Bringing it all back home…
It’s State Fraternal Congress (SFC) meeting season. I’ve been to a number of SFC meetings over the past few weeks and have at least three more on my calendar before Thanksgiving. I wish my travel schedule would allow me to attend more! Attending these meetings gives me an opportunity to meet more members personally and get a better idea of how NFCA can deliver more value to you. It’s heartening to hear your support for the association’s fraternal cooperative initiative, for our more ambitious communications efforts (like this blog, Weekly Headlines, and State Roundup), and for your willingness to transform SFCs into organizations that play a more active role in NFCA’s advocacy program. This is a crucial role for SFCs and one that will help make these state congresses – and the entire fraternal system – more relevant and accessible to public policymakers.
At almost every SFC meeting I’ll learn about something that reinforces why fraternals matter just as much today as they did when they were founded over a century ago – and why more people need to know about the fraternal advantage. At last week’s New Jersey SFC meeting it was a presentation by Bill Southrey, who runs the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. Here’s a synopsis of his comments:
The Atlantic City Rescue Mission is just down the street from the hotel where the NJ SFC meeting was held. Nonetheless, Bill arrived a little late, a bit frazzled and slightly out of breath. Taking care of the less fortunate and overlooked in our society is hard work. But just by looking at him you could tell that he was committed to his life’s mission. And the fact that he made a special effort to be at the NJ SFC meeting to thank the individuals and organizations who provide some of the financial support for the Rescue Mission was clearly important to him.
Bill explained that there were two basic types of rescue missions – one that is primarily funded by the government and one (like the Atlantic City Rescue Mission) that is funded primarily through private contributions. The government-funded organizations typically have much larger budgets, while the privately funded operations – by necessity – have found much more efficient ways to provide the services their communities so desperately need.
Bill was neither indicting nor endorsing one type of mission over the other; he was merely stating the facts. From my perspective, I believe the government can and should play an important role in serving the less fortunate among us. But the government cannot and should not ever take the place of people helping people – a characteristic that has defined Americans since the birth of the nation and one that fraternal organizations have carried over for 125 years or more.
Bill wrapped up his brief comments by thanking the members of the NJ SFC for their support and questioning how any public policymaker could doubt the value and validity of the fraternal tax exemption. In words that were as simple as they were eloquent, Bill stated that he could not carry out his work at the mission – work that not only serves those that utilize the mission’s social services but also the entire Atlantic City community – without the support of fraternals. He also said that if anyone questioned the worth of the tax exemption, he would invite them to come and see firsthand how our financial contributions are being put to use in the mission.
It was a speech that lasted no longer than five minutes, but for me it made the trip worthwhile.
What is your society’s Rescue Mission? Are your society’s financial contributions and volunteer service hours being focused on projects that deliver real value to the communities where we live and work? Do your members know of these efforts? Are your agents making prospective members aware of these projects and inviting them to become a participant in them? Are there hidden spokespersons among the organizations we serve that are willing to let public policymakers know the value of our contributions? Please share your stories with your peers by posting your comments below.