The Power of Partnership

September 1, 2022

One of the key areas where Lutheran Services in America brings together our members—along with strategic national partners in philanthropy, academia, healthcare and more—to advance innovative solutions is in enabling older adults to live with dignity, health, meaning, and independence in a place where they call home.

We recently partnered with our member NYU Langone Family Health Centers (formerly Lutheran Family Health Centers), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to empower older adults in affordable housing—particularly those transitioning from the hospital or post acute care—to remain living independently in their community.

The work builds on a four-year partnership with UNC and The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation where we worked with seven members in seven states to successfully transition 875 older adults from post-acute care to home, demonstrating improvement in care transition and quality of life.

The current two-year project will expand UNC’s Connect-Home transition care model to strengthen the capacity of staff to identify affordable housing residents most at risk of hospitalization, address gaps in care that lead to increased isolation and emergency room visits and enable older adults to live independently. Genacross Lutheran Services is providing peer support and expertise based on the extensive work they have done to assess and connect their affordable housing residents to services in the community.

Why is this important? According to CMS, 76 percent of 30-day hospital readmissions are preventable.  And we know the transition from hospital to home places older adults at risk.  We also know that when we bring together our members with expertise and funding from partners in academia, philanthropy and healthcare that we can tackle tough challenges and make a meaningful difference in the lives of people.

We look forward to sharing with you the learnings and results of the work and partnership in the future.

New Board Member Eric Gurley Adds Unique Experience to our Unique Network

July 28, 2022

The Lutheran Services in America network is unlike any other nonprofit network in the United States. From the services we provide to the people for whom we care, we are a network with a unique approach to empowering people and communities.

That unique approach is built into our core, from the frontline workers in 1,400 communities across the country to our very leadership. Lutheran Services in America has a board of directors comprised of 10 to 13 members that brings together diverse insights to our work.

We are pleased to add yet another trusted member to the board with invaluable perspective and depth of experience: Eric Gurley, the president and CEO of our member Immanuel. Eric has worked in the senior living space for 31 years and has extensive experience with strategic planning, implementation and reporting in senior housing and healthcare.

A native East Coaster, Eric migrated to the Omaha-based Immanuel, where he expanded services to cover 2,500 older adults, up from 800. Under his leadership, Immanuel grew from 300 employees to 1,400 and expanded missional service to underserved populations through the implementation of three innovative models of care, including the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Eric also oversaw the creation of the Immanuel Vision Foundation, which has given more than $15 million to the Church and other nonprofits, and the Immanuel Community Foundation, which fulfills the promise that no one will be asked to leave Immanuel due to the inability to pay.

Eric has broad experience serving on the boards of directors of other nonprofit organizations, including Lutheran Giving, Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, the Omaha Symphony and the Experimental Aircraft Association and its foundation (fun fact: Eric is a licensed pilot!).

Lutheran Services in America member CEOs elected Eric to the board at the Annual Meeting in January. Eric’s term, which began on July 1, runs through June 30, 2025. We look forward to the next three years of Eric’s talent and perspective!

Visit our Leadership page to meet our board of directors.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Broker Selection Process

July 21, 2022

Now that you’ve learned about the broker selection process, you may have additional questions. While JKJ is always available to answer questions that you might have, here are some that we commonly hear from other organizations.

At what point during the insurance renewal cycle should this process take place?

Under ideal circumstances, it should be completed by the time you are ready to consider getting options for your insurance program renewal and before your current broker begins the renewal efforts. Give yourself time to conduct this process. This is an important decision. Six months before your renewal is not too soon.

How frequently should the broker relationship be reviewed?

This varies. Management may wish to review the relationship every 3-6 years. If things are going along well in the partnership, there may not be any need to review the relationship unless there is a concern. A good broker should be performing a stewardship review with you annually, which will probably drive this decision.

Are there times when this system doesn’t work at all?

Yes. If you have a situation where none of the brokers are specialists in your line of work, you may very likely end up in a situation where no single broker has a wide array of insurance markets. If this is the case, you may need to consider the traditional selection approach, or you could use this approach to determine which two brokers will have a chance to bid on your program. Either way, the system gives you the tools to select quality brokers and limit the number of brokers involved.

Are there times when this system works particularly well?

Yes. If you have multiple brokers who generally all represent the same markets, this allows the brokers to differentiate on something other than the insurance company relationships.

What are some of the most important variables to consider when using this approach?

The Risk Management resources and services that the broker can provide can make or break a program.

Who actually will be available to you and what are their qualifications and experience?

The expertise of the broker when working with your class of business is critical. It is important to know that the broker that you ultimately choose actually represents the insurance companies who will be the more likely ones that you will do business with. If five insurers control 90% of the market and the broker you chose only represents two of the five, then this could be a big problem!

What markets do the broker represent? What volume of business does the broker have with each? What insurance companies are most likely to earn the business? Why? Discuss the relationships involved. The opinions of references are key. If good references that can vouch for all the promises that the broker is making are not available, then you may just be listening to a hollow sales pitch!

Do I tell the brokers how they will be scored? Why not?

Don’t make the broker be a mind reader. Be open to the brokers you will interview and let them know what is important to you. You can do this verbally, in the form of a form letter, or in the form of specifications that you want to be sure that they respond to in their interview. Or … you may want to just leave this to the broker. If they know their business, they will have a pretty good feeling for what the important variables are for your business. Whether or not you choose to communicate this prior to the selection process, it is obviously important that you ultimately communicate these areas of importance to your broker.

How do I know the broker is bringing the best alternative to me?

There are several ways to accomplish this. Require the broker to present alternatives to you and provide you with sound reasoning for the basis of their recommendation. Analysis of the options should be standard protocol. Most people can determine fairly quickly if their partners are being open and honest with them. At a point, you need to trust your broker. This individual should be a trusted advisor just like your attorney or accountant. If you don’t trust them, you should fire them. Compensation Disclosure of broker compensation is completely appropriate. Feel free to ask that it be disclosed when quotes are provided, or in advance if you would like.

Remember, though, that fees/commissions are determined in large part based on the services that are provided. If you expect the fee to be charged to be part of the initial broker presentation, you will need to have clearly communicated what services you want in advance so that these fees can be set appropriately. The “chicken or egg” scenario arises here, because you may not know what you want until you know what is available. We recommend that you save the compensation question until a second interview after you have a complete understanding of what services you want, the frequency that you want them, etc… While compensation is fair game for discussion, you want to be fair about it. In the end, you will get what you paid for.


Let this system work for you. Don’t make it too complicated. Ask brokers what variables they think are important. Most of the brokers will guide you to their strong points and what they think is important! It is good to get input on your comparison variables from numerous sources. When you have been through this process and see the results that it can produce, you will likely be hard pressed to go back to the way you use to do it. Good luck!

This is the third entry of a three-part series of blog posts. Read the first and second posts. Find out more from Johnson, Kendall & Johnson or contact Rafael Haciski.

Managing the Broker Selection Process Effectively

July 19, 2022

The broker selection process is a great tool for an organization to effectively and efficiently select the best broker and the best insurance company. The following outlines the steps that you can take to use the Broker Selection Process effectively:

#1: Management Commitment to the Broker Selection Process

It is important to determine in advance that you will either use or not use this process. You don’t want to get in a position where you start off using this process and then go back to the traditional way of selecting your insurance coverage during the same purchasing cycle. If you don’t like the end result, then you can go back to the traditional approach (or a hybrid scenario).

#2: Identify Potential Brokers

You might limit the number of brokers that you interview; however, this is the time to give a fair evaluation to many of the brokers/agents that call on you. However, many won’t know how to respond because they are just in the business of “quoting” insurance. This is a great time to hear what a few them have to say without having to go through “the quoting process” with all of them! Be reasonable with the number of interviews that you plan and don’t wear yourself out!

#3: Determine Selection Criteria

It is very helpful to do this in advance. Often, management will create a comparison tool to help fairly evaluate different brokers. After determining the variables to compare, you can give a weight to each variable in order to help you focus on the more important areas. Remember, this is your tool. You determine what variables are important and how important they are. We have provided a sample. Remember to think through all different dimensions of your broker relationship. In addition to the obvious insurance company considerations, policy differences and traditional agency services, consider risk management and claims management services as well. How can a particular broker assist you in managing all the costs of risk – both pre- and post-loss – not just your insurance premiums?

#4: Management Team Involvement

Consider incorporating your financial, clinical, and human resource staff into these presentations, as the material covered likely will affect all of these disciplines. All decision makers should be involved in the process. They will also benefit by learning what other services may be available in the marketplace.

#5: Interviews

Explain the process to the brokers who you will interview and let them know how much time that they will have with you for the interview/presentation. You might ultimately communicate what you are looking for from the brokers you will be interviewing in advance. This will involve far less time than you will spend with each broker if you have multiple brokers participate in “quoting” in the traditional sense. A broker that has a very thorough service driven program will likely need at least 60 minutes. Follow-up interviews may be granted to finalists if this will help.

#6: Rate Brokers

Some may prefer to use the tool more formally while others may allow instinct to guide them. Either way, be sure that you apply what works for you consistently.

#7: Communicate Decision

Upon selecting a broker, let all parties involved know your decision.

#8: Partnership

Your new broker should understand that they are now a partner with your organization in all aspects of your Risk Management and Insurance program. Your new broker should now solicit proposals from all appropriate companies and bring all proposals to you for your renewal along with an analysis of program options.

This is the second entry of a three-part series of blog posts. Read the first and third posts. Find out more from Johnson, Kendall & Johnson or contact Rafael Haciski.

Why Use the Broker Selection Process?

July 14, 2022

The broker selection process is a great tool for an organization to effectively and efficiently select the best broker and the best insurance company. There are several manners in which to choose an insurance brokerage and risk management partner. The words “insurance” and “partner” may seem like an unlikely pair, but the alliance can be one of the most important for a company’s executive team.

Selection Model #1: Selection by Quote Process

Some organizations will choose a few insurance brokers to “quote” their insurance program. Ultimately, significant work and resources are spent providing underwriting information, completing applications and hosting loss control visits for multiple brokers and insurance companies. Much wasted energy is consumed in the jockey for and allocation of insurance markets. Proposals must be reviewed from each of the brokers. At the end of the day, only one of the brokers is awarded the business.

This process does not place value on a long tenured partnership; instead, the model focuses on the premiums of the various insurance companies and broker services, putting the impact of total cost of risk are secondary.

In the unfortunate scenario in which the organization prefers to work with one broker but gets the “best quote” from a second broker, the organization is forced to either work with the broker that isn’t its first choice, or they resort to signing a “Broker of Record Letter” to give the work of one broker to another. This always leads to a difficult situation and hard feelings and a breach in trust is inevitable or they opt for “best quote” and second-choice broker. The organization can also develop a tarnished reputation in the underwriting community.

Selection Model #2: Broker Selection Process

A broker selection process can greatly simplify the process of looking at options and ultimately provide you with the best value for the insurance dollar or total cost of risk. In this model, an organization ends up with the best broker and the best insurance company per the organizations criteria. It allows the organizations to choose a broker through a competitive process that separately evaluates the benefits of each broker’s resources and services. Brokers can present their case for why you should do business with their organization and why they would make a good partner to develop and implement your risk management program.

Brokers should be your representatives. This becomes more critical as insurance companies continue to cut the services they provide. Once a broker is selected, you are in a position to have one broker clearly represent you to the insurance market. The insurance companies will know they have a fair chance of writing your business and will not have to be concerned that they are with the right broker. The entire process of selecting an insurance company is then the responsibility of your “best” broker. Management does not have to do analysis of all the different proposals. While management is welcome and should be a part of this process, the burden of the analysis rests on the part of your broker.

Ultimately, the organization seeking alternatives is guaranteed that they will end up doing business with the broker of their choice and the insurer of their choice. The elimination of agents is done early in process before significant work is requested of the agents, thereby creating a much more efficient process and much more effective result.

This is the second entry of a three-part series of blog posts. Read the second and third posts. Find out more from Johnson, Kendall & Johnson or contact Rafael Haciski.

Highlight Great Benefits, Keep Great People

June 27, 2022

It seems every employer in the nation is up against the same challenge — employee retention. And the obstacles are mounting. Vaccine mandates, COVID-19 exposures, and quarantines continue to unravel an already stressed workplace. These once-new business challenges are no longer novel, and leaders are on the hunt for innovative ways to take care of their teams and drive tenure among their staff. One solution that many are turning to is marketing the culture, perks, and benefits of their own companies.

Studies show that when employees feel cared for by their employers, they’re more likely to stay. Among employees who felt their companies cared about them, 60% planned to stay three-plus years while 90% said they’d spread the word that their companies are great places to work.1 Consider this testimonial from a Portico health plan member: “Our new insurance through Portico is so robust… our social worker couldn’t believe all the help we got – me either!” This member went on to share how fortunate she feels about having comprehensive health benefits that will cover medically necessary home care needs for her husband after he’s discharged from the hospital (e.g., skilled nurse visits, home health aides).

Reasons Employees Leave

Before we take a deep dive into what today’s employees want most, we should understand why employees look to leave in the first place. The truth is, the reason people look to jump ship often varies. However, the pandemic has certainly caused more people to reevaluate what’s most important.

Benefits as a Retention Tool

It’s easy to get wrapped up in turnover reports and the often-high cost of training. Remember, sometimes the easiest way to get employees to remain on the job is right in front of you, nestled in the many benefits you’re already providing. Companies who can boast long employee tenures often use their benefits packages as a hook to keep staff engaged.

As a leader, you’ve likely worked hard to provide employees with a full suite of benefits that supports their personal needs and professional development. Don’t be quiet about it — now is the time to sing their praises!

What Today’s Employees Want

According to recent research by Robert Half, the fact of the matter is, two out of three workers are confident they can find another job easily. Among its survey findings, respondents confirmed that the most desired benefits for today’s employees include:

  • Health benefits
  • Paid time off
  • Retirement plans
  • Dental benefits
  • Life and AD&D insurance
  • Vision care services

In addition to having comprehensive employee benefits, today’s workforce has become accustomed to flexible work schedules. They don’t want to see perks like this go away.

Well-Being Benefits Are a Must

Also, among job seekers’ top priorities are what’s known as “well-being benefits,” a category of employee benefits that can include support for employees in the financial, mental health, social, physical, and career arenas.

Here at Portico, we want to help you touch on all of these important areas as you show you care for your employees. Our well-being programs include:

  • The Being academy is an educational platform covering topics like longevity, purpose, resiliency, and so much more.
  • Mental Health Programs: Learn to Live is an online mental health program to help with stress, anxiety, depression, and more, in addition to our Employee Assistance Program.
  • Online health and fitness classes from Burnalong.
  • Chronic condition prevention from Omada, a virtual program to help with weight loss and reducing risk for chronic disease.
  • Virtual therapy for joint pain from SWORD that provides help for relieving chronic back, joint, and muscle pain at home.

As you promote your well-being programs and benefits, don’t forget to take generational differences into consideration — not all age groups desire or need the same benefits.2

Figuring Out Next Steps

So what are employers to do? Get creative. Review benefit offerings and determine which ones will have the most impact on employee retention in your organization.

Some “out of the box” tactics for promoting key benefits may include:

  • Hosting monthly lunch and learn sessions or quarterly benefit fairs to shine the spotlight on specific programs and benefits.
  • Creating an employee ambassador program, where your best internal promoters may be the employees themselves.
  • Sharing personal stories in newsletters or blog articles about how benefits have impacted your employees.
  • Communicating about employee benefits via your intranet, employee newsletter, or town hall meetings.

If you’d like to learn more about how Portico’s benefit programs can help you attract and retain your employees, visit or contact Ross Eichelberger, VP of Business Development, at 612-752-4062 or

1Hamilton, Kelly M. M.S., Sandhu, Reetu, PhD. Hamill, Laura, PhD (2019). The Science of Care. Limeade. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

2Meister, Jeanne (2021). The Future Of Work: Offering Employee Well-Being Benefits Can Stem The Great Resignation. Retrieved February 10, 2022, from

Portico assumes no responsibility for the content, claims, representations, or accuracy of the material contained in the web link sites. Portico does not endorse the content of the sites or the organizations sponsoring the website.

Portico Benefit Services maintains the ELCA Medical and Dental Benefits Plan (which includes the ELCA post-retirement medical benefits obligation), ELCA Retirement Plan, ELCA Retirement Savings Plan, ELCA Disability Benefits Plan, ELCA Survivor Benefits Plan, and ELCA Flexible Benefits Plan. Portico also maintains two group retirement plans for ELCA-affiliated social ministry organizations – the ELCA Master Institutional Retirement Plan and the ELCA 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan. Plan member rights under the plans are governed by the plan documents, which are the full, legal descriptions of the plans. If any information herein is inconsistent with the corresponding plan document, the plan document is the controlling document.

This article was originally published by Portico Benefit Services.

Today’s Front Line Hero: Lutheran Life Villages

May 20, 2020

Today’s Front Line Hero is Lutheran Life Villages, which is committed to keeping seniors healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lutheran Life Villages is a senior living facility with four campuses in Northeast Indiana. In addition to an array of senior living options, Lutheran Life Villages offers creative programming such as no contact boxing for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease, and a Foster Grandparent program, which matches seniors with low-income children in the community who are at risk of falling behind in school. They are committed to holistic care for seniors, and to building intergenerational relationships in the community.

Lutheran Life Villages recognizes the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the enhanced risk for seniors and individuals with chronic conditions. To keep their residents safe, Lutheran Life Villages is taking necessary precautions, including restricting access, monitoring staff health, increasing their inventory of medical supplies, and communicating regularly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their local and state health departments. The increased need for personal protective equipment is unprecedented, and Lutheran Life Villages is working to obtain needed supplies. President and CEO Alex Kiefer is forging new partnerships to gain those supplies, and has made trips to car manufacturing plants to pick up gowns and other supplies that are otherwise difficult to find.

Thank you to Lutheran Life Villages for your dedication to the seniors in your community!

Renada Johnson Joins Us to Lead the Results Innovation Lab, Launch of Results Network Year 3

June 28, 2022

Renada Johnson joined Lutheran Services in America as the Director of the Children, Youth and Family Practice in June. Renada has more than 20 years of experience in child welfare, nonprofit, social justice and community engagement, most recently serving as the Director of Youth and Birth Family Engagement at the National Center for Children and Families in Washington D.C.

Renada will lead the Results Network and the Family Stabilization Initiative, two prominent initiatives in the Results Innovation Lab (“The Lab”) committed to empowering families and transforming policy and practice in the child welfare system. The Lab recognizes the key role that providers have in transforming policy and practice and engages leaders from across our network to address the racial disparities in the child welfare system. Together with partners from academia, philanthropy and others, we are working towards transformative change!

Launched in January 2021, our Family Stabilization Initiative is a three-year project where we are awarding $2.9 million in grants to organizations in our network located in four target states: Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and Washington. The work under this initiative expands services in underserved communities in the target states and activates community networks to address the disproportionate number of children of color separated from their families.

The Results Network is a three-year initiative dedicated to stabilizing families in crisis so more families can remain safe, strong and together and children across the United States have the opportunity to thrive and grow up to be healthy, productive adults. Using a variety of data-drive strategies we build the capacity of nonprofit leaders to lead broadscale change in their organizations and communities.  Launched in July 2020, 48 nonprofit leaders from 15 communities across the country have joined together to explore what will it take to ensure that all children regardless of race or ZIP code are given the opportunity to thrive in stable loving families.

We are in the process of launching a new cohort: Results Network Year 3. If you would like to be part of this exciting opportunity, please contact Renada Johnson for more information.

Honoring Juneteenth

June 17, 2022

Valery Trigsted: Teen Leader, Entrepreneur, and Intern at Concordia Place

February 10, 2021

By Emily Gross, Senior Manager of Program Development and Outreach

Growing up in the Avondale neighborhood in Chicago, high school senior Valery Trigsted first heard about Concordia Place when she was 13. At the time, some friends from school told her about Emerging Leaders, a program they were enrolled in that empowers teens through service-learning projects. Seeking something she could get involved in after school, Valery joined her friends in the program and started spending time at Concordia Place cooking, creating arts and crafts, and gardening. What Valery did not realize is this was just the beginning of a five-year journey that would make her a leader among her peers.

Valery’s experience at Concordia Place came at a significant time in her life, after her father passed away when she was in the seventh grade. Through the program, she collaborated with other young people who she says are now her best friends, many of whom she knew from her school but had not had the opportunity to connect with otherwise. “Concordia Place was like a second home for me,” says Valery, “The people there made me who I am and made me feel comfortable and safe.”

Staff noticed early on Valery’s potential. Within one year of her joining Emerging Leaders, they offered her an internship with Ruckus Entrepreneurs, a program that gives youth ages 16-18 a unique opportunity to manage a socially responsible small business. Valery was just 14 when she began her internship.

Ruckus Entrepreneurs create and sell their own handcrafted body care products fashioned from organic, sustainable, and local ingredients whenever possible. Products include natural soaps, non-aluminum deodorants, and shea and lip balms. The business also gives back to the community through “Buy One, Give One” – with every purchase of a Ruckus body care product, they donate a product to an organization serving people in need.

Through her internship, Valery has learned product management and marketing and recently had her first foray into web design. After COVID-19, the Ruckus team explored online sales options and Valery has helped present several design options to Concordia Place leadership. She has also learned new communication skills that help her flourish as a leader. “Being a part of Concordia was probably the best decision I ever made. I was shy and timid before joining and it really brought me out of my comfort zone in different times. The people you meet, the different opportunities, and seeing how much people care about you – I couldn’t turn that down.”

Valery is now using her leadership skills to engage the greater community and help others. She recently joined the Thrive Teen Advisory Board in Chicago and is also an organizer for the Midwest Workers Association, an advocacy initiative focused on the needs of South Side residents. When asked what her goals are for the future, Valery says, “I wish to instill change where I see fit and remove the disparities that are in place right now for various reasons.”

Valery’s time at Concordia Place will soon come to an end; she is now 18 and will graduate high school this year. As she reflects on her internship and Emerging Leaders, she said she will no doubt carry her experiences forward. “Their goal is to create leaders, and that’s what they did with me.”

Concordia Place is a member of the Lutheran Services in America network and provides growth and opportunity to 800 children, teens, and adults each year, no matter their age or circumstance. To find out more, please visit their website