Active Committees = Successful Lodge

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The successful 21st Century Lodge will be structured around a strong committee system. Let me explain what I mean by this, and how it can translate in a very positive way for YOUR Lodge.

Leaders of the Order, at the State and the International level, have now coalesced in agreement that today’s successful Lodge must emphasize two things: (1) The Lodge must open its doors and windows to its surrounding community, and must reach out into that community to engage in good works. (2) The Lodge must provide fun social events for its members and potential members, and their families. Lodges that focus on these two things will thrive and grow. Lodges that do not will eventually wither away because their members age, move away or resign and they will not attract sufficient new members to compensate for membership losses.

The best example I can offer of a successful 21st Century Lodge is my own Lodge: Davis #169. For the past decade, this Lodge has grown in membership with a net gain of at least 5% every year. The Davis Lodge once had less than 20 members on its books and now has 259 members with 24 applicants for membership. The reason? The Davis Lodge, for the past decade, has emphasized the two factors: good community works, and a fun social life in the Lodge. And the Davis Lodge does this through its committee structure. That, in my opinion, is the ultimate secret of success for fraternal orders. If you were to attend a meeting of the Davis Lodge, you might be surprised that there is so little offered during “old or unfinished business” and “new business”. On the other hand, the “committee reports” segment of the meeting is lively and dominant, often taking over half the time of the meeting. That is because 98% of what the Davis Lodge does, it does through its committee structure.

Now, every Lodge has committees. Committees can be divided into three general categories. There are administrative committees, like the Finance Committee, the Visiting Committee, the Bylaws Committee, and the Membership Committee. These, and similar committees, handle the routine, administrative and management functions of the Lodge. But I suggest that the successful Lodges in the 21st Century will also have two other categories of committees – community-serving committees and social committees – the former to reach out into the community to do good works and the latter to plan and execute fun social events for the Lodge. These sorts of committees are completely dependent on the culture of each individual Lodge. No one can tell your Lodge which committees it should have. But, to progress in this century, you must have some committees fitting these categories. I’ve said this before, and i will say it again: Have a Lodge meeting or retreat to discuss this and come together with a consensus on two or three (or more) committees your Lodge would like to foster. If two or three members of your Lodge wish to form a committee, go for it – give it a try and assign the two or three members as the committee to plan and implement. And then, the Lodge should not micro-manage the work of the committee. Just give the committee the goal, give them a budget and let them work the project – with committee reports to the Lodge from time to time.

To give you some ideas of the sorts of committees you could consider for your Lodge, here are 15 committees developed by the Davis Lodge. Caveat: These 15 are presented simply to get your mental juices flowing – the committees you ultimately choose are up to the members of your Lodge.

Adopt-a-highway Committee. A group of Lodge members worked with CalTrans to “adopt-a-highway” next to our town and now go out once a month to do some environmental clean-up on the side of that road. A nice sign is posted by CalTrans that shows, in full color, our Lodge name and the three links logo of our Order. Thousands of people see it each and every day.

Bingo Committee. With the authority of our City Council, we operate bingo at the Lodge once each month and attract between 60-120 members of the community. Lodge members run the games and a snack bar. Every month the committee chooses a local charity or community group to receive the proceeds. This event has provided about $8,000 per year to these groups amid lots of local favorable publicity.

Bowling Committee. Some 15-20 members of the Lodge gather once each month to go bowling at a nearby lane. The committee members have even gotten Odd Fellows bowling shirts. One of the members who is a very good bowler helps some of the less-good bowlers on their techniques. After bowling, the members gather for lunch.

Breakfast with Santa Committee. Every year about 40 Lodge volunteers host breakfast with Santa for the community’s children. Some 360 children and families come to the Lodge to have a nice hot breakfast, spend quality time with Santa (a Lodge member), get goodie bags full of surprises and treats, and photos with Santa. It’s a big community event and the local paper gives us lots of coverage.

Classic Film Festival Committee. Started just three years ago, the Lodge – twice each year – shows classic films three Sunday evenings in a row on our big screen Lodge projection system. The genre (such as Classic Westerns, Classic Screwball Comedies, Classic Science Fiction, etc.) changes with each showing. It’s open to the public and free and is very popular with the community.

Club Night at the Lodge Committee. The Lodge hosts “Club Night at the Lodge” every Thursday. It’s nice to be able to gather on a regular weekly basis for some social time. A meal is always available, the bar is open, the big-screen TV is on, and we always offer an activity such as Trivia Night. Club Night is also a great opportunity for applicants and potential members to meet with members and see the Lodge Hall.

Communications and Website Committee. We don’t operate in silence. We have a very active website, a Facebook page, and other social media where our Lodge activities are highlighted. We make sure that major events are well publicized in the community.

Davis Chocolate Festival Committee. This is a brand new event, just put on a couple of months ago. A committee of 20 Odd Fellows (and applicants for membership) planned and put on the event at the Lodge, open to the public, featuring chocolate vendors, chocolate making and other demonstrations, music and more. It proved incredibly popular with 450 members of the public attending. Several applications for membership were received.

Historical Committee. This committee emphasizes the long and interesting history of the Order and the Lodge. The committee has created a display of historical books, memorabilia, pictures, regalia and the like. A window facing the street contains an historical tableau. The committee plans a public open house at the Lodge every year on the date of our institution as a Lodge.

Music & Concerts Committee. A number of our members are very much into music, and so they offer “Thursday Live!” once each month in one of the halls of our Lodge. Local musical groups perform for the public free of charge, offering a wide range of musical styles. Typically 80 -100 members of the public (and many Lodge members) attend.

Odd Gaming Committee. Some of the younger members of the Lodge wanted to get together to play some of the newer multi-player board games (like Settlers of Catan). We said “go for it” so once each month on a Friday they gather to play games.

Odd Needlecrafters Committee. And once each month a number of our members get together to do needlework, knitting and other needle crafts. Obviously, there is a lot of discussion about issues of the day while they do their work. The more experienced needle-workers are available to help the newcomers.

OddtoberFest Committee. Once each year at Oktoberfest time the Lodge puts on its own “OddtoberFest” with German food, Bavarian music, beer and wine, and lots of door prizes. This is a very popular event for members and their families.

Social Services Committee. Committee members dedicate some time every month to help others. Projects include volunteering at the local food bank, and also spending one-on-one time with local adults who are experiencing mental health issues.

Taste of Davis Committee. This has become a signature event for the Lodge and generates a great deal of public attention to the work of the Lodge. Hundreds of local residents come to the Lodge to sample food and drink from local restaurants, wineries and breweries. The Lodge also makes a significant donation to the local elderly nutrition program.

There are many more committees at the Davis Lodge – 50 actually – including a Community Support Committee, a Halloween Party Committee, a Hiking Committee, an Odd Poetry Committee, a St Patrick’s Day Party Committee, a New Year’s Eve Committee, a Senior Project Committee and many more. Of course, Davis did not always have 50 committees – in fact 10 years ago, Davis had only 3 or 4 committees, just like most Lodges. But, as the saying goes, “the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” I urge you to take that step, and the next one, and the next one. It will re-invigorate your Lodge!

F – L – T

Dave Rosenberg
Past Grand Master