As we learned from this weekend in our annual Star Tribune 50 package Thrivent is one of four membership-based organizations in Minnesota whose finances are sufficiently public and large enough that Fortune magazine considers them as part of their annual Fortune 500 list.
Thrivent would rank among the 15 largest public companies in Minnesota if we used the same selection criteria as Fortune.
They are the largest nonprofit fraternal benefit organization in the United States, a result of the 2001 merger between the Aid Association for Lutherans and the Lutheran Brotherhood. But their roots go back to 1902 for AAL and 1917 for Lutheran Brotherhood.
In the early 20th century, there were hundreds of fraternal benefit organizations around the country, but there are only about 70 now. About 60 of those organizations are represented by the American Fraternal Alliance including Thrivent and St. Paul-based Catholic United Financial and Minnetonka-based Sons of Norway.
The youngest fraternal in the United States was formed in 1965 for Mennonite and Anabaptist Christians and is now called Everence Financial based in Goshen, Indiana.
Many of the fraternal organizations started out serving immigrant, ethnic and religious communities, said Joseph Annotti, CEO of the Indianapolis-based Alliance.
“Members of those communities couldn’t afford insurance or were discriminated against and couldn’t purchase insurance,” he said. “So they kind of created their own way to take care of each other.”
Annotti who has been CEO of the Alliance since 2008 has a big goal before he retires. “One of my great ambitions is to try to create a new fraternal before I walk away as CEO of this organization,” Annotti said. “There are groups out there that are very interested in the model.