Shaking Things Up to Start the New Year
2010 is not going to be the “same old, same old” for NFCA. For one thing, we’ve retained McBee Strategic Consulting as the association’s new federal public policy firm. In this role, the folks at McBee are responsible for working with NFCA staff and member societies to develop and implement a more aggressive political action strategy that takes advantage of our greatest strength: a vast fraternal lodge grassroots network that delivers meaningful member benefits and community service activities to folks in the districts of almost every member of Congress.
This move was not “change for change’s sake.” McBee takes over these duties from Evan Migdail of DLA Piper. Evan did a great job for NFCA and the fraternal system while he served as our federal lobbyist. But after a five-year tenure, your Board felt that we had to shift gears if we were going to enhance awareness of the fraternal brand among federal lawmakers that we feel is so important— to not just defending the tax exemption in a time of crisis, but to keeping it off the tax reform agenda altogether.
In order to do that – in order to tell our story more effectively to a broader cross section of federal public policymakers, including legislators, regulators, and the White House – we needed to retain a firm with a different set of abilities. And after a thorough search and a series of intensive interviews in Washington, D.C. (in the immediate aftermath of one of the biggest snowstorms in the history of our nation’s capital, no less), we decided that McBee offered both the political acumen and frontline support services that NFCA needed to take us to the next level.
NFCA staff will be meeting with our McBee team later this month in Washington, D.C., to go through an orientation process and lay the groundwork for building a political strategic plan based on measurable goals that make sense for the organization. You can bet we’ll share that plan with you in the coming weeks because your societies, your agents, and your local lodge leaders are going to play a much more important role in helping the association achieve its political and public affairs objectives. WE are excited about the possibilities and hope you are, too.
You will get a chance to meet the folks from McBee at the Presidents Section and Secretaries/Human Resources Section Mid-Year Meetings in April in Hollywood, FL. We are planning a half-day program to update you on our strategic plan and, more importantly, to provide you with the knowledge you need to fully understand the nature of the fraternal tax exemption, the public speaking and interviewing skills you need to communicate our message to public policy makers, and the tools you need to more fully engage your staff, agents, and local lodge leaders in the NFCA political and public affairs activities.
And that’s just a start…
As I mentioned above, our primary political goal really revolves around a public affairs initiative to enhance the fraternal industry’s brand awareness on Capitol Hill. Our view is that if more legislators realized the value of what we do in their states and districts every day of the year, the notion of repealing the fraternal exemption would be quickly dismissed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
But in order to enhance a brand, you have to have one to begin with. Right now the fraternal industry and the NFCA name and logo are not particularly well-recognized and, almost assuredly, misunderstood by the majority of public policymakers. In 2010, we’re going to begin changing that. Hiring McBee Strategic Consulting is one step in that process.
The other is creating a brand – including a name and logo – that identifies who you are and what you do. We don’t think we have that and we’ve retained a public affairs firm, Aartrijk and Associates, and enlisted the assistance of six of the brightest public affairs minds from our member societies to help us create a new name and look. That process began last month and we hope to be ready to unveil the new brand by mid-2010.
Walk Your Talk…
These are just a couple of examples of your association’s willingness to not just talk about change, but – in the words a wise man once told me – to “walk your talk.”
It’s hard to break old relationships and to start new ones. It’s tough to admit that a name that has served an organization for over a century may not work quire as well as it once did. But sometimes the comfort level you develop with individuals, with firms, with a name, with a way of doing business can become…too comfortable.
When that happens your commitment to tried-and-true methods can actually end up hurting your organization more than helping it. A periodic injection of new ideas may be just what the doctor ordered to fix things even if you thought they weren’t broken in the first place. Something to think about. And I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me here...
Food for Thought...
Take an objective look at your society’s name: if it sounds dusty and unappealing to anyone under 50 years old, how hard are you willing to fight to change it?
Speaking of objectivity, why do so many societies refuse to even consider engaging new vendors who could help them develop solutions to the very real problems they already know exist and provide solutions? What are the obstacles that prevent this from taking place?