Research Projects in 2000, 2003, 2006 Defined the NAIFA Value Proposition

Thanks to the past presidents for their letter of March 1. I’d like to take this opportunity to respond to their recommendations concerning the future of NAIFA:

Let’s begin with their suggestion for more research that will help NAIFA “create a compelling value proposition.” The presidents advise NAIFA to “engage a high-quality marketing firm” as a follow-up to the 2000 research conducted by KRC Consulting.

The KRC Research was extensive, and NAIFA took action on most if not all of the report’s recommendations, including creating an online presence and providing more networking opportunities for members. But that 2000 research was not the end of the story: NAIFA also created a blueprint for its future through the NAIFA Transformation Task Force of 2003, and three years later hired Ketchum, Inc. for “NAIFA In the 21st Century.” Allow me to remind you of the findings from all three projects (and you can access more highlights here).

2000, KFC:

The conclusion: NAIFA is not innovative, inclusive and does not deliver the right products to meet members’ needs.
The recommendation: NAIFA needs to provide more skills and training, create an online presence, and cater to a diverse workforce.

2003, NAIFA Transformation Task Force:

The conclusion: NAIFA’s value proposition is its ability to advocate for the industry and help members grow their business.
The recommendation: In addition to strengthening advocacy and member benefits, NAIFA needs to create a governance model that is responsible and accountable, and an administration model that focuses on the mission of delivering value to members.

2006, Ketchum, Inc. (NAIFA 21):

The conclusion: NAIFA is perceived as primarily an advocacy organization; professional development and education is a desired member benefit.
The recommendation: NAIFA needs to expand its product offerings (sales & training) to increase member value.

The three studies completed over the past 12 years, and in particular the 2006 study by Ketchum, paint a very clear picture of who NAIFA members are and what they are looking for in a professional organization. NAIFA’s compelling value proposition was the fruit of the three studies, and it remains crystal clear today: NAIFA protects your business through advocacy and helps you grow your business with professional development and educational programs. This is our value proposition, drawn directly from NAIFA’s mission statement; we certainly do not need to engage another marketing firm to tell us what we already know.

In addition to advocacy and professional development, NAIFA has come a long way to address its perceived deficiencies in other areas defined in the reports, such as inclusiveness (reaching out to YATs) and improving the use of technology to reach members.

NAIFA has a powerful story to tell, and we’re making progress in getting the word out to members (another recommendation from the past presidents). NAIFA has more visibility in the news media today than in many years, and we’ve created a new outreach program to members and prospects through a new messaging campaign, “It Pays to be a Member,” launched this week. We are counting on our state and local association volunteers and executives to engage in this campaign and support our efforts to communicate more effectively with our members. As Dr. Waters states on the campaign Web site for leaders: “Together, using these tools and content, we can deliver a unified message to members and prospects about how NAIFA helps grow and protect our members’ businesses and promotes ethical business conduct.” There will be more to come on our continued efforts to communicate the NAIFA value proposition.

I am proud of the progress NAIFA has made in implementing so many of the recommendations delivered in the three reports. When you consider the new messaging campaign, the member benefits programs, and NAIFA’s advocacy achievements, you can see that we have built precisely the value proposition that was sought by all three research projects.

What remains undone is the development of an improved system (or structure) for selling membership and the membership experience. This is one area where we have not progressed: Governance.

Which brings us to another important recommendation from the past presidents: “Restructure NAIFA to deliver the components of the value proposition.”

I wholeheartedly agree.


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



  1. The only person to serve as both national NALU and NAIFA president, John Ruckel, said to a group of Texans meeting yesterday in Austin that he is in “total agreement” with David Woods’ letter and video message posted on the NAIFA-Texas website at See it now.

  2. I am responding to the Robert Miller blog post 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

  3. For the roughly 47,000 members we have, they are effectively saying by paying their dues that NAIFA is valuable to them. That the services provided by NAIFA have helped to grow their business. But what about the members that actively choose to cancel their membership, and the 250,000 others in the industry who have made the calculation that NAIFA will not provide a return on their investment?

    We need to look outside the membership and figure out what those individuals are looking for in a professional organization. Obviously the current member benefits and advocacy efforts are not worth $600/year in their eyes.

    On the front page of our website is a video from NAIFA Past President David Woods that eloquently touches on this point and more and is certainly worth 3 minutes of your time: The video will only be available through Friday.

  4. I find it very hypocritical that NAIFA is calling on the state and local associations and executives to engage in the campaign “It pays to be a member” when all the while NAIFA is looking to disband the state and local associations. When you remove the grass roots network and make it all about NAIFA, that is when NAIFA will die. I for one will be one of the first to cancel my membership if this happens.
    This is a very sad time for this once proud association.


    Robert Mabe, R.F.P., R.F.C., L.U.T.C.F.
    Current National committee man Gulf Coast TX
    Past State board member TX 01′-03′
    LILI Graduate 2000 (The FIRST 8)

    I have served on local & states boards for this association since 1997.
    What NAIFA is trying to do is an outrage…(and will KILL this association)

  5. John Murray - NAIFA-Cincinnati

    What does not remain clear? Are we a “Federation for Advocacy” or are we an “Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors” i.e. NAIFA! Advocacy is important to our ASSOCIATION! I do not believe that Advocacy is our primary function. We are not a Business, not a federation, and not an association in the business of Washington politics.

    I joined NAIFA at the request of a local member, so that I could associate with other members on a professional basis. I did not join to be a member of a political action committee and constantly be solicited for more and more dollars to be sent to Washington. In my view, local membership and interaction is the most important feature of this association. Reading emails, reading blogs, listening to audio files, and watching videos about NAIFA does not keep me as a member, although it is part of the value.

    Please make clear where the Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors headed. If advocacy is our main goal, to protect ourselves from our own government, then let me know.

    Also, a short comment on Dues, If you are running this as a business, not an association, then you are pricing yourself out of the business. If you are running this as an association, then you are making it too hard for new Professionals to join. If this is to be a value proposition, the perceived value must be maintained. If only the most productive professional can afford to be a member, how will be ever be able to bring the non-productive professionals, who cannot justify the dues, up to a level of professionalism that we as an association strive for!

    My choice is to be an Insurance Professional in association with other Professionals.


    • But John they won’t look at the dues and consider it to be too high because they were too low for too long according to Robert Miller. Like any of the young advisors that we try to recruit care what the dues were back in the 80’s and 90’s!!

      I agree that advocacy is not what is going to recruit prospects – it might be something that will get them to stay once a member, but we need to look at the cost and value to new agents.

  6. Basing decisions on data that is 6 years old?

  7. “What remains undone is the development of an improved system (or structure) for selling membership and the membership experience. This is one area where we have not progressed: Governance.”

    Membership is stymed at the National level when a renewal payment takes over 2 months to post to the system, or a new member is not recognized for three months.

    Any time I get a new member and they have to contact me about “WHEN” they are going to get something about their membership, that is a problem. Any time that a State or it’s State membership Chair has members call Insurance Company management about lapsed dues that were paid two months before, THAT is a problem.

    I suggest once again, Mr. Miller, that what remains undone is our structure from the Top. No one seems to be willing to look at that. Let’s survey EVERY new member we have signed up in the past 6 months, and see just how long it has taken to get them membership materials and RECOGNIZE that they are NOW a member!

    Then let’s look at how long every renewal is taking to post, and reflect on our systems as renewed. I have a feeling that someone is not going to be happy with the results. I am not!

    Once that is fixed, THEN let’s start looking at the States and Locals to fix problems. But you can’t fix issues when the issues in the grass roots if the BIG PICTURE problems start at the top.

    Once we restructure the NAIFA office in Falls Church to get a machine that is more friendly to the membership and works at a pace that reflects the value in renewals and new members, we can start talking about looking downward.

    • Yasemin Washington Brown

      NAIFA makes it a priority to continually review membership procedures and offer new membership opportunities. We are also investing in technology to streamline member processing, provide members with a greater range of options and improve the overall member experience. As a result, members and prospects have the ability to join/renew online, participate in monthly payment programs and they receive additional automated and live outreach from the National office.

      We remain committed to and diligent in our efforts to maximize and enhance services and our member’s experience.

      New member and renewal payments (annual and monthly) made directly online are processed and reflected in the Online Service Center within 3-5 business days. Members who renew online receive an email confirmation within 24 hours.

      New member and renewal payments (annual and monthly) that are mailed to the membership lockbox also take 3-5 business to process once they arrive at NAIFA from the bank.

      All new members receive an email from the NAIFA President within 3-5 business days thanking them for joining, welcoming them to NAIFA, and advising them that they will receive their New Member Welcome kit shortly.

      All new members receive an email from the Director of Member Services and Records that introduces them to the Member Service Center and the NAIFA website. This email follows the President’s email.

      All new members also receive a welcome phone call from NAIFA within the first month of their membership.
      NAIFA processes and mails membership cards twice a month.

      We value our members and make every effort to ensure that all members are provided with the latest information, tools and benefits that will enable them to get the most out of their membership experience, every day.

      If at any time our members or those who serve them experience any challenges related to membership payment processing or other membership concerns, our membership team is dedicated to delivering exceptional service and strives to resolve matters quickly. Please contact us at or 877-866-2432.

      Yasemin Washington Brown
      NAIFA Vice President – Membership and Association Services