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Jump Starting JOIN HANDS DAY

Believe it or not, JOIN HANDS DAY – scheduled for May 2, 2009 – is just 16 weeks away.  In my short tenure at NFCA, I’ve come to think of the event as a “sleeping giant” – something that right now is long on potential but short on impact.  This year, we’re committed to jump starting JOIN HANDS DAY by taking some important steps to get more members involved (and enthusiastic) about the event, to make it easier for member societies and local lodges to list their individual activities on the Web site, and to raise the profile of the event – and the value of NFCA members’ contributions to improving American society – with public policymakers, opinion leaders in the media, and current and prospective fraternalists.

In order to do that, however, I need your feedback.  So please, continue reading about the two major changes we’ve already put in place this year and weigh in on the two-question survey at the end of this posting.


January 21 Webinar

On Wednesday, January 21, NFCA is conducting a FREE Webinar for anyone interested in learning how to organize a JOIN HANDS DAY event or who wants to improve or expand their community service programs.  Over 70 representatives from NFCA member societies have already registered for this program – a testament to the relevance of the topic and to the importance member societies place on community service activities and JOIN HANDS DAY.  If you are not already registered, please click here to register online.

Enhanced JOIN HANDS DAY Web Site

When talking to NFCA members, we heard time and time again that the online registration for JOIN HANDS DAY was somewhat cumbersome.  Therefore, we’re enhancing the JOIN HANDS DAY Web site to make it easier for member societies and local lodges to self-report their projects, by simplifying the form and making it so you only have to register once vs. the pre-event and post-event registration of the past.  We’re also working to significantly improve the graphic appeal, navigation and user-friendliness of the site, and adding the capability for participants to upload their JOIN HANDS DAY photos.  The new and improved online registration will be ready by the end of this week, followed closely by a brand new look for the entire site in the weeks to come.

Something to Consider: National Community Service Partners

Community service activities are what set us apart from other financial services providers.  Without them, fraternal benefit societies are just another commercial enterprise.

If we’re going to make fraternals a better known and more well-respected component of the financial services sector; if we’re going to make the “fraternal option” more appealing to prospective consumers; if we’re going to put an end to questions about the validity of the fraternal tax exemption once and for all, then our community service activities must provide real, tangible, and meaningful value to America and Americans.

Today, most of the community service activities carried out by our network of lodges, branches, and chapters is done on a grassroots – and in some cases, an almost ad hoc – basis.  The positives of such a system are that society members can organize specific activities that meet the needs of their local communities, whether that be cleaning up a park or supporting the efforts of food bank.

Unfortunately, such a grassroots system also has negatives.  First, the combined community service contributions of all NFCA member societies are extremely difficult to measure (both the amount of financial support and the volunteer hours contributed) and their overall effect can get “watered down” because of the inability to capture the real impact of those contributions (how many children benefit when a park is cleaned up, for instance?). 

Second, there is often very little direction given to local lodges about what types of community service activities they can and should be engaged in.  As a result, fewer members participate in such activities and sometimes the value of these service projects is negligible. 

The end result is a missed opportunity – to do good works in our community, to get current members to become more engaged with their society, to recruit new members, to tell our story to the local media, to invite public policymakers to participate in those activities and learn more about who we are and what we do. 

That’s why NFCA is strongly considering establishing “national partnerships” with several high profile community service organizations such as the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, The Boy Scouts of America, the 4-H Council, and others.  Through such arrangements, NFCA member societies could work with the local, state or national coordinators from these organizations to conduct joint community service events, not just on JOIN HANDS DAY, but throughout the year.

These partnerships provide member societies direction for their local lodge networks’ community-service activities, to engage well-respected partner organizations to maximize the value of their volunteerism, and attract prospective members to the society.  In my opinion, it’s a “win-win” relationship for both NFCA members and our prospective partners.

Red Cross Blood Drive for 2009 JOIN HANDS DAY

We’re already taken the first step to building such partnerships by reaching out to the Red Cross and proposing that NFCA members participate in a national blood drive during the week of JOIN HANDS DAY (May 2-9, 2009).  The Red Cross is very supportive of this proposal, but needs to know AS SOON AS POSSIBLE how many member societies and/or local lodges would be interested in hosting these local events.  A national blood drive is not intended to replace the JOIN HANDS DAY activities of any society or lodge, but to compliment them.  It also offers an opportunity for those societies and lodges who have never participated in JOIN HANDS DAY to begin with a project that is relatively easy to manage and can do a world of good.


Two Questions for You

In conclusion, I have two questions for you:

  1. Do you think that NFCA should aggressively pursue such “national partnerships” with the organizations listed above?  (Please also feel free to suggest additional organizations that would make good partners for our efforts.)

  2. Is your society interested in working with the Red Cross to conduct a blood drive in conjunction with JOIN HANDS DAY 2009?  (If so, NFCA will put the correct Red Cross coordinator in touch with you based on your location.)

Please respond to these two questions by clicking here or by using the comments box below.  We greatly appreciate your feedback.

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