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    Caring = Caritas

    The Alliance works hard to continually reinvent itself. We are always looking for new ways to more effectively deliver the highest quality advocacy, education, information, and networking opportunities to our member societies; to provide the greatest possible value for the investment members make in the Alliance; and to promote the incredible financial and social impact that fraternals have had and can have on individuals and communities across the U.S. and Canada.

    For several years, we have conducted a community service activity in conjunction with the Annual Meeting – painting a local family shelter, refurbishing a YMCA, etc. But members told us that these are the types of activities they do in their societies on a daily basis, and that they would prefer the Annual Meeting focus, in part, on teaching them to be more effective volunteer organizers. We stumbled upon a happy compromise that allows Alliance members to have a positive impact on the community in which the Annual Meeting is held, without taking time away from the educational and networking sessions members tell us is their highest priority. We now adopt a local charitable organization that reflects the shared values of our member societies and raise funds to help them carry out their mission. It’s become one of my favorite “new traditions” about the meeting. Caritas This year the Alliance has selected Caritas of Austin as our “charity of choice.” Now in its 50th year of service, Caritas serves the homeless, families in crisis, veterans, and refugees. Caritas provides a safety net for those experiencing poverty and links them to resources to achieve self-sufficiency. You can learn more about them by clicking on THIS LINK. Caritas was recommended to us by several Texas-domiciled Alliance members, led by Buddy Preuss, CEO of the Sons of Hermann. By the way, Buddy and other fraternal executives in the Lone Star State have gone out of their way to make sure this year’s meeting has lots of “local flavor,” and here’s a shout out in advance for all the effort they’ve put into making the 2014 Annual Meeting a spectacular one.

    Once again, Steve Ollenburg and his staff at Modern Woodmen Bank are providing gift cards for purchase by folks attending the Annual Meeting.  The gift cards, in denominations of $25, can be purchased by individuals or societies throughout the meeting at the Alliance’s registration desk.  We’ll turn over all the gift cards to Caritas at the conclusion of the meeting, and Caritas will provide them to individuals they serve so they can purchase the goods and services they need as they transition from hopelessness to independence.

    You can make miracles happen at the 2014 Annual Meeting.  Bring an open mind to absorb the wealth of new ideas and information that will be coming your way through the keynote addresses and workshops; and bring an open checkbook to give back just a little to an organization serving the community that will be hosting the meeting – Caritas of Austin.

    “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…”

    As many of you know, I’m a big Bob Dylan fan and the title of this posting is a lyric from “My Back Pages,” one of my favorite Dylan songs.  It’s a perfect fit for the overarching theme of the Alliance’s 2014 Annual Meeting program – finding ways for fraternals to grow younger.  We developed a program that is focused on helping you accept Jim Collins’ challenge for fraternals to have as many members under 35 years old as they do over 35.


    And in the spirit of “growing younger,” I am adding a twist to the Collins’ challenge by encouraging every member society to bring their most promising young person to the 2014 Annual Meeting.  It could be someone like…

    • That young manager in charge of your society’s marketing or community service programs who you just know is going to succeed and you hope that success will come with your society – not their next employer…
    • That 35-year old first-term Board member who’s open to new ideas about the direction of your society…
    • That local chapter leader who has reinvented the notion of volunteerism and redefined the relevance of your society to members of the local community…

    Add yourself to this list if you haven’t been to the Alliance Annual Meeting in the last year or two.  Our 2014 Annual Meeting program is going to break new ground, and you should be there with your colleagues to experience it.  We’re well on our way to attracting another record crowd to the meeting in Austin in September.  The deadline for early bird registration as well as for our special Young Professional Rate is this Friday, July 18.  It will cost you more to attend the meeting after that date, so why wait (especially when you can take advantage of our easy on-line registration system)?

    There are hundreds of reasons for you, your management team, your board members, and your most promising local chapter leaders to be there.  Here are just a few…

    • Dan Heath on “Being Decisive”  – Dan is the closest thing to a “traditional” keynote speaker you’ll find at this year’s meeting, and he’s anything but run-of-the-mill.  A best-selling author and Duke University professor, Dan’s going to provide you insights on the one thing that every leader at any level has to do well – make decisions.  You’ll leave this session knowing why you’ve made missteps in the past and with the tools to make the next decision you make your best ever.
    • Philippe Garneau on “Fraternal Branding” – Philippe knocked the socks off the attendees at the Alliance’s Canadian Section Annual General Meeting a few weeks ago, and we knew we had to have him deliver the same message on branding your society for the next generation at the Annual Meeting.  His is the only Workshop that will be repeated simply because we want as many of you to hear this presentation as possible.
    • The “CEO Newlywed Game” – While we’re still trying to get Bob Eubanks to serve as emcee of this session, we have lined up five new fraternal CEOs (some of whom have been on the job less than a month) to discuss the pros, cons, challenges and opportunities that their societies are facing.  Every topic is fair game during this panel presentation, from the relevance of the local chapter system to the future of insurance product distribution, to the discoveries these executives are making as they peel back the layers on the onions of their own societies.
    • The Saturday Program – We’ve turned over the reins for the Saturday sessions to some of the best and brightest young professionals the fraternal system has to offer, and they’ve lined up a series of fast-paced programs that will help you understand younger consumers, communicate with them in a way that makes sense to them, and attract them to your society as employees and members.  This is your chance to not only see the future of the fraternal system but to make sure your society’s a part of it.
    • The Saturday Night Round Up – No speeches, no head tables, no reserved seating…  We’re in Austin, folks, and that means food stations serving Tex-Mex cuisine, bull riding, calf roping, and a great country-rock band.  Jeans, boots, Stetsons, and big belt buckles are not only acceptable attire but strongly encouraged.  But please leave the pearl-handled revolvers in your room…

    See you in Texas…jja

    Some Thoughts on Fraternal Affinities

    I often wonder if fraternals really take advantage of the affinity – the common bond – that exists among their members to effectively provide them with products and services, beyond life insurance and annuities, that those members are likely to want and need.

    I am a member of a number of fraternals, but the organization that seems to know me best is a “non-fraternal” fraternal – Amazon.  As an avowed despiser of shopping, I welcomed the opportunity to buy books without ever having to leave my home years ago.  While I never thought I’d give up the hard copies of the books themselves, once I began experimenting with electronic books with my Kindle (a gift from the Alliance staff that I appreciate every day) I quickly became a “true believer” in the power of technology – at least as it relates to accessing literature.


    As a result, Amazon and I have developed an affinity that will be almost impossible to break.  Moreover, that relationship has expanded beyond purchasing e-books to Amazon becoming the primary source for all my online purchasing.  If I haven’t purchased Christmas gifts by Thanksgiving weekend, I receive a friendly reminder letting me know it’s time to place my order, reminding me of my previous purchases, and letting me know about items I might be interested in purchasing this year.  For an individual who travels frequently, has a limited amount of free time, and/or for whom the thought of going to a mall and browsing triggers fever and nausea, this type of “affinity marketing” is a godsend.

    I think fraternals can borrow such a business model.  To me, the most logical extension of our core life insurance and annuity products are:

    • Financial education and information – Learning how to be smarter with money is a universal need.  This is especially true for younger and middle income consumers who not only want help on making ends meet, but want to know how, by doing so, they can live “more generously” and improve the lives of others in their community.
    • Health and wellness programs – It’s good business for fraternal life insurers to keep their members healthy and happy.  And it’s good for the communities in which those members live and work to be filled with happy, healthy and generous citizens.
    • Faith-based programs – Many fraternals have strong faith-based common bonds.  Makes sense to me for these societies to offer opportunities for members to grow their faith and put it to work in their communities.
    • Community service opportunities – Providing a wide range of choices to members on how they can to give back locally (in groups of two or three rather than the traditional lodge-based approach) can help engage more members and younger members.

    This is a combination of “big data” (knowing who your members are, what they do, and what they might like to do) and thoughtful communication (speaking to them in their language and in their favored media, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, texting, email).  If we don’t do it, someone will.  And I don’t think that someone is going to be MetLife or Prudential; it’s going to be Google, Amazon, or a new entrant to affinity-based marketing that we’ve never heard of.

    I’d like to hear how you are utilizing your societies’ affinities to forge closer bonds between your members and the organization, increase the number of products and services you provide members, and boost your bottom line in the process.  Share your comments here or send them to me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org.

    Want to learn more about marketing to younger consumers?  Register for the Alliance’s Annual Meeting and take advantage of an educational program designed to help societies grow younger.  Don’t forget to bring your societies’ up and coming “millennials” to this event too!  Learn more about the meeting and register online here.

    You Can Grow Younger! – Guest Blog

    cocoon Wait! Don’t hit delete. This is not spam for a miracle facial cream from Eastern Europe that will help rid you of wrinkles forever. This is really an important blog post about the newest component of this year’s Alliance Annual Meeting, coming up September 4-6, in Austin, Texas – “Grow Younger Day.”

    Andrea Litewski Manager, Education

    Andrea Litewski
    Manager, Education

    I asked Joe to turn over the reins of the blog to me this week so that I could let you know what to expect on Saturday, September 6, during the Annual Meeting. This is the day that we have completely devoted to the topic of “Growing Younger.”

    Now because, like orange juice, a week without Joe is like a week without sunshine, you will remember what Joe shared in his blog post entitled, Millennials are the Future of Your Society – Whether You Like it or Not:

    “It all boils down to this: we’ve got to attract more new (and ideally younger) consumers to become fraternal members – people that purchase insurance, utilize member benefits, and support community service activities – than the current members that are passing away (or whose policies are fully paid).  And that means appealing to millennials – one of the most sought after and misunderstood demographic sectors in the history of marketing.”  

    In order to help us begin an association-wide conversation about this topic, the Alliance Board of Directors created the Generation X, Y, Millennial Annual Meeting Program Task Force and charged this group with the responsibility of planning all the content for Saturday at the 2014 Annual Meeting. The task force consists of the following members:

    • Christopher Kopka, Vice President, brightpeak financial
    • Kaitlin Kubassek, Marketing Assistant, Faithlife Financial
    • Kelsey Logan, Youth Activities Director, Western Fraternal Life Association
    • Nate Lamusga, Youth Fraternal Liaison, Catholic United Financial

    Thanks to all of you for your hard work! So what should you expect? Well, let’s start with our Saturday keynote speaker: as a millennial, Kim Lear speaks to businesses and organizations on a broad spectrum of generational topics. These include how to best leverage the strengths of a dynamic multi-generational workforce, harnessing the power of the wave of millennials continuing to enter the workforce in record numbers, how to best connect with a multi-generational customer base and tips for marketing to a multi-generational marketplace. We asked Kim to introduce herself to you via a brief video. Please click here to meet Kim. We’ve also planned a variety of workshop topics including:

    Finally, to make sure that we have representatives from the younger generation with us in Austin, the Alliance instituted the “reallygreat” Scholarship program. Application for these awards was open to Gen Y/Millennial society staff members, and those selected will receive a complimentary meeting registration, three nights free hotel room (room and tax only), and $500 to offset travel expenses to and from Austin. We are thrilled with the strong response and many applications that we have received for this program and look forward to announcing the winners in the coming weeks.

    The reallygreat” Scholarship program has been made possible by the generosity of some of our associate member firms, including our naming sponsor:

    The Alliance’s partner in event management, reallygreatmeetings.com.

    Other sponsors include:

    Wellington Management

    Andesa Services

    MSP Communications

    We are still looking for associate member organizations to support this “reallygreat” concept of helping our societies “grow younger,” by making a $500 contribution, and please contact Allison Koppel, Executive Vice President, at akoppel@fraternalalliance.org to participate as a sponsor.

    We hope that you will find something of interest to your society in the “Grow Younger” program and we look forward to seeing you and members of your board and staff in Austin! If this post helped you to make up your mind, you can register here.

    And don’t forget – the Young Professionals discount, $100 off the registration fee to member society staff born after September 1, 1979, is available only until July 18. Be sure to register them today!

    The Best of Joe…

    As he mentioned last week, Joe Annotti is out of the office and blogging will be unusually light. In his absence, we’re running one of his past blogs that has a message that is always appropriate at this time of year! (Note…we updated it a little.)

    The Alliance Annual Meeting: You know you’re going to register, so why pay more by waiting? 

    The 2014 Alliance Annual Meeting is going to knock your socks off. That’s a promise. You’ll walk away from this event a better leader thanks to the insights provided by keynote speaker Dan Heath. Your board members and executive team will come back better informed and better equipped to deal with issues such as learning to brand the fraternal business model for your next generation of members to dealing with unclaimed property – thanks to the best lineup of workshop topics and presenters we’ve ever assembled. You’ll leave Austin inspired to grow your society younger thanks to our new “Grow Younger Day” workshops and millennial speaker, Kim Lear. And you may even get a chance to show off your two-step thanks to the Saturday Night Round Up Party. Come on, you know you’re going to register. And by doing so before July 18, every one of your society’s board members and executives will save $100 on the registration fee. Compare the value of attending the Alliance’s Annual Meeting – the only conference that brings together North America’s top fraternal leaders to address fraternal-specific opportunities – with other industry trade groups’ meetings. I think you’ll agree that at $650, it’s the best education and entertainment bargain in the business. And don’t forget, your young professionals receive an extra $100 discount, but only until July 18. Registration couldn’t be easier – just a few clicks and you’re signed up. Or call (815) 338-9668 for assistance in registering larger groups from your society. Austin2 PS:  Want to save even more money?  Take advantage of your board member’s flights to Austin and register them for the Board Institute held on Thursday before the meeting! They will receive the best education for fraternal board members offered anywhere and get to share the experiences of other fraternal board leaders.

    Have you ever considered adoption?

    I’ll be traveling on business most of this week and will be squiring a houseful of relatives around Chicago next week, so this will be my last post until at least June 23. While I’m taking a blog break, here’s something I’d like you to consider: adoption.

    The Alliance relies heavily on volunteers to fulfill its mission of providing advocacy, education, and information.  We know that not every society has the resources to participate on the Alliance board and on committees, task forces, or working groups.  But there is something that every society can do to help ensure our continued success:  “adopt” a member of Congress.

    What does adoption mean?  Quite simply, it means your society, working hand-in-hand with Alliance staff and our D.C.–based lobbying firm, takes responsibility for communicating the Alliance’s messages to a member of Congress and his or her staff. congressional office You will be asked to meet occasionally with the lawmaker and staff in the district office.  You’ll be asked to invite the legislator to your most significant community service events and also to tour your home office and meet your staff.  And you’ll be asked to communicate the most important information about fraternals and our tax-exempt status to the lawmaker via mail, email, or phone calls.

    Adoption is a big commitment, but you can do almost all of it from your office. The cost is negligible, and the benefit to your society and the Alliance is invaluable.

    If your society is serious – and I mean really serious – about taking on this responsibility, then email me as soon as possible, and we will get the process started. As I said, the Alliance staff and our lobbying team will be with you all the way.

    If just half of Alliance member societies participate, we will dramatically expand our ability to reach out to Members of Congress and have a positive impact on legislation that affects fraternals.  I hope you’ll consider participating in the program and I look forward to hearing from a representative of your society very soon.

    “And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like…”

    My last few posts have been about some pretty serious issues – solvency, sustainability, regulation. And I’ve received exactly zero comments from readers on them. So I think it’s time to check and see if anyone is out there and willing to go on record about something that really matters:  favorite fictional characters. After all, it’s summer and time to start thinking about beach reading. Here’s my list from literature, stage, screen – and cartoons. It’s purely personal and influenced entirely by my own tastes and life experiences. I hope you’ll add your own favorites to the list…

    10. Lisbeth Sander (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) – Just one of the wildest protagonists ever created. Brilliant, scarred, compassionate, ruthless. Made me want to start reading novels again after years of being a “non-fiction only” person.
    cowardly lion

    9. Cowardly Lion (“Wizard of Oz”) – I never missed watching this movie on TV when I was a kid. It came on every year about Easter time. The flying monkeys scared the hell out of me, but Burt Lahr as the Cowardly Lion (“Put ‘em up, put ‘em up!”) made me laugh every time.

    8. Viola (“12th Night”) – How can you have a “literary favorites” list without a Shakespearian character? And Viola – the stranded stowaway from “12th Night” – tops mine. I saw the play most recently in an open air theatre in Spring Grove, Wis., – and I’m ready for a return trip to that venue this summer.

    7. Doc Ricketts (“Cannery Row”) – I grew up in Steinbeck country and spent lots of time on Cannery Row. I just felt a connection to Doc and the cast of woebegone characters in that novel. I read it for the first time when I was about 21 years old and writing this reminds me that it’s about time for a re-read.

    6. Jeeves (P.G. Wodehouse) – Professor Maurie McCutcheon of the University of the Pacific taught a class entitled “Literary Humor” during my sophomore year. He was the perfect instructor for one of the funniest writers (Wodehouse) and one of the most hysterical characters (Jeeves) of all time. Thank God for the British.

    5. Bullwinkle (“Rocky and Bullwinkle”) – When I was a kid, Bullwinkle was broadcast on Sunday mornings after Mass. I would make my mom race home so I could watch it.  Ten bonus points for anyone who can name Bullwinkle’s home town and his alma mater. Twenty bonus points to anyone who sends me a T-shirt with the school’s name on it!

    4. Holden Caufield (“Catcher in the Rye”) – Salinger rocked my world when I first read this book in 1974 and still does so today. ‘Nuf said.

    3. George and Lenny (“Of Mice and Men”) – I know, I know, more Steinbeck characters. But I can’t leave them off my list and you can’t have George without Lenny. “Tell me again, George, about the land of milk and honey.” Touching, moving, sad, inspiring.

    2. Atticus Finch (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) – I loved the character in the book (also read for the first time at about 17 years old) and Gregory Peck’s portrayal in the movie goes down as one of my favorite all time performances. Atticus represents the hope that we can be the person we aspire to be, even if we sometimes fall short.

    1. Randall P. McMurphy (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”) — An assist has to go to juicy fruit“Chief” on this, but Ken Kesey’s character in the novel and Jack Nicholson’s performance in the film moved me. The World Series broadcast, the fishing trip, the effort to rip up the standing sink and be free (“At least I tried…”) are so comical, powerful, human. My favorite line? “Mmmmm…Juicy Fruit.”


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