Thank you for electing me to be your Grand Warden for 2013-14. As I said in my brief presentation to this May’s Grand Lodge Sessions, my focus for the year will be two-fold: (1) For generations now we have been losing members and Lodges, year after year. This needs to, and will, now stop. It’s time to reverse the trend and grow this Order. (2) We need to leave the rumors, perceived offenses and minor indignities behind. We need to all pull together and work together to preserve and expand our Order. I pledge to work tireless with you and with your Lodges in to meet these two important goals.
Generation after generation of steady declines in our membership and in our Lodges are unacceptable, and must be reversed. The 2013-14 Advance Proceedings showed a number of tables with continued ominous information. For example, on January 1, 2012, our Order in California had 131 Lodges; as of December 31, 2012, our Order had dropped to only 126 Lodges. On January 1, 2012, our Order showed 4,783 members; on December 31, 2012, we showed 4,755 members (and of those, only 4,404 were dues-paying members). And you know and I know that 4,404 dues-paying members translates into about 2,000 “active” members in the entire State of California.
Notwithstanding these troubling statistics, there are at least two promising trends. First, the decline in membership during 2012 is much less and much slower than in prior years. Second, while we showed a decline in brothers, we actually showed an increase in sisters in our Odd Fellows Lodges. We can build on this. I predict that within the next 2 or 3 years, our Order in California will actually show a net gain, not a loss, in members. And I remind those Lodges that have no sisters (or only one or two sisters) on their rolls that we can’t ignore half the population of this State any longer. Open your Lodges to women. It’s overdue, and you will find your Lodges will thrive.
At the Grand Lodge sessions that ended earlier this month, voting representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution submitted by Brother Randy Krassow (that he was kind enough to run by me prior to submission) that will be an important step forward in achieving our goals. This resolution sets aside $50,000 per year (for three consecutive years) which will be made available to Lodges for membership development. Application forms will soon be available and Lodges can submit applications (and plans) to receive up to $1,000 per Lodge. The applications will be reviewed by our Grand Lodge membership committees (both the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge Board of Directors have membership committees). So, stay tuned to this important development. This new program is in addition to the “Membership Challenge Grant Program” which I submitted a couple of years ago, and which was approved at a prior Grand Lodge session. The Membership Challenge Grant Program will provide a Lodge up to $50 for each new member the Lodge brings in, and an additional $50 for each such new member who attains his/her three degrees.
Ultimately, bringing in new members is a job for each of us, individually, assisted by our Lodge mates. We can’t rely on “the other guy or gal” to do it. WE have to do it.
But here’s the rub. NO ONE wants to join a Lodge where the members only sit around in formal meetings once or twice a month, maybe put on an occasional potluck and really don’t do much else. Men and women of the 21st Century will join Lodges where the focus is not just on our ritual, but also on having a good social network within the Lodge (fun activities for the members) and active community involvement (good works within the town). If you visit www.davislodge.org, you will find two articles I have written on the subject. They are under the heading “About the Odd Fellows” – one article offers 10 helpful hints to bring in new members, and the other suggests a 3-year plan to grow a Lodge. Believe me, this isn’t the only way to grow a Lodge. But it is one way, and it may offer you some insights to grow your unique Lodge in your own way.
The Knights of Pythias was once a great fraternal order – in fact, after the Odd Fellows and the Masons, the KofP were the third largest fraternal order in the USA with close to one million members. They waited too long to address their continuing decline in membership. The KofP now have just a handful of Lodges back east with a very small membership roll. They waited too long. Let’s not allow the Odd Fellows to wait any longer. The time is NOW.
F – L – T