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Why does every company try to act like a fraternal?

September 23, 2019

I try to hit the gym every morning to get 45 minutes of calorie-burning aerobics and a dose of “Morning Joe.” I can’t tell you how many folks come in wearing t-shirts with slogans like:

XYZ Corporation Gives Back!
ABC Corporation Cares!
QRL Corporation Volunteers!

I admire companies and their employees who try to be good corporate citizens. But the cynic in me can’t help but think that there is much more spin than substance to many of these shirt-worthy catchphrases. At the end of the day, most corporations have one goal: to produce a return for their shareholders.

Fraternals, as we all know, are a different animal. We’re not-for-profit membership organizations that help build strong communities. Those include the community of members that we serve by helping secure their family’s financial futures. It also includes the broader communities where our members live and work and are served by funding and facilitating service projects and programs reflecting our member’s shared values.

So why does every company try to act like a fraternal?

Because they have access to the same type of research the Alliance did in conjunction with our branding campaign and know that consumers across every age range – from Millennials to Boomers – want to feel good about the companies they do business with.

So why don’t more companies adopt the fraternal model?

Because being a fraternal is so much more difficult than any other business model. You have to run a well-managed financial services company which offers consumers relevant and competitively-priced products in a way that they want to access them. And you have to help members maximize the impact of their service activities in a way that transforms “organic” volunteerism into “organized” volunteerism to make important and long-lasting contributions to the community.

Whew! That’s no easy chore.

Of the many bright lights for the future of the fraternal system I encounter on my travels is the trend of executives being hired rather than elected, and that these newcomers are coming from the financial services sector. They are consciously choosing to lead fraternal companies not for the salary and benefits that come with CEO positions – they all know there are more lucrative opportunities in the commercial sector – but because they believe in the business model. That’s inspiring in and of itself.

I’m looking forward to drawing more inspiration from you and your colleagues who will be attending the Alliance’s Executive Summit this week in Washington, DC. My next post will touch on what we learned at the meeting to help make the fraternal system an even more vibrant community in the future.