Back in the early 1800’s, our own Thomas Wildey knew what to do to attract new members to an Odd Fellows Lodge. He contacted a local newspaper in Baltimore and hired an employee of the paper to walk up and down the main streets of Baltimore ringing a bell, seeking Odd Fellows from Great Britain who might be interested in forming a brand new Odd Fellows Lodge in the United States. And just the other day, I was reading my local newspaper and found a small paid advertisement from one of our local Rotary Clubs soliciting folks to contact the club to become members.  

Well, we certainly know that Brother Wildey was quite successful at starting his Odd Fellows Lodge. His bell ringer attracted four other men to join with Mr. Wildey and the rest is IOOF history. My guess is that the Rotary Club ad in my local newspaper did nothing to help the club, but at least the ad provided some needed funds for the paper.

Dropping an ad in a local paper to solicit members to your Lodge is probably just a shade more successful than making cold calls to random folks.  Frankly, it’s embarrassing.   It tells the world that the organization is needy and perhaps, a little desperate.   If any folks answered the Rotary ad by showing up at a club meeting, it would surprise me. 

So, what is the best way for a Lodge of Odd Fellows to attract new members?

I’m going to suggest that bell ringing in the street and cold ads in the paper are not going to work in 2022. But here are two suggestions that will work:

First – The best way (by far) to bring new members into the Lodge is the old-fashioned person-to-person method. This method works. But it requires the members of the Lodge to commit themselves to do it. And it’s not an onerous burden. A Lodge usually has 2% of the members who are pretty good at bringing new members into the fold. But, typically, the other 98% of the members are MIA when it comes to membership development. And that’s a shame. I mean, how hard is it to bring ONE new applicant to the Lodge? Unless you are a hermit living on the side of a mountain, you surely must know someone – a spouse, a relative, a friend, a work associate – who you could invite to join.  

But – to be brutally frank – for the person-to-person method to actually work, there has got to be some “there” there at the Lodge.   If the Lodge does nothing more than hold a meeting once a month, forget about it. There is no “there” there at the Lodge. Why would a person want to join such a do-nothing Lodge? On the other hand, if the Lodge has some life and activity left in it, with the potential for more – then there is something to offer prospective new members.

Second – An Odd Fellows Lodge that is very active has the potential to bring in new members as a result of the activity going on in and around the Lodge. Unfortunately, there are precious few Lodges that find themselves in this category. But if your Lodge is such an active Lodge (or soon could be) then you are on a sure road to membership growth. Let me give you an example of what I mean. My own Lodge has many committees that organize and host events for members of the Lodge and for the community.   These include free music venues at the Lodge Hall, a Classic Film Festival, a Zombie Bike Ride, Breakfast with Santa, and many more. Invariably, at these events, members of the public contact us, expressing an interest in learning more about Odd Fellowship and about the Lodge. Many of these inquiring folks become applicants, seeking to join the Order. An active, community-serving Lodge is a powerful way to bring in new members.

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

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