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Let’s try this again…

I first posted the following item on Thursday, April 1.  And frankly, I thought I’d get at least a few responses.  I’ll chalk it up to the fact that I didn’t count on people being out of the office for Easter break.  But now that we’re all back to work, let’s try this again…

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.”  Many societies and lodges do wonderful service projects in communities across the country 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.  Instead, we’d 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…

Lest we forget…
  Just in case you thought health care and financial services reform were taking up all the oxygen on Capitol Hill, take a look at this item that was recently published in The Hill regarding the tax-exempt status of non-profit hospitals:

“Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking Finance member and a long time advocate for scrutinizing non-profit organizations, looks to return his attention to making sure tax-exempt entities provide added value and earn their tax status, sources told The Hill.

In comments yesterday, the senator highlighted the Illinois Supreme Court ruling that said Provena Covenant Medical Center failed to provide adequate charity care to qualify for state property tax exemption and said the ruling underscores that ‘there is often no discernible difference between the operations of taxable and tax-exempt hospitals. Tax-exempt hospitals should give more attention to their charitable activities.’

Grassley has asked the Joint Committee on Taxation for revenue estimates on rescinding the tax-exempt status for certain operations. The task is daunting and it is unclear when results will be completed.”

While the words “daunting and unclear” make me feel a little better, I don’t think it’s a stretch to change “hospitals” to “fraternals” and see the challenges we may be facing.  We’ve got to stay vigilant.  We've got to stay engaged.  And we’ve got to continually demonstrate the value of the fraternal tax exemption.

Section Meeting Season…
  I will be participating in the Secretaries/HR and Presidents Sections Mid-Year Meetings next week – along with executives from over 40 of NFCA’s 67 member societies – so it will be a while before my next posting.  Hope to see many of you there.  In the meantime, please let me know what you think of “Fraternals Feed America” by posting your comments below. 

5 Responses

  1. I’ve thought we needed something like that for awhile. If some state officials think fraternals are not all on the same page, that would be a national service effort, similar to JOIN HANDS DAY, that serves a basic need of hunger. By emphasizing a basic need (not just cleaning parks) as a priority, it also sends a stronger message to skeptics, the media, and the public that we are out there in the trenches for those who’ve fallen prey to this economy. I’ve worked for other national groups that provided this kind of national public relations support and it builds a momentum.
    Kitty Chadima, WFLA

  2. Joe, your idea for a fraternal campaign, “Fraternals Feed America” is a wonderful project. It will not only bring publicity to our fraternals but will definitely help the poor. Our local branch has a food drive every December for our Diocesan Ecumenical Soup Kitchen and we would be happy to participate in another drive to help the needy.
    Marge Ferri
    LPSCU Public Relations Director

  3. Thanks for the quick responses, folks. I really think this idea is worth pursuing and am looking forward to working with the Fraternal/Communications Section on making it happen in 2011.

  4. Joe:
    Yes, the Easter break did play a role in the lack of response. So – now that we’re back…here goes…
    Focused projects have always been more successful. They provide the opportunity to get event planners on the same page while allowing the media to narrow their vision, allowing them to capture the essence of an event in easy sound bytes and headlines.
    “Fraternals feed America” would make a wonderful theme for 2011. Narrow in scope but broad in appeal.
    Joe Gadbois
    Catholic Knights/Catholic Family

  5. No only can “Fraternals Feed America” in the physical ways that you mention, Joe, but we can feed their minds and souls. At the GCU, our original tagline was “A sound mind in a sound body” because we focused on athleticism, faith and easing the minds of our members with the protection that our products provide. We can feed the minds of Americans with a focus on education, we can feed their souls with a focus on faith and family values. “Fraternals Feed America” has a lot more longevity than a year, as the word ‘feed’ can take on many different meanings.

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