Odd Fellows of California Membership Handbook

The Vision 2001 Committee is a union of the Odd Fellows of California Membership, Lodge Redevelopment and Public Relations committees from both the Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of California and the Rebekah Assembly of California. It is the sponsor of this website. Other Vision 2001 programs include holding Communications Conferences to educate the membership, and publishing new public relations leaflets, lodge leadership manuals and cue cards. For more details about Vision 2001 materials and programs, contact Donald Lang.

California Odd Fellowship has a proud and noble history. Many California “firsts” were accomplished by members of The Three Link Fraternity. Frequently the first substantial building in a community was the Odd Fellows Hall. In many instances these buildings, in addition to providing a home for the local lodge, also served as a focal point for most community social activities. The Odd Fellows Hall also served as the site for town meetings, municipal court proceedings and voting places. Most of the state’s early business and political leaders were members of the Order. Frequently the first law and order in gold rush mining camps and much of the medical care, especially in time of epidemics, was supplied by local Odd Fellows. As California changed from a mining economy to an agricultural economy, and later to an entertainment, commercial and high-tech economy, California Odd Fellowship also has been very prominent.

Most of this Odd Fellows membership handbook was adapted from The Three Link Fraternity, Odd Fellowship in California, (see History and Then and Now) and the Membership Handbook of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. I thank them for the help without which this handbook could not have been written.

Odd Fellows in all jurisdictions are encouraged to copy this manual, add information specific to their jurisdiction, add other information from this website , and produce a Membership Handbook useful for their own lodges and areas.

The Odd Fellow & Rebekah Story

The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs is one of the oldest Fraternal Orders in the world. Although some books claim to trace Odd Fellowship back to Roman times when members of the Roman Legions in England were called “Fellow Citizens”, what is said to be the earliest printed record of an Odd Fellows Lodge appears in a reference to a lodge meeting at a Globe Tavern in England, in 1748. The Lodge was number nine, so apparently there were at least nine associated Odd Fellows lodges at that time.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows has been active in California since September 9, 1849, one year before statehood, with the establishment of California Lodge No.1 in San Francisco. The great seal of California was copied after the Odd Fellows, Grand Lodge Seal. There are over 400 active Lodges in the state today. They run four different care facilities in the state: the Children’s home in Gilroy, the IOOF Senior Housing Complex & IOOF Home located in Saratoga and “The Meadows” a gracious country retirement community and Skilled Nursing facility in Napa. They also support several charities: The Heart Fund, Visual Research, Arthritis, Scholarships, United Nations Educational Tour for youth, tree planting, and locally: Community Services, feeding the Homeless, Senior Centers and Youth Activities.

The Odd Fellows was the first organization that formed lodges for women. Schuyler Colfax, Vice President of the United States under President Ulysses E. Grant, was the force behind the movement. The Odd fellows were the first group to form Homes for their aged members; the first such home was in Pennsylvania. We also have lodges for young boys and girls, Junior Odd Fellows and Theta Rho. We have youth camps, the one in California being in Long Barn.

Membership Degrees

The membership degrees are one of the most beautiful and enduring aspects of Oddfellowship. Sadly, SGL has decided that we can’t present anything about membership degrees online so what we’ll do for the time being is refer you to the numerous books, pamphlets and other publications about Oddfellowship from the past 100 years which we had formerly summarized on this page. Some of these publications are listed on the Books about Odd Fellowship page, and we will gradually expand that listing. In particular, we refer you to The Three Link Fraternity – Odd Fellowship in California, An introduction to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, By Don R. Smith and Wayne Roberts, Linden Publications – 1993. The Three Link Fraternity – Odd Fellowship in California is available for $5 from: The Grand Lodge of California, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, 122 Race ST., San Jose, CA 95126 , (408) 753-9663. So, you’ll just have to buy the publication or hike on over to your nearest public library. Sorry…

Where do I fit in?

Lodges: In California we have over 200 Odd Fellow Lodges and more than 200 Rebekah Lodges for a total of over 12,000 Rebekahs and 6,500 Odd Fellows.

Districts: The State is broken up into 15 Areas, with 45 Local Districts for the Odd Fellows and 49 Local Districts for the Rebekahs, each having a District Deputy appointed by the Grand Master or Rebekah Assembly President. Each year every district should hold a district meeting called by the District Deputy. The District Deputy is elected by the local Lodges in each District and recommended for Office.

Jurisdictions: The Grand Lodge of California is located in Saratoga and the Rebekah Assembly of California is located in Gilroy. Grand Lodge Session and Rebekah Assembly is held during the third week of May somewhere in the state. Completion of a term as Noble Grand of an Odd Fellow Lodge entitles a member to receive the Grand Lodge or Rebekah Assembly Degree, and to represent his lodge at the annual session of Grand Lodge. Completion of a term as Noble Grand of a Rebekah Lodge entitles a member to receive the Rebekah Assembly Degree, and to represent her lodge at the annual session of Rebekah Assembly. In New Zealand and Iceland, the Rebekah Assembly and Grand Lodge have merged into a single grand body, to which Odd Fellow and Rebekah Lodges both send representatives.

Sovereign Grand Lodge and International Association of Rebekah Assemblies: The Sovereign Grand Lodge (SGL) and International Association of Rebekah Assemblies (IARA) Offices are located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The SGL and IARA Sessions are held annually during the third week in August. The location changes each year. There are over 50 Jurisdictions, covering the states of the United States and provinces of Canada. Every Grand Lodge and Grand Encampment sends one or two representatives, depending on membership. Each Rebekah Assembly in the United States and Canada sends one representative to the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies.

SGL controls changes to the rituals that are used for Lodges, Encampments and Cantons all over the world. SGL considered requests for changes in the regulations of the Order presented by a representative of a jurisdiction, by the IARA, by the General Military Council, and by the International Council. Much of the regulations controlled by the SGL set minimum requirements and standards, and individual jurisdictions are permitted to establish stricter regulations.

The International Council: Following World War II the need for closer contact between the SGL and the Independent Jurisdictions was apparent, so the International Council was formed. It was made up of 4 elected representatives from The Sovereign Grand Lodge, in addition to the Council Secretary. Each Independent Grand Lodge was to elect three representatives. The current members of the IC in addition to The Sovereign Grand Lodge include: Australasia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Finland, Iceland, Latin America (Cuba), The Netherlands & Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. While the IC has no legislative ability, they can recommend to The SGL concerning legislation. Other countries where there are Odd Fellow/Rebekah Lodges are represented by a nearby Grand Lodge: Estonia is represented by Finland; Poland is represented by Sweden; France and Austria are represented by Switzerland; etc. The current President of the IC is Pentti Groenberg, Grand Sire of Finland.

Membership Categories

Regular: Regular membership in an Odd Fellow Lodge is opened to any one from the age of 16 on and for membership in a Rebekah Lodge, to every one from 16 years or more. Prospective members must be sponsored by a lodge member and be of good character, be loyal to their country and believe in a Supreme Being. To be eligible to hold the office of Vice Grand the member must have served two terms as an appointed or desk officer for the lodge. A candidate for Noble Grand must have served as Vice Grand.

Associate: An Odd Fellow may join any other lodge as an Associate. A Rebekah may only join one other Lodge as an Associate Member. In California, there are “Historical Lodges”, in which associate membership is special, and does not preclude associate membership in another Rebekah Lodge.

Life: In California, Odd Fellows may become Life Members if their lodge by-laws so provide. Rebekahs do not have life members at this time.

Non-Contributing: If a person has been a member for 40 years or more and can not afford to pay dues, that member may petition the lodge to become a non-contributing member. They must give evidence as to their lack of ability to pay. The Lodge investigates, reports and then votes on whether or not to allow non-contributing status.

Affiliated Degrees


There are other units of the Order known as Encampments. This is open to any Third Degree member. This organization within Odd Fellows confers three additional Degrees – The Patriarchal, Golden Rule and Royal Purple Degree – on its members. The membership of each Encampment is usually drawn from several Odd Fellow Lodges in an Area.

The LEA or Ladies Encampment Auxiliary is open to any Rebekah Sister and usually meets on the same night as the Encampment. The Degree for Matriarchs is based in Faith, Hope and Charity.

In California, the Encampment branches are encouraged to help with disaster preparedness.

Patriarchs Militant

An Encampment member who has attained the Royal Purple Degree may join this semi-military organization. They wear uniforms but accept non-unformed members. This Degree is based upon the principles of Universal Justice.
The LAPM or Ladies Auxiliary of the Patriarchs Militant is open to any Rebekah Sister. One of its services to Odd Fellowship is providing first aid through their Hospital Corps.

In California, the uniformed degrees are working on forming disaster-preparedness teams.

Junior Odd Fellows

Junior Lodges are opened to any boy between the ages of 8 and 21 (although some jurisdictions may have a higher minimum age). There are several Junior Lodges in California.

Theta Rho Girls Clubs

Theta Rho Girls Clubs are for girls between the ages of 8 and 21 (although some jurisdictions may have a higher minimum age). There are well over a dozen of these clubs in California.

Advantages of Membership

Benefits: An Odd Fellow or Rebekah may visit any one of the more than 400 Odd Fellow or Rebekah Lodges in the state. All you need is your membership card. That entitles you to attend any meeting in the state. With the Annual Traveling Password you may visit any Lodge in the country and many in Europe.

Camps: The Three Links Camp in Mi Wuk Village has facilities for campers, motor homes, cabins, a chapel that holds 170, a pool and fully equipped kitchen, that are available for members use at a nominal fee. Odd Fellows Sierra Park has 363 lots with homes or cabins with a man made lake. It is located in Long Barn. Odd Fellows Russian River Park has 1,100 cabin sites and is located on the Russian River at Guerneville. Redding Odd Fellows Camp is in Shasta County off Route 229 West. With 76 home sites and two creeks running through it, it is deep in Redwood country.

Homes: The Odd Fellows Home in Saratoga is located in the heart of the city of beautiful Saratoga, in Santa Clara County. With 238 beds it offers independent and assisted living as well as a full skilled nursing unit with 68 beds. Individuals and couples may apply for admission.

Fellowship Plaza is senior housing for those with limited income. 150 apartments are located adjacent to the Odd Fellows Home in Saratoga.

California Odd Fellows and Rebekah Children’s Home is in Gilroy and currently serves as a temporary home and treatment facility for abused and/or severely disturbed children.

Ocean View Plaza is in Half Moon Bay and only opened to senior residents of Half Moon Bay.

Meadows of Napa Valley is the newest acquisition by Odd Fellows in California. This complex provides 229 units for senior citizens and has just opened its new 68 bed state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility and a new swimming pool.


Recruitment Plan

Members are a vital link to Odd Fellow’s success on the local, state and world wide levels. Every Lodge should have a comprehensive recruitment plan for new members. When designing a plan, be sure to:

* Explain Odd Fellows mission and benefits.

* Describe the Lodge’s mission.

* Provide a clear list of members’ responsibilities.

* Set realistic membership goals.

* Periodically evaluate the campaign and make necessary adjustments that will improve the process in the future.

Recruitment Sources

Prospective  members are everywhere. Wherever you go you are bound to meet someone you can talk about your lodge. Personal contacts are the very best source for developing interested prospects.

At the Office: Invite a co-worker, who has expressed interest in a project you are working on or the Home, to accompany you to an activity or visit. Keep their special interest in mind at all times and point out a program they might be interested in.

* At Social Gatherings: Neighbors, friends, friends of friends, and even other fraternal members are all people to talk to about Odd Fellowship and your Lodge and projects and events members are undertaking. Make sure you follow-up with a phone call and invite them to be your guest at the next social event.
* At Community Meetings: Meeting of other organizations provide opportunities to discuss your Lodge and share information about Odd Fellowship. Frequently when you are working in collaboration with a person from another group that is involved in a community service project, you can talk about other projects you are involved in, and make an attempt to interest that person in learning more about Odd fellowship.
* While Traveling: That person sitting next to you may not be from your home town, or even your state, but you can tell them about Odd Fellowship and offer to help them contact the Grand Lodge or Rebekah Assembly in their state to locate a lodge where they live.
* Family: Do not forget to invite your family members to become members. Grand children are most responsive to their grand parents. Nieces and nephews are potential Junior members. Remember the In-laws and cousins in other states. Always carry an application form with you. It is not only an application but gives information about Odd Fellows and you can write your name and phone number on it.
In addition to personal contacts, there are many other ways to increase your recruiting effectiveness. You can market membership all over town if you just unleash your imagination. Through adds, news articles, brochures and flyers you can get Odd Fellow membership to:

* Schools, PTAs, college alumni associations and student clubs.
* Professional associations.
* Clubs at local military bases.
* Media outlets-including newspapers, radio, TV, cable stations, pennysavers, trade and business papers, regional              magazines, computer networks. real estate offices, relocation departments of local companies, moving companies, * * * * *  * Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Wagon.
* Libraries, banks, market and clothing stores.
* Community Centers and Senior Centers.
* Non-affiliated organizations and sports.
Don’t overlook the many tools you have available through Odd Fellowship, your local Lodge, Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly of California and Sovereign Grand Lodge Headquarters. Introduce new members by showing them:

* IOOF News – produced by SGL
* The California Odd Fellow and Rebekah Newsletter or your jurisdictional newsletter
* Your Lodge Newsletter
* The Triple Link Fraternity Booklet about California Odd Fellowship
* Historical background material on Odd Fellowship
* Sovereign Grand Lodge, California & local brochures
* New Member Video Tape or Slides

Recruitment Check List

To make certain you have grasped the essentials of marketing-oriented recruitment, ask yourself the following questions:

* Do you network with others outside of your lodge?
* Do you use every opportunity to tell people about Odd Fellowship’s programs?
* Do you spread the word about Odd Fellowship wherever you go?
* Does your lodge target all age groups, ethnic backgrounds and people who work both in and out of their homes?
* Do you market your Lodge through adds, flyers, and a variety of public relations techniques?
* Do you promote your Lodge when you are participating in fairs, seminars and other community projects?
* Do you always follow-up with potential members by returning their phone calls and inviting them to an activity?
* Does everyone in your lodge know that they are responsible for recruiting?

Marketing Odd Fellowship

The more you TELL, the more you SELL. So tell the benefits of Odd Fellowship whenever you can. Assure a prospective member that their experience will be rewarding, challenging and stimulating. When you take them to an event, be sure to introduce them to other members and make them feel they belong, right from the start. Today’s adults expect to gain a lot from fraternal affiliation, so point out the many benefits we offer:

* Visibility in the community.
* Networking opportunities.
* Personal Growth & skill building opportunities.
* Homes, Camps and Low Income Housing
* Cultural and Social activities.
* Beautiful and Impressive Degrees.
* Recognition and Jewel awards.
* Friendship with a wide range of people from all walks of life. Point out that your meetings are efficient, that there are many programs to choose from, the membership requirements are flexible and dues are reasonable. Most important, tell prospective members that you are offering to sponsor them.

Marketing Strategies

Obviously, your marketing strategy will vary according to your audience. If you are discussing lodge membership with another adult you would personalize your “Pitch” according to what you know about them in terms of age, interests, available time, etc. You will want to show them some of the materials previously mentioned in this section and you might invite them to accompany you to a lodge event in the near future.

If you are speaking to a large audience — a civic club, military auxiliary or a professional group — you would want a more formal presentation. This would be an opportunity to show the Membership slides, which run about fifteen minutes, and to follow that with a question-and-answer session. Have your Lodge brochure, membership applications and other IOOF brochures available for distribution.

Good Public Relations Help

An effective public relations program can enhance your efforts to increase membership in Odd Fellowship. All Lodges should have a public relations coordinator who works closely with the membership committee. Your state Public Relations Chairman from the Vision 2001 Committee can provide assistance.

What Is Public Relations

While most people think in terms of public relations as getting attention from the media, it actually is much more than that. Public relations is the on-going process by which a favorable image of the Family of Odd Fellowship is created and projected to our many publics: members, potential members and the general public, as well as the media.

Why Is Public Relations Important?

How Odd Fellowship is perceived in the community is vital to its ability to gain new members, raise funds and provide services. The more people know about what your lodge is doing and how successfully it is doing it, the more likely they want to become involved.

What Is Your Lodge’s Image?

Organizations are judged by everything they do and do not do. It is always important to think before you act or speak. In order to gain new members and keep current ones, you should be aware of your lodge’s image. Keep in mind that your policies and spokesmen play a major role in determining how it will be perceived. Consider the following:

* If you want to attract the seventy-six percent of professional women who volunteer (according to Independent Sector’s 1992 biannual report, “Giving and Volunteering”), don’t schedule all of your meetings during the day. Women who work outside the home may get the idea that your lodge does not welcome them.
* While controversy should not purposely be avoided, always take members’ views into consideration when selecting speakers and be sure to present both sides.
* When planning an event, check the calendar first to be sure not to schedule the event on a major religious holiday. Even if no member of your lodge celebrates a particular holy day, the fact that you are meeting on that day may turn off some prospective members who are observant.
* When interviewed by a local reporter, don’t talk about all the problems your lodge is having getting new members or about how many members you have lost. People reading the article certainly will not be attracted to a lodge no one else wants to join.
* When doing publicity, remember that the projects and programs your lodge is involved in are the most important story to get out, rather than the way you decorated the lodge hall or the food served at meetings.


Orientation for new members can be a valuable exercise for the entire Lodge. All participants benefit from learning more about each other and Odd Fellowship at the local, state and world levels. Lodge Noble Grands, officers, membership chairmen, Past Grands and Noble Grands, and charter members should be encouraged to participate. Remember, orientation is an important opportunity to welcome new degree members. Informed members will remain active and enthusiastic for years to come.


New members may be honored at a regular meeting, at a special luncheon meeting or at an open house. You may want to hold a special round table discussion the same night you meet in the week between meetings. Select the date and be sure to order necessary materials well in advance from Grand Lodge or Rebekah Assembly, since the mail takes time. Send an invitation to each new member and get experienced members involved by asking them to be greeters, hosts and speakers. Prior to the Orientation Program, members may wish to start the meeting with an “ice breaker”. Be sure to remember name tags.

Sample Program:

* Opening
* Introduce Officers and Chairmen (Each should provide a brief explanation of their duties)
* Explain Odd Fellowship and Rebekah Lodges. (Present a brief history of each.)
* Present general information such as dues, meetings, etc. for local, state and Sovereign levels. (Note that even though we have our own Rituals and Code Books, Robert’s Rule of Order is the parliamentary authority.)
* Explain degrees, projects, programs, jewels, training opportunities, leadership development, assembly and Grand Lodge attendance, district meetings, Special Sessions, and the International and Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions.
* Explain Homes and Camps.
* Discuss membership benefits, requirements and responsibilities.
* Present lodge informational materials and explain: Lodge and District Directories, Bylaws, Code Books, Rituals, Instruction books, Newsletters and publications.
* Display the Odd Fellow and Rebekah Logos and explain their significance.
* Present an orientation kit to each new member, including: Lodge Newsletter, directory, Instruction book, information on how to order a pocket ritual, and list of available materials. Send for your kit cover from Rebekah Assembly or Grand Lodge.
* Present to each with a membership certificate obtained from Rebekah Assembly or Grand Lodge.
* Serve refreshments.


Retaining current members is one of the many ways to help ensure the continued success and growth of your lodge and Odd Fellowship. Members stay in Odd Fellowship for such reasons as; personal growth, networking, belief in the goals of Odd Fellowship, joy of service and the opportunity to make a difference in their communities. Each member can help the lodge prosper by incorporating some or all of the following ideas.

Be Flexible and Open

* Change meeting times to suit busy schedules (breakfast, lunch hour, evenings).
* Survey members for program and project ideas – make sure the lodge is what the members want it to be.
* Seek the best interests of everyone – ensure that all members share in the benefits of the group and take into account the interests of the public at large rather than the vested interests of a few.
* Welcome and accept new ideas.
* Develop special interest groups or meetings.
* Determine reasons for dissatisfaction; if you lose a member, ask why?
* Survey reactions to programs and projects.
* Keep long-range goals in mind. Remind others of questions such as: Where are we headed? Is this Lodge fulfilling its purpose? Do new conditions require a change of direction? Do present methods meet current and future needs?

Value Members

Recognize efforts through awards or special acknowledgment, such as certificates, special pins or gestures of friendship. Make sure members feel proud to be a part of an organization that is making a difference in the community, the nation and the world. Provide written job descriptions for lodge members.

Share Knowledge

* Be sure all members are familiar and comfortable with the opening and closing ceremony.
* Plan regular orientation meetings for the benefit of new and existing members.
* Review the Laws and customs.
* Review parliamentary procedures.
* Take part in Grand Lodge and Rebekah Assembly’s Vision 2001 Training and encourage fellow members to do the same.
* Pair new members with experienced members who will meet with them, answer questions, sit with them and explain what is happening during the meeting, etc.

Support Brothers and Sisters

* Key into members interest.
* Make sure members are part of a network of friendship.
* Provide support in times of crises, including meals, visits, letters, cards and calls.
* Recognize absences – let fellow members know you miss them.
* Offer transportation to activities and meetings.
* Involve family members in activities when possible, or hold special family events.
* Plan activities in which members get to know each other.

Encourage Retention

Get information about lodges in the new area for Brothers and Sisters who are moving, and send their names to lodges in the new area.

Relating Leadership to Membership

Leadership is crucial to membership retention. All too often when a lodge consolidates it is because no one wishes to assume leadership positions. A Lodge can have members, programs, projects and a treasury, but may lack leaders. Basic leadership guidelines have been included here as a functional means of retaining members and developing leaders.

Practice Effective, Self-disciplined Leadership:

* Meet commitments.
* Follow a realistic schedule.
* Conduct a periodic self-inventory and maximize own strengths.
* Know true creativity is impossible without hard work.
* Shun political infighting.
* Confront difficulties squarely.
* Get to the heart of problems and talk them out.

Develop a Leadership Team

The successful team has:

* A trust relationship among its members.
* An attitude that is flexible and open.
* Clear, properly developed goals, objects and expectations.
* A focus on strengths.
* A readiness to take on new and different challenges, problems and opportunities.
* Accountability: feeling truly answerable for one’s actions as a leader and team member.

Motivating Your Team

* Expect the best. Believe that there are strengths, possibilities and value in all situations, people and events.
* Develop an action plan. Each meeting target all key wants and need in advance, and list the priorities under each. Make sure you accomplish all needed actions before you undertake any wanted actions.
* Prospect for gold. The average good leader perceives “good” potential in each team member. Help team members visualize possibilities, benefits and applications that they would never think of otherwise.
* Radiate energy and a positive attitude.