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    Weigh-In on State Fraternal Alliance Survey…

    SFAsState Fraternal Alliances (SFAs) have long been a part of the American Fraternal Alliance, so much so that there is a specific reference to these state-based organizations in the Alliance’s Constitution.  SFAs have traditionally held annual meetings which feature social networking opportunities and educational programs for attendees and fundraising efforts for local charities.  More recently, a few SFAs have been engaged in political advocacy activities, including “Day on the Hill” events in state capitols and participation in Alliance-sponsored grassroots campaigns.

    There are two basic types of SFAs: those made up of executives and employees of fraternal societies (these are typically located in states where there are a significant number of domiciled fraternals); and those made up of individual members of fraternals, generally local chapter leaders (these are typically located in states where there are no domiciled societies).

    Both types of SFAs face many of the same challenges confronting societies’ local chapter networks – declining participation due to aging membership; lack of relevance to younger members; confusion about the objectives of the organization; inability to attract new leadership – although these problems seem more acute among SFAs in states with few domestic societies.   This is made clear by the overall decline in the number of SFAs.  In 2008, there were 35 SFAs.  Today, there are 27.  All of the societies that have terminated their charters were located in states with no domiciled fraternals.

    While SFAs have always been independent organizations, the Alliance has attempted to help them better serve their members and carry out the Alliance’s advocacy, education, information, and networking mission.  Since 2001, the Alliance has collected dues for SFAs from our member societies in an effort to reduce the administrative duties of volunteer leaders.  We’ve also assisted SFAs with improving their meetings by providing Alliance Board and staff as speakers, and suggesting topics and speakers that may work for them.

    However, we continue to hear concerns about the viability of some SFAs  from member society leaders and SFA board members.  As a result, the Alliance Board of Directors is examining the role that the Alliance plays in supporting State Fraternal Alliances, and the ability of SFAs to help the Alliance fulfill its mission.  In order to make the best informed decision on this issue, the Alliance Board this week will be sending a detailed questionnaire on SFA issues to its primary contact at each member society and to over 100 SFA officers and board members.

    The key issues we are exploring include:

    • SFA Activities and Participation
      • Do SFA events tie-in with the Alliance’s advocacy, education, and information mission?
      • How many member societies are actively engaged in SFAs?
      • What value do member societies and individual participants in SFA events derive from such activities?
    • Governance
      • Should the Alliance exert more or less control over independently incorporated SFAs?
    • Financial
      • Does the current dues collection process foster healthy SFAs or undermine accountability to those societies paying dues?
      • Do SFAs deliver value to the individual societies funding these organizations?
    • Relevance and Challenges
      • Are SFAs important to the fraternal system?
      • What are the key challenges to SFA sustainability?
    • Role for Alliance
      • What can the Alliance do to enhance the performance of SFAs?
      • What is the cost of such an investment to member societies?

    The preliminary results of the survey will be compiled and reviewed by the Board at its September 4 meeting.  We will share the results of the survey with members following the Board meeting.  Based on the results of the initial survey, the Board may request additional information from staff, SFA leaders, and member society key contacts prior to its December 4 meeting.  The Board expects to make a decision on the Alliance’s support for SFAs at the December meeting.  Any changes to the Constitution affecting SFAs would have to be approved by the membership at the 2015 Annual Meeting.

    If you are the CEO or key contact from a member society or a member of an SFA board, please take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire and return it to us by August 15.  If any of you would like to have your voice heard by the Alliance Board of Directors on this issue, please send me an email at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org.

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