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Fraternals Not Immune to Impact of Congressional Action

Each day we’re bombarded with news and opinion on Congress’s effort to bailout certain industries or stimulate the economy through massive spending programs, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the depths of the Great Depression.  While fraternals – viewed individually or as a group – won’t make anyone’s list of organizations deemed “too big to fail,” societies are likely to feel the impact of congressional action, especially when it comes to issues like life insurer access to federal bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) or the pending debate over re-regulation of the financial services industry.

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It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

Pardon the shameless rip-off of Dickens’ famous opening line to A Tale of Two Cities, but nothing describes the situation facing fraternals with such clarity.

Worst of Times

Let’s start with the “worst of times” part of the equation.  These are tough times for everyone and every industry.  The precipitous drop in the real estate and equities markets, and the lingering uncertainty over just how long this economic malaise will last have hit the nation hard.  You can’t pick-up a newspaper, turn on a television, or scan the electronic news bulletins sent to your email without seeing a story on falling prices, bankruptcies or layoffs. 

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Helping Members Address an Unprecedented Environment

It’s sometimes difficult to place a price tag on the value of a trade association membership.  A trade association’s primary “products” – advocacy and information – are intangible.  How much are NFCA’s efforts to promote the value of member societies’ contributions to individuals and communities to state and federal public policymakers and preserve the integrity of fraternals’ tax exemption worth to your society?  And what about the handful of fraternals that are not members of NFCA?  Don’t they get the benefit of the association’s advocacy efforts – financed by the dues dollars of member societies – for free? 

The role of a trade group is to do for members what they could not do for themselves.  Imagine your individual society trying to keep track of the myriad of bills and regulations moving through Congress, state legislatures, and insurance departments.  Imagine your Board having to determine which threats are real and which are imagined.  Imagine trying to marshal the financial and human resources to communicate your messages effectively to key elected officials.  Even the largest societies would be hard pressed to deal with these challenges.  Moreover, no society acting on its own could hope to effectively represent the diversity of the fraternal system.  That’s why NFCA was created and that’s why the association is still as valuable and relevant today as it was over a century ago.  Sure, there are always going to be a certain number of societies that take advantage of the “free ride” provided by NFCA members.  But as we’ve seen in the past, the overwhelming majority of fraternal benefit societies renew their NFCA membership year after year because they receive real value for their dues investment and because they are committed to enhancing their own organization and the fraternal system.

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