How American Psychological Association Got Nearly 100% Alignment on Strategy

Nonprofit strategy
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Can You Get Near 100% Alignment on a Nonprofit Strategy?
Here's How We Helped American Psychological Association Do It.

The American Psychological Association had to make a significant strategic shift — and get the membership aligned behind it. That was easier said than done. APA’s 133,000 members represent every aspect of the field — academics and practitioners from every specialty in psychology. 

Historically highly decentralized, APA operated in silos, sometimes with competing interests. Many members were distrustful of the staff and prone to second-guess them. 

At the same time, the last strategic plan was more than ten years old and had never effectively driven strategic decision-making. The association had adopted so many strategic priorities that it could not execute well on any of them. They needed to focus on a manageable number of strategic goals that would have the most impact on the mission. 

That meant a lot of things members cared about would not be prioritized. Yet it was imperative that the membership overwhelmingly agree with the plan.

The Board charged the transformational new CEO, Dr. Arthur Evans, with creating a strategic plan that would focus their efforts and that the entire organization would get behind.

How We Get Nonprofit Strategy Alignment

Sequence designed a fully transparent and highly inclusive process that brought members, governance, and staff into a genuine dialog about priorities and high-impact outcomes. We invited exhaustive member input, including:  

  • Frequent open conference calls with members to update them on the non profit strategy process and get their feedback
  • A series of online surveys to more than 30,000 psychologists 
  • Extensive one-on-one conversations with influencers from across the association
  • Frequent online updates on the plan’s progress with opportunities for members to respond

Real alignment requires a shared point of view. Therefore, we used objective evidence from outside the organization to help the organization converge on a common perspective. 

For example: 

  • In-depth interviews with thought leaders from peer associations, healthcare organizations, and public figures on the challenges and trends in the market.
  • Deep analysis of competitors and comparable organizations to uncover best practices and new opportunities for APA.

Through a series of carefully designed workshops with the Board and the executive team, they evolved a powerful nonprofit strategy together. As the final strategy took shape, we went to great lengths to socialize the plan widely with members, including sharing drafts of the actual plan in a series of conference calls open to all members. 

The final strategic plan refreshed the vision and mission for a new future. It narrowed dozens of potential priorities to four clear top-level goals with realistic plans, couched in inspirational language that resonated with psychologists

Near 100% Nonprofit Strategy Alignment

The Board unanimously approved the plan, which went to the membership for their vote. 96.4% of the membership approved, an unprecedented level of consensus in the history of APA.

In the words of CEO Arthur Evans, “Our results were phenomenal. It was massively successful.”

This overwhelming support was transformational in many ways for APA. But, most important was that it: 

  • Empowered the new CEO to execute his vision and make the difficult decisions with the organization’s full support.
  • Required the executive team and staff to work together across silos to achieve ambitious goals.
  • Allowed APA to “start stopping”– to not do things out of line with the plan and focus all the resources available on the strategy’s goals.  
  • Energized the membership around a strategic direction in which they took ownership.
  • Fueled sustained member growth of 4% per year, even through the COVID crisis

Click here to learn more about we help associations like APA achieve nonprofit strategy alignment.

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