BCRTA’s 1st Vice-President Provides Insight Into Recent Initiatives
Why We Needed a Strategic Plan
It was a concern: Despite about 1500 teachers retiring each year, membership in our Association declined by 121 members in 2014 and a further 20 in 2015. Some of our branches were struggling to fill executive positions and a few had closed. In response, in the fall of 2016, President Patricia Clough initiated a strategic planning process with the Directors of the BCRTA. An Innovation and Strategic Planning Committee (ISPC) was established and at the 2017 Annual Conference the Board presented our initial vision for the revitalization of our Association.
We received valuable comments from the conference and branches were asked to take the information to members for additional feedback. This dialogue was featured on our website. The ISPC has also recently equipped Directors with a detailed presentation that has been used to explain our plan and facilitate feedback at Zone and branch meetings.
Equipped with good feedback about our members’ needs, the Board of Directors made careful adjustments to our plans and moved into action.
Build strength by increasing membership and adding services to improve the member experience.
- With our first-year-free campaign as well as BCTF support we have enrolled about 900 new members this year. Previously we usually enrolled less than 500 new members.
- Members benefit from access to our Membership Advantage partners. Our Membership Committee is working to increase the offerings as well as to ensure best value for our members. We are having success in meeting member needs: for example, 178 members have made appointments with Hearing Life Canada.
- Our Pensions and Benefits Committee has prepared and delivered workshops to teachers soon to retire. More than 1,000 people participated in these workshops this past year and they were all introduced to the great value of BCRTA membership.
- Many members join BCRTA to obtain the group insurance benefits available through our partnership with Johnson Insurance. We have been working to promote enrollment and to increase the insurance programs available.
Improve clarity and transparency by developing a unified communications strategy.
The most important service we provide our retiree membership is to share information that improves their quality of life. To expand and professionalize our publications we developed a Communication Committee made up of three sub-committees, one for each of the main ways we reach members. A communication consultant was hired to advise and help with the technical aspects.
- Our website has been modernized and security has been enhanced. Future steps include individual member accounts. We have developed the ability to host branch websites at no cost to them, giving them access to secure and easy-to-use templates. Branches can post content themselves or get assistance from our staff. Branches are invited to participate.
- Our renewed newsletter BCRTA Connections has been designed to work on all electronic platforms and is accessed easily through an email sent to all members who have given us their email address. Early feedback has been great, and many thousands of members are reading the articles. We recognize that some members do not have internet access and so will provide printed copies of BCRTA Connections on request. However, it is the on-line format that most engages recent retirees.
- The PostScript sub-committee has developed an editorial policy and is working to add regular, cornerstone content that appeals to our 15,000+ readers. We are providing articles on well-being which include health, nutrition, exercise and financial advice. We continue to feature the activities and writing of BCRTA members and cover important policy topics. We have always included some advertising in PostScript, and in the past we gave it away for free. We are now charging for that service, and in so doing recovering some of the costs of publication and mailing.
However, not all ads and announcements will be paid. Community service ads will be free and, as a benefit of membership, members will always be able to advertise in PostScript Classifieds at no cost.
Take hold of Strategic Opportunities including controlling our insurance plans.
When researching other successful Retired Teacher Associations in Canada we discovered that their insurance plans offered great value to members while providing revenue to support the activities of the association. They have done this by harnessing economies of scale and moderating the profit margins of the insurance providers. This is an area where we will move carefully.
- We hired an independent consultant (ZLC Financial) to review our contractual arrangement with Johnson Inc and provide context and advice.
- For the first time we have negotiated improvements to the Medoc travel plan including coverage for within BC vacations and changing the language about when the 35-day limits begins to the day you leave Canada rather than our province.
- We have grown our Johnson EHC with Prestige Travel to cover 1,485 lives. This plan has a unique appeal to our members as it covers trips up to 62 days without a 90-day stability clause. The plan works best for those who travel a good deal.
- In September we will introduce a very economical new top-up Trip Cancellation policy that adds $12,000 of coverage to existing Trip Cancellation policies.
- We will soon introduce a new EHC-only policy as an alternative to the Green Shield Canada policy for members who don’t travel.
- Please note that all our current plans are fully insured plans – the insurance underwriter takes the risk and makes their profit doing that. We are carefully considering changing that model for some of our products where the risk is very limited. Some offerings like house insurance are not candidates for any change; the risks are too great for a small group like ours.
Preserve our member-led culture.
The culture of the BCRTA is defined by member participation and leadership. The Board revisited our committee structures to ensure they efficiently meet the needs of our membership.
- We have added a 3-term limit to the position of Board Director to ensure renewal.
- We have combined some committees where responsibilities overlapped. The Pensions and Benefits Committee has been combined with the Retirement Workshop Committee. The new Well-being Committee now covers the work of the previous Health and Housing and the Social Concerns Committees.
- Members now need only serve on one committee – a step taken to encourage greater membership participation.
- We have a more flexible committee meeting schedule to reflect the different needs of committees at different times.
Improved service though professionalized staff
To this point, much of the day-to-day work of the Association has been carried by volunteers. That is both a huge blessing for our members and a curse. We bring skills and enthusiasm to our roles but there is a limit to involvement because we want to enjoy the benefits of our retirement! And there are skills required that we do not have. Members expect that organizations such as ours will provide a high standard of communications and quality business practices. To achieve this, the Board of Directors determined that hiring a part-time Executive Director would enable us to achieve the professional standard we have set for our Association.
Remember, to this point BCRTA had only two people on staff to serve our 16,000 members. This is in sharp contrast to the Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association, who with only 4,000 more members has twelve people providing service to their membership. Five of the RTAs across Canada have an Executive Director. It was time.
- The Board hired Tim Anderson as a Communication Consultant on three separate contracts over the past year for specific projects beginning with the development of our new web site. His responsibilities have increased with each contract and he has consistently performed above our expectations. Tim has supervised staff in his prior experience as a corporate manager. For many years Tim has provided communications and marketing services for leading non-profit organizations in BC including the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. One of Tim’s contracts was to produce the BC Seniors’ Guide which you have likely used.
- The Personnel Committee developed a job description for the position of Executive Director (ED) following the advice and model of other teacher and retiree organizations. The job description clearly defines the role of the ED as serving our membership under the control and direction of the Board of Directors.
- On May 23, the Board of Directors approved the Personnel Committee’s hiring of Tim Anderson as a 4-day per week Executive Director.
- While hiring an ED, or any other additional staff, will have long term implications for office space and budget, we do not believe this will require an increase in membership dues. Our growth in membership and revenue from advertisements, affinity partners and our insurance plans are expected to cover the added costs. For comparison, membership dues in the Alberta Retired Teachers Association are only $25 per year and they have 12 people on staff with an annual budget of $2.5 million.
From the foregoing I hope you can clearly see that we have aimed for a measured and disciplined approach toward the growth and revitalization of our Association. The changes we have made have already produced positive results. Net membership grew by 2.1% this past year, reversing the negative trend. Our publications are better than ever. Branches are beginning to take steps to revitalize themselves by collaborating with neighbouring branches. There is excitement around the Board and Committee tables as we see our improvements taking shape.
We have used this quote to motivate our planning processes:
“When you argue for your limitations,
you get to keep them.” (Evelyn Waugh)
Of course, change can be difficult as we leave our old comfortable ways to try something new. But there is a more vibrant, influential and valuable Association in our future if we wisely take hold of the right opportunities and build together.
The Innovation and Strategic Planning Committee is a committee of the Board. It brings recommendations to the Board which has the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the whole membership. The ISPC Committee members are Patricia Clough, Bob Taverner, Grace Wilson, Stefan Cieslik, Steve Bailey, Arnie Lambert and Gerry Tiede.
Gerry Tiede is 1st Vice-President of the BCRTA
Target Benefit Plans and Defined Benefit Plans: What is the Difference?
Dale Lauber answers a BCRTA member’s question about the real import of Bill C-27, which proposes to create a means where employers can convert Defined Benefit Pension Plans to Target Benefit Pension Plans. Get more information at https://bcrta.ca/target
I still do not know what a targeted benefit plan is. I think it has something to do with retirement funds that are not working well? We are always being assured the BCTF pension fund is doing well, so do not know if this would affect retired teachers in BC, nor can I find anything on the BCTF website. I would appreciate a very simple, understandable statement about what a TBP is and how it could affect BCTF retirees.
Retired BC teacher
Defined Benefit pension plans, like our Teachers’ Pension Plan, define (calculate) your pension according to salary, years of service, and an accrual rate. This pension promise can be calculated at anytime during your years of contributing to the pension plan. That pension promise is guaranteed. When you retire the calculation is finalized and that pension is guaranteed. The lifetime pension can not be reduced at any time in the future. This is a very important part of our pension plan.
Target Benefit plans are a lot less secure. The plan has a target that it attempts to pay to you on retirement. However, if the pension plan has some years of poor investment returns the pensions promised to workers can be reduced and even pension being paid to retirees can be reduced then or at any time in the future. Quite shocking to retirees when that happens.
Bill C-27 applies to all Federally regulated pension plans – federal government workers, RCMP, soldiers, airlines, railways, ports and banks. This bill would allow Defined Benefit pension plans (which have guaranteed pension) to be converted to Target Benefit pension plans (which have benefits that may be reduced).
The province of Manitoba has already followed the outline of Bill C-27 and proposed a similar process of eliminating Defined Benefit plans and replacing them with Target Benefit plans for workers in that province. We do not want this ‘disease’ to spread to BC and our Teachers’ Pension Plan. Because Bill C-27 has not yet been passed in the House of Commons we want Members of Parliament to know that we are opposed to this surrendering of Defined Benefit plan rights to Target Benefit plans (the word ‘surrender’ is used 14 times in C-27).
Bill C-27 does not directly affect us but it could, if passed, start a trend of Target Benefit plans replacing Defined Benefit plans across Canada and in our province.
Dale Lauber is a member of the BCRTA Pensions and Benefits Committee. He as been a member of the BC Teachers’ Pension Plan Board of Trustees since 2001.
The BCRTA’s Board of Directors are very happy to announce that they have successfully reached an employment agreement with Tim Anderson, to serve the Association in the position of Executive Director.
In recent months we have contracted with Tim’s company, Alphabet Communications, to work with us to improve BCRTA’s systems and communications in the areas of our website and print publications. Tim has done amazing work in those areas and continues to do so. He has impressed us all with his knowledge and skills, and with the thoughtful and cooperative way in which he has worked with Directors, Staff and Branch representatives.
We are hiring him to be our new Chief Operating Officer and, in particular, to be the staff person most responsible for helping us develop and implement our ambitious strategic plan, aimed at growing the BCRTA through greatly improving service to members.
He begins work for us in his new role on June 1st.
Patricia Clough, BCRTA President
PROFILE – Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson is a communications professional with a long history of work in adult education, program development and marketing. His firm Alphabet Communications has an impressive client list, including BC’s Ministry of Health, BC’s Health Authorities, the Ministry of Education, Diabetes Canada and numerous others. You may know his work – he designed the BC Seniors Guide.
Tim has extensive experience in working with small organizations in business systems development and media platforms in both public and private sectors. An accomplished writer and editor, he is Executive Editor of PostScript Magazine and is actively developing partnerships to enhance the BCRTA member experience.
Tim’s wife Janet is an active teacher, and they have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.
With a Johnson scholarship behind you, you have everything in front of you. Since 1998, the Johnson scholarship program has awarded over $1,000,000 in scholarships and academic grants to students across Canada.
The 2018 Johnson Scholarship Program is open and applications are available.
Who May Apply
To apply, applicants must be:
- a resident of a province or territory of Canada;
- completing high school in 2018; and,
- enrolled full-time for the fall 2018 academic term at a recognized Canadian post-secondary institution or Cegep (if living in the province of Quebec).
Applicants must also fall into one of the following categories:
- have a home or auto policy through Johnson;
- be a member/employee of a Johnson recognized group*;
- have a parent/guardian or grandparent who has a home or auto policy through Johnson;
- have a parent/guardian or grandparent who is a member/employee of a Johnson recognized group*, and has a home or auto policy or group benefit plan through Johnson;
- have a parent/guardian or grandparent who is a member/employee of a Johnson recognized group*, but does not have a home or auto policy or group benefit plan through Johnson; or
- be a child/grandchild of a Johnson employee.
Online Application Form
Applications shall be submitted on the completion of the applicant’s graduating year of high school.
Completed application forms must be submitted by August 31, 2018 and must include an official high school transcript of your final year marks.
Please see the online application form to obtain full requirements and submission instructions.
Johnson will award 50 scholarships each valued at $1,000 to students attending a post-secondary educational institution in Canada in the fall of 2018.
Selection and Announcement of Winners
An independent selection committee is retained to review and evaluate all applications and identify the successful candidates for 2018. Please note that the decision of the selection committee is final and not subject to appeal. Selection of successful applicants will be completed by October 31, 2018.
For More Information
If you require further information, please call toll free 1-866-544-2673 or email email@example.com.
*A Johnson “recognized group” means an employer group, professional association, alumni association, union or other group that has an insurance program agreement currently in force with Johnson.
BCRTA members consistently rank Extended Health Care and other insurance products as extremely important to their peace of mind. Recent articles discussing member experiences with the current Teachers’ Pension Plan default coverage through Green Shield have generated much discussion and feedback. Many members are inquiring about alternative coverage.
You should know that BCRTA members have choices beyond the TPP default insurance coverage! The BCRTA Pension and Benefits Committee has partnered with Johnson Insurance to create a line-up of products tailor-made to suit our members. Some things to watch out for include comparing each plan’s coverage of the particular medications you depend on, deductibles, and lifetime coverage limits.
We have set up an easy way for you to get a free-of-charge confidential insurance assessment, to see which plans work best for you.
BCRTA is pleased to highlight these exclusive insurance offerings:
Johnson’s Extended Health Care (EHC) with Prestige Travel
This is our fastest growing insurance product. It provides:
- Full EHC coverage with no annual deductible.
- Coverage for any number of 62 days trips outside of BC
- No 90-day stability clause
Coming soon: Extended Health Care coverage. We are expecting to offer EHC coverage this fall for our members who do not travel or who find that our Medoc plan suits their needs fully.
MEDOC Travel Insurance is the Most Popular Travel Option
- Any number of 17 or 35 day trips out of British Columbia
- 3 rate levels. You can’t beat the Optimum rates if you qualify by completing a Health Option Questionnaire.
- Ask our Johnson’s insurance professional for an apples-to-apples comparison the next time your house insurance renews. You may be surprised at the savings available to BCRTA members.
Best Friend Advice
BCRTA has continued to work with Johnson’s over the years because of the excellent service they provide. We recommend that you talk to a Johnson Insurance Professional when you are considering the alternative plans available. They will help you understand the technical differences between the plans and help you make the right decision for you, even if it means staying with your current provider.
One of the benefits of belonging to BCRTA is access to the Member Advantage program. From time to time members receive mailed offers from Advantage partners. We are working to improve this program.
Here are some answers to questions we have had about the mailings.
1. Mailing Lists and “Who Sent This?”
We will be moving to more clear labelling on envelopes, to indicate that this is a mailing generated as a benefit of membership, with offers for services from Members’ Advantage Partners. Instead of getting one offer, we may bundle them together as one mailing. We follow up with partners to gauge the effectiveness of mailings. We want members to receive offers that are relevant and useful.
Your information is always protected. Advantage partner firms are not given access to your information. We have an arrangement where the Advantage partner forward their ad to a professional “Mailing House” which prints the material, uses the mailing list that BCRTA manages, and sends the finished pieces through the mail. The only way the Advantage Partner learns about you and your details is if you choose to respond. Members can be assured that their privacy is always protected.
We are currently reviewing the language of all mailing materials for tone and clarity, and the packaging of the mailing. We want to make sure members understand clearly what the offer is, and the offer is the best it can be. The content will clearly state the nature of our relationship with the Advantage Partner.
Advantage Partners pay the cost of the mailing.
2. Why Bother Mailing?
Our Members’ Advantage Partner programs offer members good deals on products and services, and this is a benefit of membership valued by many. We have received a handful of emails expressing concerns about mailings, but many more members have responded positively, expressing interest in exploring the offerings. Positive responses outweight negative responses by a factor of twenty to one.
Our Advantage partnerships provide members with discount and preferred offers, and some send a portion of your purchases to support the work at BCRTA. You can see the numbers in each annual report. It amounts to many thousands of dollars each year. These funds help keep your annual membership fees at a very reasonable level.
So there are plenty of positive reasons to provide this service to the members who want it. But that doesn’t invalidate the concerns of those who prefer to not receive mailings, and we want to respect all members’ wishes. So that leads us to the next point.
3. How Do I Make it Stop?
We are developing some more detailed information to go into future mailings that explain the program and will offer members an easy way to shut off all future mailings of this kind. If you are not interested in getting these promotion pieces, we don’t want to bother you with them.
You can take action now, if you like. If you wish to not receive any mailings, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and simply say “Do not send me any further partner promotional mailings.” Please include your name and address so we can be sure to take you off the mailing list.
4. The Bottom Line
The BCRTA values your membership in our association and we value your direct and honest feedback about your experience. What sort of offers are helpful to you? Let us know. Your feedback helps us do better and be better. We measure “better” by the quality of our member experience. We want your experience to be the best it can be, and we trust that the steps we are undertaking will help do that.
- September 20 - September 22
BC Retired Teachers’ Association
550 West 6th Avenue, Suite 100
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4P2
Toll Free 1.877.683.2243