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Now, therefore, be it resolved…

I try my best not to make promises I can’t keep.  That’s why New Year’s “resolutions” are at the top of my “greatest waste of time” list.  Besides, those of you that knew me more than 20 years ago (or heard others recount some of the legendary stories from that period) are fully aware that my life over the past two decades could be considered a resolution.   And for the blessings given to me during that time I am truly grateful.

My spouse, of course, is a big fan of resolutions.  (They say opposites attract and we are the perfect example of that axiom.)  Maddeningly, she not only makes them every year, but KEEPS THEM, TOO!  And, being a supportive partner, I frequently get dragged along for the ride… er, I mean I try to help her accomplish her goals.

First, it was successfully completing a triathlon.  Yep, Mr. “Can’t Swim Unless His Life Depended On It” managed to thrash and splash his way to the finish line.  And, yep, she beat me.  This year it’s “hot yoga” (at least they don’t keep score), so when you see me at the Section meetings this spring I’ll be able to do a downward dog with the best of them.

New name no joking matter…

But all kidding aside, there is one resolution I plan to make good on in 2011:  I’m going to do everything I can to maximize the value of our new American Fraternal Alliance name and make sure our most important audiences of state and federal public policymakers, opinion leaders in the media, and the millions of people that aren’t aware of who we are and what we do (but should be) hear our message.  That’s a tall order and it will certainly require more than a one-year commitment.  More importantly, I’ll need your help to accomplish it.

This week, every member society will be receiving a host of materials to help you spread the news about the American Fraternal Alliance name change to your employees, your members, your local media, and public policymakers with whom you have a relationship.  I hope you’ll utilize those tools and add a link to our new Web site (www.FraternalAlliance.org) from your home page that proudly displays your association’s new name and logo.

American Fraternal Alliance staff will be working hard over the next few months to make sure we get the word out about the new name – and the real social and economic value that fraternals deliver to America and Americans – to those folks who need to hear it.  The first phase of our efforts will culminate with a reception for members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.  This event will be held in conjunction with the Presidents Section meeting, and I hope every member society CEO will mark his or her calendar so you can be a part of this historic occasion.

Value-added membership benefits…

The entire staff of the American Fraternal Alliance also pledges to make membership in the association more valuable than ever this year – by defending our tax-exempt status in the states or in Washington; delivering the highest quality educational program and networking opportunities; providing you information that helps you benchmark your organization’s performance;  offering you access to group purchasing programs for professional liability insurance, office supplies, and other products and services; and constantly seeking out new opportunities to provide you more and better value-added services.

Here’s to a great 2011 for each of you and for the American Fraternal Alliance.

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…

Looking back on 2010… and ahead to 2011

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

2010 was a very good year…

While an avid student of history, I make it a point to 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:

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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.

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A little something for everyone…

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog, and I’ve been collecting items that I just know you’ll love.  I’ll save the big thought pieces on the future of fraternalism and the procedure for rolling out the association’s new name for later in the month.  In the meantime, I hope these interesting bits of tid will whet your holiday appetite for making a difference in your society, in your community, and in the nation…

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The American Fraternal Alliance is Born!

After 125 years, your association has a new name: The American Fraternal Alliance.

Members voted unanimously to adopt the new name at the association’s Annual Meeting held in Chicago last week.  After months of work by the six-member Branding Task Force, thorough consideration by the association’s Board of Directors, and detailed communications with members on the rationale, process, and parameters that framed the debate, the case for a new name was clearly made.

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All We Need is You…

The keynote speakers are briefed, the workshop leaders prepared, the Section meeting agendas confirmed, the community service project organized, the special events nailed down.  All we need to make the 2010 NFCA Annual Meeting a success is you.  The NFCA staff is particularly excited about this year’s meeting because it’s being held right here in Chicago, our home town.  We’re looking forward to welcoming you to “the city that works” and will do everything we can to make this year’s meeting exceed your expectations.  Here are a few things to put on your “to do” list…

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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.

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What’s your “elevator speech”?

You’re riding in an elevator with a member of Congress, the editor of the local newspaper, or a prospective member, and they ask you a simple question: “Tell me about your organization?”

You’ve got between 30-60 seconds to convey who you are and what you do in a clear, concise, and compelling way.  How do you respond?

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