The Financial Planning Association (FPA) is in the very early stages of a ‘listening tour’ to solicit member and volunteer leader input and feedback on the new OneFPA Network vision that was announced in early November.
While the listening tour is just beginning and will continue through mid-February 2019, we have already heard input from various stakeholders that we are not being direct enough in explaining what the OneFPA Network is … and what it isn’t.
As the incoming national president of FPA, I wanted to clear-up any misconceptions about this bold vision for the future the association. This article aims to outline the highlights of the OneFPA Network, answer some common questions, and address some concerns we are hearing from various stakeholders.
1. The OneFPA Initiative ― and ultimately the OneFPA Network ― has been a collaborative effort driven by FPA’s volunteer leaders from the beginning.
- The OneFPA Network has been in the works since 2013 under the direction of many national and local volunteer leaders. I served on―and then led―the OneFPA Advisory Group from 2015 to 2017 along with chapter leaders and chapter executives. It has not been a secret, or something hatched at the national board level.
- Five years ago, chapter leaders approached FPA requesting a better system. It was not “national” lobbying chapters to change and over these past several years, dozens of chapter leaders and chapter executives served on task forces working on this initiative because they believed that we could improve every level or our organization. The OneFPA Network is truly the opposite of the ‘top down mandate’ some believe it to be.
- I and the majority of my fellow FPA Board of Directors members are past chapter leaders who care immensely for our home chapters. As both fiduciaries for FPA and passionate chapter members, we would not have proposed a plan that ‘hurt’ our chapters.
2. Defining “participatory governance”
We believe that FPA will always be stronger when more voices are heard and more leaders are engaged. Inviting more leaders ― especially chapter leaders ― to have greater involvement in FPA’s strategic direction setting is one of the overarching goals of the OneFPA Network.
- The current iteration of the plan was purposefully left incomplete. As practicing planners this was tough because we like to have all the answers, but we believe it’s critical that chapter leaders help design the final plan, so it is something that can be embraced by all.
- We are conducting a listening tour with the singular intention of ensuring all voices are heard and feedback is collected so we adopt the best possible plan for our path forward.
- Chapters are NOT going to be eliminated, dissolved, disbanded or terminated. Under the draft plan, the legal entities would be eliminated, but the chapters will remain with stronger support and more resources. To truly realize transformational change, we need to embrace all ways in which we can better align the association strategically, functionally and culturally. The barriers and trappings from having separate legal entities can limit our potential in moving toward this transformational change. Members benefit from the programs and community a chapter offers, not because the chapter is a separate legal entity.
3. The need for centralized functionality
We have a lot of moving parts within FPA that sometimes result in incongruent efforts and muddled communications. The OneFPA Network addresses these issues with better integration and alignment among all our communities and chapters.
- 89 different legal entities with 89 different accounting systems and 89 different technology platforms is not a good business model. It creates unnecessary redundancies, additional administrative burdens for our volunteer leaders, and doesn’t add value for our members.
- Aligning our message across the association will give our members and communities greater impact as they engage policymakers and influencers who impact the profession. Think of how much we could accomplish if all FPA communities and members were effectively engaging lawmakers and regulators to advocate for the profession!
- We will thoughtfully enhance national programs (informed by the ideas we collect on the listening tour) to make them more readily usable and available by the chapters to benefit members locally.
- Chapters will continue to conduct their own programming, secure local sponsorships, have their local boards, and operate as they do now but without the same level of operational burdens they currently have. The OneFPA Network is not about criticizing our chapters’ and volunteer leaders’ ability to manage their resources. Rather, it’s all about better using our collective resources to benefit our members.
4. Addressing the financials and control
Chapter and national leaders work hard to create budgets that support our business plans and to secure sponsors to help meet those budgets. The OneFPA Network encourages that ongoing effort while creating additional resources to help chapters in this work and an opportunity for greater chapter leader input in the overall finances ― and direction ― of FPA.
- FPA does not covet the resources of the chapters. Under the OneFPA Network, chapter leaders will have more input when it comes to the finances of the entire organization.
- Chapters will continue to maintain and manage their own budgets and control their current and future reserves. My home chapter works hard to operate at a slight budget surplus to grow our reserves and FPA wants all our chapters to have more resources and support to do the great work they already do.
- Chapters will be able to maintain the same level of autonomy and control they exercise now.In fact, they will have more of a say about what happens to chapters and FPA moving forward. Chapter leaders will help direct the committees and task forces, help direct the financial resources of the association, help determine the final slate of candidates for the Board of Directors ― and more!
I know that this doesn’t answer every question or alleviate every concern. I also appreciate that not every stakeholder in our association will be ‘all in’ on the OneFPA Network and that people will have different views.
That is the beauty of the passion that we have for our profession and our association! We all care deeply and want to do what is in the best interest of FPA, our volunteer leaders, our chapters, our members, and our profession.
5. Make your voice heard
As we move forward, I invite everyone with an opinion, comment, question or concern to make their voice heard. If you want to voice support for the vision ― great.
If you have concerns about the vision, we want (and need!) to hear that too. This is a huge change for the entire association and there is a lot to digest, so if we can clarify the plan to help people better understand it, we will.
Thank you to everyone who has already chimed in! We appreciate your input and we hear you loud and clear. To everyone else who is still forming an opinion or questions, we look forward to hearing from you.
Evelyn M. Zohlen, MBA, MS, CFP, is the 2018 President-elect of the Financial Planning Association and the president of Inspired Financial in Huntington Beach, California.