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Joe’s Special… Random Bits of Positivity from an April Fool

WFLA turns sales trip into community service event… Almost every fraternal life insurer provides their top producers with an incentive trip as a way to acknowledge their outstanding sales, service, and community service performance.  Western Fraternal Life Association (WFLA) has established a tradition of incorporating a fraternal activity into this annual event.  When the site for the sales trip is selected – in 2010, it was St. Thomas – society leaders select a needy school in the area, and over the course of the year, agents send the home office school supplies which are collected and sent to the school in advance of the trip.  Executives work out a date and time when the WFLA delegation can visit the school to present the supplies to the children and learn more about the community and the challenges that local educators are facing.  WFLA president and CEO Jim Wolfe said that the pens, paper, binders and portfolios donated by the society can often supply a school for an entire year, and “you have no idea how valuable and appreciated a simple pencil and notebook are in some parts of the world.”  A small project?  Yes, in the grand scheme of things.  051_9A But all those small projects combine to make a difference and extend the reach of fraternalism one person at a time.  Here’s a photo (click on the photo to view full size) of this year’s event that benefitted the Gladys A. Abraham Elementary School. 

Food for thought… Here’s an idea that was discussed at the recently concluded Fraternal and Communications Sections Mid-Year Meeting, and I want to get your feedback on it.  It’s no secret that we need to enhance awareness of fraternals.  We won’t blossom by being “the best kept secret in America” or “the greatest story never told.”  As the above item demonstrates, many societies and lodges do wonderful things in communities across the country (and beyond) every day.  The problem, at least as far as I can see, is that our activities are…somewhat random.  Collectively, we’re not really “known” for anything.  But I think we can change that.  How about if we adopted a theme for our fraternal activities in 2011?  Maybe something like “Fraternals Feed America.”  We wouldn’t expect societies or lodges to stop doing the good things that they are already doing.  But we would ask each society and lodge to tackle a new project with a mission of feeding the hungry right here in the U.S.  Such activities could be highlighted on JOIN HANDS DAY, but I would hope that the campaign would last all year and include projects like collecting food for local food banks; supplying volunteers for organizations like “Feed My Starving Children”; establishing self-sustaining gardens where people can grow their own food; and many more.  We wouldn’t have to partner with one organization – every society and lodge could choose their own partners in their own communities.  And the opportunities for societies to work together (in places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minneapolis/St. Paul and others areas where there are clusters of fraternals) on these projects – and to work with other charitable and community service groups – is incredible.  But the effort would be LED by fraternals.  If we used the rest of this year to plan such a campaign and established goals for our activities – “measurables” that demonstrate the value of who we are and what we do – I’m confident that we could not only do some wonderful things for people who need it most, but that we would get the attention of the news media and public policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.  OK, your turn.  Pledge your undying loyalty to this initiative, tell me why this can’t be done, or suggest a better opportunity.  I’m all ears…

Fraternal and Communications Meeting 2.0…
Lots of great information came out of the Fraternal and Communications meeting (which I mentioned in my last post).  And we want to keep that information-sharing and idea-generating momentum going.  Check out the new group site on NFCA’s Social Network, where you can view photos, download the presenters’ PowerPoints and network with the attendees to keep the conversations flowing…

Independent Order of Foresters (IOF) gets a shout out for their Haitian earthquake relief efforts…
Check out this thank you letter that the Haitian American community sent IOF in appreciation for their relief efforts following the devastating earthquake there.  Another shining example of fraternalism’s impact here at home and around the world. 

Book review…
If you haven’t read “Flip: How to Turn Everything You Know on Its Head—and Succeed Beyond Your Wildest Imaginings”* by Peter Sheahan you should.  The book is packed with common-sense ideas and approaches for ways you can bring about change in your society TODAY.  My favorite concept so far: Action creates clarity.  Sheahan, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the 2010 NFCA Annual Meeting contends that while planning is essential, taking action – any action, even if not fully thought out – is more important and will create the clarity you need to determine subsequent actions.  Bottom line: you’ll continue to be confused – and irrelevant – if you keep standing on the sidelines…

*“Flip” will be the official NFCA Annual Meeting Book Club selection.  Those attendees that read it will have a chance to informally discuss the book at the new NFCA Internet Café and how it might inspire you to make changes at your society.  More Annual Meeting details are headed your way soon…

Injured reserve list…
I injured my foot, which means staying out of the gym for a couple weeks.  The doc suggested that I swim to stay in shape during the healing process.  There’s only one problem: I CANNOT STAND SWIMMING (never mind that I am not particularly adept at it).  But fearing the potentially permanent weight gain that may result from not working out, I dutifully went to the Park District lap pool this a.m. to get my workout in.  I discovered that there are a unique group of people that swim at 5:30 a.m.  Let’s call them the “Over 50-somethings that wear Speedos when they really shouldn’t” society.  This is one fraternal that I have no desire to join.  I have never – and will never – wear a Speedo.  And you should be thankful for that.  I’ll keep swimming because I have to, but it will be in long, baggy shorts – with a snorkel and flippers if necessary.

Happy Easter!

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