December 21, 2014 in Grand Lodge
March 27, 2015 in Grand Lodge
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We can stop the 60+ year decline in our membership. We can start growing our membership. How? By evolving and changing from one-dimensional Lodges to three-dimensional Lodges. Those three-dimensional Lodges not only pay attention to their history and ritual, but they also emphasize fun social activities for their members, and outreach into the community with good works. While the vast majority of our Lodges have declining or static membership numbers, we have a small number of Lodges that are vibrant and growing. We need only look to those growing Lodges to discover the secret of success and the model for our future.
Below is a power e-mail. It shows that a Lodge can evolve in the way they operate and can change the trajectory of its future.
I am delighted to present an e-mail I received from a Grand Master in another state. This GM makes some valid and important points. To preserve the anonymity which we respect, I will neither reveal this GM’s Lodge, state, nor name. It’s the points made by this GM that are important. I am very proud of this Grand Master, this Grand Master’s Lodge, and the progress they have made. They made this progress because they were willing to change their approach. They eschewed the one-dimensional Lodge that would have led to further membership losses and eventual demise. They are proponents of the three-dimensional Lodge (attention to our history and ritual; fun social activities for the members; and reaching out into the community with good works) which is leading to their membership growth and success. Please read what they have accomplished!
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
Jurisdiction of California
Thank you for your emails and the thought-provoking discussion that they inspire.
My lodge —– # —– in —– has a very inspiring story to tell. In 2001 there were 8 active members. The lodge sold it’s large building and bought a smaller , more manageable building. The thought was we will die with dignity and fade away after awhile. This purchase of the building didn’t represent a choice to live but to die in comfort. Then the unthinkable happened. We started growing , largely because we started using the new building more and people saw life as the years moved on. Standing social nights started happening and continue to this day. We started renting our lodge out for social events in the community because folks can literally walk by and seeing people play cards, board games or D&D along with different dinners we have put on or civic services. The lodge is almost never empty.
I was at a card game Sunday and ended up being there till 2 am because a young man walked in around 11 pm seeing we were there and told me (yes me) about our order’s formation. And that he had read up on “friendly” societies. He and I spoke at length and he did fill out the application that night and soon we will read his application. He wants to be part of something active, he’s 23 and wants to spend his time doing meaningful things and saw that we were in action. He was told we wouldn’t be able to initiate him for a month-and-a-half to two months due degree schedules and rules about voting and approved applications. I am delighted to mention that he would be the 7th person we will have brought in this year. And I don’t mean fiscal or grand lodge year I mean since January 1st. Our membership is going to break 70 dues paying members before the end of March and we attribute it all to the following.
An older membership that supports and accepted change. I can’t stress enough how this helped.
Active workers within the lodge making projects happen along with a strong batch of first time Noble Grands. We haven’t had a repeat office holder since 2010. And doesn’t appear likely we will for the next 6 years if declared intent holds up.
And lastly we do things. We do things all the time. We do different things. We support each other and show up. We have had some crazy crack pot ideas. Like rolling dice to see what direction we will travel, different dice to see how many miles in that direction and the finally a random event generator to see what we will be doing. Last time a group did this they ended up 110 miles due south and went to a mall and ate french onion soup while wearing white powdered wigs. Was it stupid? Yes. Was it unorthodox? Yes. will we do it again? Of course. It’s just “odd” enough to work and make people laugh, and enjoy a common experience together.
Submitted for your consideration ,
—– —–, Grand Master —– IOOF
March 13, 2015 in Grand Lodge
As you know, our annual reports and per capita payments for calendar year 2014 are due to be received at Grand Lodge by February 28, 2015. I have just seen the preliminary analysis of our 2014 annual reports, and it’s not a pretty picture.
As of the end of 2014, we had 120 Odd Fellows Lodges in California. So, one would expect 120 timely reports arriving on or before February 28, 2015 – that’s two full months after the end of 2014. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Here we are in mid-March and fully 34 of our 120 Lodges have not submitted complete reports nor submitted their per capita payments. That’s 28% of our Lodges that are deficient and untimely in their filing. That’s a sad commentary, but I think indicative of the fact that many of our Lodges have shrunk to such a diminished level of membership that they have difficulty finding fully competent members to serve as Treasurer and Financial Secretary, let alone have sufficient members to staff a functional Finance Committee.
But let’s go to the substance of what we have. Understanding that we don’t yet have full reports from all Lodges, here are some statistics that should concern us all:
* Only 26 Lodges show a net gain of members for 2014 (in other words, only those 26 Lodges added more new members than they lost). That means that all the other reporting Lodges show either a stagnant situation (no net gain nor net loss) or show a net loss of members for the year.
* Of the 26 Lodges showing a net gain for 2014, fully seven of them showed a net gain of only 1 new member, three showed a net gain of 2 new members, four showed a net gain of 3 new members, three showed a net gain of 4 new members, and two showed a net gain of 5 new members. Only ten Lodges showed a net gain of 6 or more new members. And of all the Lodges in California, only two showed a net gain in double digits.
* The top six Lodges in membership showed 1,371 members on their books. That 1,371 constitutes some 32% of the membership of this Order in California. In other words, one out of every three Odd Fellows in California belongs to just six Lodges.
* There is one Lodge in California with more than 300 members, there are three Lodges with more than 200 members, and there are two Lodges with more than 100 members. All other Lodges in California have less than 100 members.
* Fully 46 of our Lodges have 19 or fewer members (that’s 38% of our Lodges). Further, 29 of our Lodges have 14 or fewer members (24% of our Lodges). And we have 8 Lodges which show 9 or fewer members on their books (6% of our Lodges).
What do these preliminary numbers show us? Here’s what we know:
1. We continue to shrink in membership as an Order. About 15% of our Lodges are keeping us afloat by growing. About 85% of our Lodges have no growth or are losing members.
2. By and large, the largest few Lodges are getting bigger while the many smaller Lodges are treading water or are losing members. In California, we continue to be a mile wide and an inch deep in membership.
3. If we understand that numbers of members on our books do not represent active members in a Lodge, then we have to seriously look at ways to help and assist our smallest Lodges and to make sure that they are still viable. Any Lodge with 9 or fewer members, to me, raises a red flag. Do they still meet, do they have quorums, do they have the financial checks and balances that we require, and are they still viable? And any Lodge with 14 or fewer members certainly raises a yellow caution flag. Those Lodges may be doing quite well, but they certainly merit a look and an inquiry: What can we do to help them succeed?
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
March 11, 2015 in Grand Lodge
Allow me to relate to you three actual comments made in the recent past by Odd Fellows:
1. “If they make me get e-mail, I’m dropping out of the Order.”
2. “If my Lodge ever admits a woman, I’m resigning.”
3. “You are the enemy.”
The first comment was related to me by a Noble Grand from a Southern California Lodge who overheard one member of the Order say those words to another member. The second comment was made directly to me by a 20-year member during a visit I made to a Northern California Lodge. The third comment was made to me at last year’s Grand Lodge – I had held out my hand offering a handshake and the Brother refused to shake my hand, saying the quoted words – I assume in reference to my progressive views. (The Brother later came back to apologize and shake my hand, saying “A Brother should always shake the hand of a Brother held out in friendship.”)
I offer these three actual comments to underscore the obvious: Change is hard.
I understand that. Members who have been part of this Order for 20, 30, 40 or more years have become “comfortable” with the way things are – whether good, bad, or ugly. Many members have literally grown up in Odd Fellowship from their teen years to their retired years. Any alteration in the status quo is unwelcome, and may be disturbing. Why change the way we have been doing it for the last 50 years?
Indeed, it’s a fair question.
The answer, however, is because the survival of this Order depends on our ability to evolve and change. And that’s because America has evolved dramatically in the last 50 years. We have seen an unprecedented societal and technical evolution. Fifty years ago, Lodges were typically all white and all male. For any Lodge to continue being all white and all male in 2015 is just wrong – it ignores reality and good sense. We have also experienced a technological explosion of unprecedented proportions. Some would argue that the changes are not for the better. Maybe so. The point is, however, that society has changed with the use of the Internet and websites, e-mail, cell phones, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. And for Odd Fellowship (and Odd Fellows) to ignore the changes effectively ignores a new generation of Americans born in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We ignore this new generation to our fraternal peril.
Bottom line: We have too tmany Lodges which have become stagnant and dormant. We have too many Lodges with less than 20 members on the books. Heck, we have Lodges in California with less than 10 members on their books. Query: How many of these few members actually participate and come to meetings? These are Lodges that don’t bring in new members, and that don’t really involve themselves in the community around them or plan any fun activities for the members that they do have. A Lodge that does little more than have a monthly meeting in form, with ritual and regalia, practices the barest minimum of what we should expect of an Odd Fellows Lodge.
Today, in California, we have 120 Odd Fellows Lodges on our books. Yet a majority of our Lodges show net losses of members year after year. That, obviously, is not sustainable – and there will come a time when a Lodge can no longer function because it has too few members. 10 members become 8; 8 become 6; 6 become 4 – and the Lodge no longer has a quorum to even conduct a meeting let alone fill officer positions and function as a real Lodge. This is the path of too many of our Lodges today.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master
March 7, 2015 in Grand Lodge
Count me as a great believer in the power of the Internet and social media.
Young men and women born in the 1980’s and 1990’s, in particular, rely heavily on the Internet and social media as their eyes on the world and as their primary means of both information and communication. A remarkably large percentage of the population in the United States (and this is not restricted just to those in their 20’s and 30’s) use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and others). Here are some recent statistics (garnered from the Pew Research Center and Bloomberg Business) that may amaze you:
* 74% of online users in America use social media sites. This cuts across both sexes, all races, all income levels and all levels of education.
* In terms of age ranges, 89% of 18-29 use social media, 82% of 30-49 use social media, 65% of 50-64 use social media, and 49% of those 65 and over use social media.
* 40% use social networking on their mobile cell phones.
* And 67% of those in the 18-29 age use their cell phones for social networking; 50% of those in the 30-49 age range use their cell phones for social networking.
* The average American spends 40 minutes each day on Facebook (compared to 39 minutes each day taking care of their pets).
* Google is growing in use by 33% per year. Twitter is growing in use by 44% per year.
* The average American spends 16 minutes per hour on social networking sites.
People in America, of all ages, extensively use search engines like Google to find things and to get information. They don’t thumb through the yellow pages to find a business; instead, they “Google” it. They go on-line to get their news, international, national and local. They use various websites to order products. They use their cell phones to text and send photos to their friends. They use social media sites (on their desktops, laptops, tablets and cell phones) to communicate with their family and colleagues. They spend time on an assortment of social media to “talk” to friends. And this trend increases each and every year.
Why am I telling you all this?
Many of our Lodges seem rather oblivious to this modern reality. And because of this disconnect, Odd Fellowship has become the Amish of organizations in America. Many of our Lodges are still traveling around in a horse-and-buggy world – while the rest of America is on a bullet train.
The reality is that Odd Fellows Lodges – to a large extent – are disconnected from an entire generation of Americans. Why do I say this? Because we have Lodges in our Order: that have no website, that have no e-mail connectivity to their membership, that produce Lodge newsletters in hard-copy only and not on-line, that have no connection whatsoever to any social media. And most telling of all, we have Lodges in our Order where the youngest member is in his/her 60’s. Many of our Lodges have become Lodges of grandfathers and grandmothers. If someone wants to join our Order, they have to fill out a form in hard-copy; there is no on-line form. Lodges still have to submit annual reports in hard-copy; we lack an on-line process to do so. Even our membership cards are hard-copy. We continue to do things like we were living in 1945.
But we are in 2015. And unless we upgrade and modernize, we will remain forever mired in 1945. We will continue to attract the generation that loved Ethel Merman and Jimmy Durante, rather than a generation that listens to Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.
If you have a moment, please pay a visit to the Davis Lodge website at www.davislodge.org. The site was recently modernized and upgraded by Lodge Webmaster Stewart Savage, and I think you will find it of interest. Note how it is interconnected to various social media. The website provides a storehouse of information and knowledge about Odd Fellowship in general and about the Lodge specifically. The site is user-friendly, and is attractive to the young men and women Odd Fellowship needs to reach.
F – L – T
Deputy Grand Master