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Why do we question success?

December 17, 2009

In my travels over the past 18 months I’ve picked up on a recurring theme.  It goes something like this: societies that run the financial services segment of their operations well are somehow less “fraternal” than those that don’t.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentioned the name of a society that’s running the business end of their organization profitably – and there are quite of few of them out there, large and small – and the reaction I get is “Well, they are not really a fraternal.”

When did running an organization efficiently become a sin?  Can’t we do a whole lot more good things in the community if we have more members to mobilize and more money to contribute to worthy causes?  It’s been my experience that societies that operate the financial services component of their organizations like a business – where efficiency, productivity, and profitability are encouraged and rewarded – have a much healthier and more engaged network of volunteers and have the capital to invest in their local lodge networks to deliver more services to the people who need them most.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve been in the not-for-profit trade association business for 25 years and I’ve never equated the term “non-profit” with words like inefficient, wasteful, or antiquated.  The members of the associations I’ve worked for – including the members of the NFCA – demand much more than that for the dues dollars they invest in membership.  I suspect the members of each of your organizations expect the same from you.

So as you’re planning your New Year’s resolutions, here is an idea: Let’s not confuse financial success with fraternal failure; in fact, financial success and fraternal success are one in the same.  So let’s work individually and cooperatively to make our societies and our system as successful as possible in 2010.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and, more importantly, how we can work together to accomplish it.  Some things to think about...

  • Is it jealousy that fuels this sentiment of financial success not equating with fraternal success?

  • Are some society leaders hamstrung by Boards that are too focused on fraternal activity because the fraternal side makes them feel good and the financial side can be complex and dry?

  • Does your Board understand the need for financial success to fuel fraternal success?

  • Does your society measure itself against “successful” fraternals? Why or why not?

Feel free to post your comments and/or answers to these questions below.