Staying Current with The Honorable Order of the Blue Goose
I’m a very proud member of a 106 year old organization called the Honorable Order of the Blue Goose International. For those that have never heard of the Blue Goose, we are a fraternal organization born of the insurance industry during a rained-out golf trip to Green Lake, WI, in the summer of 1906. Since then, it has grown to accept members from all facets of the insurance industry, including insurance underwriters, brokers, adjusters, and vendors to the industry; the only restriction on membership is that you must work in the insurance or insurance-services industry in some capacity. Many people in our industry don’t really understand the Blue Goose, or are content to misunderstand it, and I think that’s a shame – the Blue Goose serves a fantastic role to the insurance community, and should be celebrated, not derided.
The organization’s founding philosophy is to help our members develop into well-rounded professionals, by inculcating a spirit of character, charity and fellowship into each. Our long history has brought us to where our organization is today – an established group that fulfills many roles for insurance professionals:
- networking opportunities
- intra-industry relationships, across parts of the industry that don’t often get to meet
- fun events, such as golf tournaments and family days
- educational seminars and symposia
- major charity fundraising, targeted primarily to local charities in need
- an outlet to meet friends, old and new, and just plain have fun, something that seems to slip away more and more each day in our industry
Many of our members are asked whether we have funny hats, or are like the Loyal Order of the Water Buffalos. My answer, and the answer of many of my fellow members of the HOBGI, is undoubtedly that while there aren’t funny (official) hats, the Water Buffalos is a great example. We are a fraternal order, with an initiation and secret ballot for each member. We have a secret greeting. We have all the trappings of a staid, solid fraternal order – but there is one important difference. The Blue Goose was founded on the principle that we should all have a little fun in our working lives. Our secret greeting is precisely ridiculous, and by extension is absolutely wonderful. We call our chapters Ponds (or Puddles, if they are too small or just starting out); we call our members Ganders; we call our Pond officers by ridiculous names like the Most Loyal Gander (President) and the Keeper of the Golden Goose Egg (Treasurer, and my personal favourite given the double entendre); and we call our initiates Goslings. We have monthly meetings that are open to everyone – the only meetings restricted to members are our Ponds’ Annual General Meeting, and our Annual Grand Nest Convention. (Our next Grand Nest Convention will be in beautiful Quebec City!)
I’ve often heard from people who do know a little bit about the order that we are an “old-guys” group – that they don’t have enough grey hair to join. This is a problem facing many service clubs such as the Lions and the Rotarians, not to mention the true fraternal orders. I often counter that by mentioning that I joined when I was 30, and I’m glad I didn’t wait to have a lot of grey hair before I started to have this much fun with such a great group of people. I’ve met many business contacts through the Blue Goose, to be sure, but more importantly I’ve met wonderful friends from across North America, and I hope to continue to do so. I count myself very lucky to be a part of an organization that welcomes so many, so quickly.
In smaller communities our Ponds and Puddles also give back directly to our members and industry by fulfilling an important link for socialization. Many of our smaller ponds aren’t large enough to have a chapter of the brokers’ association or claims adjusters’ association in their territory; attending meetings to those organizations can cost both time and money, and many companies are unwilling to sponsor that sort of travel for social events. However, when the industry works to bring everyone together, the sense of camaraderie, tighter working relationships, and a broader understanding of the industry as a whole can ensue. Plus, they often just get together and have a lot of fun.
We do many things in our organization because they are the right thing to do. One of the members that regularly attends meetings in one of our ponds is wheelchair bound, and has some difficulty getting around. He relies on public transit for his day-to-day travels – but there is always a member that picks him up to attend the meetings – because that’s the right thing. Our members are visited when they are in hospital, they are helped when there is illness in the family, they are celebrated when their families grow. Our organization can be proud that they stand behind one another, like geese in formation, and long-time members help newer members understand that this isn’t just what a few of us do – it’s what’s expected of each member.
Our Ponds and Puddles can also fill an extremely important role in continuing education for their members, many of whom need accredited continuing education hours for licence renewal. Many of our Ponds are nearly the only organization that has the size to bring groups of people together for meaningful seminars and coaching sessions, and often these are put on utilizing resources from within the membership; contractors, adjusters, insurers and brokers have all been given opportunities to present valuable educational material to the membership of the Blue Goose over the years, and many of the Ponds host these events so regularly that they get asked in advance when the next seminar will be. These well attended events serve as a vital educational backbone in many communities where greater travel might be required for the same level of quality education.
Never is a Pond or Puddle more proud than at the completion of a charity fundraiser. Whether a bar-b-que cookout, a charity ball, or just passing the hat at a dinner meeting, our Ponds strive to raise money wherever possible. This is then donated back to a local charity of the Ponds’ choice. Some ponds in major metropolitan centres can raise upwards of $20,000 per year for their charities, and most donate back several thousand dollars per year. Some donate their time rather than donating cash, volunteering to work at food banks, in shelters, or to clean up trash and debris. The Pond members work hard at their charity events, and are rightly proud of their accomplishments.
Blue Goose Today
For many years, the Honorable Order of the Blue Goose International had a pamphlet that they gave out to prospective members called The Blue Goose Today. This has been supplanted by their web page (although much of the information is the same if you follow the link above), but each of the ponds is also online with their own website. The Blue Goose is embracing social media as well, and is on Twitter @bluegooseint (with a hashtag of #HOBGI), Facebook, and Linkedin. The leadership of the Blue Goose at all levels realizes that they have to remain relevant, they have to remain current, and they have to deliver the value that our membership not only expects now, but will expect in the future. Our industry is like any other, full of people with very busy lives, trying to achieve the magic balance between work, family, and rest, and we have to be attention-getting enough and relevant enough to make them want to be a part of our group. We need to reach out via social media to a younger generation, and grab their attention – we understand that getting them to “Like” us is as important as getting them to join us. We are embracing new technologies to communicate with our members more regularly and more informally, while carefully being respectful that many of our members still choose to opt out of these technologies and yet need to remain just as informed.
Most importantly, we are moving away from the idea of getting the next generation of members to “join” our organization, and are moving to getting them to be “involved”. That can be a challenge for many ponds, so I can make a few suggestions:
- Bring together a young team of folks for the local softball or touch football league.
- Help to sponsor community-minded grass-roots events, especially ecological restoration and other important local causes.
- Arrange a “battle of the industry bands” evening at a local pub.
- Put together a team for a major charity event like a Ride for Heart, Toys for Tots, or Run for the Cure.
- Host a party, and give the helm to a committee of eager young insurance professionals. Make sure there is a DJ playing very loud music.
- Most importantly – invite them to serve on the executive, and invite them early and often. Tenure in the organization should matter less than in individual’s drive.
Our ponds do need to think a little broader on how they get, retain, involve and engage new members, as does every single organization today. Social media can only serve to educate and inform. Nothing can bring action like involvement and engagement. However, I do I hope that I’ve piqued your interest in our fantastic organization – and if I have, please find a pond in your area and enquire about joining!