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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Threats to the tax exemption defeated – Legislation that would have repealed the fraternal premium tax exemption (as well as those of many other nonprofit groups) was defeated in Hawaii and Washington.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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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.

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Sending a message…

For Republicans it was vindication.  For Democrats, a bloodbath.  And for independents – a group that increasingly is the determining factor in American elections – it was an opportunity to send a message.  Exactly what that message was is still uncertain, but here are a few possibilities:

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Rose is back and it’s time to blog…

Rose Riccetti (now Rose Riccetti-Andrikos) is back from her wedding in Jamaica and all that pent up blogging inside me can now be released once again on you poor, unsuspecting readers.  During this mini-blog break I’ve come across several articles that I thought you might find interesting.  Take a look at the quick summaries provided below and click on the links that suit your fancy…

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A Day on the Hill – Part 2

In my last post, I talked about the results of my recent series of meetings with congressional staff.  In that report, I mentioned how effective NFCA’s “Fraternals Serve” brochure was in setting the table for a discussion of the value and validity of the fraternal tax exemption with public policymakers.  Evidently, quite a few folks took note of that item because the brochures – which are available to members at no charge – are flying off the shelves.  Thanks to all of you for being dedicated readers.

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A Day on the Hill

I spent last week in Washington, D.C., doing my best to educate lawmakers, federal government officials, industry groups, think tanks, and charitable organizations about the good work that fraternals do in communities across the U.S.  But I didn’t go alone.  I was armed with brochures and fact sheets detailing the economic impact of our contributions; the anecdotes that you provided, through the new fraternal survey, highlighting the difference we make in the lives of members and the countless people we assist on a daily basis; and ably assisted by one or more of the professionals from our federal advocacy firm, McBee Strategic Consulting.

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Five Reasons the Fraternal Tax Exemption Should Be Repealed

Now that I’ve got your attention, I need your help.  I will be in Washington, D.C., next week for a series of meetings with public policymakers, congressional staffers, think-tank representatives, and insurance industry leaders.  No doubt the value and validity of the fraternal tax exemption will come up in those conversations – probably more than once. 

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Time to Walk Our Talk… Especially this Summer

We all know what tremendous contributions fraternals make to individuals and organizations in communities across the country every day.  We improve our society by building homes, feeding the hungry, supporting the military, offering scholarships, helping the less fortunate.  And the impact of our efforts goes well beyond the people and charities we support directly.  By organizing and implementing a variety of seemingly small fraternal initiatives, our combined efforts result in a healthier social fabric for all those in a community.  In this way, the value of the good works of one lodge or society is multiplied.  And the more good works we do, the greater the value – and growth – of our fraternal system.

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Joe’s Special – 5 Things You Probably Missed But Shouldn’t Have…

  1. Prospects for serious debate of tax reform in Congress are slim… Acting House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) recently said, "Clearly, tax reform is an issue for next year, not this year. I've heard almost no one in our ranks talk about it." That gives us a little time to build a more effective network of grassroots contacts and spread the good word about fraternals to folks on Capitol Hill (and, more importantly, in their districts back home). This is no time to rest easy. In addition to tax reform being a likely menu item for Congress in 2010, NFCA has compiled a “watch list” of 20 – count ‘em, 20!!! – states in which a detailed review of existing tax exemptions could put fraternals in the center of the target for tax reform legislation in 2011. Want to know how you can help? Contact Elizabeth Snyder, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, at esnyder@nfcanet.org.
  2. Special Section of USA Today highlights “Sharing in the USA”… Did you see this on April 13? An entire section in USA Today devoted to articles on service and sharing. No doubt you’ll pick up some great ideas for use in your society by reading them. Can you imagine a special section on fraternals some day? I can…
  3. Learning from Lutherans… And check out this article from a recent issue of Forbes magazine. What can marketers learn from your organization? You don’t have to be the largest fraternal to be a successful one, but it sure helps to be able to learn from a society whose commitment to fraternalism is its “differentiator” in the marketplace.
  4. Young adults, men, and top earners top users of social media for insurance… Brief but compelling article
  5. Who volunteers?… Check out this series of articles from Association Metrics – including a case study on "Who Volunteers?" and see how your society stacks up and how you can improve your members’ community service commitment…

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