For SFAs, it’s “just one thing”…
November 7, 2016One of my favorite scenes from the movie “City Slickers” is where Curly, the leather-skinned cowboy played by Jack Palance, is giving Mitch, the mid-life crisis ridden New Yorker played by Billy Crystal, a little unsolicited life advice. Curly: “Do you know what the secret of life is?” (Holds up one finger.) “This.” Mitch: “Your finger?” Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean nothing.” Mitch: “But what is the ‘one thing?’” Curly: “That’s what you have to find out.” After comparing notes with the Alliance staff and Board members who attended recent State Fraternal Alliance meetings, I think there are many folks in the fraternal community who are asking themselves that same question: When it comes to SFAs, what’s the “one thing” that can make them relevant and meaningful organizations for the fraternals that fund them? Here are some suggestions for that “one thing” that SFA member societies and SFA leaders may want to consider:
- Meet with your state regulator every year – This does not mean invite them to the SFA’s Annual Meeting. In many cases these meetings are attended by relatively small groups of local chapter leaders, with no connection to or interest in insurance regulatory matters. I mean organize a meeting of executives from each member society domiciled and/or doing business in the state in the regulator’s state capitol offices with a well-planned agenda of issues that you – and the regulator – would like to discuss. I guarantee you that there is no more important function for a State Fraternal Alliance. Relationships with state regulators are crucial to ensuring that the fraternal perspective on regulatory issues from solvency to corporate governance to cybersecurity are heard by the people who are going to decide the future of these proposals in your state and nationally through the NAIC. Need help in organizing this type of meeting? The Alliance is more than willing to assist you in selecting your delegation, reaching out to the regulator, and participating in the meeting with you. This is a “win-win” scenario – and the chance to form a perfect partnership – for SFAs and the Alliance.
- Conduct education programs that enhance member societies’ ability to expand the impact of their financial services and community outreach – Too often we attend meetings where SFAs act like “mini-fraternals” by raising money for scholarship funds through raffles and auctions. Remember, SFAs are trade associations, so some of these charitable activities may actually threaten their tax exempt status, especially if the SFA collects the money and then contributes some or all of it to a charitable organization or scholarship fund. Moreover, community outreach efforts are at the core of what fraternals do. The Alliance can help SFAs build education programs to let member societies know how to make these programs more effective. If SFAs want to conduct community service work, we suggest that they borrow a page from the Alliance book and “adopt” a local charity, and then have the individuals and societies that attend the SFA meeting make contributions directly to that charity. This way, the SFA does not have to handle the funds and risk putting its tax exempt status in jeopardy.
- Reach out to the state chapter of NAFIC to plan a joint meeting – Want to make your SFA meeting instantly more relevant? Conduct a joint meeting with the state NAFIC chapter. Conducting an SFA meeting without including field representatives – the face and voice of fraternals to the vast majority of members and prospects – is like trying to start a fire without a match. Field representatives bring energy, enthusiasm, and (in many cases) youth to the table. There’s the catch, though. If the program is not applicable to what they do every day – sales, service, and volunteerism – they won’t bother showing up or coming back. (And how can you blame them?) Once again, the Alliance is more than willing to work with you on your outreach to NAFIC state chapters and help you develop programs that are valuable to this vitally important fraternal constituency.