The American Fraternal Alliance: Our North American Cousins
The American Fraternal Alliance, a relatively new ICMIF member representing 60 fraternal benefit societies in the United States and Canada, is among the oldest insurance associations in the world. When ICMIF was formed in 1922, the Alliance – created in 1885 – was already 37 years old! Let me introduce you to who I affectionately call our fellow “North American Cousins!”
With roots in the Friendly Societies model, the first “Fraternals” made their appearance following the American Civil War in the late 1860s. They share the same values and philosophy as cooperative, mutual and other forms of member-owned, democratically governed and equitable values-based insurers around the world. Fraternals are organized around groups that share a common bond (such as ethnicity or profession) and a “lodge” or “chapter” system for their insurance, social and public service activities. Fraternal benefit societies provide financial services including life insurance and annuities, and benefits such as scholarships, educational programs, vocational opportunities, and group discount programs to their members.
What makes fraternals especially fascinating is their volunteer service focus. Each year members of fraternal benefit societies invest more than 92.5 million hours in community works and contribute more than $414 million to charitable programs supporting community service projects. Alliance member societies represent nearly 10.5 million individuals, making it one of America’s largest member-volunteer networks. In recognition of their significant contribution to society, fraternal benefit societies are tax-exempt. A Georgetown University study revealed that a national investment of about $50 million annually in potential tax revenues from all fraternal benefit societies combined provides the U.S. government a yearly benefit of $3.4 billion– a 68-fold annual return on its investment!
This past week I attended the American Fraternal Alliance’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana with over 400 delegates – a very powerful experience! A highlight was speaker Jim Collins, bestselling author of From Good to Great. Collins is fascinated by our model which blends both business and social concerns, something he calls “the genius of the And’. Collins says “build your company so that it preserves a passionately held core ideology and simultaneously stimulates progress in everything but that ideology. Preserve the core and stimulate progress. A truly visionary company embraces both ends of a continuum: continuity and change, conservatism and progressiveness, stability and revolution, predictability and chaos, heritage and renewal, fundamentals and craziness. And, and, and.”
Like the yin and yang, our organizations have the the dual effort of preserving our values/mission (mutuality) while looking for new ways to build, grow and succeed. How do we achieve that dynamic balance? One powerful way is to bring our distinctive organizations together to share, learn from and be inspired by each other … something I call the “power of perspective”. Together, ICMIF and the Alliance look forward to tapping into and sharing that collective power of perspective with you in the future!