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    Imagine a world without your society…

    “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Mark Twain uttered those famous words over a century ago.  And thanks to the recent predictions of the world’s demise, journalists all over the country were able to insert them into today’s headlines. 

    I’m sure you saw or read reports about the misguided Christian broadcaster from California (my home, sweet, home state) who boldly predicted the end of the world.  Yep, according to this Christian broadcaster, Armageddon was upon us…the Rapture…the end of days…turn out the lights, the party’s over.  Fortunately, his fearless forecast was incorrect – although the media did not devote much space to covering his response when the sun rose that day (“Missed it by that much…”).  Guess he forgot to reference that other famous quote:  “Ye know not the day nor the hour…”

    But it did get me to thinking of “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenarios and what the world would be like without certain people or institutions in it – specifically, fraternalism.  Not in a morbid kind of way, but a curious one – is the world really a better place because fraternals exist?  What would be lost if we weren’t around?

    This was made even more compelling when I explained what I did for a living to a new acquaintance (OK, a golf buddy) who hadn’t a clue what fraternals were.  After I gave my “elevator speech” and expounded on the virtues of the tax exemption, he asked me the following question:

    • “So, if the tax exemption was repealed and fraternals were legislated out of existence, wouldn’t those people keep volunteering through their church or another service club, and wouldn’t they buy their insurance through a ‘regular’ insurance company?”

    I thought my response to this question was pretty solid, but rather than sharing it with you now, I’d like to hear how you’d reply.  What would be lost if we woke up tomorrow and the fraternal system did not exist?  I’m not only interested in hearing what you have to say, but I also think your responses will form the cornerstone for the messages we will need to deliver to public policymakers at the state and federal levels as they attempt to deal with the government’s financial crisis by overhauling the tax code.  That’s why it’s important that you be specific and compelling.  While there is certainly a benefit to social gatherings that enhance fellowship among members and raise a little money through raffles, is that really enough to justify a tax exemption?  What real needs in your members’ communities would go unfilled if you weren’t there to fill them?

    Ladies and gentlemen, the blog is yours…

    10 Responses

    1. People could and might keep volunteering and they already can buy insurance from commercial carriers. If we no longer existed, they may even still be able to keep the connection they have to their local community. What would be lost, and it would be a great loss, is the interconnectivity we provide between those communities and the funding source that makes so much of what we do possible.

      Without us, if there is a problem in one community, it is often left to that community to deal with. With us, those folks to look to their broader fraternal community for help, this has happened numerous times on both a large and small scale. (Katrina, Haiti, the recent tornadoes, etc) We cross community and cultural lines to help both with manpower and dollars.

      Without us, the dollars would come from traditional fundraising. A slow and somewhat tedious process that usually only generates enough for the subsistence of the local group, leaving little to help others. With us, our business model not only helps generate dollars for the local entity but helps generate excess revenue that is used to help the greater community and provide funds for disasters large and small.

      To me (us,) the tax exemption is not really about the money. If we lost the tax exemption, it would not mortally wound us financially, and it would do virtually nothing to ease the financial crisis in Washington, or in any of the states. What losing the exemption would do, is severely limit our ability to attract the members and volunteers that make what we do possible. Some come for insurance, but many come to belong. They want to be part of something that helps locally, nationally and in many cases internationally. They want to help people like themselves and their communities and they join because we are not for profit.

      That is the real danger should we lose the tax-exemption is the domino effect. If we lose the not-for-profit status, we start to lose our most powerful membership draw. If we lose our membership, we have to reduce funding. If we lose the ability to fund local lodges, we lose more members and our ability to help. If this happens, we, our communities and our nation would lose the system, the fabric that ties our people together and makes us a power force that makes communities better.

    2. Mr.Tuttle is on target with his observations and I agree totally. Members of various Committees in our organization attract additional volunteers for their respective projects such as Bowling Fundraisers for handicappped children and Food Distribution projects. The core group consists of our own members but we often attract friends and others to help maximize specific efforts. Just as with Service organizations the Fraternalists and friends have an uplifting feeling and sense of accomplishment when participating in projects. Were it not for Fraternals the field of opportunity for much needed voluntary community service projects would be limited considerably. Bernard Kolodziej Polish Union USA, Wilkes Barre, PA

    3. Great question! Yes, many of us would continue to serve and do what we know makes us feel good and helps fulfill the purpose for which we were created. We would continue to strive to do what we can to make the world a better place. However, we couldn’t make as big of a difference individually as we can with the collaborative effort of our respective Society. In other words, we could not bring together tens of millions of dollars for social goodness. That’s not to say that fraternalism is solely about dollars, however it does take money to solve many of the needs of our fellow man throught the efforts of our members and others. This makes me recall an infamous marketing line, “Membership has its benefits.”

      In our Society I know that wherever needs or disasters occur in this country, or oftentimes elsewhere, we are there to help any way we can. That description runs parallel to an international service organization I’m part of, which would never be considered for taxation because of all the good that’s accomplished world-wide. It is a non-profit organization and as a FBS, we are not-for-profit.

    4. Nine million Americans can’t be wrong! Sure, many of these join because fraternal benefit societies provide – contrary to some opinions – great financial security – the so-called “real” insurance offered by commercial carriers! However, the unique opportunity presented by fraternals is that we have created and continue to nurture a framework for the “average” person to join together with others to make a difference in communities across the country.

      It is a powerful message to show that men, women, and youth can have a voice in saying how they would like to improve their neighborhoods. Many commercial carriers and other major corporations have outreach teams of employees funded by foundations as well as the corporations themselves. Very few have their customers actually doing the volunteer work. Very few have their clients as spokespersons. Very few have them proudly displaying their logo on polo shirts, aprons, and T-shirts.

      Because fraternal benefit societies are – above all else – membership organizations. Our certificate-holders actually belong to their society. Proudly. And many are very proud to fight for our tax-exempt status. Not all feel so connected and it is our challenge to make more and more of these customers include true members.

      Nine million Americans! Let’s work to make them all feel that they truly belong! Let’s make them feel they truly make a difference! If we do, these will not be the end-times for fraternalism.

      • Lots of good feedback on this topic! Keep those cards and letter coming…jja

        • Without us, and the structure of the fraternal system ( lodges or chapters), the members would not be as motivated to help just on their own. Without us and our matching grants, and other quarterly grants, for doing their due diliigence of local service, the individuals would not have the strength of our support to help the countless individuals, families, and organizations they have helped through fundraising efforts, donations of money and goods, and especially through hands-on volunteering. And without us, who would keep the light of service always on, keeping foremost in mind the spirit of serving others as one of the highest forms of good and giving back to the community? Fraternals don’t just bank the dollars, they help them multiply and increase the greater good in their communities. Without fraternals for 100 years and more, communities they serve might have faded away into ghosttowns. And without fraternals, the strength of these friendships that help shore up these communities would be significantly weakened. What would they do without us? Fraternals help nourish and rebuild communities and individual lives, as a united force.

    5. Individuals that are truly committed to helping others will continue to do what they can on their own. While every small act does add up, a single individual would not be able to tackle the larger scale projects that can be accomplished through fraternal benefit society chapter volunteers.

      Those in the political arena need to wake up and realize that there would be an even greater financial burden placed on already struggling local communities if fraternal benefit societies were taxed to the point that they were unable to continue their matching funds programs.

    6. There are many broad-scope reasons, many worthy charities, many crises and disasters to support, but for me and my family, the value of a fraternal organization comes from something far simpler: a model. Fraternals represent to my family, especially to my children, an avenue as well as a demonstration for grasphing the power of caring about other peope. We go to church and volunteer in choir, toss money into the plate when it’s passed for disaster victims, But only through our benefit socieity do I and my wife have a ready resource for ideas, support, events, “third-party” wisdom (so it’s not coming from Mom and Dad) on living a volunteering life. As busy as everyone is these days, overbooked and overwhelmed, our benefit society is a partner at our disposal to help us raise our children right…beyond church and within secular society. No other style of organization, in my mind, bridges that gap and fills that purpose.

    7. […] reality) – and wanted to share with you some of your responses to the questions I posed in my June 7 posting: “What would be lost if we woke up tomorrow and the fraternal system did not exist? What real […]

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