About twenty-five years ago, I wrote an article which offered a method to attract new members. It was a method which worked for the Odd Fellows lodge I belonged to at the time – proven method. At that time it seemed most lodges had resigned themselves to simply accepting the status quo and fading away. As I had mentors and some pretty respectful members giving me encouragement with these goals of bringing new members into the Order, I was motivated.
One of those encouraging me to share the successes was Brother Donald R. Smith. He had been a “Past Sovereign Grand Master” who was impressive in his own fraternal resume, having been an editor and publisher of Odd Fellows publications since the 1950’s, having been the youngest Grand Master at 26 years of age, and the fact he had been part of a fraternal mission to Vietnam during the war representing the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) as the Sovereign Grand Master. He brought a message of peace.
I wrote an article called The Growth Process which detailed the ideas of how to attract new applicants to the Odd Fellows. It laid out ideas that the lodge could do internally and externally to meet this goal of new applicants. Granted, this method worked for me and a few others in the lodge, and there were no guarantees it would work for other lodges. We were in a metropolitan area, a more densely populated area, which gave us an advantage. My ideas came from the small successes of other lodges, not necessarily to attract members, but what would be enjoyable for lodge members.
I saw the importance of having refreshments available for the working members. This way they could come straight to lodge after work and relax. Having a social hour prior to the meeting is as beneficial as anything else in terms of personal interaction and membership bonding. We learn about each other and about different ideas for a successful lodge.
Putting the written lodge communications and other community information on a table for all to read and review during the social hour gets the members engaged. They know what is happening before the meeting begins. It is all about involvement.
Odd Fellow Lodges need events to keep their members engaged and happy. Members need events to be able to tell potential members about. The more variety of events creates interest.
When speaking to a potential member, ask their interest or hobby. Tell them the lodge would be willing to try such an event (within reason). This shows that you are interested in their ideas. This is probably the most important thing to do when seeking members.
Lodges can join local historical societies, chambers of commerce, business associations, etc. They can share their activities with these groups and have access to free advertisement. The name “Odd Fellows” should show up in other organization’s newsletters and publications. Give promotional pins to other groups. Engage.
Within the lodge gather historical items of importance. Many lodges have artifacts of their early community or items like “jewels”, unique objects, and interesting ephemera which can be of great interest to historical enthusiasts, and other groups. Share these with everyone. Put them in display cases.
Odd Fellow Lodge outings are fun. Choose a meeting date and have a field trip to a local museum, theater, park, etc. Get out and have fun. Wear your Odd Fellows hat or shirt. Let people see you.
All of the aforementioned should be done. Again, each lodge is different. Be a lodge that gets recognized for the good it does. In hopes of assisting your lodge, I hope this article has given you ideas.
Peter V. Sellars
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
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