2009 Top 10 List
December 22, 2009
It’s not Letterman, but here’s a shot at my Top Ten list for 2009:
- Victory in Hawaii – When your primary advocacy mission is defending the tax-exempt status of fraternals and you score a resounding victory in the face of a direct threat to that exemption, well, that just has to be the number one highlight of the year. After a rocky start, members rose to the challenge and demonstrated that not only can we tell our story effectively, but when we do, it provides some very compelling reasons to maintain our century-old exemption. The Hawaii initiative was a perfect primer for what’s to come – including the current effort to maintain our exempt status in Washington and potential threats in other states and in Congress. No doubt we’re getting better at this; but we can’t afford to be shrinking violets any longer. Time to bring fraternalism out of the shadows and into the spotlight – use our Legislative Action Center to keep up on the latest developments in WA. Send this link to your members in WA and ask them to speak up for the fraternal system in their home state. http://www.capitolconnect.com/nfca/default.aspx
- Mergers that work – You just knew I couldn’t resist highlighting two mergers that were just meant to be – the Catholic Knights/Catholic Family Life Insurance “marriage made in heaven” and the IDES, SES, UPPC, UPPEC consolidation, better known as the “Portuguese Miracle.” Congratulations to the forward-thinking leaders of these societies for putting self-interest aside and making their organizations more viable and valuable to both current and prospective members.
- Solvency – The system is better for the courageous efforts of the association’s Board to tackle an issue that many would like to pretend doesn’t exist. NFCA evaluated the financial condition of its members, using the same tools as state regulators, to help identify those societies that may appear on regulatory “radar screens.” We offered consulting assistance to those members with the most acute problems. We worked with the New York Department of Insurance to enact a law that applies RBC standards to fraternals, and provides both management and regulators with an important “early warning” tool to detect and prevent insolvencies before they occur. We revamped the old “Tillinghast Reports” into a much more understandable format designed by Strohm Ballweg, LLP that executives and boards can use to assess their own societies’ financial condition and compare themselves against peers in both the fraternal and commercial arenas. Finally, we reached out to regulators in those states with significant fraternal populations to seek effective ways to protect consumers from insolvencies and enhance fraternals’ ability to provide our unique brand of financial and community services.
- I’ve been everywhere – I logged nearly 100,000 miles of air travel this year visiting members from Austin to Boston. The visits were enlightening and provided me with the firsthand knowledge of NFCA members’ operations that I need to be able to represent your interests at the state and federal levels. My sincere thanks to all of you for the education you’ve provided me and the warm receptions you gave me when I showed up on your doorsteps.
- It’s all about the tsotchkes – One of the fringe benefits of all those member visits was the incredible collection of goodies I’ve compiled. From pens that light up on the third click, to carrying cases of all sizes and shapes, to branded dominoes and a coffee mug with bowling pins built into the base, I’ve managed to trigger more luggage checks by TSA agents than a card-carrying member of Al-Qaeda. My favorites are the golf shirts and wind jackets. My goal for 2010 is to play every round of golf in a fraternal-logoed shirt or jacket.
- Solid meeting attendance – Despite predictions from experts that attendance at conferences would be down by as much as 25 percent this year, NFCA’s Section Mid-Year Meetings and Annual Meeting drew record crowds. That’s a testament to your desire to learn from and network with your peers and NFCA’s ability to work with members to produce meetings that meet your high expectations.
- New products and services – The Lab Service Discount Program offers all societies, large and small, savings through our partnership with Heritage Labs. The NFCA/Marsh program has been enhanced to include Home/Auto and a health insurance mart. New program partner CalSurance offers an improved NFCA Insurance Program and high-level customer service.
- Enhanced education and information –
- The first NFCA Fraternal Salary Survey in decades provides data on fraternal positions, top key personnel and employer benefits.
- Three Board Institutes helped over 80 Board members better understand their roles and become better stewards.
- The Fraternal Advisory Committee worked all summer to develop a better method to track and measure fraternal activities and contributions. In Fall 2010, we will launch the new fraternal progress report – a great way to measure how your society is giving back.
- My blog has allowed me to reach you often on the latest activities of the NFCA, current issues facing the system, with my personal take on all of it.
- No deficit spending – Thanks to accurate budgeting, effective cost controls, increased non-dues revenue, and adequate pricing of our products and services, your trade association did not need to tap in to its reserve funds this year. At the end of the day, we may actually be able to make a small contribution to our “rainy day” fund. Why is that important? For one, it keeps your dues costs down. NFCA has not needed to raise the total amount of dues it collects from members for three consecutive years. Second, it means your trade association is operating efficiently – exactly the way you run your businesses. And third, it means we have the reserves to fight a major tax battle at the state or federal level should that need arise.
And the final item for 2009 is...
- More member involvement – Whether it was through service on committees, task forces, or sections, more NFCA members than ever participated in the association in 2009 than ever before. Your willingness to be engaged, to give back, to share with your peers benefits the association, the system, and, hopefully, you and your society. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contributions to NFCA’s success this past year.
It’s been a privilege being your advocate, managing your association, and leading the evolution of the fraternal system. I look forward to continuing our success in 2010!