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    Independent Order of Foresters International Assembly Sets Positive Tone for Future

    The Independent Order of Foresters (IOF) International Assembly (the organization’s quadrennial meeting of delegates from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain) had its share of fraternal pomp and ceremony (the parade of nation’s with it’s Mardi Gras atmosphere was worth the price of admission), but the underlying tone of the meeting was focused on the business – both financial and fraternal – of the organization.

    IOF, like virtually every fraternal, has had its share of difficulties. The downturn in the financial markets, the relevance of its fraternal activities, and the production of its sales force are all issues that we’ve all had to face. IOF has taken a decidedly aggressive approach to confronting those issues, however – the transition from a captive to an independent sales force in the U.S. being the single most ambitious project the society has undertaken – and the results have been encouraging. Growth in premium volume, policy sales, and membership have created a positive outlook among the executives and members of IOF who gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, earlier this month to learn more about the state of the organization. So positive, in fact, that the theme for the event was “Turning the Tide.” And if 2008-09 results are any indication, IOF has accomplished that difficult feat. I was honored to be asked to participate in the meeting as a guest speaker, and I would like to pass on my personal appreciation to the IOF staff for running one of the most professionally organized events I’ve ever attended.

    One of the most amusing things that happened during the meeting was a dinner conversation my wife and I had with our tablemates from Canada, England, and Scotland. All of us were ostensibly speaking English, but we could barely understand one another. What a hoot.

    Also, if you ever have the chance, I’d highly recommend you put Halifax on your “places to visit” list. It’s a physically beautiful place and while Halifax is a decent-sized city, the landscape and environment is unspoiled. It’s full of history, dating from the struggle between Britain and France for control of Canada, the American Revolution (the British fleet withdrew to Halifax’s well-protected harbor after its defeat at Yorktown), the rescue operation for survivors of the Titanic, and a staging area for the invasion of Europe during World War II. There is a well-preserved British fort in the center of town and, like everywhere north of the 49th parallel, the place is full of some of the friendliest people on the planet. Great food, too. Fish caught in the cold Atlantic waters in the a.m. served to you that evening. Try the Five Fisherman and Fiasco if you go.

    The Portuguese Miracle

    No, I’m not talking about the vision at Fatima; I mean the vote taken last weekend by the members of four California-domiciled, Portuguese-based societies to consolidate into one fraternal. When I started here at NFCA 15 months ago, I was told that such a merger would never happen. But, thanks to the courageous leadership of the executives and members from the four societies, some outstanding legal consulting work, and a gentle nudge from state regulators, the impossible has happened.

    Who benefits from this development? First and foremost, the members of the combined society. Their financial security is protected and their fraternal benefits will almost certainly be enhanced. The new society has a chance to re-brand itself within the Portuguese community and has the financial wherewithal to invest in its financial services and fraternal activities. And the entire fraternal system gets a free lesson on how to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to such a consolidation. It’s a win-win-win if I’ve ever seen one.

    Want to learn more about how they did it? NFCA’s 2009 Annual Meeting will feature a workshop with some of the key players who made this deal possible – along with 10 other workshops on every aspect of fraternal operations – so you can get firsthand knowledge of how to apply these lessons to your society. As an added bonus, all of NFCA’s Portuguese societies will be hosting the opening reception on Thursday evening, September 17, where you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of ethnic foods and wine. Time’s running out to register at the early-bird discounted rate.  Register online today by clicking here.

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