December 21, 2014 in Grand Lodge
March 1, 2015 in Grand Lodge
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Some have suggested that we can reverse the trend of declining membership if only we launch a massive advertising statewide campaign touting Odd Fellowship. The theory here goes something like this: American industry has grown and flourished as a result of advertising, so a strong ad campaign can help IOOF grow, as well. It’s certainly worthwhile to suggest idea to try to reverse declining membership, but with due respect, the advertising idea is not the magic-wand solution to our membership woes. Here’s why:
First, we have already tried it in the recent past, and it was expensive and ineffective. A few years ago, a prior Grand Master convinced the Grand Lodge representatives, in session, to approve the expenditure of $75,000 to undertake a television advertising campaign. Now, $75,000 is a great deal of money – but in TV advertising, it is a pauper’s budget. Television advertising in a large state like California is a rather expensive proposition. Not only do you have to professionally create the ad, but you have to pay quite a bit of money for air time, in quite a few media markets, to have any penetration whatsoever. And the ad, itself? The ad we ran featured a gentleman with a gray beard and gray hair touting the benefits of Odd Fellowship. The gentleman had a great voice, and was very sincere, but the ad had zero appeal to young men and women. As far as I am aware, no one joined this Order because they saw that ad. And we are $75,000 poorer.
Second, there are better ways to spend $75,000 – and these ways can achieve results. Rather than spend $75,000 on a statewide media campaign, we could help members and local Lodges with $75,000 allocated to membership development programs – and we would gain members in our Order. Two initiatives, in particular, have proven to be valuable support programs in the past: Membership challenge grants and membership development grants. In membership challenge grants, Grand Lodge provides a grant of money (say $100) directly to a Lodge for each new member brought into the Order by that Lodge. Membership development grants provide a grant of money (say $1,000) for specific programs, conceived and run by a Lodge, to attract new members.
And finally, the ultimate solution to declining membership is, and has always been, local. It starts with you and me, the members of the Order. Recruitment of new members cannot be accomplished at the Sovereign Grand Lodge Level, or even the Grand Lodge Level. Sovereign Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge can certainly create programs which support Lodges and members in the task of membership development. But at bottom, the best recruitment happens locally, with members reaching out and talking to potential applicants, with support of the member’s Lodge. And it happens when two conditions are present: (1) A Lodge has to be active and engaging, because no one wants to join a do-nothing dull Lodge. When a Lodge schedules fun activities for its membership, and engages in worthwhile community support functions, it becomes an attractive venue for potential applicants. (2) And members of the Lodge must personally be aware of potential new members, reach out to them, and actually talk to them about joining the Lodge. Bringing in new members is a responsibility for each of us as Odd Fellows. We can’t just complacently sit back and wait for “the other guy” to bring in those new members.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
February 18, 2015 in Grand Lodge
Recently, on Facebook, I saw the following posting from the Charity Lodge from Warrenton, Virginia:
“Everyone is invited to attend our next open meeting on Monday, March 2nd, beginning at 7 p.m.. We’ll meet downstairs so just come on in. People generally begin to arrive at 6:30. You can bring a friend. Or two! We usually wrap up by 9 but you don’t have to stay for the whole thing.
Our committee members will be informally reporting about the various projects they’re working on. This is a great opportunity for people who aren’t Odd Fellows to hear about the variety of tasks Charity Lodge is working on and for everyone to be introduced. Maybe you have questions for us and maybe you might be able to five us some advice on how we can accomplish our goals. We’re open to just about anything!”
I found this posting fun, refreshing and invigorating for many reasons and at many levels. Let me count the ways:
1. It was an announcement on Facebook. Here we have Lodge members who are using social media to reach out to their community. Lots of people of all ages use social media, but in particular, younger men and women use social media. And they use it a lot. Lodges ignore Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media at their peril. In fact, it’s amazing how many of our Lodges do not even use e-mail or the Internet. It’s time to get into the 21st Century.
2. This is a Lodge that is hosting a [gasp] open [gasp] meeting. Yes, indeed, Lodges can have meetings open to the public. What a wonderful way to expose Odd Fellowship to the world and the community. As I have long advocated, Lodges must open their doors and windows to their communities. Why? Because we are part of the community, and if we want community members to join us as applicants for membership, we have to be inviting and receptive to the world around us. It’s OK to be a society with secrets, but we can no longer afford to be a secret society.
3. Committee reports! Here is a Lodge that has committees and they will be reporting on their projects, not only to Lodge members but to interested community members. And again, it is perfectly OK for Lodges to hold open social meetings where these things can be discussed. Obviously, no secrets of the Order are revealed or used during such an open meeting. But whey not discuss the planned downtown clean-up campaign, or the bowling night that’s being planned, or next month’s potluck.
4. Not only has this Lodge invited the public, but this Lodge is soliciting the public to give them “advice.” That is a very inviting, encouraging, and public-friendly approach. In other words, this meeting will be interactive. The Lodge is not going to just “lecture” folks, but is inviting a dialog with interested members of the public.
5. I saw a couple of exclamation points in this short message. Exclamation points show emphasis and enthusiasm. This is an enthusiastic and energized Lodge! Indeed!
6. Let the public see your Lodge Hall. Finally, this open meeting is a wonderful opportunity to give tours of the Lodge Hall and to answer questions from the public. Members of the public are truly curious about what goes on inside that Lodge Hall. I have found that virtually every single time we open my own Lodge Hall to the public (in a public event), members of the community who visit have questions about the history of the Odd Fellows, the history of the Hall, and about my Lodge. It’s a wonderful entree to further discussions about potential membership in IOOF.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
February 8, 2015 in Grand Lodge
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
January, as you know, is “installation of officers month” in Odd Fellowship. Most officers of most Lodges, Encampments and Cantons are installed during the first month of the calendar year, with an occasional spillover to February. A young member of the Order, just the other day, told me a story about attending an installation, which brought back memories from my early days in the Order. Apparently, some things never change.
This young member attended an installation of officers, and was, to put it mildly, taken aback by the entire proceedings. To protect confidentiality, I will not identify the young member nor the entity that was conducting the installation. The dramatis personae are not important. What is important is the conduct of the installation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the installation ceremonies that we have in our Order. Those ceremonies are just fine – albeit a bit out of date. (That can be repaired with a little tweaking, a little modernization.) The young member wasn’t concerned about the ceremony script. The young member was troubled by the behavior of the “more experienced” members during the installation. I use the term “more experienced” to denote long-time members of the Order. My young friend was a relatively new member of the Order and he was observing the more experienced members’ behavior during the installation.
This young member related to me how throughout the entire ceremony, a number of more experienced members of the Order were continually interrupting with “advice” and “direction” to the people who were conducting the installation. Stuff like, “stand over there” or “everyone needs to rise,” or “no, that’s not right”, etc. When one of the folks conducting the installation mistakenly mispronounced a word, a more experienced member would shout out the correct pronunciation. When a word in the script was overlooked, a more experienced member would, again, shout it out. It was disruptive, disrespectful, and ultimately, impressed the new member as disorganized. It was so irritating, in fact, that the young member almost walked out.
The whole episode was a triumph of form over substance. And, on reflection, it was just rude.
Yes, it is important to follow the script at an installation. And yes, the installation team should have practiced. But it is demeaning for members to interrupt and insert their comments and corrections during the installation. It is not in keeping with friendship, love and truth. Furthermore, it could very well be that the proposed corrections were, themselves, not correct. Who made the interrupters the judge and jury of correctness? The interrupters are little more than the ultracrepidarians among us. In other words, the installing officers were charged with a duty to conduct an installation. Let them do their jobs. A more beneficial and polite way to deal with perceived problems at an installation is to offer advice and assistance, privately, after the installation is concluded.
Once again, let’s all remember “friendship, love, and truth.”
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master