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10 things I learned from my visits with you

Next week I'll celebrate my one-year anniversary as president and CEO of NFCA.  Trade association executives have a unique role.  We are here to serve the members – after all, it is YOUR organization – and to lead the organization, sometimes in a direction that members may not want to go.  Balancing the "servant/leader" roles is critical to the success of the executive and the organization.  I welcome your thoughts on how I've done that over the past year.

As you know, one of my most important priorities has been to get out and visit with each an every member.  So far, I've met with 55 societies and I plan to meet with the last 16 members prior to the 2009 Annual Meeting

Why are these meetings so important to me?  It's pretty simple: I can't be a very effective advocate unless I know and understand my constituency.  And I can't get to know you over the phone and via e-mail.  As my mother told me, "You need to eat a sack of salt with someone before you can say you know them." These meetings are an opportunity to share some salt.

Top 10 List

I could write a book about what I've learned from these sessions, but you'll have to settle for a "Top 10" list instead:

  1. NFCA Webinars are a huge hit.  "They allow us to access important information without having to travel or spend an entire day in a meeting," said one member.

  2. Board Institutes resonate with members.  "This type of education should be mandatory for anyone who sits on the Board of a fraternal,” one board member insists.

  3. Members like the association's effort to "push" information to them rather than just posting it on the Web site.  Weekly Headlines, State Round-up, Federal Briefing, and my blog were frequently cited as valuable new information services provided by NFCA.

  4. "Don't be a regulator" was a message I heard consistently in my visits.  Members see value in the Accreditation Program because it gives them performance targets to shoot for and measure themselves against.  But they don't want NFCA acting as a de facto regulator.

  5. Be respectful of small societies’ time and resources.  Members told me that we ask a lot of them in terms of statistical and fraternal information, as well as periodic surveys.  They don't mind submitting this data, but they want the NFCA to be mindful of the timing of such requests and the limits on their resources.

  6. It's all about networking.  Virtually every society reported that one of the greatest benefits of the association is its ability to bring members together for networking opportunities.  Meeting face-to-face with peers and colleagues is very important to members and NFCA needs to facilitate such interaction wherever possible.

  7. Members have an inherent understanding that NFCA can do for them collectively what they can't do on their own, especially in the advocacy arena.  The association's effort to preserve fraternals tax-exempt status is viewed as critical to many members, although some think it is important to plan and prepare for the eventual repeal of the exemption.

  8. Look beyond the merger option.  Some members feel that NFCA promotes mergers of societies too aggressively and think that the association should consider other alternatives, such as shared services or combined backroom operations.  We've heard that message and are devoting an entire morning of the Presidents Section Mid-Year Meeting to exploring such options.

  9. Many members perceive the NFCA as a much larger organization with a big staff and huge financial resources.  Members are shocked to learn that we have a staff of only 8.5 people and an annual budget of less than $2 million.  It's nice to know that we're delivering so much value with such a modest staff and budget.

  10. The time to change is now.  Members – even those who may not want to admit it – understand that it's time to change the way we do business.  We're all struggling to find the set of solutions that makes the most sense – that allow us to carry out our unique mission in a more effective and efficient manner.  Acknowledging the need for change is the first step in making it happen.

OK, it’s your turn.  What have you learned from our visits?  Haven't had the chance to meet yet?  Then contact my Executive Assistant, Jessica Zackavec, at jzackavec@nfcanet.org and schedule a meeting…

2 Responses

  1. Congratualtions on your 1 year anniversary!
    You have definitely succeeded in opening up the lines of electronic communication between your member companies and the NFCA as well as yourself.
    I have enjoyed the information.

  2. Thanks, Jim. Communication is a two-way street, and I appreciate hearing what members think of our performance.

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