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    Showing the fraternal colors…

    For the first time in several years, the NFCA Annual Meeting will include a community service activity that will allow members to demonstrate to the local community exactly “who we are and what we do.”  At about noon on Thursday, September 17, the more than 125 volunteers that have signed up to participate will board buses at the Grand Hyatt for the short drive to the Family Service Association (FSA) for an afternoon of interior painting and exterior landscaping work.  If you haven’t registered to participate, there’s still time.  Just log-on to this website by entering your registration number and last name, and then click on Amend/Review Options to sign up.

    FSA provides needy families in the San Antonio area with a variety of services to meet the personal and professional challenges they face, including in-home personal care, parenting education, anti-gang initiatives, and family counseling.  You can learn more about them by checking out their Web site at www.family-service.org.  Many San Antonio-area NFCA members support FSA through their societies’ fraternal activities.  Frankly, we couldn’t think of a more perfect match for the association.

    In late August, FSA informed us that the state of Texas has frozen their funding through the end of the year.  That means the organization is forced to cut spending wherever it can, including the $2,700 worth of supplies we need to complete the painting and landscaping projects we had planned.

    A fraternal raffle to the rescue

    NFCA was just not willing to let a small financial hurdle get in the way of completing some very important community service work.  So the association assured FSA that it would provide the funding for the supplies and that our volunteer project would go on.  And what better way to recoup at least a part of those costs than by conducting a “50-50” raffle at this year’s Annual Meeting? 

    Volunteers from the Texas Fraternal Congress will be at the meeting selling raffle tickets ($10 each or 3 for $20) on Thursday and Friday.  All proceeds will go to the FSA, and NFCA will make up any shortfall for the expenses associated with our volunteer event.  We’ll have a drawing for the winning ticket at the Saturday morning General Session.  The winner will receive half of the total funds raised.  Of course, if the winner wanted to donate some or all of his/her cash prize back to the FSA, that would be perfectly acceptable!

    So pack your work clothes, stick a couple of extra $20 bills in your wallet, and let’s join hands to make this event a success for NFCA and the families that rely on FSA.

    Sons of Norway Show the Courage of Vikings

    It’s not easy to confront the toughest challenges we all face – declines in membership, an expanding generational divide, and lack of participation in fraternal activities – in an open and honest way.  Many of us would prefer to ignore it, hope it goes away, or rely on wishful thinking to address these “make or break” issues.

    But not the Sons of Norway (SON).  In the September issue of Viking, the organization’s member magazine, the SON leadership unveils the results of a recent survey of former members between 40-60 years old, conducted by a professional research and communications firm.  The SON wanted to get feedback on their membership experience and the reasons why they left the organization.  Some of the findings could be applied to virtually any NFCA member.  Here are just a few highlights of the survey respondents’ comments:

    • "Most members are senior citizens and…they mostly engaged in senior activities.”
    • “I was interested in ancestry and history;…not puppet shows.”
    • “Older members and uninteresting programs.”
    • “Membership cliques that are resistant to change.”
    • “It wasn’t a great place for our kids.”
    • “I’d like to see younger membership with much more dynamic and compelling programs.”
    • “Make sure young people are made to feel welcome – not just as folks who pay dues and are ignored.”

    Those are some pretty pointed assessments, but bear in mind they were made by folks who elected to non-renew their membership in the organization, so you would expect their comments to be more negative.  Nonetheless, they must sound at least a little bit familiar to all of us.  The SON are taking these comments seriously and are working hard with their local lodge leaders to overcome these problems and secure the future of the organization.  I commend them for their courage and hope other members will tackle these issues just as aggressively.

    Please share your stories of how your society is getting feedback from members (or former members) on these critical issues and, more importantly, what you are doing to confront them.  I’d love to hear them and I know the leaders of other NFCA member societies would, too.  Be sure to post them below.

    And now for some good news…

    Take a look at this article and see if you aren’t encouraged by the potential to revitalize fraternal relevance among consumers.  Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

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