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In Defense of Small Fraternals

Membership renewal notices and dues billings were sent to all NFCA members in early December, and today we are on the threshold of something truly remarkable: a 100% renewal rate.

That's an accomplishment that's rare in any business, as all of you know well.  For a trade association executive like me, it's absolutely heartwarming because it means that the organization is providing advocacy and information services that offer real value to your society.

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January Road Trips Set the Stage for 2010 Initiatives

I spent the last few days in Louisiana meeting with NFCA’s newest member society, checking out the location for the association’s 2012 Annual Meeting, and speaking to an enthusiastic group of fraternalists and FICs at the Louisiana Fraternal Congress meeting.  Here’s a thumbnail sketch of how things went…

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2009 Top 10 List

It’s not Letterman, but here’s a shot at my Top Ten list for 2009:

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Why do we question success?

In my travels over the past 18 months I’ve picked up on a recurring theme.  It goes something like this: societies that run the financial services segment of their operations well are somehow less “fraternal” than those that don’t.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned the name of a society that’s running the business end of their organization profitably – and there are quite of few of them out there, large and small – and the reaction I get is “Well, they are not really a fraternal.”

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What’s the latest on the “fraternal cooperative?”

If you attended the 2009 Presidents or Secretaries Section meeting or the NFCA Annual Meeting, then you know that one of your association’s most important initiatives is to develop a “fraternal cooperative” – a shared services program that can help member societies combine resources to generate economies of scale, take advantage of the expertise on certain key issues within the fraternal system, and join forces to market innovative new financial services products to the next generation of members. 

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Showing the fraternal colors…

For the first time in several years, the NFCA Annual Meeting will include a community service activity that will allow members to demonstrate to the local community exactly “who we are and what we do.”  At about noon on Thursday, September 17, the more than 125 volunteers that have signed up to participate will board buses at the Grand Hyatt for the short drive to the Family Service Association (FSA) for an afternoon of interior painting and exterior landscaping work.  If you haven’t registered to participate, there’s still time.  Just log-on to this website by entering your registration number and last name, and then click on Amend/Review Options to sign up.

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Random thoughts on a rainy Friday…

If my visits to NFCA members have taught me anything, it’s that diversity of the fraternal system is our greatest attribute – and a compelling reason to ensure the survival of as many societies as possible in an age of consolidation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big advocate of fraternal mergers; especially ones done for strategic rather than survival reasons.  But if we merge ourselves down to a system of only a dozen players, then we risk losing some of those unique niches that distinguish us from other commercial insurers and charitable organizations. 

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Seven Reasons Why Your Society Should Participate in the Heritage Labs Group Buying Discount Program

By now you’ve read the electronic announcement and may have even received the hard copy letter and marketing materials providing details about the NFCA’s new group-buying discount on lab services through Heritage Labs.  This program is just a small indication of the benefits that a cooperative shared-services approach can deliver to all NFCA members – large and small.  By combining the purchasing power of the fraternal system, we can command more respect – and lower prices – in the marketplace.  It’s certainly not a complicated theory, and we’re looking for other ways to apply it – such as purchasing office supplies, computer hardware and software, etc.  Here are a few reasons why your society should take advantage of the Heritage Labs program:

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Now That Makes Sense…

Every now and then I'll read about a business development – a new product, a strategic alliance, an innovative distribution method – and say to myself, "now THAT makes sense."

That was exactly my reaction to this week's announcement that Catholic Knights and Catholic Family Life Insurance were joining forces through a merger that was seemingly made in heaven.

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Growing Younger

Let’s face it.  The crowd at your typical fraternal meeting—from local lodges to quadrennial conventions—tends to be a bit, how shall I say this, more “mature” than most gatherings.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Seniors are an incredibly vibrant part of American culture, make up a large percentage of community service volunteers, and have an enormous impact on public policy decisions made by state and federal legislators, simply because the vast majority of them vote religiously.

But if our societies are only composed of elder statesmen, you can write the last chapters in the fraternal story without too much imagination.  Where is the next generation of members going to come from?

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