Strategic Breakthrough: How APA Achieved 25% Growth & Beyond

Nonprofit Strategic Planning
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American Psychological Association 1

The American Psychological Association (APA), which represents over 146,000 psychologists across the United States, is a leading organization dedicated to advancing the science and practice of psychology. However, the APA faced a period of stagnation, highlighting the importance of well-crafted nonprofit strategic planning. Membership numbers had plateaued, and revenue growth had stalled. 

The culprit? An outdated strategic plan that lacked clear focus and direction. The plan, in place for over a decade, had led to a proliferation of competing priorities, making it difficult for the APA to achieve any of them effectively.

Adding to the challenge was a sense of disconnect between the APA leadership and its members. Many psychologists felt skeptical of the organization’s direction and questioned decision-making processes.

A New Vision, a New Approach to Nonprofit Strategic Planning

Building Consensus Through Engagement

Recognizing the need for change, the APA Board appointed Dr. Arthur Evans, a leader with a proven track record of successful transformation. Dr. Evans and Chief Strategy and Membership Officer Ian King partnered with Sequence Consulting to develop a new nonprofit strategic plan built on transparency, collaboration, and data-driven decision-making.

Sequence Consulting, in collaboration with the APA, fostered a culture of open communication. Regular conference calls kept members informed of the ongoing nonprofit strategic planning process and provided opportunities for feedback. 

Over 30,000 psychologists participated in online surveys, offering valuable insights into their priorities for the organization. Additionally, in-depth discussions were held with influential members from various areas of psychology, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of diverse perspectives.


To accomplish this, we:

Leveraging Data for Strategic Alignment

Objective data played a crucial role in unifying the organization. Sequence Consulting conducted in-depth interviews with thought leaders from peer associations, healthcare organizations, and public figures. These discussions revealed vital challenges and trends within the psychology field, informing the development of the nonprofit strategic plan. Additionally, competitor analysis identified best practices and uncovered new opportunities for the APA.

The Board and executive team actively participated in workshops designed to shape the strategic direction. Drafts of the evolving plan were shared widely with members, and conference calls facilitated open discussions and feedback. This level of transparency fostered trust and a sense of ownership among the members of the nonprofit strategic plan.

Streamlining Priorities, Achieving Results

The new nonprofit strategic plan represented a significant shift. Numerous potential priorities were streamlined into four clear, achievable goals that resonated with the professional aspirations of psychologists. The plan empowered the APA to make difficult decisions by establishing a framework for prioritizing activities aligned with the new strategic direction. This meant “start-stopping” – ceasing activities that did not contribute to the core goals.

The impact was immediate. The newly energized membership overwhelmingly approved the plan, with a record-breaking 96.4% voting in favor. This vote of confidence provided Dr. Evans with the full backing of the organization to execute his vision, as outlined in the nonprofit strategic plan.

Growth and Resilience: A Testament to the Nonprofit Strategic Plan

The APA’s strategic transformation resulted in significant membership growth and financial stability, demonstrating the increased value the organization now provides to its members.

    • Impressive Results: The nonprofit’s strategic planning transformation has led to remarkable outcomes, including a 25% growth in membership and a steady 4.5% annual increase.
    • Robust Growth: This surge in membership represents the most significant growth the organization has experienced in many years.
    • Resilient Finances: The APA maintained consistent revenue growth (around 4.5% annually), even amidst the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Demonstrated Value: This success showcases the increased value the APA now delivers to its members.
    • Attracting and Retaining Members The strategic changes have likely resulted in improved services, more relevant resources, or a stronger sense of community – all factors that draw in and keep members engaged.

Beyond the Numbers: A Renewed Association

The benefits of the new nonprofit strategic plan extend beyond membership and revenue figures. Psychologists now have a clearer understanding of the APA’s direction and its commitment to serving their needs. 

The collaborative approach to nonprofit strategic planning has fostered a sense of ownership and engagement among members. The APA is now a more efficient and adaptable organization, well-positioned to address the evolving needs of the psychology field.

Key Takeaways for Nonprofit Strategic Planning

The APA’s success story offers valuable insights for other nonprofits facing similar challenges. A transparent, data-driven approach to nonprofit strategic planning and genuine member engagement can lead to a more focused and successful organization. By prioritizing clear goals and streamlining activities through a well-crafted nonprofit strategic plan, nonprofits can achieve sustainable growth and better serve their constituents.

To read more about transformational nonprofit strategic planning, please see: Non Profit Strategy: 3 Signs Your Non Profit Needs to Start Stopping.

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