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    A Meeting of True Believers

    I attended a meeting of “true believers” last week in Nashville.  And it wasn’t the Annual Conference Apostolic Ministers that was meeting just a few doors down from the event in which I participated.

    No, the “true believers” I met with were the members of the National Association of Fraternal Insurance Counselors (NAFIC), who were attending their Annual Meeting.  These are the folks on the front lines of fraternalism.  They represent the primary sales force of many NFCA member societies.  Quite frankly, they are the lifeblood of the system.

    NAFIC members are trained and committed sales professionals.  They have not only earned their designation through a rigorous education program, they earn their stripes every day by spreading the gospel of the “fraternal advantage” to clients and prospects.  And, trust me on this, they believe in the value of the life insurance products they sell and the very tangible benefits of fraternal membership.  The bottom line is that without these dedicated FICs the fraternal system wouldn’t exist.  After all, nothing happens until a sale is made.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see many NFCA member society CEOs and senior executives at the conference.  But there should have been more.  Not so much for the educational sessions on how to better sell and service life insurance products and grow your business (although many of these sessions were quite valuable), but for the opportunity to meet face-to-face with their field managers and sales force.  Let’s face it, there is often a communication gap between the home office and the field and it’s at meetings like this where that chasm can be bridged.

    Can We Come Together Under One Fraternal Umbrella?

    I’ve made no secret of my view that NFCA and NAFIC should conduct a parallel Annual Meeting – one large meeting where we come together under one fraternal umbrella while respecting the integrity of each organization.  Think about it.  One Annual Meeting that has something for everyone in the fraternal system.  Separate educational tracks for CEOs and Secretaries, sales and marketing professionals, fraternal leaders, Board members, government affairs and legal professionals, investment and actuarial executives, lodge leaders and volunteer organizers.  With general session speakers that can deliver a compelling message that resonates with everyone in the system.  Instead of drawing a few hundred to each separate meeting, we could build a program that could potentially attract thousands. 

    When I share this vision I get a lot of head nods and “if only” comments, followed by a long list of reasons why it will never happen: no one wants to give up their autonomy or authority; it would cost too much for so many people to attend; each organization has a long history and tradition; there is “bad blood” that exists over previous attempts to pull this off; yadda, yadda, yadda…

    My response?  Phooey.  Those are all nice ways to say we all want to protect our own turf.  Well folks, our turf is shrinking.  And if we don’t want to be left fighting over the last blade of grass on which to stand, we’ve got to start thinking about new ways to come together and grow the system.  Personally, I think talking to each other and building synergy between the management, sales, and fraternal segments of our industry is a good place to start.

    What do you think?  Am I missing something?  Am I just whistling Dixie?  Wake me up and stop me if you think I’m crazy, but I believe this is a dream that can come true and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

    6 Responses

    1. I think having one annual meeting with breakout sessions is an excellent idea. I too have felt that there is a separation between sales and fraternal. We can learn so much from each other. After all, we’re all in it for the same outcome. One of the issues that has been discussed over the years during the mid-year Fraternal and Communications section meetings is that we don’t always get the ear of upper management. By bringing all players together, we would be come a stonger organization. There truly can be strength in numbers.

    2. Again, you hit the nail right on the head, Joe. I am fortunate enough to have worked in both sales and fraternal and know that you can’t have the fraternal without the sales, and that the fraternal sometimes helps with the sales. Joining forces would be a great idea – they go hand-in-hand and it would make perfect sense in order to keep our fraternal system alive and prospering.

    3. Sounds like you had a good meeting and there may be a place at the annual meeting for all to participate.
      I’m not sure I agree that without the FIC’s, the fraternal industry would not exist. For those smaller fraternals like Degree of Honor who cannot afford to have captive FIC agents, we find a way to sell our products and promote fraternalism through independent agents. It’s all in the way you market and educate your agents and members. I respect the fraternals who are commited to the FIC designation but some of us needed to find alternative ways to economically reach our marketplace and also remain true to our fraternal history. I’m expecting some reaction to my comments since we are considered “the exception rather than the rule” with this distribution system:)

    4. From my perspective which isn’t “within” the Fraternal system, but rather, to help find solutions to help societies grow & prosper, having a larger annual convention is not only a smart business decision but also a strong public relations statement.
      For some outside the box thoughts –
      I have attended many, many conventions ranging from small (100) to extremely large (36,000+). Do you think the neighbors, cab drivers, hotels, newspapers, radio’s etc. know about the 100 or the 36,000 attendee convention? That’s free publicity. And, imagine having a booth or sales collateral for people that walk by (work, tourists, etc.) to learn about Fraternalism. Spread the word – get the best hidden secret known!
      Conventions can be organized anyway that you want them to. As Joe suggested, it is necessary to keep separate break-out/educational sections by function. Yet, begin a large session for all attendees. Think of the energy that will fill the room, the camaraderie, the excitement, the sense of being part of something larger than oneself, one society. Different roles yet the same goal.
      Whether a society uses independent or captive agents, or is open to other distribution channels (ie. direct mail:), there is a common bond, a common goal, that all share. Plus, it could be an incentive for agents – loyalty, focus, and motivation.

    5. Over the years more and more societies have worked to bring together sales and fraternal in very meaningful ways.
      Because FICs are the lifeblood of the system and their caring professionalism has been and continues to be a perfect stabilizing force for the system, it is only logical that we all work more closely together to promote the fraternal benefit system.
      The other stabilizing force in this scenario is, of course, the system’s OTHER major sales partner – the chapter member. In more and more societies the fraternal and marketing arms are combined because the brand ambassadorship role filed by the chapter leaders fits so neatly with the membership growth role of the agent, particularly the FIC. Proof of this can be found in the fact that a growing number of societies allows agents to attend society conventions as delegates and encourage them to hold local chapter positions.
      Though keeping the NAFIC and NFCA separate associations makes sense, joining the NAFIC and NFCA at one annual meeting helps all stakeholders to grow our system. Only together will we move forward.

    6. I just wanted to pass along a few gems that I was able to take away from the recent NAFIC (Natl. Association of Fraternal Insurance Counsellors) convention in Tennessee.
      I was pleased to attend the session on recruiting, presented by Northwestern Mutual recruiter Joey Davenport on Thursday afternoon. Joey spoke of the importance of cultivating advisor referrals and some of the different ways to accomplish getting them.
      Joey related some startling statistics. He noted that the number of full time advisors in the insurance industry has plummeted over 46 % since 1975. Some of you are aware of the fact that the current 4 year retention rate of advisors is at a very low 13%.
      While we have developed a “candidate profile” for the type of advisor we hope to contract here at CFLI, I will be adding a few more criteria to the list after being in attendance during Mr. Davenport’s presentation. I appreciated the fact that although he comes from a commercial carrier agency, he acknowledged that we who are involved with recruiting in the fraternal arena, are blessed with our own unique challenges in regard to recruiting, but at the same time we have certain advantages over the commercial carriers with one of the key elements being that we have a “niche” market to offer our advisors. Joey mentioned, and I really appreciated being reminded, that we must never forget our “fraternal edge”.
      I look forwarding to exploring ways that we might implement, some of the “outside the box” ideas presented during this segment of the convention.
      The rest of the program featured speakers and sessions focused on material designed to inspire and encourage everyone in attendance to continue to pursue greater benevolent and fraternal works as well as offered “brass tacks” ways to return to the founding principles of fraternalism, while encouraging us all to embrace the opportunities for growth in the future, and not shy away from exploring and implementing cutting edge “alternate” distribution channels to increase our membership.
      It was great to see that our very own Steve Shultz received yet another “Quality Service Award” from Nafic during a presentation on Saturday morning. Congratulations Steve!!!
      Fraternally,
      David Gerard
      Director of Recruiting
      Catholic Family Life Insurance
      1-800-227-CFLI (2354) ext 277
      davidg@cfli.org

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