OneFPA frees up chapters

The Financial Planning Association's move to relieve its chapters of many operational responsibilities will allow them to focus on delivering an exceptional experience for members

Dec 12, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

By George Fernandez

As a single chapter of the Financial Planning Association, the FPA of Greater Kansas City is like many businesses our members represent. We are a separate legal entity affiliated with a larger national organization. We have our own by-laws and accounting systems, arrange for our own technology, find our own sponsors, develop our own content to share, and find and train our own volunteers. Although we are part of a larger association, at most, what we share is the name — FPA.

Programming and delivering an exceptional member experience will always be our responsibility, but imagine if many of the day-to-day functional and operational requirements of running a chapter were lifted from our plate so we could focus more on delivering this experience for our members.

That's the news we received from our national association on Nov. 2.

A significant effort, called the OneFPA Network, is under way to align and integrate the association at all levels so we all can focus on what we do best! Doing so will allow us the opportunity to take that bold step of leveraging the power of all of us as we take the next step in truly elevating the financial planning profession.

The new operational efficiencies include the following four pillars: 1) participatory governance, 2) accounting and finance, 3) technology and 4) staffing.

With regard to participatory governance, it is understood that input from all chapters throughout the year will be paramount for the association's evolutionary growth. As in the past, the association has always placed high regard in the experience and ideas that flow at the chapter level.

With the formalization of a OneFPA Council, every chapter and the broader FPA community will have an opportunity to share in the strategic direction-setting of the association.

For our chapter, participatory governance will mean that we'll have an active voice in the evolution of the FPA (and the greater financial planning profession) today and into the future. Moreover, it will be a unified voice across the association.

Two of the other pillars that have required significant effort at the chapter level are accounting and finance, and technology, such as CRM, reporting systems or websites.

Today, there are 89 legal entities across the country. With that comes 89 different accounting and finance systems, along with meeting registration systems, websites, CRM systems, etc. And none of the systems can speak to one another or to the national association, so it's not possible to understand underlying trends for the chapters or the association as a whole. As a result, when a board member in one area wants to understand if his or her budget or membership trend is similar to another chapter's, the national association can provide only anecdotal support at best.

For our chapter, centralizing accounting and finance and having a client management system designed to provide meaningful data will allow us to improve our outreach to members locally and potentially reduce the burden for incoming board members, thus allowing for consistency from one board year to the next. There are also some potential cost savings associated with centralizing certain back-office functions, which would allow our chapter to reallocate funds to enhance the member experience.

The final pillar, staffing, will roll all staff management activities up to the national association, reducing the current day-to-day management by our rotating volunteer board members. This will provide a tremendous opportunity for this role to become more synchronized with national FPA activities, including, but not limited to, promoting local chapter activities, assisting with onboarding and training of new board members and taking a more active role in enhancing the member experience.

Our chapter views the chapter executive as one of our most important resources because this role carries the year-to-year institutional knowledge we must rely upon to manage the chapter. With staff management being centralized, the continuity from one board year to the next will be enhanced. With an HR department managing chapter executives' training and development, our current and future board members will be able to focus their attention on our member experience and on elevating the profession.

Although all these structural enhancements are important, what excites me most about this evolution of the FPA is the idea that we'll have OneVision and OneVoice centered on FPA's primary aim: to elevate the profession that transforms lives through the power of financial planning. This is our "why" as an association, and it has tremendous power for the profession.

The OneFPA Network is our "how" as we work to realize our primary aim together. With OneVision, One Voice and OneFPA, imagine the work we'll accomplish together!

(More: FPA welcomes conference attendees with #MeToo notice)

George Fernandez is the president of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City and a financial planning veteran of nearly 19 years.


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