I believe trust is earned through clear communication. That means acknowledging where FPA has been as an organization, what we are doing to make the organization better today, and what we need to accomplish to make the organization successful in the future. I also believe that focusing too much on the past can hinder progress.
In my brief time as the CEO of the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®), I have heard from various stakeholders about the Association's missteps over the years and how those missteps have hurt FPA from the standpoint of membership losses and a perceived diminishment of standing in the profession. The Board of Directors and staff share many of the same concerns and are using them to inform the decisions we are making today to strengthen the organization in the years to come. That means adopting a “windshield mindset” where we focus on what we must do moving forward to secure our Association's future.
I believe FPA’s best days are ahead of us—not in the rearview mirror. We have every opportunity to chart a course for a prosperous future where FPA is growing, our members receive top value for their membership investment and FPA is leading the way in making financial planning resonate in all corners of society. With that framing in mind, I’m pleased to report on some actions we have taken that I believe position FPA for a brighter future.
The FPA Central Office is composed of an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently with a singular focus: to serve our valued members and support our chapters and communities. I have undertaken a review of our staff organization to align our resources to serve you better and bring an intensified focus to building FPA as a best-in-class membership organization. We have some work to do in that regard, which means restructuring our professional staff.
At the beginning of the month, I composed a new FPA Staff Leadership Team consisting of professionals leading the day-to-day operations of their respective departments. The team includes Sandi Garcia, CPA (Chief Financial Officer), Julie Butcher (Chief Information Strategy Officer), Ben Lewis (Chief Communications Officer), Christine Richardson (Managing Director, Mission Support), and Josephine Colacci, Esq. (Public Policy Counsel). These staff leaders, and their respective teams of functional experts, are working to achieve improved collaboration and efficiency, greater consistency in programmatic execution, and better communication between teams and stakeholders. And, with an upcoming announcement about a restructuring of FPA’s membership experience operation, we will be positioned to realize FPA’s great potential while serving you better.
All members are encouraged to engage directly with our staff whenever there is a question or concern. Members can visit the new Staff Points of Contact page on the website or use the support portal at support.onefpa.org.
Stabilizing Our Membership
It has been shared by the FPA Central Office—and reported by various news outlets—that FPA has seen a drop in membership over the past decade from a high of 24,533 at the end of 2015 to the 18,927 who call FPA their professional home today. The cause of the decline cannot be attributed to any single action or inaction taken by the Association. It's our reality and a clear call to action to take steps now to begin to see positive membership growth.
For years, FPA has been viewed as a big tent organization. But when you don’t clearly define who you serve, you end up trying to serve everyone – and, unfortunately, not very well. Like all membership organizations, FPA has a “core member” but has not adequately defined who that core member is, let alone put the proverbial stake in the ground, so all recognize who FPA aims to serve. The Board of Directors is committed to defining the core member by early Q2. Armed with an unambiguous definition, our staff can review our services and programs to ensure they provide value to those we seek to serve and better define our value proposition.
We have been hearing from our volunteer leaders, chapters, communities, and members that this clarity is needed and are grateful to the OneFPA Advisory Council for their discussions on this issue (last fall and in February 2021) and for the critical feedback they shared with the Board of Directors and staff.
Embracing Diversity of Opinion
Over the past 15 months, we have been testing core elements of the OneFPA Network concept to identify opportunities to better align and integrate the Association. While the pandemic created some difficulties in testing all aspects of “centralized functionality,” including elements of centralized staffing, financial reporting, and technology, we have seen the benefits of deeper collaboration between the FPA Central Office staff and those chapter executives from the 11 beta test chapters. But the significant win so far that will be of clear consequence to FPA in the years to come is from greater participatory governance through the OneFPA Advisory Council.
The Council, an advisory body comprised of representatives from 88% of FPA chapters and representatives from our NexGen community and FPA Diversity and Inclusion Committee, has been meeting over the past year to discuss a range of issues relevant to FPA and the profession. Those discussions and subsequent reports back to the Board of Directors and staff provide clarity on the diverse opinions throughout the FPA ecosystem and are being used to guide decisions we are making today. We know the Council and the diversity of opinion it brings to our decision-making will be a lasting legacy of the OneFPA Network.
The OneFPA Transition Task Force produced a year-end 2020 report for the beta test and will develop quarterly reports throughout 2021, with the Q1 report due at the end of April.
In Case You Missed It
- Thanks to the hard work of FPA chapters and members, our pro bono financial planning program touched 7% more underserved individuals and families in 2020 than the previous year. We know the pandemic forced many chapters and members to rethink how they can provide pro bono planning, and it is gratifying to see major news outlets like CNBC recognize that work.
- We are full steam ahead on planning an in-person Annual Conference to be held September 22-24 in Columbus, Ohio. We are optimistic the conference will be held as planned, but will of course, defer to health officials before making a final determination.
- FPA is committed to making the Association and profession more inclusive of professionals of all backgrounds. The Board of Directors has made our D&I efforts a top priority, and we continue to work to make FPA a more welcoming community for all planners. Our Women and Finance, African American, FPA Latino, Pride Planners, and soon-to-be-launched Asian American/Pacific Islander Knowledge Circles are a step in the right direction.
- The 2020 FPA Annual Report will be released this summer, inclusive of our audited financials. A “State of FPA” virtual event will coincide with the report release and will be a time for any interested member to hear an update and ask FPA leaders questions. We will share event details in upcoming communications.
Clear communication with our members, volunteer leaders, and other stakeholders is more important than ever. I am committed to ensuring we are doing what we can to keep you informed. But effective communication means you are doing as much listening as you are talking. That’s why we want to hear from you. If you have questions, concerns, ideas, or comments, please share them.
Thank you for being a valued member of our Association.
Patrick D. Mahoney
Chief Executive Officer, FPA