Numerous times I have been asked, “Why is AAMFT making so many changes?”
When I became CEO, one of my first tasks was to assess the health of AAMFT with staff and consultants (financial, association management, and legal). While overall AAMFT’s health was very good, there were areas that suggested action was needed to assist in our continued long- term health. For example, our dues dependency was extremely high at 72%; the benchmark for associations similar in size to AAMFT was at the time 35%. Knowing that AAMFT was sitting on a very large retirement bubble, having such a high dues dependency was understandably alarming. Changes needed to be made to decrease dues dependency. Since these efforts were initiated, AAMFT has lowered our dues dependency to 57%; while we are still facing a retirement bubble burst, and I would like to see this dependency even lower, the progress is vital to our future stability.
Another necessary change to continue the positive health of AAMFT was creating mechanisms to access member expertise while also addressing the challenges identified in the preceding years related to our less than optimal geographic structure. Associations had already began making a gradual organizing structural shift from geography to content. To remain relevant, and give us the ability to access member expertise, AAMFT needed to embrace this trend towards a structure based on content – Interest Networks. For example, Integrated Health or Military Personnel and Families are areas that AAMFT needed content for advocacy work. Combining this need with the alarming rate at which the divisions were experiencing managerial challenges and volunteer burnout, precipitated the need for changes in our structure – a bylaws change. Already we have over 10,000 members participating in engagement programs including our nine new content driven networks to feature along with our geographic networks and Family TEAM.
Moving on to membership categories. AAMFT’s Clinical Fellow membership category is coupled to licensure which makes it very USA-centric, places a ceiling on the potential membership numbers, and acts as a barrier to those seeking membership outside of the USA. As our COAMFTE programs continue to graduate students that move out of the USA and often return to a country of origin, AAMFT had little ability to provide a membership path. Additionally, having five membership categories was complicated and appeared that AAMFT was trying to “keep others out” through this complexity. Simplifying our membership categories provides AAMFT opportunity to create a much more inclusive organization. Again however, these changes necessitate a Bylaws vote.
To try to identify how to stay relevant and current in today’s association landscape, and why so many of our changes necessitated taking action on changing Bylaws, we met with a number of association parliamentarians and consultants. We learned that other associations were experiencing the same challenges. To address the challenges associations were working towards simplifying bylaws to make them more evergreen - providing their association with the ability to meet the rapidly changing business landscape. AAMFT had the choice of making a wholesale change to the bylaws (without context) with a single change or to proceed in a methodical manner that provided members the ability to walk in step with these important changes as they are being introduced and executed. We opted for the latter using these changes as an opportunity to have important conversations with members about the challenges our association was facing and utilizing task forces and steering committees of members to help generate solutions that kept our systemic perspective and profession first and foremost.
In short, for AAMFT’s long-term sustainability, and to be positioned for growth, AAMFT needs to make changes that capitalize on the changing association demographics, stakeholders, and needs. The roll-out of these changes has been thoughtful, purposeful, and done with a very close eye on unintended consequences as well as capitalizing on new opportunities. For these reasons, and more, the AAMFT Board is seeking member support for the proposed bylaws change. If you have not yet voted, please check your email (or spam email) for the link or visit our voting website here and express your leadership voice by voting in support of the bylaws.