Whether it's a bar association, a teachers union, a club or professional society, affinity groups know that one of the best ways to attract and retain membership is to offer insurance to their members. Specifically, many are looking to add health care benefits to their growing lists of offerings. Providing access to an array of member benefits also provides an avenue for these groups to generate non-dues revenue - a key to thriving in tough economic times.

However, there is a big misconception in the broker world that the affinity or association business is old and tired, and groups are disinterested or unwilling to expand their insurance programs.

This may be because brokers have fallen into the habit of offering the same products and services to these groups, instead of considering which products would best meet the group members' needs, and how these additional benefits could foster growth for the organization.

Today, the U.S. association and affinity market is estimated to be a $40 billion industry, according to Bill Tyson, a veteran affinity benefits consultant and CEO of Strategic Marketing Plus. Approaching this market with a broader view can provide an opportunity for brokers to adapt their business models and thrive, especially as the new health care landscape takes shape.

After all, it is a fact that brokers who sell property and casualty usually shy away from life and health - and vice versa. Tyson believes the industry is approximately 30% P&C and 70% life, accident and health.

Therefore, if you want to be the right broker for the affinity and association market, you must be willing to cross the great divide and embrace all types of products.

To provide the best solution for prospective clients, a broker should be able to offer a turn-key solution to these clients. One that includes:

* A full range of competitively priced products

* Customized packaging and favorable terms geared toward the group

* Exceptional service

* Advocacy when claims occur

By stepping up their level of expertise in unfamiliar coverage types, brokers can steer affinity clients toward a more diverse insurance offering - ultimately leading to increased non-dues revenue and retention rates for the group, and a happier membership overall. The opportunity truly is a win-win-win for affinity groups, their membership and brokers.

Fleet is president of AmWINS Group Benefits, a wholesale broker of comprehensive group insurance programs and administrative services. Reach him at asksam@amwins.com.

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