Robert Miller: Time to Modernize NAIFA
February 28th, 2012, in NAIFA
 

The case for the modernization of NAIFA is not founded on emotion nor the pride we take in looking back at a century of significant achievement. It is based on the reality of the present.

There is nothing so fragile as an institution that has grown comfortable in its own skin, and for any number of reasons resists the urge to look deep within its soul to keep pace with a world that is changing at a velocity unimaginable just a few years ago. It is easy not to initiate self evaluation, but at what cost to NAIFA?

As the ocean erodes an unsuspecting beachhead wave after wave, like a metronome unrestricted by time or physical restraint, the perception of NAIFA’s relevance is being questioned by the very same people who should be joining without hesitation. To sell protection for the future to families and businesses and not step up to join the only grassroots business protection organization we as insurance professionals have is a staggering and bizarre juxtaposition.

Let’s examine what’s going on here, starting with dues. Are NAIFA dues too high? It is impossible to move around the federation without hearing this refrain, particularly in tough economic times. The reality is that federation dues were far below what they needed to be for many years, and membership still declined. Even in years when the dues were increased the cycle of falling membership continued at the same pace as it would have as if there were no change at all. While it seems counter intuitive, this is fact.

We sell protection for a living and that comes at a price to the client – not one of us would shy away from having that discussion. Paying dues to NAIFA is the premium we pay to protect our unique business model. I contend that the dues issue is merely an excuse for not joining or renewing; it is not the fundamental reason potential members do not sign up.

NAIFA is a business, not a club. The continuous decline in membership reflects severe inefficiencies within our current business model in three distinct areas: 1) governance, 2) membership, and 3) messaging.

Governance: Whenever the discussion turns to the federation model and its cumbersome inefficiency and duplication of limited resources, the cry of outrage echoes through the states and locals like an ill wind blowing through the plains. Research over the past decade has made abundantly clear that the relationship between our members and their states and locals is complex at best but can be very damaging to NAIFA if it does not work properly. There is no line of reasoning that can support our current business model.

Membership: Under this current model the actual membership experience is disturbingly inconsistent. There are some locals that have active programming that is well received and the attendees perceive value in going and participating. On the other hand, programming coordinated by other locals has the potential to ruin the reputation of the states and NAIFA. We all pay the price for such inadequate membership experience.

Messaging: Finally, the ability for NAIFA to deliver more consistent organizational messages nationwide will enhance the membership experience. A unified message – whether about our value proposition or our important advocacy efforts – will have greater resonance and impact among the entire membership.

There is no objective logic we can apply to keeping NAIFA at the status quo. Let’s acknowledge the facts and have an honest debate.

———

By Robert Miller, M.A., M.S.
2011-12 NAIFA President

Note from NAIFA:
Last fall, NAIFA President Robert Miller convened a Presidential Blue Ribbon Task Force. The charge given the group is to examine the governance model, structure and bylaws of the NAIFA federation, to ensure that they are best aligned to meet the mission of the association. The Task Force pursued its charge by asking: If NAIFA were created today, how would it be structured in order to achieve its mission now and in the future? See minutes, memos and materials as a result of task force activities:

Presidential Blue Ribbon Task Force

 

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49 Comments to “Robert Miller: Time to Modernize NAIFA”
  1. Tammy Phillips says:

    Good Afternoon,
    I just left an agents office, after asking him to become a member of our Association. His comment to me was:” What do I get for this membership?”. I explained what he would benefit from by being a member locally and shared with him the importance of the “heavely priced” part of the dues that are “National” for the advocacy etc…….. I came away with the fact that National is charging way too much for their “part”. We on a local level dont see their value. We are charged for “Life Notes”, there are no “Life Notes”,Locally we provide our members with quality Continued Education courses, meetings, LUTC group courses ( that are also “heavely priced”) and comradere as well as comunity focused events. With-out our local association, I would see no benefit in belonging, and I know I am not alone. We must find a better way if our Association will continue, the mass hoards of E-mail communication is not the solution either. We welcome your efforts and hard work to make this once again, an organization that people “want” to belong to. Thank you, Tamera Phillips, President, So. Minnesota

  2. Doug Richards says:

    March 23, 2013
    Robert Miller, President and NAIFA Board

    Dear Mr. Miller and NAIFA Board,

    I understand that now is an opportune time for those involved in local associations to provide feedback
    to the proposed structural changes in the NAIFA federation. Of five Models considered by Working
    Group 3 of the NAIFA Presidential Blue Ribbon Task Force, Model 2, which garnered the least number of
    votes, suggests the most sweeping changes to the NAIFA Federation structure. In this model, all state
    and local associations would be replaced by association professionals. While this may appear to be a
    good way to streamline NAIFA’s operation and consolidate its membership, removing state and local
    associations seems to be a rather drastic and overreaching change and may sever a significant reason
    many people belong to NAIFA. Presumably the reason for recommending such a change is to halt the
    steady decline in NAIFA membership that has been occurring over the past two decades. Unfortunately,
    rather than reversing the decline, it may accelerate it.

    From my perspective, the reasons for the decline in NAIFA membership undoubtedly are linked to the
    demutualization of the life insurance industry and the decline of the career agency system. For many
    years career agencies fed NAIFA membership almost as an automatic process. Becoming a member of
    NAIFA was part and parcel with becoming a career agent. With much fewer true career agencies left,
    the engine that gave life to and support for 150,000 NAIFA members, no longer sustains such large
    numbers.

    With membership now standing at roughly one third of former numbers, we rightly ask, “What is the
    value of NAIFA membership? What is the value of a local association? Is the value NAIFA offers worth
    the cost of membership? Answers to these questions, of course, are quite subjective and will vary from
    one member to the next. The perspective I offer is based on five years of active membership in my local
    association and 25 years of independent brokerage experience.

    Prior to joining NAIFA five years ago, I frankly was not that aware of NAIFA. I certainly had no idea of
    what NAIFA stood for nor the role that it played in shaping the legislative and regulatory environment
    that helps sustain our industry. Over time I became familiar with NAIFA’s legislative achievements and
    the extensive grass roots political activity that NAIFA members engage in with the support and
    encouragement of NAIFA at both national and state levels. But beyond NAIFA’s impressive political
    advocacy, I experienced the value of active participation in a local association.

    I have had the opportunity to serve on membership and government relations committees, to fill board
    and officer positions, to benefit from Leadership in Life Institute (LILI) training, to be instructed by
    numerous speakers at local, state and national meetings and to contribute financially to worthy causes
    including NAIFA’s political action committee. My experience is not unique. Many, many other NAIFA
    members have had similar experiences. These experiences for me personally and professionally have
    been invaluable, certainly more valuable than the cost of membership.

    But, as valuable as these experiences have been, they pale in comparison to the people I have come to
    know. How else would I have come in contact with the dozens and dozens of committed professionals
    that I have had the opportunity to meet over the past five years that have reinforced my belief in the
    importance of what we do for our clients as a profession and for our country as an industry? Where else
    would I have met a Karen Easterling, a Des Taylor or a Kim Kieschnick? How else would I have rubbed
    shoulders with an Eric Campbell or a Kelly Herring or a Kevin Chadwick, to name a few? At the same
    time, I recognize that most of our members do not actively participate in local associations and have not
    had the benefit of these experiences.

    Upwards of two‐thirds of our own local members rarely attend a meeting and yet, how many of these
    would continue their membership if there were no local connection, no place that they could call home
    if they chose to? Each of these receives regular contact via emails and occasional contact via phone calls
    from our local association announcing upcoming meetings, changes in local association leadership, dues
    reminders, etc. On some level they know there is an active organization backing their dues.

    Naturally, as with any organization that has been around for as long as NAIFA has, we tend to hold on to
    old ways of doing things. Taking a hard look at what we do and why is healthy. But tossing the baby out
    with the bath water at a point in time where this healthy discussion is just beginning to take place is
    premature and possibly foolhardy. My recommendation would be to postpone any decision of this
    magnitude until such time as you have received adequate feedback from the local associations that you
    can ascertain the best course of action for all concerned. I know that we here in Austin could contribute
    significantly to that discussion with the things that we have learned over the past several years. We
    appreciate all of your efforts to do what is best for NAIFA and stand ready to help.

    Sincerely,
    Doug Richards
    President
    NAIFA‐Austin

  3. Instead of eliminating all state and local associations, performing and non-performing, without regard to their viability, let’s create an organizational structure that is flexible enough to fit a myriad of scenarios.

    1. Strengthen

    a. For the majority of locals that just need an extra push, we need to support them, not tear them down. Support could be provided by NAIFA National and/or the state association.

    b. Help locals to deliver higher quality educational programming. Share and collaborate on presentations on the net that could be presented by any leader, not just the person who developed the presentation (for example, sale tips). Assist in locating unique/influential persons to come speak.

    c. Help locals to deliver a more unified image and message. Create standardized website templates and e-newsletters for local executives to “plug and play,” for example. Efforts are being duplicated many-times over as countless local executives struggle to create and manage local websites, send appealing and relevant email newsletters to members; find quality meeting programming on a consistent basis; and perform other tasks, with perhaps limited experience in some or all of these disciplines.

    i. NAIFA could attempt to negotiate a deal with ConstantContact, or another email marketing provider, and provide these services at a discount. They could then develop a “local newsletter” template that each local would use, which would reinforce consistent brand messaging and save several man hours per local.

    ii. Similarly, NAIFA could provide 2-5 local website templates that locals would simply have to unzip and upload to their webhost. An accompanying tutorial could explain all that needs to be known about editing the pages and providing individualized content. Providing a webhosting/content management package was attempted via Codewriters, but many states and locals found the product outdated and unable to meet their needs, ultimately forcing them to pursue other options independently.

    2. Merge within NAIFA federation

    a. There is nothing wrong with leaner locals. For example, having one executive, or one board, for more than one local will decrease operating expenses. If geographically viable, meetings/name/operations can be entirely merged. If not, perhaps meetings can be scheduled on back-to-back days so that the same high-quality speaker can be used at both meetings. Joint meetings could potentially be held quarterly, or whatever works in the individual situation.

    3. Merge outside of NAIFA federation

    a. Merge with like organizations, on a case-by-case basis. Possible organizations to approach regarding a merger (on their respective local/state levels): NAHU, CFP, FPA, AALU, SFSP.

    b. Perhaps we provide the advocacy component and they provide the educational component. Or perhaps it is simply a numbers game: gaining a critical mass of members so that local meetings can be held.

    4. Dissolve

    a. For some locals, dissolution may be the right answer. There is nothing wrong with that for small, underperforming locals that could not reasonably benefit from one of the above options

    This is a shortened version of a piece by NAIFA-Texas providing positive alternatives to the organizational structure proposed by the Presidential Blue Ribbon Task Force. Read the full paper here: http://www.naifa-texas.org/images/docs/PBRTF/positive-alternatives-to-pbrtf.pdf

  4. Jorge R. De Cubas says:

    NAIFA-Miami Dade recognizes that dramatic changes within the NAIFA Federation must be made in order to succeed in the future; however, we cannot support the changes currently proposed by the Blue Ribbon Committee.

    NAIFA-Miami Dade agrees with, supports, and adopts the Position Statement of NAIFA-Florida dated February 15, 2012. This Position Statement opposes the proposed changes to the current election process, opposes the setting of dues by the NAIFA Board without approval from the National Council, and opposes the elimination of state and/or local associations. We also oppose any further increases in membership dues. For a complete copy of this Statement, please go to http://www.naifanet.com/111008//NAIFA%20Florida%20Position%20Statement%20Feb%2015%202012%20Final%2Epdf

    As in every successful enterprise, the BASE is the most important element. By eliminating local associations and the valuable input that their members bring, we will weaken our advocacy strength, rather than the other way around.

    We need to find ways to “modernize” NAIFA as a national organization, with both state and local associations. NAIFA is currently comprised of many older members, and that may be one of the reasons for the difficulty in attracting new younger members.

    We must find a way to encourage companies to support all agents in becoming a part of NAIFA; in doing so, the companies may need to absorb a part of the dues. Then the agents will become their voice. Only by growing the number of members will NAIFA again become a real and effective force.

    The benefits offered by NAIFA must correspond to the needs of the new generation of agents. And by the same token, the input must come from the BASE, not from the central organization. So let’s change the way we operate; let’s have a young, energetic group (formed with input from the insurance companies), who will come up with ideas that will make us grow again. And let that become the solid foundation for the growth of our beloved NAIFA.

    We do agree that maintaining the status quo is not working and that a more efficient structure is needed. NAIFA must first determine what our members consider valuable about their membership and then find the best way in which to deliver it.

    Jorge R. De Cubas
    President, NAIFA-Miami Dade

  5. Bryon Holz, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, CASLPresident, NAIFA-Florida says:

    NAIFA is not a club OR a business, but a federation of states and local associations and their members. If it is run solely as a business, without an understanding of it being a grassroots organization, than it is destined to fail. And perhaps the most important way that it should be run more like a business is in the area of fiscal management and allocation of resources. This requires NAIFA to be cost conscious, using resources that best provide value to its members. So many states and locals are able to provide significant value for roughly 1/3 the portion that national recieves in dues.

    The only way for NAIFA to succeed is to continue seeking input from all involved, truly

    • Bryon Holz, CLU, ChFC, LUTCF, CASL, President, NAIFA-Florida says:

      (CONT.)
      … engaging all parties with a shared vision and commitment to a common purpose. NAIFA is an agent’s association, and finds its strength from its agent members. It’s too easy to say that young agents can’t afford high dues, and suggest they get a break. Then it’s just as easy to suggest that older agents should get a break as well, leaving the “middle” to pay the increasingly higher dues. Tough times call for tough decisions. Perhaps we should realize what our true value proposition is, legislative advocacy, and while focusing on this potentially more narrow member benefit, consider an across the board dues DECREASE in conjunction with this realignment back to our original focus on agent members. Only then may we confidently shout out, “NAIFA IS RELEVANT”.

      Thank you to President Miller, the Blue Ribbon Panel, and all related work groups for their transparency and call for input in this urgent task. NAIFA-Florida wishes to be a part of the solution. In fact, we are convening its own Blue Ribbon Panel to conduct an in-depth study of our past, current, and potential future members to determine who they are and how to best serve them, in conjunction with our ongoing strategic planning process. We are committed to serving our members throughout the Sunshine State, and supporting our vital local associations, to ensure our united continuing relevance.

  6. Marcia Pierce says:

    I am responding to the Robert Miller blog post Time to Modernize NAIFA located at http://www.advisortodayblog.com/index.php/2012/02/28/time-to-modernize-naifa/

    I have been a member of NAIFA for 26 years. I served as a NAIFA state Exec for 25 years. I was an Exec’s in the NAIFA regionalization pilot project, and I am a current NAIFA local Exec. I am the owner of an association management company. During my tenure in association management I have been involved with numerous professional associations. Each segment of Robert’s posts are noted below with RM). My thoughts follow and are noted as MP). My comments represent my personal thoughts and observations and are not to be interpreted as the views of my NAIFA association.

    RM) The case for the modernization of NAIFA is not founded on emotion nor the pride we take in looking back at a century of significant achievement. It is based on the reality of the present.
    MP) The unprecedented glitch of rising prosperity has faded; the economic “protective cocoon” in which we’ve built our careers and associations has split open. We hit a world that’s more chaotic and uncertain, unstable, and full of disruption
    Jim Collins in his latest book Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, studied why some businesses/associations performed exceptionally well in the current business climate, and others facing the same circumstances did not.
    The Collins research identified 3 core CEO behaviors for success: 1) fanatic discipline 2) empirical creativity 3) productive paranoia.
    Collins says CEO’s with fanatic discipline are obsessed, monomaniacal, utterly driven, exhausting, relentless people. They don’t really understand the idea of rest. NAIFA has not only been resting, they went into a coma.
    CEO’s who excel despite an uncertain environment tend to first turn to empirical evidence, experience, and data rather than seeking what experts or others advise them to do. NAIFA made big bets before they understood what works.
    Successful association CEO’s understand that there are lots of things that can hurt their association. The Collins research revealed that competent CEO’s translate their paranoia into specific, calm, clearheaded actions, disciplined decisions, and hyper-vigilant preparation. What they’re doing all the time is building margins of safety, building cash reserves, managing their risks, being aware of what could possibly severely imperil their association, and making sure they never go close to “death line risks” that could destroy or severely harm their association. They understand that all the discipline and creativity doesn’t add up to anything if the association gets killed. NAIFA has not demonstrated clear headed action or hyper-vigilant preparation.

    RM) There is nothing so fragile as an institution that has grown comfortable in its own skin, and for any number of reasons resists the urge to look deep within its soul to keep pace with a world that is changing at a velocity unimaginable just a few years ago. It is easy not to initiate self-evaluation, but at what cost to NAIFA?
    MP) Ownership is an extraordinarily powerful human feeling that not only fuels commitment to the association but also releases tremendous positive energy. Passive audiences don’t have the makings of change champions, who are created through meaningful participation in shaping change that they own.

    RM) As the ocean erodes an unsuspecting beachhead wave after wave, like a metronome unrestricted by time or physical restraint, the perception of NAIFA’s relevance is being questioned by the very same people who should be joining without hesitation. To sell protection for the future to families and businesses and not step up to join the only grassroots business protection organization we as insurance professionals have is a staggering and bizarre juxtaposition.
    Let’s examine what’s going on here, starting with dues. Are NAIFA dues too high? It is impossible to move around the federation without hearing this refrain, particularly in tough economic times. The reality is that federation dues were far below what they needed to be for many years, and membership still declined. Even in years when the dues were increased the cycle of falling membership continued at the same pace as it would have as if there were no change at all. While it seems counter intuitive, this is fact.
    MP) In a well-managed business with declining sales, the product is not likewise decreased; but payables and salaries are reduced and contained. A full evaluation of the value proposition is initiated. NAIFA has missed the mark on this front. I am not aware of the NAIFA value proposition that would support National’s current load on the total dues structure.

    RM) We sell protection for a living and that comes at a price to the client – not one of us would shy away from having that discussion. Paying dues to NAIFA is the premium we pay to protect our unique business model. I contend that the dues issue is merely an excuse for not joining or renewing; it is not the fundamental reason potential members do not sign up.
    MP) Your comment indicates that advocacy is the member proposition. Only 17% of the membership supports IFAPAC. We need to consider that 83% of our membership demonstrates with their wallets that they do not agree with your assumption. NAIFA needs to consider reducing dues, not raising dues to make budget.

    RM) NAIFA is a business, not a club. The continuous decline in membership reflects severe inefficiencies within our current business model in three distinct areas: 1) governance, 2) membership, and 3) messaging.
    MP) NAIFA does not operate like any of my businesses. A business with continually declining revenue, with a recent bloodletting, demands a thorough review beginning with the internal operations. Budgets should be slashed, salary increases denied unless they are tied to specific results, contractual obligation reviewed and sales and marketing the prime focus.

    RM)Governance: Whenever the discussion turns to the federation model and its cumbersome inefficiency and duplication of limited resources, the cry of outrage echoes through the states and locals like an ill wind blowing through the plains. What research over the past decade has made abundantly clear is that the relationship between our members and their states and locals is complex at best but can be very damaging to NAIFA if it does not work properly. There is no line of reasoning that can back our current business model.
    MP) I am not confident that NAIFA has the internal operations talent to resolve this issue.

    RM) Membership: Under this current model the actual membership experience is disturbingly inconsistent. There are some locals that have active programming that is well received and the attendees perceive value in going and participating. On the other hand, programming coordinated by other locals has the potential to ruin the reputation of the states and NAIFA. We all pay the price for such inadequate membership experience.
    MP) As a research element of the BRTF successful state and local association leaders and Execs should have been surveyed to evaluate the common denominator.

    RM) Messaging: Finally, the ability for NAIFA to deliver more consistent organizational messages nationwide will enhance the membership experience. A unified message – whether about our value proposition or our important advocacy efforts – will have greater resonance and impact among the entire membership.
    MP) The consistent messaging should come from the national staff starting with the CEO, the VP of membership and the SVP of Government Relations.

    RM)There is no objective logic we can apply to keeping NAIFA at the status quo. Let’s acknowledge the facts and have an honest debate.
    MP) Based on the growing number of states that I see going on record against the 3 initiatives that the Board has proposed at their January 29, 2012 meeting, it appears that the membership is not inclined to support radical change.
    Honest debate has begun and the discussions are intense. NAIFA needs to channel this newly created energy into a revised and revitalized association that will attract and retain members. The members are responding and we must LISTEN. This is their association and they are a supportive and dedicated group of professionals. If the NAIFA Board soon initiates the appropriate measures we will be hearing “we built it and they came.”
    I can be reached at mp1@sc.rr.com

  7. Dear President Miller:

    I have read and re-read your memo entitled “Time to Modernize NAIFA” whereas you state that NAIFA is not founded on emotion nor pride we’ve had of prior significant achievement; NAIFA, you say, is based on the reality of the present. In addition, you’ve stated that, “NAIFA is a business, not a club.” You conclude your memo by saying, “let’s acknowledge the facts and have an honest debate.”

    I, as well as many of my colleagues, realize that NAIFA may require strategic restructuring. However, if we are a “business”, then we cannot argue the point that the strategies NAIFA pursues will have a major impact upon its performance relative to that of its membership, growth, and goals.

    With NAIFA’s current model, most of our membership supports NAIFA because of our “grassroots associations”. To quote Albert E.N. Gray in his inspiring message entitled, “The Common Denominator of Success”, he states that “membership is all about your success”. I agree with this statement; however, I would like to take it a step further by saying that the local and state associations are vital to NAIFA’s membership, growth, and attaining goals.

    Since I have become a member of my local NAIFA organization, I have “volunteered” many hours as a board member meeting with legislators in our city, our state, and on the Hill. In addition, my board colleagues and I have invested our time and money in the preparation of membership meetings, CE events, networking events…..to name a few. We have recruited new and lapsed members via personal visitation to their offices, have taken some to lunch at personal expense, spent time with a few prospective members in a social setting, and have invited some of these “prospective members” to a NAIFA luncheon…..again at our personal expense. Why have we done this? Because we know the value of being a NAIFA member and the value of having a local NAIFA organization as well as a state NAIFA organization as our “grassroots base”. Our local NAIFA membership is vital and valued by many of our members.

    This “external analysis” in the strategic management process is depicting the importance of NAIFA’s external operating environment. Our local organizations identify strategic opportunities and threats to NAIFA’s operating environment. Without these “grassroots associations”, the membership would not be as willing to volunteer countless hours on behalf of NAIFA. However, if NAIFA headquarters insists on pursuing the “retrenchment strategy” meaning that top management seeks to constrain or eliminate our local & state organizations and also assumes they know what is best for NAIFA because only they can see “the big picture”, all of us are in for a rude awakening. Therefore in my opinion, there is no line of reasoning that desires to eliminate the local associations. If merging multiple state associations into one association is a consideration, I can assure you that most of the membership will not drive 100 miles or more to attend this type of venue and at such a distance for a quarterly NAIFA meeting.

    NAIFA dues is a very hot topic. When comparing our dues to what other professional associations charge, we are all over the board because, I believe, there is no consistency levied by NAIFA headquarters to all locals nationally.

    Finally, I do agree that it is important to establish our “value proposition” and implement a “differentiation strategy” in order to be unique in our industry and have a greater resonance and impact among our membership and prospective members. However, we do not want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when choosing among our decision-making alternatives. The challenges that NAIFA faces during these economic times are great. However, our “grassroots effort” is alive and well and is the embodiment of NAIFA’s heart and soul. NAIFA’s future growth and membership starts at the grassroots, but can end there as well. I believe each one of us want NAIFA to be unified, not divided by disgruntlement and animosity among the ranks. Let’s work together toward a positive, “win-win” strategy that supports our local and state associations as well as our NAIFA headquarters!

    Sincerely,
    Bonita Williams

  8. stanley Minka CLU ChFC MSFS says:

    President Miller,

    your thoughts are real and I see the membership experience as inconsistent also. Going back to when I was President of our local here in Delaware , my focus prior to the Annual Conference that year in Kansas City in September was to make sure all my programming and membership meetings were set for atleast the fall. This was important for the all important lapse number. You need to provide quality programs that are interesting and will help build your bottom line. National could be offering more assistence with making sure that the programs are set for the year with each local with a sprinkling of regional meetings . Maybe not needed in a place like Delaware however why does Philly and Delaware and South Jersey offer one career conference in taking the pressure off the States and our volunteers. Would be a great regional event !

    As for membership, the solution I think is simple. You need to urge the big companies in our great industry to almost require and certailnly encourage new associates to join. The experience is second to none. My primary company, Metlife needs to offer a payroll slot for associates to not only pay but they need to beat the drum as they are with the MDRT experience. What ever happen to 100 lives a year? I stated in an email to Joe Jordan, in our New York Home office that we need to set this bar for new assocaites that are striving to survive in this great business. 100 lives a year will get you to MDRT at some point. Its the stepping stone. this is the point that needs to be sold to the big companies ( pru, mass mutual Metlife etc). I think last year we had one person in Delaware apply for the National Quality Award. – My associate Robert tuschinski. 8 straight qualifications and is on a roll with MDRT with close to a life time member.

    On Friday I gave an agency presentation to a Mass Mutual agency that had their meeting at their Philadelphia office. The presentation that is on the website is good. we need to make sure that each local is giving this presentation to 5 agencies a year. However $500 /yr is too expensive for a new guy that needs to just survive. Whe I joined my lcaol country club in my twenties, they offered membership as follows:

    75% discount – yr 1
    50% -yr 2
    25% – yr 3
    0% – yr 4

    We had a thriving club with the very best young golfers in Delaware. Non of us had any money however the system worked Why not this model for our new associates . a survey here may make some sense to see how many young peopel you have in the federation .

    Bob thanks for your leadership this year and stay in touch on any thoughts. I’ll close with a Sid Freidman quote from a book I purchased from the MDRT book Store.

    “Just Survive ” – 100 lives a year will do it so lets promote it!

  9. Robert Miller says:

    The value proposition of NAIFA is we protect your business, we help grow your business and we promote ethical behavior. This is right from NAIFA in the 21 st century and voted on by the National Council after extensive research. The part about growing your business entails anything from networking to using many of our on line features from our virtual library to our educational web programs. 37,000 members used them last year. There is a campaign going on right now promoting the fact that NAIFA members earn more money. This has been issued throughout the federation. Please remember that membership has to be sought out like clients and has been the sole domain of the states and locals for all these years. We certainly do not need to spend member money to research what we already know. Money we do not have. We can get plenty of members if we all go out and recruit. As for diversity our strongest company supporters have no trouble getting everyone to join by preaching advocacy to protect our products. The difference between them and us is that they work at it and follow up.

    • Paul Reavis, CLU, LUTCF says:

      I certainly hope that the reply on March 3, 2012 at 3:39 AM by a Robert Miller was not the same Robert Miller who is President of NAIFA.

      I cannot imagine that we are even thinking that a benefit of membership is to “go out and recruit” new members. This blog is open to all NAIFA members. This would include new members that have yet to receive their membership cards. We could double the number of new members recruited this year if only all of our new members get to “work at it and follow up” with their recruiting and bring in one more each.

      Could you let us know who our “strongest company supporters” are? I know of no company or agency that is getting “everyone” to join. I agree that they are on the right track “preaching advocacy” but it’s to protect their products, not ours. This was an agent’s organization not a company’s. While our interests are most often aligned they are not always.

      Again we want to place blame down the line for weak leadership. The replies in this blog show a number of different opinions but more telling of NAIFA National’s inability to communicate a clear message to its current members. If not for the Local and State association officers, directors and volunteers we would be a shell of what we currently are. I will not accept that they are the problem and only NAIFA National as master of the federation, on its own, can save us. The solution may well be inside the problem.

      NAIFA National would be best served in helping the States help the Locals and not try to fix someone else’s property by taking ownership. This sounds so much like Big Government knowing best what is right for State and local government and its citizens. I think the camel is finally living in our tent.

  10. The consensus from the above comments seems to be that NAIFA will not survive without its foundation, the state and local associations. I completely agree with this. That is where our members see value — doing away with them would be self-destructive.

    Though I commend Robert and the PBRTF for honestly and openly addressing NAIFA’s problems, they are going about it in the wrong way. Like others have said, before ANYTHING else is done, we must figure out our value proposition, and go from there. Five past presidents of NALU/NAIFA, endorsed by other distinguished past leaders, have written a letter that I urge everyone to take a minute to read. It provides a RATIONAL path forward. We have posted it on our website at http://www.naifa-texas.org/more/blue-ribbon-task-force.

  11. Robert Miller says:

    First off thank you to everyone who has taken the time to respond to my article. There is great passion when it comes to Naifa and that is a good thing. We are going to continue as a board to fine tune our recommendations to the national council who will then speak with their vote.

  12. Don Brown says:

    Mr. Miller speaks of NAIFA as if it were a business. If this were the case he is the chairman of the board, and he and the board should be fired as they would be in any under performing business. When you have an inventory of 300,000 and only sell 47,000 you need to see what the reason for not selling your inventory is. It is not the structure of the building it is in. It is either a pricing or value issue. Most businesses with an inventory that is not selling will reduce the price to a point that it will sell. I have yet to see a business increase their price in order to sell more of it. We as stock holders should vote as we would if ths were our business. Unfortunately our votes are as good as the proxies we get from the mutual fund companies

  13. Carroll Fuller, Immediate Past President, Naifa Virginia says:

    A federation (Latin: foedus, foederis, ‘covenant’), also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central (federal) government. In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of the central government.

  14. Ken Gamelin says:

    I have been a NAIFA member for over 39 years…………and a Director and/or Officer for 38 of those years (at the local level). I joined (then NALU) because I wanted to network with my peers to get a sense of what’s going on in the insurance world around me – not in Washington.
    I think the National Board is being short-sighted in pursuing a top-down approach. I’ve met a LOT of agents and managers over these many years; it has been my observation that most are not even aware of what NAIFA does, but they DO see what the local organization does: that’s where they see the value. They see it in QUALITY C.E. programs (better than what you can get on a webinar or some online medium), the comraderie experienced at local meetings and having a lot of “‘sounding boards” to express thoughts and opinions…………to see firsthand how others do things, to get inspired. You can get motivated by exposure to (some of) your peers, not from a ‘missive” from a national organization.
    I’ve always had a passion for the organization – that’s why I’m still on the local board – but that passion probably would not continue to thrive without a local and a state group.
    NAIFA is a Federation; if most or all of the local and/or state associations “fall by the wayside”, we won’t have a federation (it would be a “federation” comprised of what?
    I think most of us agree that SOME changes are warranted – but with the goal of IMPROVING the states/local operations, not eliminating them. What would America be if there were no states? The United what? If all citizens in the country were governed in the same manner, with no regard to geographical and cultural differences, we would not be the country that I know and love.

    We need to work on fixing what may be wrong at the local and state levels; perhaps more locals need to be eliminated or assimilated, but the vast majority of our locals are strong and functioning reasonable well. Those that are not Do need to be disbanded.
    Let’s not ‘throw out the baby with the bathwater”. I’m reminded of the early colonial days of our independence: “Taxation without representation is tyranny”. Our locals, for the most part, and our state associations are VITAL to the federation. Let’s go back to the drawing board and come up with meaningful changes that will fix our problems………..not kill the organization. I have always had a deep passion for NAIFA, but cannot envision one without local “flavor”.

  15. Rhonda Fitchett says:

    While Mr. Miller’s argument is certainly poetic, I came away feeling that the case is not completely made. My issues with this proposal are as follows:

    1. Defining this as “modernization”—I appreciate the marketing “spin” that calling the change in format to be “modernization,” but are there any other organizations that have gone to a regional/national format? Not that that format can’t be the cutting edge of modernization, but it seems to me that perhaps there are reasons why it has not been embraced. As an advisor who is also an attorney, the Bar association allows membership to be independent of other arms of the association so that I can join the American Bar Association, the Iowa Bar Association and my local county association…any or all or any combination. In Iowa, our state membership has a 99% voluntary participation. The American Bar Association has a participation rate of approximately 50% of attorneys eligible to be members (approximately 410,000 individuals).

    2. Dues are irrelevant as long as value is given. I believe that the 99% voluntary participation in the state bar association in Iowa is due to the perception of value. The same might be said of the 50% who choose to join, or not join, the national association. I agree with Mr. Miller that dues are not the fundamental reason people aren’t joining, but I disagree that it is merely an excuse…I believe the lack of perception of value is what drives people away from joining NAIFA.

    3. Under “Governance” Mr. Miller states that there is “no line of reasoning that can back our current business model.” I would query “what line of reasoning backs the proposed business model.” Would we not consider the option of having the ability to join the NAIFA level of our choice as does the Bar Association? If there are inefficiencies or expenses which undoubtedly exist, would it not be better to address those directly.

    4. Under “Membership” Mr. Miller comments that “actual membership experience is disturbingly inconsistent. There are some locals that have active programming that is well received and the attendees perceive value in going and participating. On the other hand, programming coordinated by other locals has the potential to ruin the reputation of the states and NAIFA.” It appears that the proposed “solution” to this is to throw the baby out with the bath water? Instead of channeling resources to improve those locals that “have the potential to ruin the reputation” by providing poor quality membership experience, we are instead eliminating those who are providing value and an excellent membership experience?

    5. Mr. Miller challenges us to “acknowledge the facts” and have an honest debate. Eliminating the local/state arms of the organization and go to a national/regional format would, in my opinion, fracture the association rather than bring it together. Despite the fact that we’ve come a long way, there is at the core of every American a sense of “state’s rights” which our Founding Fathers put in the Constitution to avoid an overbearing national government and have each citizen’s interests represented. The same analogy would be apropos here.

  16. David Romero says:

    To all that may want to listen:

    I stand with our local and state associations, they should step in and take a strong stance to support the Florida letter. If this goes to a national entity then I might find myself with the big “I”. This is now starting to look like AARP and it is all about revenue to the national firm. Maybe, we should rethink NAIFA as a whole. Maybe, we should take back our association and drive the process from the bottom up. Maybe we need a smaller national association and drive the dues back down so we can drive members back in.

    Members do not see any value these days especially the younger members for the annual cost. “BANG FOR THE BUCK” We need lobbyist, but I am not sure we need the excessive national burden to go with it. Do you think maybe it is time to down size national to an overseer roll, driven by members. Members will not continue to pay unchecked fees with no say in what they are getting, this does not set well with advisors. Remember we all have a little ego to some extent, we want our say!

    The Big I has over 300,000 members today.
    Here is there fee structure:

    IIABA National/IIABL State Dues
    1 – 3 employees base dues $425.00
    4 – 9 employees base dues $575.00
    10 or more employees base dues $900.00
    Base dues _______+ ($42.00 x _____) # of employees* = $_____________

    A firm has a base cost, If I was to apply this to my firm $575.00 divided by 7 = 82.14 per agent per year. NOW! You know why they have 300,000 members. McDonald’s theory works, a lot of advisor’s with a nuisance cost per year will become and stay active members. Then the advisors will consider joining and participating in luncheons and activities for our industry.
    You have to ask yourself how another association can do all of this and allow branding for that cost . I believe we need to take back our association and bring it in check, like the government. This started back almost 15 years ago when they purchased a large building with an anchor tenant that had a rather short lease for the size of building. When did we (NAIFA) get into real estate, did not know that was part of our charter playing landlord. Should have bought a building sized for our organization or stayed as a renters, you know that thing they call being good Stuarts with our members money. The massive waste of money drove them to do a temporary 2 year increase and quite large one at the time, making the national the largest taker of the dues. In most national associations with local roots, the largest dues go local, second to state and third to national, we are completely upside down on fee structure. It seems this was the turning point for national and as I said at the time, the 2 year temporary was permanent and I never gave it a second thought. Once you have a luxury it becomes a necessity and is hard to live without. So, the increases kept coming and here we are, they want to cut out overhead or shall I say under head, they want to get rid of locals and states to have all the dues pass up. Read between the lines, this is quite obvious, just like the 2 year temporary fee?

    I said it when they increased the dues with that massive increase they would never get more revenue, as for every agent that left they need about 8 to replace them. National lost a lot of advisors over the course of that year and the next and then the temporary increase was needed to be a permanent increase so they could stay alive at their present spending. And of course several increases since then. This is like taxing your way into prosperity it just does not work.

    Do they really believe if they cut out the locals and states that all of our advisors would stay, they will have huge fallout and I think eventually render NAIFA a non-entity with little to no clout as it will lose its significance. I did not work all these years to support a dying association by way of financial suicide.

    I think we need a task force to rethink our whole association and starting at the top down not the bottom up. I suggest we as members run a full rally to get a different study done.

    I support Florida completely and more. Maybe our new home office could be based in Florida and we could just higher our lobbyist in D.C. and safe a huge amount of overhead with a limited oversight office in D.C.

    You know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I have not seen anything different in about 15 years.

    For what it is worth, my opinion whether you agree or not.

    I maintain that I will stay a strong defender and advocate of our industry, maybe it is time to change the way we do that. I do believe in the thinking outside the box. It takes bold thoughts and courage to do the right thing and I am not sure I see that in our leadership at present, they are trying to maintain a status quo. It is time to shake up the National Home Office. It is time to take back our association and apply some basic business principles to running it, it seems that great sales people do not always make great business leaders. You’ve heard the saying that great sales agents/advisors usually make poor managers, same premise.

    DAVID

  17. DennisCuccinelli says:

    Let’s recap for a minute, set the record straight on a couple of comments, and consider alternatives to the elimination of the locals —

    1) NAIFA outsources the magazine. Thus, there is a minimal expense to NAIFA’s bottom line with a potential profit if advertising benchmarks are reached.

    2) Not counting the annual convention, the Board of Trustees meet in person twice last year. All other meetings were conference calls. Cutting back on the number of volunteers (aka Trustees) to reduce costs will not solve our problems.

    3) National does actively engage the carriers for support when it comes to membership.

    4) Granted other associations are less expensive than NAIFA. However, they don’t provide a government relations team that supports all lines of authority including registered representatives. When the Big I or NAHU asks you to join them, ask to see their government relations position paper on the fiduciary standard, in-side build up, or the SEC directive on PAC contributions. (By the way, this is not a smack down on NAHU or the Big I. They simply do not provide what NAIFA does.)

    5) There are approximately 600 state and local chapters. Fifty-one have a positive membership growth year to date. Does anyone truly believe we will survive if we do not change?

    6) While CE can be valuable both from a regulatory (the DOBI’s require it) and a learning tool, the simple fact of the matter is online CE is less expense and less time consuming. As an overall general comment, some local’s hand their hat on CE hoping it will increase attendance at the meetings or increase membership. (Yes, ten years ago it worked but not now.)

    7) The Blue Ribbon Panel and the Board of Trustees cannot change the by-laws without approval of the National Council.

    The business model that we operate under is outdated. The current structure has flaws but is not overall flawed. Let’s keep in mind that some locals do provide an excellent value. Thus, the overall elimination of the locals is troubling in my mind.

    If the Blue Ribbon Panel could consider setting a set of standards for the locals, it could be a solution that the majority of reasonable people can agree upon. If a local does not meet the standards, the local show can be absorbed into a nearby larger local. Some locals do an excellent job in delivering value. Many locals do not provide value and are ineffective layer to our association.

    And, the same holds true for our state and national leaders – those who are not providing value can be removed through the most basic of democratic processes – we can vote them out.

    Let’s not have our memories of the past be our vision for the future.

    • Carroll Fuller, Immediate Past President, Naifa Virginia says:

      Dennis, I agree with most of your comments. I feel not one magazine should be mailed. We expect our website to be used. so make every edition of the magazine electronic. and let anything saved go to the bottom line. The advertisers will pay still. We get advertisers run ads on our other electronic transmissions, including ads on this blog. I know the trustees meet only a couple times a year and do most via conferences etc. But I also know there was a lot of money spent on other meetings like the pic ,meeting in washington. We in Virginia were called and told we could send several members with the National paying the freight. all meetings and all travel and each and every line item should come under deep scrutiny. Many years ago, when we had 100,000 members we were bankrupt. we had to borrow 1 million from MDRT to make payroll and pay bills. Our mission number 1 is advocacy. How much out of every dues dollar to national goes to advocacy and how much goes to administration and things other than our primary mission? I have learned that many orgainzations spend 2-3% of their money on the mission they are chartered to support. If that is our primary mission then why not hedgehog that as the LILI principal teaches. Focusing on advocacy only and I feel we can cut dues and have more advocacy than we do currently.

      • Dennis Cuccinelli says:

        Carroll,

        Recently, I met with one of the senior editors of “O”, The Oprah Magazine. We discussed the print vs. digital edition of “O”. She indicated that the elimination of print editions of most publications are still years away. There is a significant difference in subscription fees to the reader and the profit margin is different between the two versions. I can only assume Advisor Today would be no different but on a smaller scale.

        If we gave the members a choice between print and digital editions, the vendor would have reduced overhead. Those cost saving would/could reduce the fees NAIFA pays the vendor.

        Personally, I like the digital edition but cannot see the elimination of the mailed edition. Unfortunately, when my print edition arrives, it is usually tossed in the trash (what a waste).

  18. Don Kemp says:

    Robert,
    I read your blog shortly after I sent a note to 3 local NAIFA officers in my firm.

    I think it has less to do with “modernization” than getting back to a value proposition that works….and that members are willing to pay for.

    I had the opportunity to hear the incoming MDRT President at the NAIFA Atlanta MDRT meeting a month or so back.

    He made a comment that has kept coming back to me. He said, “If it had not been for NAIFA when I was a young agent, I would not be in this business today.”

    That got me to thinking…….
    …NAIFA back then must be very different from NAIFA today because I can’t of anything that NAIFA has done to make me more successful in my practice.
    …We have very few “young agents” in our NAIFA meetings
    …Possibly, if NAIFA did more to help young agents succeed in their early years, we might have more young agents as members

    I think if NAIFA could articulate an answer to the question, “Why should I be a NAIFA member?” (WII-FM – What’s In It For Me) you would have a growth strategy for the organization. Since we are sales people, we understand that the answer needs to benefit the one writing the check. Not the industry. Not the great work NAIFA does legislatively. But what does NAIFA do for me? Sorry if this sounds selfish but it is the way the world works.

    I look forward to seeing the results of your modernization effort.

    All the Best!
    Don Kemp
    Atlanta

  19. Paul Reavis, CLU, LUTCF says:

    I read President Miller’s e-mail immediately upon receiving it yesterday and had to wait until today to decide if I should respond and if so could I do so without the emotion I felt when I first read it. I have decided, obviously, that I should reply but I can’t remove all of my emotion.

    I was once told that if you wanted to know if the fish was dead to look at the head. However, President Miller’s “Blue Ribbons” want us to blame the tail and even cut it off. Imagine the direction the fish will go in then.

    Every member of the task force is a member because someone at the local level asked them to join. Every “professional” association staff member is working at NAIFA because they were looking for a job. Now the National Association’s direction and future is to be driven by “professional” association staff and “appointed” task force members. I believe reflection on how we got here and whom we really serve may benefit us all.

    If we have abandoned all of NAIFA’s usefulness to nothing more than advocacy then say so directly and cease the drain on resources with all other functions. This is a very important function and with it as the one purpose the cost of membership will be far less and it will also increase membership. Not merely because of price but the ease of messaging. It will of course require hiring and holding accountable a new sales force since we “cut off” the old one.

    I can appreciate the circumstances NAIFA National finds itself. Not only has the membership declined, it will continue to decline due to the aging of the present membership. NAIFA National’s response to this has been to create a YAT. And now we have a “Yat at Heart”. The YAT is so sought after they receive a very nice discount to the National’s conference. I mention this as I don’t understand the reasoning behind exclusion and creating “classes” of equal members as an association goal. The attempt at National to be all things to all people hasn’t worked so far, the name change and HIA being the most obvious.

    NAIFA is not and will not be all things to all people in our industry. There are many other associations and organizations that do a much better job in education and reputation. There are hundreds of thousands of financial services professionals that have and had wonderful careers without ever joining NAIFA. This always has been and will continue to be true no matter what.

    The NAIFA I joined was an important part of my business and personal life. I would not be the person I am today had it not been for my membership and involvement in NAIFA. I joined because someone influenced me to do so. The goal of positively affecting the member’s chosen livelihood in the areas of education, reputation and legislation was why I stayed a member. As a past Local and State president I truly understand and appreciate the current membership issue. And really this whole issue is “membership”. If we had the members/money all would go on as it has. National would continue to chip away at Local and State authority and create more and more “member benefit” programs to convince itself it has member benefits. There are actually people at the National level that don’t understand why more members aren’t taking advantage of these “benefits”. National’s best benefit for the member is advocacy at the federal level. The only other meaningful benefits are membership administration and leadership development. Leadership development now has become “web based”. LILI, while nice, is not the type of State leadership training NAIFA has supported in the past with the NLC and supporting materials. The vacuum in State leadership has dripped onto the Locals. The resources moved away from this area were in error. The Local is the foundation of NAIFA. If this is the best advice our “blue ribbons” can give us and NAIFA National needs to be something else, so be it. I will miss it sorely but life is a passage and there are people and places in all our lives that have changed and some are gone. I would just remind all that calling a cat a dog, no matter for how long won’t make it bark. The name is just a name.

    My suggestion is that NAIFA National considers looking to its future as a smaller part of the federation. Advocacy, Membership Administration, and State Leadership Development should be the sole functions and could be accomplished with a very small “professional” staff with most day to day tasks outsourced. A much smaller footprint would be needed in brick and mortar as well as IT, pencils, pens and pads… A much smaller Executive and Trustee Board would be required. The Board’s elected Officers and Trustees should be more responsible to the National CouncilAbsolutely everything else that requires a single dollar should be removed. The States could and should be responsible for Local leadership training and support and programing with at least a one year out plan.

  20. Rex Oliver - Immeciate Past President - NAIFA Southern Utah says:

    As a new agent and member of NAIFA (NALU) in 1979, the value of the association was taught and stressed by the company and, specifically, the local office management to whom I owe my introduction into this industry. NALU/NAIFA was not a “join if you want to” option – I understood that membership was a requirement of all agents who contracted with that company in the agency offices in Utah. And this wasn’t a philosophy taught only by the company I chose to represent at the time; it was common for all the “big” mutual and stock companies to stress the importance of membership in NAIFA. I believe there was a sinister motive behind encouraging membership – it has to do with a principle taught throughout my membership years – that members of NAIFA are more successful, more professional, and make, on average, a larger income than those who are not members of the association. I seem to remember being provided with studies and facts to back up those claims. The point is this – the importance of the association was taught and stressed by management, which message was received loud and clear from officers of those companies. Unfortunately, that attitude seems to have been lost, even in companies who haven’t changed their agency sales model.
    I believe that motivation to be a member of NAIFA must come from the insurance companies we represent. I suggest that NAIFA develop a training module for company officers and boards, so they can help them better understand how NAIFA membership of their sales force will improve the quality, as well as the quantity of business, thus improving their bottom line profits, and at the same time, strengthening our organization.
    Robert, NAIFA must get back to the basics that created this organization and built it to the membership strength we once had, which strength, I must add, was enhanced and solidified by our local and state associations; if not, I fear that we will continue to see membership decline to a point that NAIFA will no longer be an effective advocate for us as agents, for our clients, and for the products we represent.

  21. Jerry Borrowman says:

    Robert,

    An associate who is president elect of another Utah Chapter sent a note saying, “Does this sound like a potential merger with SFSP?” I don’t know if such a thing has entered into the discussion, but from a local point-of-view there is much to recommend consolidating two organizations into one since the primary focus of SFSP is to provide high quality education and the primary purpose of NAIFA (from my point-of-view) is advocacy and practice management. ..jb

  22. Matt Ryan, CLU, ChFC says:

    Robert, I commend you for tackling this critical issue. What we need to accomplish is to match the channels of distribution of what we sell with our organization. When I came into this business 35 years ago, there were a number of flourishing life agencies in the area. They’re all gone save for one catering to Lutherans. The last app I took was filled in by a rep in the home office. It’s a great service, but it tells me the people doing the selling probably do a lot more than life.

    We still need a state organization to address the threats to our business and our clients. I suspect that in another couple years, health underwriters will be needing a safe harbor after the Obamacare tsunami washes out to sea. Good Luck.

    Matt Ryan, CLU, ChFC , Past President OPALU, National Committee – NAIFA WA Peninsulas

  23. Carroll Fuller, Immediate Past President, Naifa Virginia says:

    Wow…. I have been a naifa Member for 30 years. I would first submit that naifa was founded on Emotion and Pride. What else was there. No one was paid to dream up why we were needed. More currently, we recruit new members, volunteer in our locals and state and in fact everything we do is driven by emotion, pride and passion for our cause. One might conclude these are the most basic and fundamental qualities of volunteerism. And we are a volunteer organization. Try surviving without it. Not only are we volunteers, we give our dues because of our passion, pride and emotion driven by our core beliefs about our orgainzation and our business. I am a LILI graduate and moderated for two years. It was volunteers in the local and state that moderated LILI and over the years taught LUTC, recruited members, and collected and donated to Ifapac, and went arm in arm seeing legislators. Naifa did not repeal the taxation of our products… THE MEMBERS DID and have. We went arm and arm, door to door to recruit new members. I have been to see many legislators on both a state and national level to promote our cause. It was my fellow members that were at my side. They, came with me on their own dollar and took time away from work. The voice of naifa always has been and always will be at the grass roots level. All politics are local and grass roots. All National leaders past and present serve nationally because they were mentored locally,and on a state level. I am very concerned for where we find ourselves. Yes we must change to be sure. But to blame locals and states for not adaquetely serving their members as a reason to do away with them is absurd. In fact most of our members will tell you the locals and the state is the only place they have received any value for their dues. Yes we have an over priced and under used website. We still spend moneys we do not have for travel and other things that could be accomplished much cheeper. I know we still mail the magazine to many thousand members. Even if we mail only 20000 the postage alone is 15000 a month or more. Add on travel and the number of trustees and meetings that could be done via skype and conference calls and obviously many other things……. and the savings could be substantial. Now as far as why membership is dropping. I as a 30 year member who volunteers much time, am questioning paying more dues while the national is trying to remove locals and states, providing less benefits while trying to take away my voice for board members and future dues increases… Not to mention the fact that even after getting views from the field about dues being too much for what we get, the national is ignoring that view and rejecting it direct from the mouths of our members. I learned in LILI that leadership must be servant in nature. Is the national responsive to their members? Is the national serving their members in the eyes of the members? leadership is also about relationship and trust. Are we garnering trust and building relationships when we are doing all we can do on a national level to disenfranchise members? The national is ignoring what the members are telling them. they want to take away our vote on future dues. They want to appoint rather than elect those who will serve us on a national level as well. Considering all this one would find it unusual if membership was not declining. To call all this irrelevant, appears to be indicative of the core issues with naifa. We have heard a lot about other business models. Consider a company with stock holders who were jumping ship and refusing to invest. And all stockholders were saying it was because of a reduced value of the stock, while simultaneously, they were being told their votes as stock holders were being removed. would that organization stick their head in the sand, blame the stockholders, inflate the price of their stock while giving less return on investment. would they be pointing fingers at the shareholders, or should they start to listen and to take a look at themselves. I know what happens to leaders who take that route. I, like many members do have pride in who we are. I have defended naifa on all levels. Hear me…. it is becoming more and more difficult to sell Naifa for the reasons mentioned. We at the grass roots level get the answers from the horses mouth about why people do not join and why they do not renew. to suggest that past dues increases has not increased the rate of membership loss is to suggest that no matter what dues become it is irrelevant???? We have no history of what further disenfranchisement of members will do. I think we can make an educated guess. Advocacy being number one??? the locals and the state members are the conduit from naifa headquarters into the offices of our legislators. I feel the sure fire way to destroy naifa is to keep increasing dues, remove the locals and states ( the only place where value is given through LILI and programs by volunteers), take away the right of a democratic vote on who will represent us as well as a voice in future dues increases. . It seems similiar to the stand the federal government is taking on so many things these days. They can do for people what people are unable to do for themselves. the government did not build this country. Hard working citizens did. And naifa national did not build Naifa. It was built by volunteers charged with passion, emotion and pride in who they were and in their mission. It was built from the ground up. It is not shaking from the foundation. It appears to be shaking from the top. the foundation may not be perfect. Why not shore it up, listen to the members, and instead of pointing the finger, follow the LILI principals… be servant leaders. Ask them what they need to make things better, serve them and the mission of advocacy. Build bridges.. and never seek to disenfranchise the life blood of Naifa…And do not become offended and defensive when questioned. No smart Generals would ignore the voices from the field. That is leadership in the purest sense. Now lets all roll up our sleeves and preserve what was started… We can change… together and side by side. But there must be compromise at all levels. Novel Idea…. anyone think of that?? We are like feeding aligators while trying to apease the need for change…… we will get bitten by ouw own deeds. I have spent a lot of time thinking of what I hav written and I have talked to many members in my local, state and nationally. Guess why I took the time and I give a darn….. You guessed it. Pride, Passion and Emotion…And those are the precise reasons I have not thrown int he towel like thousands have in recent years. I only wished the views and thoughts of the grass roots members had more relevancy, and validity. They are the most under used resource in Naifa. and you can blieve the future of Naifa is in their hands…. Not the task force or the national board. And that is the way it works in a democracy.

  24. Keith Gillies says:

    Hey Robert, very well done. As we discussed, part of that debate is taking what we do very well and duplicating in other places. We are getting hung-up in the vernacular (locals, states, regions, etc.) instead of what is the best way for us to organize and what roles must those sub groups play (governance v. passionate efforts towards membership and GR). A solution exists and you are the leader to get us there.

    Keith Gillies
    NAIFA Trustee

  25. Courtney L Livingston says:

    In reading all the mail it seems that most do agree that the three areas that President Miller spoke of need to be addressed. Our NAIFA was built and maintained by the organizaton of Local, State and then National. If two of three are gone what is going to keep the third in place very long. Those of us that have been around for awhile know that the politics involved in NAIFA are a factor in getting good Trustee’s elected, even with the system that is in place. NAIFA-SD is in the process of reviewing the By-Laws and looking forward to a set that everyone reads and understands. My suggestion to our group is that we be ready to look at the new National Model and see if we can’t be in line with the way they miight read and work. If the Board charges a Blue Ribbon Committee with a task and then decides that they don’t like the task they completed and want things their way, why the Committee? Does the Boatrd really always know what best? The Big I would sure like to get into our membership. We all had another person promote change and change is sure what we got. Let us make sure what we change is the correct change and it is a real positive change that we all can accept. cll

  26. Adam Kilbourn says:

    Robert, you are very eloquent. I agree with you. Status quo will continue to kill our organization slowly over time.

    Adam Kilbourn, CFP®, CLU
    Immediate Past President – NAIFA Las Vegas
    National Committee – NAIFA Las Vegas

  27. Jerry Borrowman says:

    As current president of Salt Lake NAIFA my feeling is that our members place a high value on the local association. They recognize the need to support advocacy at the national level, but do not have a good understanding of how their national dues are spent, in spite of our attempts to educate. We provide at least 11 hours of life CE training per year, which is listed as the number one reason to belong to NAIFA. Online CE can easily be provided by insurance companies or other organizations besides NAIFA. Any solution you come up with must include continuing support for the locals or the bond of trust between local leadership and local members will be broken, and membership will decline. Good luck with tough decisions. …jb

  28. Marie Mercer - NAIFA-Virginia says:

    Just got 2 e-mails from our “friends” at the Big I about this … they’re just waiting to come in for the kill. We have many mutual members who belong through their agencies and I respect that, but… Who knows? Maybe they will change their bylaws and allow captive agents and individual members in order to grow? I agree… let’s really think about what the potential fall-out will be. Strengthening our roots would be my first suggestion … not chopping them off. Sincerely, your faithful Exec (and NAIFA Member for 25 years) from VA

  29. Walt Holley says:

    Hello to everyone. I agree in the need to modernize NAIFA. I do not agree with eliminating locals. As a member since 1996 I did Join a “CLUB” associations are a form of club. I didnt join a business if i did Id be an employee or 1099 and they pay me not visa versa.

    We can not sustain membership at this rate I can agree with that. As I have other associations licking thier chops at me and asking me to join them at $150 a year some higher but none as high as we are. If price means nothing then we would all drive up to the first neighborhood filling station we see and filler up without hesitation or our prescription plans wouldnt pay higher percentages on generic drugs than name brand.

    We all know EFT is the way to go to avoid annual lapses and the headaches of getting folks back on the books while watching the membership numbers dipp in the interim. I pay EFT forever but get a note every year from NATIONAL thanking me for renewing and asking me do i want to switch to Annual ? DUHH ! We are not in sync !

    I have never seen a state PAC lobbyist update do we have one ? i read someplace we do in every state ? I have to rely on info from colleagues and my own company to supplement me with legislative information for my newsletter content. But I do get copius calls on raising PAC funds I just have to provide my own value… DUHH again !

    I get ten emails a day from NAIFA cant someone consolidate that to one monthly or one weekly update. ?? These Knee jerk emails and letting me know you will be closed for ground hogs day are a bit much.

    Create a continuity chair someone who can be sure a local has time to devlop a working program . With presdients changing year after year each bringing thier own ideas. A good idea doesnt stand a flying chance beucase the new person comes in and starts thier own agenda from scratch sometimes..

    Take baby steps if you want to take over please start at membership or asking for PAC donations. You will get a feel for what the locals deal with as these are very time consuming tasks being done one on one and over the phone. Try doing that via remote control. Run with it have a telemarketer do it .. see what the results are as a trial project. You may help build a local up by accident. And members wont be afriad to come to meetings to avoid solicitations.

    Start a new income stream , Sell leads . develop a member customized marketing program. develop a designation program that requires continued membership to remain valid ..MEMBERSHIP can not bare all the cost alone.

    The Blue Ribbon panel needs to move very cautiously. Thansk for the open forum.

  30. Patrick Mongin says:

    The status quo is simply not working. One local has great programs and participation while another is failing to offer its members any value. I too applaud the National Board and the Blue Ribbon task force for recognizing the fact that we must change. Your challenge Robert to acknowledge the facts and have an honest debate makes perfect sense. We need NAIFA, so lets work together to maintain and strengthen this professional association!

  31. Scott Mullen says:

    As I read these comments regarding the potential changes that NAIFA National is proposing so far all I see are comments against these changes but none have a better solution to our problems. When our forefathers created this association back in 1890 I’m sure if they were around today they would agree that changes need to be made, but what changes? How do we all agree on what needs to be changed and how to implement those changes?

    NAIFA-MA back in 2004 asked those very same questions to our four locals and state organization as we were having issues with membership, programs and volunteers willing and able to sit on our boards. Fast forward to today, we are one state with a board of 40 volunteers and growing. Our membership is holding steady with a few years of growth and we’re on our way to another year of membership growth. I do believe if we did embrace the change I’m not sure where NAIFA-MA would be today.

    I commend the National Board and the Blue Ribbon Committee for all their hard work in trying to come to the table with a solution to our issues. I’ve known or worked with most of the people on these two committee over the years and feel they have our best interest in mind. Let’s keep an open mind and let’s build a good association into a GREAT association!

    • William Beemer says:

      Scott,
      I offered a solution for starters and that was to reduce the number of trustees on the national board. There is hardly room for them all on stage and the cost to bring all of them to meetings must be tremendous. In Michigan we have had to make some cutbacks, maybe NAIFA in Washington D.C. need to make some as well. Now I know that this is not a recommendation that is going to accomplish a lot but their recommendations will ruin what we have left here. What we really need to do is figure out how to convince agents that we are worth their money. Somehow we need to “sell them” what we do for them. Too often I ask agents to join and am unable to explain why they need us. Let’s work together on that before we get into these wholesale changes being proposed.
      Thanks,
      Bill.

      • Brenda Speer says:

        Sorry Bill, But I cannot see how in the world reducing the number of trustees on the national board will solve NAIFA’s ultimate problem of declining membership, archaic way of doing business and inability to get our message out to our membership. Personally, I am so happy the National Board has the courage to look at our Association and propose ways to save our organization. Their proposal in no way keeps us from volunteering and doing what we need to do on the local level. A centralized professional message and a staff that can help in the “field” will definitely be an improvement over what we have now. Hail to the National Board for all the work and time you have spent to start this movement. I love NAIFA and truly believe if we do not change the way we are doing business we will not have a NAIFA in as few as ten years. I am sure with an open mind and dialogue, we will be able to design a model that will accomplish our ultimate goal which is to strengthen our organization and offer value to our membership.

  32. NAIFA-Texas says:

    NAIFA-Texas recognizes that our federation needs to make dramatic changes in order to succeed in the future. However, we cannot support the elimination of state and local associations. We agree that maintaining the status quo is unacceptable and that a more efficient structure is needed. However, with the current information available, it is hard to see how a “top down” NAIFA will be able to find and support local volunteers. Too much of the value and effectiveness of our association comes form the bottom of the NAIFA pyramid. Any new structure needs to take advantage of viable states and locals which are providing value and developing future leaders.

    Read our board’s full position on the Blue Ribbon Task Force here: http://www.naifa-texas.org/more/blue-ribbon-task-force

  33. Jolene Johannes says:

    Our small rural association does a super job and has qualified for the Jack E. Bobo award for the last two years. Our programming folks fo an AWESOME job and provide such an added value! We have an active and engaged local board. I also know that our State Board does a great job too! I know, without a doubt, that most of our members are in NAIFA only because of the local meetings and continuing education programming. I am very concerned about the implications that local programming might go away because some of the locals are not doing a good job. If the locals (and state) go away, I am sure our group of 60 plus members will just organize our own group….and we will probably grow because the dues would be more affordable.

  34. Carl says:

    How original. Raise the dues and get rid of the locals. We have heard this one before. Yet who is the first group that National turns to during their “get a member” campaign? Oh yea, that would be the locals. NAIFA dues already are outsized compared to EPC, SFSP, FPA….. Then again, those other organizations know how to run a lot leaner than NAIFA.

  35. William Beemer says:

    Let’s start by reducing the number of trustees on the national board; then we can start discussing other changes. i agree we need to make changes but without my local and state associations I see no need for me to belong to this association. I will take my chances that my company will protect my interest and I know full well that they cannot do it as well as NAIFA.

  36. Lawrence Fuller says:

    How does one interpret Modernization? If it means Centralization, it might mean Ruination. This has been discussed at our local and state level. The majority supports local and state involvement and committment. Change for the sake of change is not always the best stragegy. Let the discussion be open on all sides of this issue before any mandates from National are set in motion….

  37. Ed Mullis says:

    In theory, you are right, Mr. Miller. We CANNOT go on down the road we are on at this point. There is too much not going on that should be going on, and there is too much that is not going on that should be fixed.

    Let’s start with the money issue. I absorbed the last dues increase even though the economy here on the coast of North Carolina did not allow my agency to grow at the same rate. As a matter of fact, my income is way, way down. I am a small agency in a small area with a local of 28 members who are PASSIONATE about NAIFA. They are experiencing the same downturns I am, and are saying that they will find it hard to come up with the funds needed for another dues increase. They also are going to continue to meet as a community of like minded people, with or without NAIFA. That part is up to you and our Leadership.

    Secondly, I am tired, as are my collegues, of the knee jerk reactions that our National Board is becoming famous for. Those knee jerks are kicking us the members, and we DO NOT LIKE IT. A Blue Ribbon Panel of our PEERS gave you a recommendation after a lot of work. That was not good enough for our board. Are we starting to see where the problem is?

    NAIFA and NAIFA NC serve a need in my career and in my life. That is why I give so much of my time to the State and the PAC, and share my experiences with my fellow NAIFA Carteret County members. We do not WANT to belong to just NAIFA. We want to be part of a State Organization that offers us an added value for our dollar. We want to be part of our Local, and meet regularly to share our thoughts, our successes, and our frustrations. We do not want to pay more for less, as you are proposing.

    I will be in Las Vegas. It may be my last hurrah for NAIFA. I see that as being left up to YOU and the rest of the Board and Trustees. My guess is in one vote, I may not be the only one getting up, and leaving my membership card at the door.

    Because we need to take another road, does not mean that the only road is the one that the Board is dead and determined that we are going to take. It’s time to step outside the box, and ask the Members, Where do we want to go. Then, all that is left to do, is listen to the membership, and follow their lead.

    • brian r jablonski says:

      let us remember that in the time of crisis opportunity is around the corner & will bring us forward

    • Don Esposito, CLU, ChFC says:

      You are right on target in my opinion. Based on what I now know, I am opposed to consolidating the control of NAIFA at the national level and feel that this issue should be voted on Not only by those members attending the convention but by ALL members.

  38. Brian Walsh says:

    Robert, thanks for your leadership on this issue. You echoed the sentiments we see throughout the Federation and we need to embrace a new approach.

  39. Stephen Good says:

    I have a unique perspective on this debate, as I don’t know too many other advisors who have been on the board in three locals (President of one) from three different states during their time with the Association. I completely agree with the idea of looking at how NAIFA currently runs its business model. Hopefully we can have open discourse online, at state meetings, and at the convention where what is best for the organization is put ahead of what is best for the individual. I have heard too many times “we don’t do meetings with them” (other states/locals) because of something that happened 20+ years ago. As a YAT, it is about the future and the opportunities we can create by being a united organization, not divided, that will ensure the growth of NAIFA and the success of our voices on Capital Hill.

    • Marie Mercer, NAIFA-Virginia says:

      Hi Steve, we miss you here in the Old Dominion. Hope your wife’s health has improved in your new setting (AZ) and your family has adjusted well. I am glad to have met you through our “Local” connection. I also hope that the future of NAIFA will afford us the ability to have lasting relationships with great people like you… “Connections that Count”. I’m sure you’ll agree that you’ve learned a thing or two, been introduced to a legislator, been inspired, or maybe even stayed in the business because of someone you met at the local level. The good (no pun intended) out weighs the bad and that’s probably why you’ve kept your membership. I feel confident we will find some creative solutions and work together to build a stronger NAIFA. All the very best, M