• “Like” Us!

    Fraternals on Facebook
  • Follow me!

  • Twitter Updates

    Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

  • Join 823 other followers

  • Archives

  • Refreshed & Revived

  • Categories

A Shot Across the Bow…

As the primary regulator of fraternals in the state with the largest number of domiciled societies, Steve Johnson, Pennsylvania’s Deputy Insurance Commissioner embodies the tag line from those old E.F. Hutton commercials – when he talks, people listen.


And one of the characteristics I like most about Steve – and the entire Pennsylvania Insurance Department – is that while he understands, respects, and appreciates the unique organizational structure and mission of fraternals, he’s not going to jeopardize the financial security of consumers in his state because of societies’ inability to effectively manage their operations.

His recent presentation to the Pennsylvania Fraternal Alliance Annual Meeting was a shot across the bow to those society leaders who think that doing what they have been doing for the past 100+ years and trying to stay below the regulatory radar is going to be enough to make their organization sustainable on a long-term basis.  His comments are worth noting by every fraternal executive and board member – whether you are domiciled in Pennsylvania or not.  Here are a few highlights:

On the impact of RBC regulation…

  •  Johnson reported that of Pennsylvania’s 20 domiciled fraternals, one is currently at the regulatory action level, another is at the company action level, and a third is approaching the action level threshold.
  • He advised fraternal leaders that “once [your RBC] is down, it’s hard to get up.”  Rapid growth in premium means corresponding changes to the RBC ratio and potentially more expense for a society because this may trigger cash flow testing.  To make it on your own, fraternals will need slow and steady growth and a substantial reduction in expenses, according to Johnson.
  • For those societies that don’t have the resources – human and/or financial – to develop and implement a realistic plan to achieve slow growth and reduce expenses, Johnson had one important piece of advice: “Merge before you get a call from the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.”  The underlying message is clear: you’re better off consolidating with other societies on your own terms, not those dictated by a regulator.listen 2

On modernizing fraternal governance…

  •  Johnson, like most regulators and business consultants, understands that antiquated governance structures – the process by which an organization makes decisions – are the root cause of most fraternal solvency and sustainability problems.  If the process by which your board makes decisions is flawed, then it is very likely the decisions the organization makes will be flawed, as well.
  • He suggested that societies move to appointed (hired) rather than elected officers; establish an audit committee; reduce the size of boards; and establish minimum qualifications for board members.
  • The bottom line, according to Johnson, is that fraternals need to be much more flexible and adaptable to a business environment that has changed dramatically over the past five years and that is likely to continue evolving.

On solvency…

  •  Johnson takes great pride – and rightly so – in the Pennsylvania Department’s track record on preventing and dealing with insurer insolvencies.  And he’s clearly going to continue to do everything possible to protect consumers and the DOI’s reputation from future insolvencies.
  • In addition to RBC ratios, regulators are looking at several other key factors when assessing an insurer’s – fraternal or commercial – financial strength: the ability to generate a steady flow of new life insurance premium; the ability to control expenses; the ability to balance the amount of new annuity business with new life insurance business; the impact on organizations with an over-exposure to annuity business in the event of an increase in interest rates.

Bottom line…

  •  If I could summarize Johnson’s comments in one sentence it would be this: It’s time to be honest about your society’s long-term sustainability and consider new ways to join forces with other similar groups to better serve both current and future members and protect the reputational integrity of the fraternal system.

Your thoughts???

CEOs and Secretaries join forces to hit one out of the park…

I’m still coming off the adrenaline buzz from last week’s Presidents and Secretaries/Human Resources Mid-Year Section meeting in Washington, D.C.  Thanks to all those executives from Alliance member societies who engaged in the meeting.  The dialogue between members and the interaction between fraternal leaders and the line-up of diverse speakers was the primary contributor to the meetings’ success.  And thanks also to our sponsors, whose support of the Alliance helps us bring such outstanding education programs to members at the most affordable price possible.  Here are a few highlights of last week’s meetings.  Members can access the various PowerPoint presentations by clicking here.

  • Attendees got their first glimpse of the sometimes surprising results of the Alliance’s survey of member societies’ governance practices and heard Berit Lakey of BoardSource provide detailed instructions for ways fraternal leaders can effectively address educating their organizations’ board and members to support governance modernization initiatives. The BoardSource-Alliance on site Bookstore was open and helped attendees find the right tools to improve governance.  (Click here to hear a snippet of the session.)
  • Mei Cobb of the United Way told fraternal leaders that “volunteerism just doesn’t  happen” and urged them to invest in organizing their members’ community service activities and partner with other groups to maximize their societies’ volunteer programs and enhance their appeal – and value – to  members. (Click here and here to hear snippets of the session.)
  • Secretaries Section participants engaged in a no-holds-barred roundtable discussion on a variety of issues affecting fraternals.  Executives’ willingness to share the ways – good and bad – they are attempting to address the operational, financial, and fraternal challenges facing them is what made this session worthwhile.
  • Gary Strohm and Heather Hafeman of Strohm-Ballweg gave attendees a preview of Alliance’s annual “state of the fraternal system solvency report.”  The bottom line is that while the overall fiscal health of the fraternal industry has improved over the last year, there are a few persistent trouble spots that could negatively affect all societies.
  • Following up on the fraternal solvency report, a regulatory panel featuring Steve Johnson of the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance, Susan Real of the Ohio Department of Insurance, and Dave Brummond of the Treasury Department gave society executives their candid views of the future of fraternal regulation.  Real unveiled the key components of a legislative proposal – drafted in conjunction with the Alliance’s Ohio-domiciled members – that could serve as a model for fraternal solvency regulation across the country.  Johnson expressed a view that any society with less than $100 million in assets should seek merger partners to ensure that organizations have the financial strength to secure a healthy financial future for their members.  And Brummond, the former general counsel for the Alliance, expressed dismay over how long it has taken for many fraternals to adapt to a changing environment.
  • Representative Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) delivered a stirring address praising the work that fraternals do in communities across the country on a daily basis and encouraging societies to take our message to members of Congress before the fraternal tax exemption is on the chopping block.  “If you don’t tell your story, no one will know what you do.”
  • Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, delivered a similar message and also urged societies to partner with his organization to expand the impact of their community service activities.  Alliance members interested in joining forces with DuBois and First Lady Michelle Obama to assist military families should plan on participating in a conference call on Wednesday, May 18, at 2:30 p.m. CDT (call in number: 866-615-1885; and passcode: 204772).  More information on the call will be posted soon on this blog: www.whitehouse.gov/partnerships/blog.

Joshua DuBois, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships, (left) shakes hands with Kenny Massey, President and CEO, Modern Woodmen of America.

  • And Alliance members rose to the challenge by spending Tuesday afternoon on Capitol Hill meeting with more than 40 members of Congress and their staff to spread the good word about who we are and what we do.  The meeting was capped off with a reception in the Capitol building for attendees, members of Congress, and legislative staff in which a message from President Obama wishing fraternals the best on our efforts to provide members financial security and improve the quality of life for individuals and families was read to the group.
  • Next year… Be sure to save the dates for next year’s meetings in Charleston, South Carolina.  Secretaries/Human Resources Sections will take place on April 14-16, 2012, and Presidents Section will be held on April 15-17, 2012, at the Charleston Marriott.
  • Your comments… If you attended the recent Section Mid-Year Meetings in D.C., I’d love to hear from you.  Post your comments to this blog and let me know what you thought about the meetings.  Tell us about your experience!
  • Upcoming blogs – Next week I will share some incredible JOIN HANDS DAY success stories, and after that, we’ll revisit the “agitation” posting and your responses to the mini-survey.

More than just a day in May…

While wandering through a bookstore (yes, a few still exist) yesterday, I came across a very cool display that featured best-sellers from the month of March over the last 50 years. The best seller in March 1962 was Seven Days in May (I didn’t know the terrific movie of the same name starring Kirk Douglas was based on the novel). Seeing the number “7” and the word “May” made me take note that JOIN HANDS DAY – the fraternal system’s national day of service – is scheduled for Saturday, May 7, 2011.

I’m coming up on my three-year anniversary with the American Fraternal Alliance, and during my tenure there hasn’t been a week when I haven’t thought about what JOIN HANDS DAY could be if every Alliance society made the effort to engage their members in a community service activity – ideally one that invoked the original intent of the event and facilitated volunteerism in partnership with young people and youth organizations. Right now, JOIN HANDS DAY is a sleeping giant; it’s got loads of potential community service, public affairs and political value, but we’re just not tapping in to that vast reservoir of good will and good works.

The Alliance Board of Directors believes that we need to take a hard look at the way JOIN HANDS DAY is structured so that we can take advantage of one of the cornerstone principals and unique characteristics of the fraternal system – volunteerism and community service activities that allow societies to fill the gaps in state and federal government safety nets in a wide variety of ways all around the country.  And who better to put in charge of this project than the leadership of the Fraternal and Communications Sections – the people that eat, breathe and sleep fraternalism in their societies every day?

The Section leaders held their first organizing call last week and plan to meet again in person at the Fraternal and Communications Sections meeting next month. This group is being assisted by Alliance staff and our retained public affairs consultants – the same folks that helped us with the development of the Alliance brand name, logo, and tagline. During our initial call, we talked about creating themes for service projects to be conducted on JOIN HANDS DAY that all societies could rally around – feeding the hungry, helping military families, supporting educational and athletic programs in public and private schools, assisting groups that serve the mentally and physically challenged. We also talked about expanding the event from a day of service to a week or more, and tying it in more closely with the new American Fraternal Alliance brand identity.

There are many other items and issues to consider. And we’d like to hear what you think the Fraternal and Communications Sections leaders should take into account at their next meeting. You can voice your opinions right here on the blog or email them to me directly at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org. Come on now, I know you’ve got some great ideas that we can use to maximize the value of JOIN HANDS DAY for your society and the fraternal system – or maybe you think we shouldn’t invest any more time, energy and effort into the event. Either way, we want to hear from you. This is your chance to influence the outcome of one of the most important initiatives your association will undertake this year.

Not exactly a day of service, but certainly a day to recognize the power of fraternalism…

I went to my first-ever Pulaski Day celebration at the Polish Heritage Museum located in the same building as the Polish Roman Catholic Union, an Alliance member society. Other Chicago-headquartered, Polish-based Alliance members – the Polish National Alliance and the Polish Women’s Alliance of America – played an instrumental role in the event, as well.

Not familiar with Pulaski Day? Casimir Pulaski was a Polish military officer who fought for the young American nation in the Revolutionary War. He is known as “the Father of the American Cavalry” and was mortally wounded while leading his troops against the British in the Battle of Savannah. Given Chicago’s enormous Polish population, the celebration marking Pulaski’s birthday is a very big deal. Most city and suburban schools are closed and every local, state, and federal politico gladly accepts their invitations to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony. The event also generates significant financial contributions from local businesses –banks, grocery stores, etc. – for the Polish museum, and a number of scholarships to local college students are awarded.

This year’s event featured remarks from U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and a host of other state legislators and city aldermen. It was as impressive a lineup of dignitaries as I’ve ever seen and they were there for one reason – because Polish-Americans in Chicago are one of the most engaged constituencies in the region, i.e. THEY VOTE (and in Chicago, that means early and often).

It got me to thinking, what if our fraternal constituencies in other cities and states could mobilize as effectively as Chicago’s Polish community? We could become a much more respected political force – and ensure the long-term preservation of our tax-exempt status – in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Texas. All it would take is a commitment to enhance and expand the good works we do (as demonstrated on JOIN HANDS DAY and throughout the year, tell people (especially public policymakers) about those good works, and verify that members of fraternals show up on the first Tuesday in November (which, given the demographics of our members, is almost certainly the case).

I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can work together to harness our political clout.  Post your comments here…

Fraternals in prime time…

Just in case you didn’t catch it, this show on NBC featured Lionel Richie discovering his family history—including a great grandfather who headed an African American fraternal organization called the Knights of Wise Men. Here is the explanation of the role that fraternal played in history. Enjoy.

The Alliance Network – No password needed to make face-to-face connections at Section meetings…

We have compiled the responses to our annual member satisfaction survey and, not surprisingly, you’ve identified “networking opportunities” as one of the most important benefits of membership in the Alliance.  It seems that communicating via email, social networks, and teleconferences just can’t replace the face-to-face connections you make at Alliance events.  We’re pleased to know how much you value these programs.  And this year’s Section meetings multiply the networking benefits by adding some of the best educational content we’ve ever assembled on topics and issues most important to you. 

No doubt you’ve already received promotional material on the various Section meetings, and judging from the huge number of early-bird registrants, the programs are resonating with you.  But I wanted to take a minute to personally encourage you to attend one or more of these outstanding educational events.  The Alliance is the only organization that offers programming specifically designed for all segments of fraternal operations, and we make these programs available to you at the most competitive prices possible.  So, put your membership to work for you and register for the Section meeting(s) that ring your bell.  You can register online by clicking on the links below.

And don’t forget that sending a member of your staff to one or more of these meetings is a great way to reward performance, get them networked with other fraternal professionals, and generate new ideas to enhance your society’s fraternal and financial programs.

• Fraternal & Communications Sections Mid-Year Meeting, April 13-15, Scottsdale, AZ – We’ll explore new ways to build momentum for your volunteer programs; how to recruit, organize and mobilize fraternal outreach opportunities; how to engage volunteer leaders (both online and offline); and how to foster touch points to connect and build cohesive brand ambassadors.  Join us in Scottsdale for strategic ideas, research findings and practical, actionable takeaways to implement at your society.  

• Secretaries & HR Sections Mid-Year Meeting, April 30-May 2, Washington, D.C. – Good governance will be addressed with presenters Todd Martin, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, and Berit Lakey, Ph.D., senior governance consultant for BoardSource, reviewing the results of our fraternal governance practices survey. Volunteer management is a science and experts from AARP and United Way will share how they recruit and engage volunteers.

• Presidents Section Mid-Year Meeting, May 1-3, Washington, D.C.  – From economic forecasts, to an examination of the regulatory challenges facing fraternals, to a session devoted to improving your personal leadership skills, the Presidents Section meeting is one that EVERY fraternal CEO should attend.  We’ll conclude the meeting by spending an afternoon on Capitol Hill communicating our message to key members of Congress and then enjoy a reception with legislators and their staff in the Capitol building.

And let’s not forget the importance of advocacy…

Yes, you told us that networking was an important membership benefit and we’re committed to delivering meaningful ways for you to connect.  But you also told us that the single most important membership benefit was political advocacy – specifically, preserving and protecting the fraternal tax exemption in a time of budget crises and great political challenges to all non-profit, tax-exempt groups.  We never lose sight of that objective and we’re fighting that battle on every member’s behalf 24/7/365.  Here’s the latest from the state and federal fronts:

STATE – For the third year in a row, the Hawaii legislature is considering bills to amend or repeal the tax-exempt status of dozens of non-profit groups, including fraternals.  The first of the two bills that would subject fraternals to state premium tax and general excise tax requirements in Hawaii is scheduled for a hearing on February 25.  The Alliance has retained a local lobbyist and is working with our member societies that operate in Hawaii to prepare testimony and other support material to once again convince state lawmakers that tampering with the fraternal exemption is bad public policy.  We’ve submitted testimony from the Alliance and the CEOs of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Knights of Columbus, and Woodmen of the World/Omaha (WOW).  In addition to the above testimony, we have secured testimony from the CEO of Drug Free Hawaii on its partnership with WOW.  We have also submitted a copy of the Georgetown University study on the social and economic impact of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Knights of Columbus fraternal activities, as well as our Hawaii-specific brochure outlining the positive contributions fraternals make to the quality of life in the state.  We are confident we will be able to defeat this bill early in the session, but are doing everything possible to ensure its demise.  I will keep you posted on developments in future blog postings.  The second bill that would repeal our tax-exempt status has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.  Bills must be heard by March 3 or they are dead for the session.

FEDERAL – The House of Representatives last week approved a bill to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2011, and the new majority made good on their promise to cut spending.  The bill cuts $60 billion in current year funding from last year’s levels, and contains deep cuts across the board.  The Senate, however, has dug in its heels, indicating that it will not cut funding in the current fiscal year.  This sets up a game of chicken, where one side has to blink and negotiate, or the government will shut down on March 4 when the current Continuing Resolution expires.  Though there is nothing in the budget that specifically impacts fraternals or our tax exemption, the trajectory of the debate is telling and should be a wake-up call.  Republicans in the House, specifically the 80-plus freshman, who were swept into office this year in an anti-Washington, anti-big government wave, are pulling the Republican party in Washington to the right and forcing leadership to move even further on its promises.  Cutting the deficit, decreasing spending and reining in big government are themes that will remain throughout this Congress (and likely longer).  Cuts to spending are just one part of the solution that policymakers will look to in meeting these three goals.  To reduce the deficit, Congress will be looking at the recommendations of the bipartisan deficit commission—including the eliminating all tax expenditures and reforming entitlement programs.  While neither of the recommendations will be enacted whole cloth, they will be seriously considered and we will likely see some changes in each area.  This means, our tax exemption could be on the chopping block.  However, we also should think about the third goal—reducing big government.  Fraternals play a vital role in communities that government cannot and should not attempt to replicate.  While we do receive a federal benefit, we also make it possible for communities to meet their own needs, and we leverage the federal benefit many times over.  As the budget and deficit debates heat up, as cuts grow bigger and tax reform looks like a reality, we will be making sure that all policymakers view us in this light.  YOU CAN HELP US COMMUNICATE THIS MESSAGE TO LAWMAKERS BY REGISTERING FOR THE PRESIDENTS SECTION MEETING AND PARTICIPATING IN OUR CAPITOL HILL VISITS ON TUESDAY, MAY 3!!!

The last word…

You may remember my previous posting in which I discussed the incredible power of social networks to organize people to take action (I referenced the role that Facebook played in the Egyptian revolution).  Well, here is an excerpt from a recent Chicago Tribune editorial on the same topic:

“You know that image of the antisocial computer nerd, hunched over a glowing screen, alone and isolated?  Turns out the typical Internet user is a joiner: connected, networked, and entrenched in group life.

The updated portrait emerges from a recent Pew Research Center study showing that Internet users were more active in volunteer groups and organizations.  They’re more likely to communicate with other group members, draw attention to issues and make an impact on society at large.

We’re only beginning to appreciate the social side of the Internet, particularly its role in getting people organized, and spreading the word about developments important to us.  Just a few years ago Americans were wringing their hands about the Internet contributing to social isolation.  Based on what we’ve seen in Egypt, the information-processing capabilities of engaged Internet users remains unimpaired.”

Discussion questions: What are you doing to foster social network communication between your current members (and their children and their individual networks)?  How can the social side of the Internet create a “revolution” in your society that will result in more communication, more participation, and more meaningful fraternal activities?

Looking Back on 2010 and Ahead to 2011

It’s the time of year for reflections and resolutions – and maybe a few predictions.  So here goes…

2010 was a very good year…

While an avid student of history, I make it a point not to live there.  Let’s celebrate our successes, learn from our failures, and put the knowledge from both to use today without any regrets.  Here’s a quick look at the major developments that affected the fraternal industry last year:

The American Fraternal Alliance was born – By a unanimous vote of the membership; the association adopted a new name and logo in 2010 (scheduled for rollout in January 2011).
Threats to the tax exemption defeated – Legislation that would have repealed the fraternal premium tax exemption (as well as those of many other nonprofit groups) was defeated in Hawaii and Washington.  Your trade association funded these efforts, which required us to retain local lobbyists in each state and muster member societies’ ground forces in order to convince lawmakers that repeal was poor public policy and a bad deal for taxpayers.

The Fraternal Advisory Committee’s hard work paid off when the NFCA launched the first comprehensive survey of fraternal activity, supplying vital information about how fraternals contribute to American communities.  Protecting the fraternal tax exemption starts with data-driven advocacy.

A merger made in heaven – The Catholic Knights/Catholic Family Life merger was completed and a new society – Catholic Financial Life – was created.  This was a strategic merger, driven by the forward-thinking management of both organizations, and it sets the tone for similar consolidations that provide more and better benefits to members through the creation of more efficient and responsive societies that can capitalize on the economies of scale so necessary in today’s business model.

RBC standards gain momentum – Minnesota becomes the second state to enact RBC requirements for fraternals.  Meanwhile, the NAIC abandons plans to adopt a national fraternal RBC model law, citing the progress that individual states and the NFCA are making as the prime reason why such a model is unnecessary.

New brands for mature societies – Catholic Aid Association became Catholic United Financial; Mennonite Mutual Aid Association became Everance Association; and Greater Beneficial Union became GBU Financial Life – all sweeter sounding names for the next generation of fraternal members.

Record membership renewal rate and an increase in membership – The number of societies in your trade association actually increased in 2010 thanks to a 100% membership renewal rate and the addition of three new members.  That’s a remarkable achievement in a year when most trade groups saw their memberships slip thanks to attrition, consolidation, and tough economic conditions.  We’ll do everything we can to make membership even more valuable in 2011.
Eenie beanie, chili beanie, the spirits are about to speak…

And now for a look into my crystal ball and some fearless predictions for the year ahead:

Brand identity – Thanks to a comprehensive communications campaign, more state and federal public policymakers will know who the American Fraternal Alliance is and what our societies do to enhance the quality of life for their members and the communities in which they live and work than ever before.

RBC train keeps on rolling – At least two states will enact new laws applying RBC standards to fraternals.  The American Fraternal Alliance tests the feasibility of creating a new RBC formula for fraternals as part of the NAIC’s overall effort to recalibrate RBC formulas for all segments of the insurance industry.

State fraternal alliances incorporate and engage – As a result of the American Fraternal Alliance name change, state fraternal organizations incorporate under the Alliance banner, join forces with state FIC groups, and become more engaged in political advocacy activities designed to educate state legislators on the powerful economic and social impact fraternals have across the country.  It’s a good thing, too, since more than a dozen states could consider repealing nonprofit tax exemptions in 2011.

Data be the day – A record number of member societies participate in the American Fraternal Alliances fraternal activities survey.  The results are compiled into an impressive collage of community service projects, financial contributions, and membership benefits that further validates the value of the fraternal tax exemption.

Fraternals charge the Hill – CEOs from nearly every American Fraternal Alliance member society converge on Washington, DC on May 3, 2011 for the first every “Fraternal Day on the Hill.”  Armed with compelling anecdotal and statistical data on the social and economic impact of the fraternal system, these ambassadors help convince members of Congress to keep the fraternal tax exemption out of the discussions over reform of the U.S. Tax Code.

Merger mania – At least three mergers will be initiated in 2011 – either driven by the point of a regulator’s bayonet as a result of solvency concerns, or spearheaded by fraternal executives and board members who want to see their organizations stop living hand-to-mouth and prosper over the long-term.

OK, it’s your turn.  Let’s hear from you…

What in the world is “data-driven advocacy?”

I know there are times when members may get a little annoyed by all the information their association asks them to provide.  We ask you to provide feedback on potential products and services, to evaluate meetings, to give your opinion on public policy positions under consideration by the Board, and to rate our performance and the value of association membership.  Most importantly, we ask for detailed information on your fraternal activities – everything from member benefits, to social events, to community service projects on which your society and its lodges are engaged.

Continue reading

What in the World is “Data-Driven Advocacy?”

I know there are times when members may get a little annoyed by all the information their association asks them to provide.  We ask you to provide feedback on potential products and services, to evaluate meetings, to give your opinion on public policy positions under consideration by the Board, and to rate our performance and the value of association membership.  Most importantly, we ask for detailed information on your fraternal activities – everything from member benefits, to social events, to community service projects on which your society and its lodges are engaged.

Members will ask me why we need all this information.  The “never-said,” but often implied, message is: “For goodness sake, we pay our dues.  Just do your job, defend the tax exemption, and let us be.”

But there’s more to membership – in this association and in your society – than simply paying your annual dues (or insurance premium).  Or at least there should be.  Membership comes with the responsibility to participate, to give back (or give feedback, at least), and to contribute to the greater good of the organization. 

We survey members because we really want to know what you think about issues and what action you want your association leadership to take on them.  When it comes to advocacy – and the defense of our tax-exempt status is our highest priority in this arena – information is our most effective tool. 

Data-driven advocacy is the name of the game in today’s hyper-competitive public policy arena.  Whether you’re trying to enact a new law or keep an existing one in place, you better have the facts and figures to back up your talking points.  That’s why we ask for such detailed information on your fraternal activities.  We absolutely, positively have to know things like:

  • How much and to whom are members’ financial contributions going?
  • How many community service events are societies and local lodges engaged in, how many volunteer hours are being donated, and how are these events benefitting individuals and organizations in communities across the U.S.?
  • What type of membership benefits – scholarships top the list – are societies and their foundations providing?
  • What type of volunteer activities are your members engaged in?  Are they working with the elderly, in elementary schools, or with the homeless?
  • How does your society partner with local or national nonprofits?  How do fraternal volunteers and donations impact your partners?

The statistical and anecdotal information we gathered from our most recent survey provides some excellent examples of why fraternals are as relevant today as they were a century ago…

For years, Temple-based SPJST has responded to community needs in west-central Texas.  So it was no surprise when SPJST spearheaded the effort to honor soldiers injured and killed during the 2009 Ft. Hood massacre.  SPJST joined forces with the City of Killeen and other community groups to plan and build a Ft. Hood living memorial garden.  SPJST has also established an endowment fund to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the memorial for years to come.

First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association – OH
Headquartered in Beechwood, First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association (FCLSA) has a strong footing in the Buckeye State and their fingers on the pulse of community needs.  FCLSA members got to work when Mayle Home, a Minerva-based facility for mentally and physically challenged adults, lost state funding.  At a time when every dollar counted, lodges hosted a series of garage sales to raise funds to keep Mayle Home’s doors open.  

Catholic Financial Life – WI
Catholic Financial Life’s Branch 103-Hollandtown, WI, co-sponsored a fundraiser to benefit a husband and father of two, who was diagnosed with leukemia.  In addition to chemotherapy, his course of treatment also included a stem cell transplant from his brother.  The fundraiser included a golf outing organized by the Community Benefit Tree, along with food, games, entertainment, raffles and auctions organized by Branch 103.  Thirty-four branch members worked 460 hours to host an event for 454 people.  A total of $41,973 was raised to assist this family with living, travel and medical expenses.

Unless we can accurately document the ongoing validity of the fraternal tax exemption – and compare the value taxpayers derive from it versus what the Treasury would gain in new tax revenue if the exemption were repealed – then we unnecessarily put our exempt status at risk.  That’s what data-driven advocacy is all about…that’s why it’s so important that members keep track of their societies’ fraternal activities…that’s why we ask each of you to provide such detailed information on these activities…and that’s why the next time you receive a request for information from your association you should understand we’re asking not just because we’re interested, but because this data forms the cornerstone of our advocacy efforts.

Countdown to the American Fraternal Alliance

On January 3, 2011 – less than one month from now – your trade association will officially become the American Fraternal Alliance.  The Fraternal Alliance’s staff is working hard on the million and one details that go in to ensuring that the transition to a new brand is seamless for all our member societies.  The Board has approved a new logo for the Fraternal Alliance, and we are in the process of transforming everything – our Web site, promotional materials, business cards – to reflect the organization’s new name and “look.”  I think you’ll be as thrilled as we are with the results.

Continue reading

Why it’s better to be the sausage maker than the ingredients

You’ve all heard the old saying about legislation and sausage – you know, that you don’t want see either one being made.  But when you are an organization whose members are significantly impacted by the decisions of public policymakers – be it on tax laws or insurance rules – you just can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and ignore the sausage-making process.  If you do, you run the risk of being tossed into the grinder.

Continue reading

Joe’s Special

Brand Camp… As you know, NFCA has been doing extensive work on its own brand – the membership will consider a proposal to adopt American Fraternal Alliance as the new name of the association at next month’s Annual Meeting in Chicago – and in the process, we’ve discovered that a number of member societies are also seriously considering overhauling their organization’s brand identity.  In fact, we conducted a complimentary NFCA Webinar on this very topic - Does Your Society Need to Overhaul Its Identity? last Tuesday, which you can replay for free.

Continue reading