The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors has dropped a proposal from its new strategic plan that would have made membership in local associations optional because of “pockets of opposition in our most popular states,” said its CEO.

In an interview, NAIFA CEO David Woods also touched on important components of the proposed strategic plan, “NAIFA in the 21st Century.”

The plan, to be presented for approval to members at NAIFA’s annual convention in Washington in September, includes an intense branding campaign that would make local groups carry a uniform name, and stepped-up advocacy and educational and training efforts.

The strategic planning group and the NAIFA board suggested making membership in local groups optional last fall because communicating through meetings “is not nearly as relevant today as it was in 1890 when NAIFA was founded, or even 25 years ago,” Woods said.

“So, we accepted the idea that forcing people into local associations was not as relevant, and so proposed to make it optional,” Woods said, noting that doing this would have required a change in bylaws at the annual meeting.

“The board withdrew it because it heard from local and state association that this was not a good idea,” Woods said. “There were pockets of opposition in our most popular states,” he added, although he declined to be more specific.

According to its plan, NAIFA will also raise dues by $49 annually, to $190, for its members, and will ask authority to use half of its reserves as collateral to finance increased staffing and upgraded technology to carry out the strategic plan.

The plan will also involve creating a “new approach” to support the recruitment of new members.

Critical to the success of the effort, Wood said, will be increased use of technology to help its members expand their networking as well as their marketing, educational and sales efforts.

NAIFA will also work to increase the support of its members for its lobbying activities. A survey indicated that only 23.8% of its members contribute to its Political Action Committee, although its PAC remains the largest in the industry, said Woods and NAIFA President John Davidson.

It also plans to add lobbyists to its depleted staff, but only after getting a report from an outside auditor as to how it can best revamp its advocacy and grassroots activities, Woods said.

NAIFA also plans to more effectively communicate its legislative and regulatory activities, Woods said.

Regarding the “career center,” Woods said NAIFA plans to have as many as 2 to 3 people on staff within several years to help its members expand their education and sales activities “at every stage in their careers.”

NAIFA also plans to offer programming packages that will allow its members to network with outside practitioners, including lawyers and CPAs.

This will include creation of a national interactive database, and provide support for online chats and forums, and in-person events, according to Woods and Davidson.

The branding campaign proposal calls for all state and local associations to adopt the name format, “NAIFA-location.” According to Woods and the board that drafted the strategic plan, “a consistent name across the federation will allow all associations to benefit from the planning national marketing communications initiative.”

According to NAIFA officials, 40 states are already in compliance with the proposed requirement or are in the process of changing their name (the others refer to themselves as “Location -NAIFA”).

In many of the states in compliance, local associations are also adopting the name change.

“There is widespread agreement that a consistent name will elevate NAIFA’s identity among prospective members as well as consumers, and allow all associations to benefit from the proposed $500,000 annual public relations campaign to promote NAIFA membership and its new image,” a NAIFA staff official said.

“Neither NAIFA nor a local association that still goes by ‘association of life underwriters’ (and there are a handful) would benefit from the campaign in that locale,” the NAIFA staff official explained.