Dear Dedicated Members for Change,
When I talk to members and officers of Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Lodges around the jurisdiction about membership development, the most prevalent question I hear is the following: “Why can’t we get younger members to join our Lodge?”
It is an absolutely legitimate question, and it is an absolutely significant concern. We have many Lodges in California where we find the vast majority of members to be in their 70″s, 80’s and even 90’s. Often, the youngest member in some Lodges is in his/her 60’s. Attracting younger members in their 50’s, 40’s and 30’s is challenging because we tend to invite and sponsor potential new members in our own peer groups and among our own friends. So a member in his/her 70’s probably knows a lot of people who are also in their 70’s – and relatively few people in their 40’s. In other words, a Lodge of septuagenarians tends to stay that way – unless someone breaks the mold.
The irony is that 100 years ago, our membership was much younger. If you don’t believe me, just check the register of members of your Lodge. You will find a membership composed primarily of folks in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Noble Grands were often in their 30’s. Today, the bulk of our Noble Grands are in their 60’s and 70’s.
So, how does a Lodge composed of senior citizens attract the next generation of members?
It’s not going to be easy, but here’s a few suggestions:
- Membership Development Plan. The Lodge should meet and discuss the issue, and devise a Membership Development Plan which emphasizes and encourages younger members to sponsor members from their own peer groups and friends. And older members of the Lodge should be encouraged to bring in “the next generation”. If one considers a generation to be 20 years, then a sponsoring member should be encouraged to bring in applicants who are 20 years younger than the sponsor.
- Activities for a Younger Generation. A moribund and boring Lodge will not attract new members. Alternatively, an active and dynamic Odd Fellows Lodge will encourage potential sponsors to bring in new members, and will encourage potential new members to apply. It must be recognized, however, that younger applicants will not be interested in the same things that the older members find enticing. Pot lucks, wine tasting trips, and bingo may satisfy the Boomers in your Lodge. But Millennials or Gen X’ers would rather go hiking, or biking, or spend time cleaning up the roadways.
- Recognition of Sponsors. Bringing in new members is vitally important to the sustainability of a Lodge. New members, ultimately, are brought in by existing members who act as sponsors. Lodges should make an effort to recognize sponsors in meaningful ways. A very simple way to recognize the important contribution of sponsors is to host a Lodge breakfast or dinner (perhaps once a year) honoring sponsors. In addition, it is perfectly appropriate for a Lodge to recognize sponsors in other ways, such as presenting them small plaques, small mementos, or even small stipends.
- Brighten up that Lodge Hall. A Lodge Hall that has peeling paint in front, damaged signage, is unkempt and dirty, and smells of cleaning fluids – ultimately will be a turn-off for potential younger members. Cleaning, painting, and brightening up the Lodge will do wonders for your image. If the Lodge looks like a retirement community, you can bet that potential members in their 20’s and 30’s will not be interested. If the first view of the Lodge is of a shabby lobby and a stairway with a chairlift – what image does that convey. A clean lobby and an elevator displays quite a different image. An investment in the future means investing money in the Odd Fellows Lodge Hall.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
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