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    The Alliance Network – No password needed to make face-to-face connections at Section meetings…

    We have compiled the responses to our annual member satisfaction survey and, not surprisingly, you’ve identified “networking opportunities” as one of the most important benefits of membership in the Alliance.  It seems that communicating via email, social networks, and teleconferences just can’t replace the face-to-face connections you make at Alliance events.  We’re pleased to know how much you value these programs.  And this year’s Section meetings multiply the networking benefits by adding some of the best educational content we’ve ever assembled on topics and issues most important to you. 

    No doubt you’ve already received promotional material on the various Section meetings, and judging from the huge number of early-bird registrants, the programs are resonating with you.  But I wanted to take a minute to personally encourage you to attend one or more of these outstanding educational events.  The Alliance is the only organization that offers programming specifically designed for all segments of fraternal operations, and we make these programs available to you at the most competitive prices possible.  So, put your membership to work for you and register for the Section meeting(s) that ring your bell.  You can register online by clicking on the links below.

    And don’t forget that sending a member of your staff to one or more of these meetings is a great way to reward performance, get them networked with other fraternal professionals, and generate new ideas to enhance your society’s fraternal and financial programs.

    • Fraternal & Communications Sections Mid-Year Meeting, April 13-15, Scottsdale, AZ – We’ll explore new ways to build momentum for your volunteer programs; how to recruit, organize and mobilize fraternal outreach opportunities; how to engage volunteer leaders (both online and offline); and how to foster touch points to connect and build cohesive brand ambassadors.  Join us in Scottsdale for strategic ideas, research findings and practical, actionable takeaways to implement at your society.  

    • Secretaries & HR Sections Mid-Year Meeting, April 30-May 2, Washington, D.C. – Good governance will be addressed with presenters Todd Martin, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, and Berit Lakey, Ph.D., senior governance consultant for BoardSource, reviewing the results of our fraternal governance practices survey. Volunteer management is a science and experts from AARP and United Way will share how they recruit and engage volunteers.

    • Presidents Section Mid-Year Meeting, May 1-3, Washington, D.C.  – From economic forecasts, to an examination of the regulatory challenges facing fraternals, to a session devoted to improving your personal leadership skills, the Presidents Section meeting is one that EVERY fraternal CEO should attend.  We’ll conclude the meeting by spending an afternoon on Capitol Hill communicating our message to key members of Congress and then enjoy a reception with legislators and their staff in the Capitol building.

    And let’s not forget the importance of advocacy…

    Yes, you told us that networking was an important membership benefit and we’re committed to delivering meaningful ways for you to connect.  But you also told us that the single most important membership benefit was political advocacy – specifically, preserving and protecting the fraternal tax exemption in a time of budget crises and great political challenges to all non-profit, tax-exempt groups.  We never lose sight of that objective and we’re fighting that battle on every member’s behalf 24/7/365.  Here’s the latest from the state and federal fronts:

    STATE – For the third year in a row, the Hawaii legislature is considering bills to amend or repeal the tax-exempt status of dozens of non-profit groups, including fraternals.  The first of the two bills that would subject fraternals to state premium tax and general excise tax requirements in Hawaii is scheduled for a hearing on February 25.  The Alliance has retained a local lobbyist and is working with our member societies that operate in Hawaii to prepare testimony and other support material to once again convince state lawmakers that tampering with the fraternal exemption is bad public policy.  We’ve submitted testimony from the Alliance and the CEOs of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Knights of Columbus, and Woodmen of the World/Omaha (WOW).  In addition to the above testimony, we have secured testimony from the CEO of Drug Free Hawaii on its partnership with WOW.  We have also submitted a copy of the Georgetown University study on the social and economic impact of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Knights of Columbus fraternal activities, as well as our Hawaii-specific brochure outlining the positive contributions fraternals make to the quality of life in the state.  We are confident we will be able to defeat this bill early in the session, but are doing everything possible to ensure its demise.  I will keep you posted on developments in future blog postings.  The second bill that would repeal our tax-exempt status has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.  Bills must be heard by March 3 or they are dead for the session.

    FEDERAL – The House of Representatives last week approved a bill to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2011, and the new majority made good on their promise to cut spending.  The bill cuts $60 billion in current year funding from last year’s levels, and contains deep cuts across the board.  The Senate, however, has dug in its heels, indicating that it will not cut funding in the current fiscal year.  This sets up a game of chicken, where one side has to blink and negotiate, or the government will shut down on March 4 when the current Continuing Resolution expires.  Though there is nothing in the budget that specifically impacts fraternals or our tax exemption, the trajectory of the debate is telling and should be a wake-up call.  Republicans in the House, specifically the 80-plus freshman, who were swept into office this year in an anti-Washington, anti-big government wave, are pulling the Republican party in Washington to the right and forcing leadership to move even further on its promises.  Cutting the deficit, decreasing spending and reining in big government are themes that will remain throughout this Congress (and likely longer).  Cuts to spending are just one part of the solution that policymakers will look to in meeting these three goals.  To reduce the deficit, Congress will be looking at the recommendations of the bipartisan deficit commission—including the eliminating all tax expenditures and reforming entitlement programs.  While neither of the recommendations will be enacted whole cloth, they will be seriously considered and we will likely see some changes in each area.  This means, our tax exemption could be on the chopping block.  However, we also should think about the third goal—reducing big government.  Fraternals play a vital role in communities that government cannot and should not attempt to replicate.  While we do receive a federal benefit, we also make it possible for communities to meet their own needs, and we leverage the federal benefit many times over.  As the budget and deficit debates heat up, as cuts grow bigger and tax reform looks like a reality, we will be making sure that all policymakers view us in this light.  YOU CAN HELP US COMMUNICATE THIS MESSAGE TO LAWMAKERS BY REGISTERING FOR THE PRESIDENTS SECTION MEETING AND PARTICIPATING IN OUR CAPITOL HILL VISITS ON TUESDAY, MAY 3!!!

    The last word…

    You may remember my previous posting in which I discussed the incredible power of social networks to organize people to take action (I referenced the role that Facebook played in the Egyptian revolution).  Well, here is an excerpt from a recent Chicago Tribune editorial on the same topic:

    “You know that image of the antisocial computer nerd, hunched over a glowing screen, alone and isolated?  Turns out the typical Internet user is a joiner: connected, networked, and entrenched in group life.

    The updated portrait emerges from a recent Pew Research Center study showing that Internet users were more active in volunteer groups and organizations.  They’re more likely to communicate with other group members, draw attention to issues and make an impact on society at large.

    We’re only beginning to appreciate the social side of the Internet, particularly its role in getting people organized, and spreading the word about developments important to us.  Just a few years ago Americans were wringing their hands about the Internet contributing to social isolation.  Based on what we’ve seen in Egypt, the information-processing capabilities of engaged Internet users remains unimpaired.”

    Discussion questions: What are you doing to foster social network communication between your current members (and their children and their individual networks)?  How can the social side of the Internet create a “revolution” in your society that will result in more communication, more participation, and more meaningful fraternal activities?

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