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    We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

    Last week was “file purge” week at the Alliance.  Cabinets full of paper were either sent to the shredder or preserved for legal or historical purposes.  In the process, we discovered some interesting artifacts from the not-so-distant past that evoked a chuckle or two from the longer-tenured members of the Alliance staff.  Among the relics was a promotional flyer for an Alliance (nee NFCA) Annual Meeting that contained a David Letterman-like “Top 10″ list of reasons that that year’s event would be the best ever. We still love Top Ten Lists. We use them all the time, especially in promoting our meetings, and we include one or two pretty funky reasons to spice them up a bit.  This one struck our funny bone since it made no mention of the real reasons people typically attend our Annual Meeting – which is to network with their peers and receive some top-notch educational programming.

    David Letterman

    Here’s that ancient list; see what you think:

    10.  The hotel has recently been remodeled.
    9.  The Human Resources Section is meeting for the first time.
    8.  Fraternal Night does not have a buffet this year.
    7.  The Friday night tour will serve wine.
    6.  Free eats and drinks at the Opening Reception.
    5.  We’ll salute a wonderful couple on their retirement.
    4.  Three airports to serve you.
    3.  Free ice cream and caricature artist on Thursday.
    2.  Ethnic entertainment adds color to the Grand Banquet.
    1.  After 113 years, we finally know what we’re doing.

    Now, not discounting the value of free food, wine, and multiple airports, I think the quality of Alliance meetings has definitely improved since this event.  With education-driven goals in mind, we like to think our annual meetings give our members what they need.  But rather than list the top 10 reasons that I think our meetings are the best in the business, I’d like to hear why you take the time and make the effort to attend.

    Please share here or email me your contributions.

    Hair Today, Gone…Today

    Here’s the proof that I actually did it – shaved my head as a part of the St. Baldrick’s Day Foundation’s fundraising campaign for children’s cancer research.  Click on this link to view the shearing, and make sure to check out the incredible work done by the Foundation.

    IMG_0104 (3)

    Every one of us has been touched by cancer in one way or another.  But it’s particularly heartbreaking when children are afflicted with the disease.  As I mentioned when I announced my participation in this effort right here a few weeks ago, I decided to commit to the head shaving campaign to honor the courage of a child I’ve never met – Joey Chamness, the son of NAMIC President and CEO Chuck Chamness – who’s been fighting cancer for years.  When Chuck told me earlier this year that Joey received a clean bill of health on his 18th birthday, something told me that I had to do more than write a check to St. Baldrick’s this year.

    But the truly humbling part of this experience was the outpouring of support I received from individuals and organizations in the fraternal community.  I’ve never done anything like this before, and did not know what to expect when I asked folks to support me.  I set a fundraising goal of $5,000 and thanks to you I ended up raising more than $8,000 – putting me among the top 100 individual fundraisers in the world.  Fraternalists do put their money where their mouth is!

    That definitely raises the bar for next year’s campaign.  Yes, assuming that my hair DOES grow back, I’m planning to have it shaved again next year.

    Thank you all for your generous support.  You made this experience enriching in so many ways.

    If You Can Read This, You Can Be an Advocate for America’s Fraternals

    If you can read this post, then you have access to a computer. And if you have access to a computer, you can be a grassroots advocate for America’s fraternals.

    02-Give-Back-Banner

    Today is the opening day of “Fraternals GIVE Back,” the biggest grassroots political advocacy initiative we’ve ever attempted. This web-based campaign makes it easy for you – and anyone who supports the fraternal system – to send a clear and consistent message about the value of the fraternal business model to their U.S. Representative and Senators. With just a few clicks, you can send a personal message to your legislators and provide them information about the impact of fraternals in their home state and nationally.

    And trust me, it’s easy and effective. My staff used me as the guinea pig to test the website (something I know they secretly refer to as “the idiot test”) and, not only was I able to log-on and send personal emails to my congressional representatives within minutes, I also received acknowledgments from my Representative and Senators within 24 hours.

    I’m counting on each of you to do the same – and to tell everyone in your society, local chapter, agency, and family to join you in this important initiative. We want every member of Congress – all 435 Representatives and all 100 Senators – to receive at least one email from a constituent. And we want as many Representatives as possible to sign-on as a co-sponsor of Congressional Resolution #19, the resolution highlighting the valuable contributions made by fraternals to the economic and social fabric of the U.S. sponsored by Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn).

    What’s more, the Fraternals GIVE Back grassroots campaign will be a fantastic lead-in for the Alliance “Day on the Hill” during the 2015 Executive Summit in April when dozens of Alliance CEOs and senior executives will be meeting with Members of Congress to promote awareness of the valuable contributions fraternals make to our nation every day.

    So, go to the Alliance website entitled, FraternalsGIVEBack.org and start spreading the good word. We’ll keep you posted on the results, both in terms of number of contacts with Members of Congress generated and number of Congressional Resolution co-sponsors recruited. And, if you get a nice note back from one of your legislators, let us know about it by posting a comment right here.

    Raising Our Awareness on Capitol Hill

    The Alliance devotes a good bit of its resources to ensuring that its members’ voices are heard on issues important to fraternals on Capitol Hill and in state capitals from coast-to-coast.  The Alliance retains professional advocacy counsel in Washington, D.C., and as necessary at the state level.  In addition, Alliance staff members dedicate a significant percentage of their time to state and federal advocacy initiatives.

    But the cornerstone of our political advocacy program is YOU!  While your trade association’s full-time advocates can present lawmakers with a wide variety of facts, figures, logic, and reason that support our policy positions, the impact of those efforts are astronomically increased when they are backed up by messages from constituents “back home.”

    02-Give-Back-Banner

    Beginning on Monday, March 9, the Alliance will kick-off “Fraternals GIVE Back,” the biggest grassroots political advocacy initiative we’ve ever attempted.  This web-based campaign is designed to make it easy for member societies to have their most important audiences – executives and board members, employees, field representatives, local chapter leaders, and rank-and-file members – send a clear and consistent message about the value of the fraternal business model to their Representatives and Senators.  With just a few clicks you will be able to send a personal message to your legislators and provide them information about the impact of fraternals in their home state and nationally.

    Our goal is 100% and 100,000 participants.  We want EVERY Alliance member society to participate in the program, and we want at least 100,000 separate messages sent to members of Congress.  Moreover, we want EVERY member of Congress to receive at least one email from a fraternal representative.  The six-week campaign will end on April 17 – right before Alliance member society executives come to Washington, D.C., for a series of Capitol Hill visits with legislators and their key tax staff.

    But the program will only succeed if every member gets engaged.  We’re counting on you to promote participation in the program through emails to your society’s key audiences, articles in your newsletters and magazines, and presentations at local chapter meetings and agent gatherings.  If you need help in planning your outreach strategies or would like more information on how your society can more effectively motivate its members to contact their lawmakers, just send me an email at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org and we’ll contact you with some suggestions.

    In addition to raising awareness of fraternals among Representatives and Senators, “Fraternals GIVE Back” has another goal: to generate as many co-sponsors as possible for the Alliance-sponsored House Congressional Resolution 19 in support of America’s fraternals.  The Resolution, whose lead sponsors are Rep. Ron Kind (R-Wis.) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (D-Minn.), was first introduced in 2012 and, thanks to the efforts of Alliance members, resulted in almost 60 Representatives on both sides of the aisle signing on as co-sponsors.  With the introduction of H. Con. Res. 19,  and our goal is to generate 100 co-sponsors.  The sample letter to House members on the “Fraternals GIVE Back” web page will include a specific request to become a co-sponsor of the Resolution.

    We hope you view participation in this initiative as NOT OPTIONAL – and that it is part of your responsibility as an Alliance member.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress throughout the campaign and highlight those societies that generate the greatest number of participants.  Get ready…get set…

    It’s Hard Living in the Stone Age

    When it comes to social media, I freely admit I’m a relic.  I don’t spend hours (or even minutes or seconds) on Facebook because a) I place an extremely high value on my privacy and b) I don’t really care what folks with whom I have a tangential relationship did on their last vacation.  The only thing I “tweet” are links to these blog posts because a) I just can’t fathom why people who barely know me would care about what I have to say about anything and b) I can’t figure out how to say anything in 140 characters or less.

    2 dinos

    But my being stuck in the “Land that Time Forgot” doesn’t mean I think that social media is irrelevant or a flash-in-the-pan trend.  On the contrary, I think the billions (that’s billions with a “b”) of people who rely almost exclusively on social media to obtain and share information with their friends and families pretty much guarantee that that this whole electronic communication thing is here to stay.  And considering that the primary users of social media (that would be folks 45 and younger who are making big decisions about how best to secure their financial futures) are the folks that readers of this blog want to communicate with, I’d say it’s time we brought in some talented young professionals to show us how these tools can help us group our societies.

    And at least one fraternal – Teachers Life in Toronto – is doing just that.

    Teachers Life launched a new social initiative at the end of 2014 to engage educators online. The purpose was to increase awareness and understanding of the Teachers Life brand, showcase advantages to being a member with Teachers Life and being an active participant in the online education community. Whenever appropriate, the society took the opportunity to articulate the benefits of having an insurer who understands the teaching community better than any other insurance provider.

    Teachers Life had been inactive on Facebook since 2011, so their page was revitalized with new content, imagery and ways to engage. The society’s Facebook page has grown from 503 likes to 1,787 in just a couple of months. twitter
    Twitter, however, was new territory for the brand. According to Teachers Life CEO Doug Baker, society executives quickly noticed that teachers were unlike any other tweeters – they were special. Supportive of Teachers Life Twitter feed, their followers were immediately active and engaged, and the society saw potential to reach a larger group of educators to begin a social ripple effect and grow their community.  Teachers Life decided to host its first ever Twitter Chat to gather teachers online and ask questions, tweet answers and ultimately get to know this new online audience. The tweets (and retweets!) were encouraging.  People wanted to know more about Teachers Life and they were impressed by the organization’s rich history.

    Throughout the chat, society executives were tracking real-time traffic to the Teachers Life website. During the few hours tracked, there were always 10-20 people on the site at any given time looking for more information. Driving traffic wasn’t the primary objective, so this was an added bonus and one that worked seamlessly without feeling pushy or “salesy.”  At the peak of the chat, Teachers Life was trending on Twitter in both Toronto and across Canada. The society awarded those who participated with a chance at winning a grand prize of a kobo, gift cards and a pizza party for their class.

    Here’s a breakdown of the success:

    • 4.3 million impressions
    • 144,694 reach
    • 1,245 tweets
    • 50+ contributors

    • Trending on Twitter topic in Toronto  (currently most popular)
    • Trending on Twitter topic in Canada  (currently most popular)

    • Followers 403 (pre party)
    • Followers 541 (post party)
    • Net Gain of 138 followers

    Want to learn more about the Teachers’ Life social medial program? Email Doug Baker at dbaker@teacherslife.com.

    Got your own social media success story?  Share it by posting a comment here or email it to me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org so that I can feature it in a future posting.

    Twelve Questions from Jim Collins

    You remember Jim Collins’ inspiring presentation on what makes great organizations tick delivered at the Alliance’s 2012 Annual Meeting, right? I get as fired up as the next guy by a terrific motivational speaker, but Collins didn’t just deliver a rousing “Yes, You Can!” speech to fraternal executives, he followed it up with the all-important “and here’s how” component based on his lifelong research on successful – and not so successful – businesses.

    AFA12-0537

    Last month, Jim sent a note to his business network with the latest tool to help them engage their teams and build a truly great enterprise. “I believe that disciplined engagement with the right questions yields the best insights, understanding, and results,” said Collins. And in that spirit, Jim’s team created a series of 12 questions that can serve as a catalyst for activating the greatness in each of our organizations.

    Before tackling the 12 questions, I think it’s worth refreshing our collective memories about how Collins characterizes “greatness” – including both great companies, great social enterprises, or (in the case of fraternals) the combination of both business and community service components. Collins defines these as the three tests:  Superior Results, Distinctive Impact, and Lasting Endurance, and adds a caution flag about achieving greatness.

    Superior Results

    In business, performance is defined by financial results – return on invested capital – and achievement of corporate purposes. In the social sector, performance is defined by results and efficiency in delivering on the social mission. But whether business or social (or the fraternal combination of both), you must achieve top-flight results.

    Distinctive Impact

    A truly great enterprise makes such a unique contribution to the communities it touches, and does it with such unadulterated excellence that, if it were to disappear, it would leave a gaping hole that could not be easily filled by any other institution. If your society went away, who would miss it, and why? This does not require being big; think of a small but fabulous local restaurant that would be terribly missed if it disappeared. Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big.

    Lasting Endurance

    A truly great organization prospers over a long period of time, beyond any great idea, marketing opportunity, technology cycle, or well-funded program. When clobbered by setbacks, it finds a way to bounce back stronger than before. A great enterprise transcends dependence on any single extraordinary leader; if your organization cannot be great without you, then it is not yet a truly great organization.

    Great Is Never Done

    To be built to last means embracing the idea that no matter how far we have gone, or how much we have achieved, we are merely good relative to what we can do next. Greatness is a dynamic process, not an end point. The moment you think of yourself as great, your slide toward mediocrity has already begun.

    The 12 Questions

    You can access the 12 questions and a variety of helpful study guides to help you use them with your executive management team and board on Jim’s web site – www.jimcollins.com. All of the material is free and I encourage you to take a look at it and see how you might employ the tools of one of the nation’s great business teachers – and a fan of fraternals – in your organization. I know we’ll be using the 12 Questions as a building block for the Alliance’s 2016 Strategic Plan.

    A Few More Thoughts on Disruptions and Collaboration

    Google: Testing the waters or preparing a takeover?

    I’m sure you’ve read more than a few articles about Google’s entry into the insurance market.  If not, here are two of the more interesting ones…

    • New Clues on Google’s Plans for Insurance
    • Will Google and Amazon offer one-click life insurance?

    Folks have been saying for years that the insurance industry is primed for “disruption” and could very well be the next Blockbuster.  You remember Blockbuster, right?  The national chain of retail stores that you went to religiously every week to rent your favorite videos (“Be kind and rewind”)?  Netflix and On-Demand, among others, changed the way we access entertainment.  And the Blockbuster business model went from relevance to a historical artifact in just a few years. I don’t know about the Blockbuster store in your town, but mine is now a walk-in medical clinic.

    Blockbuster-Closing

    Using a Jim Collins-term, Google appears to be firing a few strategic bullets at the insurance marketplace rather than one giant cannonball.  It’s really no surprise that Google is first testing its ability to effectively distribute auto insurance.  The marketplace is vast, the purchase of the product is mandated by every state, and after years of mass merchandising by the nation’s largest auto insurers, the product itself has become a price-driven commodity.  Google isn’t taking any major financial risks – remember, it’s just the seller, not the underwriter.

    But if Google’s bullets tell its executives that consumers are willing to purchase auto insurance from the search engine goliath, then it’s my guess that it won’t take them long to figure out a) how to underwrite products themselves, and b) how to sell other types of insurance policies – including life insurance and annuities – to consumers here at home and around the world.

    Collaboration:  The alternative to antiquation

    Of course, Google is not going to replace every insurance agent and company.  It’s a big market with many niches and one-size will never fit all.  I think that smaller organizations – like fraternals – can effectively compete for important sectors of that very large market if they are willing to…wait for it…cooperate and collaborate.

    I came across a fascinating article in a banking industry trade publication the other day expressing the support of the Comptroller of the Currency – a major federal bank regulator – for collaboration among community banks.  Community banks are the fraternals of the banking world – small and mid-size institutions serving the needs of individuals in a specific geographic area.

    The OCC said that it was supportive of collaborative efforts that generate economies of scale and cost efficiencies or leverage specialized expertise.  (Sound familiar?)  As examples, it cited banks sharing back-office functions such as data processing, internal audit, records management, human resources management, regulatory compliance and procurement.  (I swear I am not making this up…)  The OCC report concluded that “when conducted with appropriate strategic planning, strong risk management, and effective oversight, collaboration can help community banks thrive.”

    Tell me I’m not the only one worried about disruptions and thinking about how to compete in a marketplace that could be turned on its head in a matter of months, not years.  Better yet, tell me what your society is doing about it by sending me an email or posting a comment here.

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