Bits of Tid
February 17, 2011The Facebook Revolution… Any doubts about the organizational capabilities of social media should be erased in the wake of the peaceful overthrow of the government of Egypt over the past three weeks. Thirty years of oppression and corruption fueled the revolution, but the Facebook postings of a Google executive played an enormous role in organizing the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and, ultimately, opening the door to what will hopefully be free and fair elections later this year. I know that I’ve written and spoken so much about the untapped potential that social media has for fraternals that some of you are probably sick of hearing it. But I truly believe that Facebook is a modern “local lodge” and that societies that don’t start playing in this arena are likely to miss yet another generation of potential members. Just imagine the Egyptian revolution on a smaller scale – a posting on your society’s Facebook page about a community service event in which your members will be engaged in the coming weeks. You may not get a million people to show up, but you might get 20, or 50, or 100 – and they might be folks who’ve never heard of your society before but your society’s commitment to volunteerism resonates with them. I don’t for a minute think that social media is an effective financial services sales tool – and there are laws on the books that may preclude societies from using it as such. I do, however, believe it is an incredibly powerful marketing and communications tool. People put all kinds of information on their Facebook pages – including their experiences dealing with membership organizations. How valuable would comments from your members that extol the virtues of your society be to others in their community of friends? How important is it to communicate with younger consumers in the way that makes most sense to them? In a word: invaluable. Last comment on this issue (for today at least): the only age group in which email usage increased in 2010 was those over 55-years-old. Email usage for everyone younger than that DECREASED. Why? Younger consumers are communicating with each other on social networks – or as I like to call them: electronic lodges. “It would be a shame to waste a good crisis”… Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that when the Obama Administration was formulating its response to the financial market meltdown. And frankly, I feel the same way about the ongoing financial crisis facing state and federal governments. Public policymakers at every level are being forced to come to grips with debts and deficits, and virtually every state is cutting back on the services it provides to its citizens. The same is true at the federal level. I don’t think these cutbacks will be short-term; they are much more likely to be permanent (or as permanent as any government action can be considered) because of voters’ lack of tolerance for wasteful spending. These troubled times can lead to a re-birth of fraternalism in the U.S. – if we seize upon the opportunity. That means seeking out ways to create public/private partnerships that allow fraternals to effectively “fill the gaps” in the government safety net by providing volunteers and funding to projects and programs that need it most – programs to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for individuals with special needs, and a whole host of others that may fall victim to budget-cutting axes. I know societies all have a common bond, but what about turning that into a common cause – support for religious-based education or services to the aging, for instance? Has your society or any local lodge (electronic or otherwise) considered “adopting” an organization that may have had its budget cut and desperately needs financial and human resources to keep its doors open? That’s the kind of activity that can revitalize our system, grow membership, and terminate debate about the value and validity of the fraternal tax exemption. This debate is going on now, and it will only intensify. We are tracking 68 tax expenditure bills. Forty-seven of them deal with sunsetting irrelevant tax expenditures and expanding the tax expenditure review process, with a focus on identifying expenditures that no longer fulfill original legislative intent. Not all 47 bills will pass (this session) but some of them will be enacted. The “new normal” for fraternals includes proving we’re relevant – and the burden of proof is on us. On the bookshelf… Here are a few great reads for you:
- The Big Short (Michael Lewis) – A terrific and terrifying account of the events that led up to the collapse of the housing market and the financial crash of 2008. Greed and stupidity make for a dangerous combination.
- Life (Keith Richards) – While the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll stories grow a bit tedious, the stream-of-consciousness autobiography of the Rolling Stones icon provides some fascinating insights into songwriting and the unique sound of “the world’s greatest rock band.” Ever wonder why there are plenty of Beatles and Beach Boys cover bands but no Stones copycats? Read the book and you’ll learn why no one can match their sound.
- Gulag (Annie Applebaum) – A detailed history of the Russian penal system will leave you wondering how such a thing was allowed to exist well into the 1980s. All it took was Gorbachev’s willingness to admit the truth about the Gulag to ignite the demise of the USSR.