After months of visiting and listening to members, the Financial Planning Association’s national leadership recognized that their centralization plan was far too much too soon for members.
The second draft of their OneFPA Network initiative does not dissolve chapters in favor of a single, national entity like the initial plan did. Instead it calls for “beta-testing” centralizing accounting, administration and technology with 10 chapters.
The comment period for the plan runs until Thursday.
The new iteration followed a flood of criticism of the first plan, the OneFPA Network, released in November. The new strategy was intended to centralize functionality and harness the power of participatory governance.
Executive Director and CEO Lauren Schadel said from the feedback FPA received, the biggest concerns among members and chapter leaders were the chapters no longer operating as separate entities, the pace of these changes and testing new initiatives before their implementation.
“We need to make sure that the pace of change was not too fast and that we were bringing chapters along in the process,” said Schadle.
Additionally, Schadle said the organization received positive feedback about the FPA’s intent to create participatory governance.
“There was a lot of support for that,” said Schadle. “I think that there is appreciation for being able to have members and chapter leaders have a stronger voice in setting the direction of the organization.”
Schadle said then the aim was to address difficulties facing most associations today.
“OneFPA Network is a response to current and anticipated challenges in the landscape that are making it more difficult for volunteer professional associations to operate,” she said. “These challenges include increased competition, rapid technological advancements, generational changes, diverse market needs and elevated time constraints on volunteer leaders and members.”
Backlash from FPA chapters and their members poured in. Many voiced concerns over the “centralized” nature of the plan and its desire to dissolve some of the Association’s 86 local chapters in favor of one national chapter. Others accused the organization of looking for a way to fill their pockets in the wake of dwindling membership.
Although the second version eases up on some of the harsher aspects of the original plan, some say it still doesn’t accomplish what FPA leadership says it set out to do.
Industry thought leader Michael Kitces asked on his blog, “Is the OneFPA Network just national’s solution in search of a problem?”
Kitces argues that while the plan acknowledges the FPA’s past failures, it doesn’t establish what success would look like for the organization or outline a strategic plan for growth, but instead provides a way to save on resources and cut costs.
“Yet it’s not exactly clear what the OneFPA Network plan is expected to change about this trajectory. In response to concerns expressed for years that the FPA is not growing, the organization has in recent years insisted that it’s more focused on member “quality” than “quantity,” and that there’s nothing wrong with the fact that the organization isn’t growing. But is the OneFPA Network change supposed to make the FPA start growing again? Is that actually a KPI for the success of the OneFPA Network? Or is the FPA going to spend its dollars and resources on a strategy that it still doesn’t actually expect to result in any growth?” Kitces writes.
Kitces wasn’t the only one voicing his concerns over the plan and the path set forth by the organization. Blog readers also chimed in.
One of them was FPA’s president, Evelyn Zohlen, who accompanied Schadle on the listening tour, which met with 90% of the FPA’s 86 chapters either in-person or through virtual sessions.
Those meetings and sessions were summarized and provided to the organization’s transition taskforce. Schadle says this is where all the changes in the second iteration came from.
“The transition taskforce did a very nice job of addressing key issues during the listening tour,” Schadle said.
These key issues created a “healthy dialogue” with FPA members and leaders across the country, including from NexGen leadership, who have a special place in the transition as the organization’s future torchbearers.
This emphasis on the direction of FPA is no mistake. Schadle said in response to Kitces’ goal concerns that a sturdy foundation for the future has been the goal of the OneFPA Network all along. “We’re setting FPA up for a successful future,” she said. “Our goal from the beginning has been addressing challenges in the landscape of financial planning and associations not only today but in the future.”
Right now the current timeline for the implementation of OneFPA Network is as follows with an additional comment period for the master services agreement and key performance indicators beginning on June 3:
AdvisorNews Managing Editor Cassie Miller may be reached at cassie.miller@Adnewsfeedback.com. Cassie has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. Follow her on Twitter @ANCassieM.