Traditionally, a Rainmaker is a Shaman who would be brought in during a drought to perform a magical ceremony and shoot an arrow into the sky to make the clouds open up and rain to save that season’s crops. In the business world, a Rainmaker is brought in to bring new vision and direction to a stagnated business, and as if by magic, creates substantial new growth and revives the business. A perfect example is when Apple brought back founder Steve Jobs in 1997 when they were on the brink of bankruptcy and in a few short years he turned it around and eventually transformed the company into the largest electronics company in the world by the time of his passing in 2011.
Thomas Wildey is the original Odd Fellow Rainmaker. It was he who organized the first meeting in Baltimore in 1819, all Odd Fellows know that. But what most don’t know is that it took him two tries to find the 5 member quorum required of an official meeting, and only after running an ad in the Baltimore paper for one full month did he succeed in attracting five members to the Seven Stars Tavern on April 26th. He had many struggles and set backs and the first decade was slow going but he persisted and for several decades after he traveled endlessly to different States and Territories helping others to obtain Charters to Lodges and Grand Lodges and making several trips back to England to work with the Manchester Unity Odd Fellows as well. His efforts helped build the foundation that we stand upon today. There have also been many other members, like Schuyler Colfax for example, to step up over the years to help sound the call of duty that millions have answered.
What we need to start off with is a bit of research. Find out the top Lodges of every Jurisdiction and find out from them what is working for their area. There is a lot that can be learned at the grassroots level about where to take the Order. I expect that there will be some contradiction found as well since what may work for one Lodge/Jurisdiction may not work or apply to another. That doesn’t mean it isn’t work learning from and adapting. By getting hard data we can then begin to formulate a new brand and image strategy and find a Grand Lodge to volunteer as our test market.
For too long things have been allowed to settle. Leadership became a chore and seen as taking one’s turn in the big chair. Thousands of Lodges slowly began to rot on the vine in neglect under the long hot summer sun in the August of our Order as the fertile spring and summer gave way. But we can’t just walk away. There are still so many strong Lodges scattered out there and some that could be easily brought back from the brink with a little water and nurture.
It’s time for the new Rainmakers to emerge and be given the training and wisdom by our Leadership to help them with the next crop. It will take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears but it is possible. When we were busy casting our eyes to the same field we had been tending for decades we neglected to turn our heads and see the unexpected fruits of our labor. Young people, all around, looking for authentic experiences and interactions and for deeper meaning in their lives. This is the future of our Order. People love to hate of Millenials, but instead of joking at their expense, give them an opportunity.
*Let me preface this that I know this is a little pie in the sky like many of my ideas. However, I believe that there can be some feasible discussion spinning off of this. *
Back to our test market. With the research taken from all the successful Lodges we shall form a plan of attack. A written guide book of how to turn your Lodge and Grand Lodge around. There will be worksheets involved too. Because everyone will have to be held accountable. It will begin at the Grand Lodge level and they will have to do some soul searching to see if their current leadership is doing everything necessary. They will put on the search for the Rainmakers of their Jurisdiction in every District, hopefully there will be several, and they will form a Revival Committee (ideally they will work alongside the DDGMs). This committee will oversee the whole process. This committee will be trained to then send out the guide books and worksheets to Lodges that volunteer and are willing to do whatever it takes. Stubborn Lodges will not be receptive to what needs to be done. We cannot force change where it is not welcome and these closed off Lodges will either have to be left to die or have their own wake up call.
The volunteer Lodges will then work their way through their book and sheets to prepare them for their Revival. This would include things like, brushing up on ritual, making sure all bookkeeping is up to date and in order, getting the Lodge as cleaned up and presentable as possible, and having an open mind and heart and be willing to relinquish control and officer positions within the Lodge if/when necessary. Once these requirements have been met, a Rainmaker will have the Lodge arrange either a open house, a fundraiser, or an open meeting. Advertise the event in the paper, online, anywhere that it can be advertised. Invite all your friends and relatives. This will likely be a very grassroots event so like Thomas Wildey in 1819, this make take a few tries so don’t give up! But be consistent. Do it again next meeting. Prepare a brief presentation on the history of the Odd Fellows and all the great things the Order currently is doing. Show everyone that you really are passionate about being an Odd Fellow and that you want to share it. The Rainmakers will ideally be there as well to help ignite interest.
Once the Lodge gets a couple applications, hold a Initiation/Degree Rally/School of Instruction quickly. After several months the Rainmakers will check in to make sure everything is still on track. At this point the Lodge should have the new members organize a fundraiser or volunteer service event or even a Lodge clean-up day so that the new members can feel like part of the group and have ownership in it. The Lodge elders should also be grooming them to be the leadership of tomorrow and have them start working their way through the chairs. The key is to keep everyone motivated and passionate and also to keep the lines of communication open so everyone can be working together with the Rainmakers to ensure success and to have support when there is struggle. The important thing is to set obtainable specific goals with a timeline and to work to meet those goals. Everything needs to be clearly outlined and everyone must be given a role and held to task.
Another thing the Grand Lodge can be using the Rainmakers for is to drum up interest in areas where Lodges no longer exist. They can actively recruit to attract members to an Online Lodge (We plan on doing a separate post about this). Once there are the required 5 Third Degree members in an area they can then petition to Charter their own physical Lodge.
I do not claim this is the answer, but it is just an idea of something to try that involves giving Lodges the skills and support from their Grand Lodges to help them out of their rut and holds them accountable every step of the way to help ensure their long term success.