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Making the Right Connections

How often have you heard someone say, “We’re in the relationship business."? When it comes to fraternal benefit societies, it’s really true. Our entire business model is based on relationships – with the members of your society, with lodge leaders, with agents and brokers, with other community service organizations, and with state and federal public policymakers, to name just a few.

Today I’d like to focus on relationships between fraternals and public policymakers – state regulators and local, state, and federal elected officials. Making connections – meaningful connections – with these individuals is critical to the future of your society and the fraternal system.

At some point in their career, these individuals will likely be faced with an issue that will require them to make a decision about how your society operates. It could be an initiative to include fraternals in the state guaranty fund, to enact stricter solvency requirements, or to repeal the federal tax exemption.

What factors will have the most influence on their decision? Certainly their awareness of your society and the valuable contributions you and your members make to communities in the legislator’s state or district will top the list.

How do you develop that awareness and build relationships with these individuals? There is no better way than to encourage their participation in your community service programs. Greater Beneficial Union of Pittsburgh (GBU) provides an excellent example of how one fraternal can “make the right connections” with public policymakers.

GBU makes a point of inviting state and federal legislators to participate in its fraternal activities. U.S. Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) is a regular at these events and the executives at GBU have forged a close bond with their Congressman. In fact, Rep. Murphy pays tribute to the members of GBU in his November e-newsletter, which also features a photo of the legislators packing boxes for the troops at a GBU sponsored event. (Click here to see a copy of this article).

If every NFCA member society built such a relationship with their state and federal representatives, we would be able to create a much broader understanding of the value we bring to communities across the country. Just imagine how much more we could do to enhance our image and awareness if we could expand those relationships to include not only home offices, but also active and innovative lodges?

I suspect many other societies have built relationships with their public policymakers, but just like a tree falling in the forest, if there is no one around to hear or see it, such relationships will remain invisible. Please share your relationship-building success story with us by clicking here. If you aren’t currently engaged in this type of activity, but would like to be, let us know that, too. Contact Elizabeth Snyder, Manager of Political Advocacy at esnyder@nfcanet.org or (630) 522-6322, ext. 115.

Relationships – not acquaintances – are one of the pillars on which political influence is based. I know that many of you – and many of your members – would prefer to remain apolitical, but that is simply not an option today.

President-Elect Obama recently said that “Just because a program, a special interest tax break or corporate subsidy is tucked into this year’s budget, does not mean it should survive the next. The old ways of Washington simply can’t meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Our “old ways” have to change, too. We all need to be our own best lobbyist. That doesn’t mean we need to make large financial contributions or walk the halls of the Capitol on a daily basis. But it does mean telling our story effectively to the people that will make public policy decisions that affect our societies and the members and communities we serve. That’s one of NFCA’s highest priorities in 2009.

[Click here to read NFCA’s letter to President-Elect Obama.]

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