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Assessing the Impact of Your Community Service…

I’m certain that every Alliance member society has a laundry list of quantifiable metrics to assess the performance of the financial components of their operations.  This would include items such as sales results, premium written, contributions to surplus, claims payments, investment return, expense ratios, and dozens of others.  The fact is, you couldn’t effectively manage your operations – and demonstrate to your members that you are a capable steward of the society’s assets – without such metrics.

But do you place the same emphasis on your society’s community service activities?  My hunch is that the response from most societies would be “not really.”  And that’s a little disturbing because it is the community service aspect of our operations that:

  1. distinguishes us from our commercial colleagues;
  2. makes us appealing to the next generation of members;
  3. justifies the preservation of our long-standing tax-exempt status.

One of the Alliance’s most effective advocacy tools is the study done by University of Maryland economist Phil Swagel that measures the impact of fraternals’ community service activities on the members and on the communities in which those members live and work.  And while the Swagel Study provides an excellent overview of the cumulative impact that fraternals have on the financial and social fabric of the nation, it does not provide societies a specific methodology to assess the effect of their outreach initiatives.

Without that type of metric, it’s almost impossible to evaluate the real impact of your society’s community service efforts – and, from there, determine how to improve upon them.  All of this is critically important to the future of individual societies and the fraternal system.  Why?  Refer to 1), 2), and 3) above.  If those three reasons don’t resonate with you, you might want to think about switching careers.

Of course, almost every society reports on the number of dollars it contributes to causes and organizations that reflect the members share values, as well as the number of volunteer hours contributed by its members.  But one society – Royal Neighbors of America – has taken that several steps further and developed a formula that accounts for those two factors plus the “Fraternal Factor” (the number of volunteer hours multiplied by the “social capital” factor developed by Professor Swagel) AND the member savings and benefits generated through the society’s benefit programs.  Here’s a copy of the RNA formula.

According to Royal Neighbors CEO Cynthia Tidwell, “The methodology gives us a way to quantify our impact each year to see if our social good is growing along with our business.  We could debate what we measure, but for us, it is important to be consistent year-over-year to see if we are moving the dial.”

I don’t know if it’s feasible to apply this formula consistently across the fraternal system – but I sure think it’s worth a try.  I think it would provide an excellent complement to the Swagel and demonstrate the true difference that fraternals are making across North America.

So what do you think?  Leave a comment here or send a private response to me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org.

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