Is Your Insurance Agency an Association Freeloader?

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I’ve been working with insurance associations for most of my career.

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Early in my career – the mid-80s – I was asked to join the Board of Directors of the EBS Users Group for the management system the agency was using. This was my first experience with the benefit and power of bringing a group of people together with a common goal and mindset. That volunteer board worked diligently on behalf of all the other agencies that were using the same agency management system to work with the vendor on making improvements.

In the late 90s, I wrote a white paper for insurance agencies about the technical and coverage issues surrounding the Y2K problem. The Independent Insurance Agents of America distributed that white paper to every member. I was also asked to be the first agent representative for the then newly formed Agents Council for Technology (ACT) and have been involved with ACT in some way ever since.

For the last 20 years, I’ve worked with virtually every state insurance association providing educational programs through workshops and convention keynotes.

Last year I was asked to join the Board of Directors for the Big I of New York as an at-large member. One of their strategic objectives is helping agents with technology, and my knowledge and experience could be a benefit to the board.

Why Insurance Associations Matter

Over the last two months — as a Big I NY at-large member — I’ve experienced firsthand the behind-the-scenes work that a state insurance association does on behalf of their members that also benefits all agencies. There are many examples of hours spent by the volunteer board members and association staff to protect the interests of independent agents and brokers as regulators scramble to figure out how to respond to the pandemic.

It is impressive.

I’ve also seen a trend over the last few years of a growing number of new agency owners who — seemingly proudly — boast they are not a member of any state association. These agency owners question — sometimes appropriately — the value an association provides them. Why should they support an association by paying dues that are made up of old legacy-thinking members who fight change and the digital transformation they are leading?

I think these agency owners are shortsighted at best.

Hence my question — Is your agency an Association Freeloader?

free·load·er | /ˈfrēˌlōdər/ defined as a person who takes advantage of others’ generosity without giving anything in return.

While I have an insider view of what the Big I NY is doing on behalf of its member agencies, I also know most other state associations are doing similar work.

New Executive Orders and Regulations Could Hurt Your Agency

Various state governors and Departments of Insurance are issuing executive orders and emergency regulations that could dramatically hurt your agency short and long term. Association staff and lobbyists are on the front line of understanding these regulations, talking to the regulators, questioning their provisions, and influencing how these orders are issued and interpreted. They are making sure — as best as they can — that the unintended consequences of regulations do not adversely affect the viability of your organization.

If you’re not a member of your state insurance association, then you are a freeloader. You’re relying on the foresight and willingness of other agency owners to fund the work that protects your agency.

I will restate: Many of these new agency owners have legitimate questions and concerns about how associations are run and the value they bring to their members.

Associations are Changing Too

Another trend I’m seeing is a change in state association management mindset. I have been in discussions with several who understand that associations need to adapt and change – just like their agency members. There is a refreshing mindset and active desire to provide new services to their agency members. Especially around technology help, knowledge, and utilization.

Digital transformation is real for all parts of the industry, and a growing number of state associations are responding to the need to be on the front line of helping their members.

If your agency is already a member of your state association — thank you. You are leading and providing the resources necessary to protect the vitality of your organization and the industry.

If you are not a member of a state insurance association, I encourage you to reconsider your decision.

Pick the insurance association in your state that you think will provide you with the best products, services, lobbying efforts, and insights. And, if you don’t like what you see, get involved and be a facilitator for change. I don’t know any state association executive who doesn’t want to hear from their members about what they need to do to improve for the future.

If you don’t know where to start, below are links to the national insurance agent associations where you can find links to each state affiliate.

Don’t be a freeloader — join your state insurance association today — it is more important than ever.

Steve Anderson provides information to insurance agents about how they can use technology to increase revenue and/or reduce expenses. He speaks professionally to hundreds of agents each year on the future of technology, the social web, and how insurance agencies can establish their Internet presence.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Is Your Insurance Agency an Association Freeloader?

  1. I have remained an ongoing active member of at least five industry related associations.

    Why? Simply put, without such associations our industry would have largely become socialized and fully run by governmental authorities with the subsequent elimination of many consumer guarantees and protections.

    Also, not every association serves the same interests, so it is prudent to recognize this and not expect one association to be all things to everyone.

    Moreover, our industry associations provide us with a platform upon which to become established, whereby we can increase our skills, understanding, and comprehension of the many facets of our industry in order that we may better earn the respect of our clients..

  2. Bravo and Thank you! The volunteer leaders and committee members of each association put many hours of time – that they could be spending in their agencies – towards evaluating legislation, education programming and ways to increase the value to members for their dues payment.

    The impact of these efforts on the final result of regulations and legislation saves many agents more than their dues payments. If you’re in the business of insurance – you need to join an association otherwise you may not be aware of changes that impact you directly.

    Tools to help manage thru disasters are available and can save you time and money.

    You may even find that the networking and events open more opportunities for you that can more than offset your dues.

  3. I’ll admit I am extremely biased here, because I moved from working for a major insurance company (loved it) to an association (REALLY love it).

    But working for an association has also given me far deeper insights into the much wider range of resources and advocacy that an association takes on for their agent members than I would have otherwise realized. Not just advocacy on Capitol Hill (which is massive, BTW), but across literally every facet of agency business – Including working with each and every state association to provide customized resources for their agent members.
    There’s just so much an association does for their members – My guess is that most members don’t realize nor take advantage of all the resources and services they have access to!

    I’ve received FAR more from working for the Big ‘I’ national association and ACT than I’ve ever given. I suspect this is true for almost all.

  4. Well said, Steve. Many times the lobbying efforts of the association is more important for the legislation that is NOT passed than issues we are trying to push. As Past President of TriCounty IIABNY I fully understand the need for volunteers and fresh blood in insurance associations. Like many agents that accept the call to serve, I took away much more than I gave to the Big I.