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    Alliance Members Are Advocacy Rock Stars

    More than any other product, service, or benefit, Alliance members count on their trade association to provide them with state-of-the-art political advocacy to make certain that public policymakers at the state and federal level know who fraternals are and what fraternals do as financial services providers and community volunteer facilitators.  The Alliance’s professional staff devotes much of its time, energy and effort to advocacy initiatives.  And those efforts are supplemented by retained advocacy counsel at the state and federal level.

    Descending on the HIllBut there are no better advocates for the fraternal system than the  executives of Alliance member societies.  And that simple fact was demonstrated on Tuesday, April 21, when more than 70 fraternal leaders took Capitol Hill by storm.  In just four hours, eighteen delegations of Alliance executives met with more than 60 Members of Congress and their staff to tell the fraternal story and demonstrate first-hand the value and viability of the tax exemption that allows us to accomplish our unique financial and social missions.

    This was the Alliance’s third “Day on the Hill” event in the past six years, and the results exceeded even our high expectations.  Members of Congress have a much better understanding of the impact fraternals have in their own backyards and nationally, and a clear recognition that our tax exempt status delivers a big bang for the buck.  By going to the Hill every two years, we’re turning skeptics into supporters and supporters into champions – which will serve Alliance members and the millions of individuals who rely on them well for years to come.

    I’ll have more to share with you about the “Day on the Hill” and the Alliance’s Executive Summit meeting in next week’s blog post.  But for now, here are a few photos that show some of the Alliance’s advocacy rock stars in action…

    George Yanna, National Mutual Benefit; Joe Kopinski, Employes' Mutual Benefit Association; Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI); Bill O'Toole, Catholic Financial Life

    George Yanna, National Mutual Benefit; Joe Kopinski, Employes’ Mutual Benefit Association; Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI); Bill O’Toole, Catholic Financial Life

    Rick Kleven, Thrivent Financial; Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA); Don Nieland, Western Fraternal Life; Harald Borrmann, Catholic United Financial

    Rick Kleven, Thrivent Financial; Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA); Don Nieland, Western Fraternal Life; Harald Borrmann, Catholic United Financial

    Larry King, Woodmen of the World; Bill O'Toole, Catholic Financial Life; Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS); Bill McKinney, Thrivent Financial; Joe Annotti; Tim Saccoccia, Knights of Columbus Seated: Melissa Bonicelli, Venn Strategies

    Larry King, Woodmen of the World; Bill O’Toole, Catholic Financial Life; Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS); Bill McKinney, Thrivent Financial; Joe Annotti; Tim Saccoccia, Knights of Columbus
    Seated: Melissa Bonicelli, Venn Strategies

    Joe Annotti; Larry King, Woodmen of the World; Sally Murphy, Royal Neighbors; Sen Mike Crapo (R-ID); Bill McKinney, Thrivent Financial; Tim Saccoccia, Knights of Columbus

    Joe Annotti; Larry King, Woodmen of the World; Sally Murphy, Royal Neighbors; Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID); Bill McKinney, Thrivent Financial; Tim Saccoccia, Knights of Columbus

    Deb Gephart, Catholic United Financial; Lisa Flanary, Degree of Honor; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Eivind Heiberg, Sons of Norway; Doug Baker, Teachers Life Insurance Society

    Erica Oberg, Degree of Honor; Lisa Flanary, Degree of Honor; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Eivind Heiberg, Sons of Norway; Doug Baker, Teachers Life Insurance Society

    Tim Saccocia, Knights of Columbus; Larry King, Woodmen of the World; Bill McKinney, Thrivent Financial; Sen. John Thune (R-SD); Sally Murphy, Royal Neighbors; Joe Annotti

    Tim Saccocia, Knights of Columbus; Larry King, Woodmen of the World; Bill McKinney, Thrivent Financial; Sen. John Thune (R-SD); Sally Murphy, Royal Neighbors; Joe Annotti

    Final Push for Fraternals GIVE Back Grassroots Campaign

    Finishing line

    Did you know that credit union members who are called on to participate in grassroots campaigns:

    • Become more aware of the importance of their organization’s tax-exempt status and the need to protect and promote it;

    • Become more effective advocates for their organization not just with members of Congress but within their own communities;

    • Purchase more products from the organization that asked them to participate in the campaign?

    It’s true.  And Ryan Donovan, chief advocacy officer for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), will discuss other positive aspects of engaging members in grassroots political campaigns during his presentation at next week’s Alliance Executive Summit in Washington, D.C.

    But credit unions aren’t fraternals…

    Before you send me that email, I understand the difference between fraternals and credit unions.  We have unique missions, histories, and operating philosophies.  But our organizational structure and tax-exempt status are not exactly “apples and oranges” either.

    When it comes to advocacy and grassroots engagement, there are some lessons that we can learn from one another.  And the knowledge that politically engaged credit union members also purchase more products and services from that organization should set off bells and whistles in the offices of fraternal executives everywhere.

    It makes sense, doesn’t it?  “Members” (of fraternals or credit unions) theoretically have a greater affinity with the organization than a “customer” of a commercial bank or insurance company.  If that affinity is real, then those members will understand that they are stakeholders in a political debate and not only participate in the process, but are also more likely to be more engaged in the activities of the organization – from purchasing products to participating in community service activities.

    So here’s your chance…

    With one week left in the Alliance’s “Fraternals GIVE Back” campaign, we are within striking distance of our two primary objectives:

    1) Have every member of Congress – all 435 Representatives and all 100 Senators – receive at least one email from an Alliance member society executive, employee, agent, local chapter leader, or member.  358 Representatives and 98 Senators Contacted Through April 10

    2) Have every U.S.-domiciled Alliance member society have at least one executive, employee, agent, local chapter leader, or member send an email to a member of Congress.  48 Societies Have Participated Through April 10.

    We’re almost there and it’s so easy for member societies and all the individuals that are affiliated with them to participate.  Just send an email with this link to everyone at your society with an email address and ask them to let their U.S. Representatives and Senators know about the value and viability of fraternals.  It takes someone with even the most rudimentary computer skills less than two minutes to participate in the campaign.  Not only will you be helping to protect and promote the fraternal tax exemption, you’ll be building a more loyal membership base for decades to come.

    So do it.  Right now.

    Random Acts of Chaos

    My blog file is filled to overflowing, so I thought I’d share some of the items that I’ve been collecting that I thought were most interesting, profound, humorous, or entertaining.  Here goes…

    blog ideas

    • Royal Neighbors CEO featured on national cable network program – Check out this link to Cynthia Tidwell’s recent appearance on “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television.  Lifetime bills itself as “the network for women” and what better individual and organization to address financial planning issues unique to women than Cynthia and Royal Neighbors?  I’m hoping this will inspire you to seek out opportunities in your local media markets to promote the importance of financial planning and the value proposition fraternals offer consumers who want more than just an insurance policy.

    • Having been educated by the Sisters of St. Mary and the Christian Brothers of Ireland, I consider myself smarter than the average bear when it comes to English grammar.  (See an earlier posting about my reaction to a flight attendant’s admonition to “not conjugate in front of the bathroom.”)  So I got a particular kick out of this piece about frequently misused idioms

    • If you attended the Alliance’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, you no doubt remember Kim Lear, the Millennial who delivered a knockout keynote address to close the session.  Kim’s organization, BridgeWorks, LLC, publishes a terrific electronic newsletter called “GENBUZZ” that provides some fantastic insights into the quirks, trends, and buying habits of the variety of generations we’re all attempting to attract.  Here’s a link to the latest issue.  I strongly suggest you – or someone from your society – subscribe to this publication.

    • Congratulations to the Iowa Fraternal Alliance for conducting another successful “Day on the Hill” event in Des Moines last month.  Representatives of fraternals doing business in Iowa met with nearly one-third of the State Senate and one-fourth of the House of Representatives during their breakfast session, which featured an address from the President of the Senate.  You can view photos and learn more about the event on the IFA’s FaceBook page: www.facebook.com/IowaFraternalAlliance.  Hats off to IFA President Leah White of Modern Woodmen of America and all the IFA member societies for organizing and participating in this important political advocacy initiative.

    • “Ignoring the facts doesn’t change them.”
    – Andy Rooney

    Hope to see many of you at an upcoming Alliance Mid-Year Meeting.  If you haven’t yet registered for one of these educational sessions, there is still time (although space for the Executive Summit and the Fraternal/Communications Meeting is now limited).  Just go to the Mid-Year Meeting page on the Alliance website.

    Grassroots Activism: Getting Beyond the Numbers

    Here are the raw numbers from the first three weeks of the Alliance’s “Fraternals GIVE Back” grassroots campaign:

    02-Give-Back-Banner

    • 3,967 – Number of individuals (employees, agents, local chapter leaders, and members of Alliance societies) that have sent emails to Members of Congress
    • 46 – Number of U.S.-domiciled Alliance member societies that have had at least one individual participate in the grassroots campaign
    • 325 – Number of U.S. Representatives that have received at least one email from an Alliance member society representative
    • 96 – Number of U.S. Senators that have received at least one email from an Alliance member society representative
    • 9 – Number of co-sponsors of House Congressional Resolution #19 highlighting the valuable contributions made by fraternals to the economic and social fabric of the U.S.

    By any standards, that’s impressive.  And with almost three more weeks remaining in the campaign, we’ve got a great opportunity to reach our goals of having every U.S.-domiciled Alliance member society participate in the campaign and having every member of Congress – all 435 Representatives and all 100 Senators – receive at least one email from an Alliance member.  We’ll close the broad-based grassroots campaign on April 17 and follow it up with personal visits by Alliance member society executives to members of Congress and their staff on the Alliance’s “Day on the Hill” event during the 2015 Executive Summit. This one-two advocacy punch is the cornerstone of our efforts to generate as many co-sponsors as possible for House Congressional Resolution #19 – including the nearly 60 Representatives that signed on to a similar measure in 2012, as well as additional House members that may have been unaware of fraternals at that time.

    The Alliance’s grassroots effort clearly demonstrates that there is more to advocacy that just raw numbers.  While re-engaging co-sponsors from the 2012 resolution is a great place to start, finding new co-sponsors proves we’re growing awareness and support for the fraternal model.  I’m pleased to report that a critical new ally has stepped forward.  Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who, as House Conference Chair, serves as the fourth-ranking House GOP leader, this week added her name as a co-sponsor.  And what really makes her support noteworthy is how it came about.

    Thrivent Financial reached out to a small group of members and asked them to work locally to build relationships with their federal elected officials.  One of them, Wade Wipperling, lives in Eastern Washington and has long been active as a Thrivent volunteer, even serving as president of the Washington Fraternal Alliance.  Wade visited with Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ district office, meeting her staff and inviting them to local Thrivent community activities.  He built up a relationship with the staff and shared with them the ways fraternals give back.  This led to a meeting with Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers in December, and, ultimately, a new friend for fraternals through the resolution.

    I’m inspired by Wade’s work, and ask you:  Who are your Wades?  Who from your society can help us build new allies simply by telling our story?

    I encourage you to share those stories with me, either by posting a comment here or in an email at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org.

    Remember, three more weeks to go to reach our goals.  If you haven’t started your campaign, now’s the time.  And if your efforts are underway, it’s time to double-down on them.  Start by going to Fraternals GIVE Back.

    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.

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