Chris Stranahan became a Foresters member in 1984 and held a variety of Branch and Regional Council positions before joining the Foresters Board of Directors in 2009 and being elected International Fraternal President (IFP) in 2017.
With his term as IFP coming to an end, we spoke with Chris from his hometown of Stow, Ohio, about his experience, achievements and what living the Foresters purpose means to him and his family.
Membership Matters (MM): What was your driving force as IFP?
Chris Stranahan (CS): In a word: purpose. I was very focused on bringing the Foresters purpose to life for our members and our communities. The Constitution is the document that I live by. I have it with me at all times, so if I need to make a decision, I can look to it for guidance. It’s become very, very important to me.
The IFP is a job, not a ceremonial position. It’s about making sure the members’ interests are managed in the best way possible, based on the Constitution. I made a point of being in the Toronto office, working closely with the team and making sure that both members and employees know that this position is a foundational piece for keeping the culture and the Purpose aligned. It’s sometimes called the “Member’s President” or the conscience of the organisation. There’s a wonderful trifecta — the CEO, the Chairman of the Board and the IFP — working together to make the organisation a better place.
It has been a work of love, a work of commitment. I hadn’t planned to be IFP, but from my many years involved with Foresters’ governance, I knew how I thought the role should work to support the members.
MM: How did you get involved with Foresters? What were some of your first impressions?
CS: Just after our daughter was born, we received a call from Foresters. We were not familiar with the organisation — is it something about trees? We ended up speaking with the gentleman about life insurance, but also about the community-building aspects of membership. Benefits for our family, support for our community and getting involved in something meaningful — as young parents, it was intriguing.
We bought the life insurance and later were invited to a local meeting. We took our daughter and were welcomed by an incredibly gracious group of people. We stayed until the end of the meeting and jumped in to help stack chairs and tidy up. Long story short, we got involved in the Branch and over time moved through different positions at the local level. It very quickly felt like family.
We too often think about life insurance as being a transactional death benefit, but with Foresters it’s been a hugely positive life benefit for our whole family.
MM: Tell us about those early days on the Board?
CS: When I was elected to the Board of Directors, I had no idea what I was getting into! I watched and learned. I knew I wanted to impact the organisation and wondered how I could do that in the best possible way. I’ve always tried to make myself available to the members. I would be the last one off the floor in an evening during our face-to-face member meetings and the conventions. When I took on a role of responsibility, I believed I should be accessible to the people I represent. Also, I love to talk to people and share our stories. It’s a joy!
MM: How did the pandemic change things for membership?
CS: Before the pandemic hit, we’d already started down a clear path. We created a plan we call the Roadmap. It’s a journey that we developed to map out the four years I was in the IFP role, plus it set the stage for the next IFP to continue the processes and development into the future. The idea is to create a continuum of learning and building, one that provides a continuity of thinking and resources to guide our members and the organisation.
Then the pandemic hits. We are currently very well-poised for the future, in part because of that detailed planning. I think we’re going to come out of this pandemic bigger, better and stronger than we would have, had we not been forward-looking in our strategic approach.
MM: What advice would you give someone considering getting involved in governance with Foresters?
CS: Part of it is the mindset of the individual. For people who are motivated, it’s a real opportunity to learn, expand their knowledge base and grow a diverse set of skills. On top of that, there is a real community-building component that is so important. Member leaders meet new people and create lasting relationships with like-minded people in their communities.
Foresters provides a foundation for personal advancement. Getting involved in governance roles is an opportunity to learn skills that are absolutely transferable to your personal life, your business life or your community life.
MM: What are you most proud of over the last four years as IFP?
CS: Well, I think it all goes back to purpose. My vision really developed around focusing on our purpose and being proud of our unique status as a fraternal benefit society. I worked very hard to push that forward and I think we’ve been very successful with this approach. We are now in a place today where management, the Board and our membership teams are making decisions based on how it fits within our purpose. I’m very proud to have been a part of ushering in that thinking. To learn more about governance at Foresters, visit Foresters.com.