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    In Your Own Words…

    I’m back from a brief blog break – a long weekend in Las Vegas (the silliest place on the planet and a perfect way to escape 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 needs in your members’ communities would go unfilled if you weren’t there to fill them?” Many of these were posted to the blog and some were emailed to me directly. But all make a compelling case for the value and validity of the fraternal system. You can check out the complete responses at the end of the June 7 posting, but here are the highlights – in your own words – in case you missed them:

    “When I began my career in 1982, I had the opportunity to work for either stock or mutual companies.  I chose a fraternal.  The reason for my choice lies in my belief in the fraternal proposition, i.e. members first, benevolence, family, community impact; all of those things we do that make us unique in the spirit and treatment of our members.  If fraternalism disappeared, then the impact of organizing, sponsoring and facilitating community volunteer activities and the fraternal programs that benefit hundreds of thousands of children across the nation would all vanish overnight.  What a travesty.  I believe the grass roots communities, where we do our greatest work, would suffer most.  The dollars we deliver are not diluted through bureaucracy and they are effectively directed by our members, not bureaucrats.  There is nothing that will fill the void if fraternals disappear. Each community, city and state where fraternals are active would lose.  It would be one more event toward the deterioration of the moral fabric in our country’s way of life.”

    “People could and might keep volunteering and they can already 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. The tax exemption is not really about the money.  What losing the exemption would do is severely limit our ability to attract members and volunteers that make what we do possible.  If we lose our ability to fund local lodges…we lose our ability to help.  If that happens, we would lose the fabric that ties our people together and makes us a powerful force that makes communities better.”

    “Members of our organization attract additional volunteers for their respective projects.  Just as with service organizations, fraternalists have an uplifting feeling and sense of accomplishment when participating in projects.  Were it not for fraternals, the field of opportunity for much needed community service projects would be limited considerably.”

    “We couldn’t make as big a difference individually as we can with the collaborative effort of our respective society.  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.”

    “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 children can have a voice in saying how they would like to improve their neighborhoods.  Many corporations have outreach teams of employees funded by foundations and the corporations themselves.  Very few have their customers actually doing the volunteer work.  Very few have their clients as spokespersons. “

    “Fraternals represent an avenue for grasping the power of caring about other people.  We go to church, sing in the choir, toss money in the plate for disaster victims; but only through our society do we have a ready resource for ideas, support, events, and ‘third-party’ wisdom on living a volunteering life.”

    “Without us and the structure of the fraternal system (lodges and 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 diligence 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.  Fraternals don’t just bank the dollars, they help them multiply and increase the greater good in their communities.  And without fraternals, the strength of these friendships that help shore up these communities would be significantly weakened.  Fraternals help nourish and rebuild communities and individual lives, as a united force.”

    “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.”

    The overwhelming theme of these comments – at least from my perspective – is this:

    Fraternals are a powerful source of good in communities across the country – communities made up of individuals who might otherwise have fallen through the gaps in the local, state, and federal government safety nets – because they provide the organizational resources to foster effective volunteerism that allows concerned and committed individuals to respond to the need of the less fortunate in the most cost-effective manner possible.  Fraternals also play an important role in securing the financial futures of millions of Americans – many of whom are overlooked by commercial financial services companies – and use the proceeds from their business operations to fund the organizational structure that makes their community service activities possible.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I’ll do my best to make sure that every public policymaker in the United States gets this message.  I hope you’ll help me accomplish this by spreading this message to each of your members and, more importantly, their friends and neighbors who SHOULD be members of your societies.

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