of financial transactions daily, and yet last year I only wrote six checks all year. Four of the checks were for my member’s dues to our order. (I often have to search for my check book.) I also received only about a dozen checks all year as payment. Half of them were from an elderly customer friend of mine. The public no longer writes checks as a rule for a number of reasons. First, there is no longer any “float” to checks, they are verified immediately upon being presented, so they are the same as cash or a debit card. Second, the argument that checks are an easily listable way to track spending in a checkbook is really no longer true. The best way to track long term spending is to simply examine bank statements, which banks can present with many in depth ways in which to track expenditures, including photocopies of all transactions, interest accrued or other types of expenses or deposits. Of course, since time marches on, checks will become increasingly an obsolete method of payment. Many businesses no longer accept checks, period. My son is a CFO for a company with ten commercial outlets, and they rarely write checks as payments, nor do they like to accept them. He laughs at our rigid adherence to an old form of payment. This is not a suggestion that we immediately abandon the idea of lodge check books, but merely the idea that we should change our general techniques so as to notify the public that we are aware of this fundamental change that is occurring in the outside world and learn to accept dues payments in more modernized forms. If one were to study the history of financial transactions, one would find that even banks have changed the methods of transactions repeatedly throughout time. For instance, did you know that in the 1800’s, there were over 5,000 types of dollars bills printed by different banks within the United States? One bank had a dollar bill with Santa Claus featured, backed by the U.S. Treasury! It was not until 1877 when the U.S. Treasury was the solely authorized source of the one-dollar bill. A study of the history of monetary exchange would yield many such fascinating discoveries. It’s simply illogical to presume that things such as dues payments should continue to only be accepted in check form. In fact, many people, particularly younger people, may no longer have checks. Again, this is not a suggestion to do away with lodge check books (not yet at least), but if we genuinely want a verifiable listing of members who have paid their dues, it is more accurately done using electronic media.
  2. Dismiss the idea of bullies running every aspect of our order. We have many people in our order who refuse to budge from their various positions. Some do a wonderful job and are liked universally, but others practice a scorched earth technique that challenges everyone and every lodge in their path. The order in its wisdom originally set term limits to elected positions. It’s wise to look at all positions to determine that person’s ability to lead. If a lodge, or a jurisdiction is failing, obviously there is something wrong. I have often listened to people who seem to use the code as a bludgeon, and only are concerned with keeping themselves in power. Each lodge is its own little entity and should not have to bow to every bully who feels the need to solidify the bully’s own agenda. It’s easy to see that many lodges and whole jurisdictions have been decimated by those who think their way is the only way for a lodge or jurisdiction to exist. Our order is incredibly old, and none of us are immortal, so it should be obvious that we want the order to continue on without us. Isn’t it enough to know that bullies exist in the real world? I thought the idea of our order is to be a refuge from the turmoil of the outside world, not the instigator of it.
  3. Go virtual. Many lodges now have online sites, Facebook principally, but beyond that, we need to engage prospective members in electronic media more aggressively. The wonderful thing about electronic media is that we can be more specific, speak eloquently, and reach a greater mass of individuals. Of course, what we do in a lodge is sacrosanct, but we can go forward watching ourselves dwindle away while others progress, or we can choose to compete in a unique environment that the public has obviously embraced. Of course, we almost all do email now, or respond in some electronic manner, but we need to do more to open up to the public. Again, our inner rituals or practices may be private, but we don’t want to be invisible altogether. During the pandemic, many of us been zooming for many months, but because this tends to be a closed circle of members, that alone is not conducive to gaining members.
  4. Good grief! Do something new. Of course, we need to engage those younger than ourselves. We can do this in several ways, but clearly, if your lodge is failing, doing the same old things will not succeed in attracting new members. If you have had a dinner 49 years running now, in the same location, with Doris and Ethel and their extended families (and precious few others) and really expect new people to join in, I probably won’t be the first person to wonder what you’re smoking?! I have been to a number of functions where the hosts call it “the 97th annual wingding or shindig or what have you and it really becomes an exercise in absurdity when all those in attendance are in their eighties or nineties and yet they talk about attracting new members. Talk about a disconnect. I have tried repeatedly to get my relatives and friends to attend, and they may do so once, but truth be told, they can’t be enticed twice with the idea of repeatedly attending such ponderous gatherings. This is the 21st century! It’s time to try something new.
  5. Rumors not needed. Too many members not only like to bully others, but also like to circulate rumors. Often these are the same individuals. Whatever happened to friendship, love, and truth? We should do our best to resist the urge to vilify anyone. If members gather just to trash others this serves no purpose other than to weaken the order. We should remember why we joined and try to remain on our best behavior.

There are clearly many ways in which to modernize our order, but these are a few I have been pondering lately. If we want to grow, let’s all think of ways to modernize and connect with those around us.

In F., L., & T.,

Rick Boyles
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California

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