One of the more significant developments at last week’s Association for Advanced Life Underwriting (AALU) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., was the release of the association’s next strategic plan.
The new plan covers key initiatives for the premier individual advocacy organization in the life insurance industry over the next three years. AALU officials noted repeatedly at the meeting that life insurance professionals become — and remain — members of the association for two primary reasons. One is their strong belief in the need to protect their profession through advocacy, and the other is access to knowledge that will help them grow their business.
With that in mind, the new strategic plan revealed that AALU’s “Washington Report” — a key membership benefit — has been retooled. It now has mobile-ready electronic delivery and a new focus on providing information about applying the technical knowledge covered in each report in ways that will help the member’s business. This is part of a renewed focus on knowledge-sharing intended to increase the value delivered to members.
Additional knowledge-sharing opportunities identified in the new strategic plan include face-to-face AALUniversity meetings outside Washington that focus on helping members build their business practice and more frequent educational updates via social media, blogs, discussion groups, online meetings and publications.
The AALU is faring well compared to many industry associations faced with shrinking budgets resulting from declining memberships. Even some of the seemingly obvious challenges have not created problems like they have for many other industry associations:
- About 700 of the 2,200 AALU members are 65 or older, and about 50% of those are over 70. Still, the organization has been able to lower the median age of its membership from 55 three years ago to 53 today.
- Member commissions, I was told, are down significantly as a result of the economic downturn, which you might think would tighten wallets when it’s time to donate to the AALU’s PAC. Yet total contributions to the PAC and endorsed candidate program have jumped from $1.3 million in 2008 to $2.5 million in 2011.
Still, challenges certainly exist — and not just the prospect of dealing with a particularly revenue-hungry 113th Congress inundating the Beltway following November’s election. The strategic report states that:
- Few of the newer AALU members really understand what the AALU does or what it can do for them.
- Donor fatigue is increasing, and the AALU risks driving away members. Most newer members see it as a one-dimensional organization that only seeks political contributions and offers little in return that cannot be found elsewhere.
The strategic report concludes that the growth of the AALU depends on the association better defining and communicating the benefits and expectations of membership and improving the overall membership experience.
Here are some of the objectives identified in the plan, with a goal of achieving them by the end of 2015:
- Grow at a net 5% annual rate toward a long-term goal of 3,000 members. (The AALU has 2,200 members today.)
- Generate total annual average revenue of $10,000 per member through membership fees, meeting registrations and political contributions.
- Sell out the annual meeting with 70% member attendance.
- Membership retention at or above 90%.
I was told at last week’s meeting by an AALU executive that younger members join primarily because they know they need to “protect the revenue stream.” The AALU is no doubt on the front lines for that. With important issues, such as the estate and gift tax rates, comprehensive tax reform and the tax treatment of life insurance, sure to once again be “on the table” after the election, AALU’s continued efforts to make sure an ever-changing roster of Congressmen understand the value of life insurance to Americans is as critical to the health of the industry as ever.