December 1, 2014One of the characteristics of the fraternal model in which we take great pride is the “engagement” of the individuals that comprise our societies. Our commercial insurance company colleagues have “policyholders.” That’s a rather sterile word that implies a transactional relationship between a business and an individual. I pay you a fee (in this case, a premium) and you provide me a product or service (in this case, a promise to pay a claim or benefit). It’s all very clear and, for the most part, very impersonal. For fraternals, the relationship between the organization and the individuals it serves is much more complex. First, we refer to the people who belong to the organization as “members” – a much warmer term that implies that the relationship is built on much more than the purchase of an insurance product. Moreover, since members are the ultimate “owners” of the society they should have an inherent affinity – whether based on ethnicity, religion, gender, or shared values – with each other and the organization. Such an affinity comes with a responsibility for members to be “engaged” in the organization. And such engagement could manifest itself in a variety of ways: through the purchase of a wider variety of products and services offered by the society; through awareness, support, and involvement in the society’s community service activities; and through participation in the governance of the organization as a delegate, committee member, or board member. So here are my questions: • Do your members know that they are “members” of your society or do they view themselves as “policyholders?” • Do they understand that membership not only “has its privileges” but also comes with certain responsibilities? • If the answer to both of these questions is either “no” or “I don’t know” (and I’m guessing that’s the case for many societies), then how can your society change this? Connecting the dots in your data can help you increase awareness of your society among its members, deepen your relationship with members, increase membership engagement in your society, enhance the quality and quantity of your community service activities, and drive additional sales of both insurance and “affinity” products (dental and vision care, financial literacy programs, legal services, travel discounts, etc.) to both current and prospective members. The notion of using so-called “Big Data” may frighten some fraternal leaders. Some may think it’s just a little too “Big Brother-ish” for them. Others may think that their society just doesn’t have the resources to harvest the seemingly random information they currently have about members into an organized and well-defined set of data points that can be used to make their societies more relevant and attractive to not only members and prospects, but to potential agents and brokers. I’m no expert on data mining, but I’ve been studying the ways in which my colleagues in the trade association world have applied it to their organizations. I think many of the concepts can be easily adapted to the fraternal model. In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss the methodology and attempt to create a framework for how you might use it in your societies. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone who’s been doing work in this area, either on your own or with a consultant. Post a comment here or send me a private email at firstname.lastname@example.org.