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    Vital links to data you should know or brain cramp? You decide…

    I carry around an accordion file folder with me and stuff it with all kinds of random information I think might be of interest to fraternal leaders.  It comes in handy on a day like today when – despite massive infusions of caffeine – my brain refuses to come up with an original thought worthy of posting in this space.  All the blogging “experts” (and, by the why, who certifies this “expertise?”) tell me that you’ve got to post at least once a week to be relevant to readers.  So in lieu of a thought provoking, change initiating, feather ruffling rant, here are some links to really valuable information that I thought you’d find interesting and useful.  Enjoy…

    • Senate Finance Committee Discussion Paper on Tax-Exempt Organizations – While the House Ways and Means Committee is responsible for originating all tax legislation, the Senate Finance Committee plays a key role in the process, as well.  Take a look at this recently released report summarizing reform options for tax-exempt organizations and charitable giving.  Pay particular attention to Section II(2)(e) on page 11 and Section IV(6) on page 19.  This discussion paper does two things: 1) it provides some insight into what options members of the Senate Finance Committee are considering – including those that affect fraternals; and 2) it drives home the value of your membership in the Alliance because no other industry trade group is working these issues on behalf of fraternals.
    • And at the local level – Check out this article on the views of Indiana local government officials who would like non-profits to offer payments or services in lieu of property taxes.  No surprise that cash-strapped public policy makers are looking at every possible source for revenue.
    • Blast from the past – Think the fraternal tax-exemption issue is a recent development?  Think again.  Take a look at this editorial from the April 13, 1965, Des Moines Register calling for an end to the fraternal premium tax exemption.  Most telling statement: “The fraternals’ original claim to exemption as small associations…pooling their modest resources for mutual protection has little standing now.  Some fraternals are bigger than the average commercial life insurance company, and they compete aggressively for many of the same customers.  Their claim of using some of their income for scholarships and other good works, while true, can be matched by similar public-spirited activities on the part of commercial insurance companies.  We see no convincing reason why, as competitors in a competitive field, the fraternals are entitled to a subsidy from the state…”  How would you respond to a similar statement today?  Post your suggested responses here…
    • Creating social value – We consistently say that fraternals’ contributions go well beyond the value of the cash and volunteer hours the organizations and their members generate.  The “social capital” that results from our efforts is almost impossible to measure – or to replace through government-sponsored programs.  How do you put a value on enhancing the quality of life in a community by building a park, keeping the doors of a domestic abuse center open, or feeding those in our own backyards who would otherwise go to bed hungry?  This paper from the Spring 2009 Stanford Social Innovation Review is must reading for every fraternalist.  Here’s my favorite passage:

    “Given the magnitude of 21st-century challenges – bringing an end to large-scale poverty, dealing with global climate change, and coping with emergent global threats to public health – what role can [social] entrepreneurs of any type play in realistic strategies?  The skeptic may still maintain that a handful of small enterprises and nongovernmental organizations, however well intentioned, will never make more than a dent in such immense problems.  Whatever solutions exist will have at their center national governments, international organizations, and multinational corporations.  Such a view has the veneer of realism, without the substance.  If anything is more naïve than an unquestioning belief in the transformative power of social entrepreneurs, it is an unquestioning belief in the transformational powers of national governments, international organizations, and multinational corporations.”

    The bottom line: a well-run fraternal is the ultimate “social entrepreneur” and can play a significant role in impacting the large scale challenges we face one local chapter at a time…

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