By Marvo Reguindin, Executive Director
For long time members, the current state of Washington State Psychological Association must seem very concerning. Financial issues, staff turn around over the past several years, and a declining renewing membership have current members questioning the stability and value of WSPA. And yet, a core group of long time members who continue to support the Association because they believe in our mission and they want to continue to support the work of Dr. Lucy Homan’s our Director of Professional Affairs. These two reasons give me faith that with the new incoming board and my membership association experience that a renewed WSPA can be achieved.
Since taking over the management of WSPA in January, my staff and I have been in a mode of discovery and learning. What we have found is an organization that is well connected, full of potential, and is ready to turn a corner. The 2016 Board of Trustees have done a fine job setting the course of recovery and I am confident that going forward more Washington Psychologists will find membership in WSPA one of the best business and professional decisions they will make.
Over the past 12 months, my staff has begun making WSPA a membership organization again. Primarily by answering the phone and responding back to member emails quickly. In the beginning, many members were pleasantly surprised to hear a voice answer the phone or to receive an instant reply from an email request. My staff has been able to become proficient with WSPA’s cloud based membership application and began to implement cost saving changes such as converting monthly payments to quarterly payments to save on credit card fees. We have also restructured the online payment and donation process so that funds are deposited into separate accounts that has caused bookkeeping issues in the past.
With 2016 being an election year, we have helped WSPA’s PAC, United Psychologists Political Action Committee (UPPAC), update their banking structure, file proper election forms and distribute contributions to both parties and specific state legislator that will support mental health legislation.
One of the most important changes we have made is to begin hosting workshops in other regions of the state. As a statewide professional association it is important being present in Spokane and Vancouver as the first step in gaining higher visibility and recruiting new members. We will also begin collaborating on CE workshops with our sister Psych Association in Oregon based in Portland.
In the past few months, a new news-blast and news-blog (wapsych-news.org) was created with Early Career Psychologists in mind. Increased social media and strategic communications to members is also now in place. And, next year we hope to restructure the WSPA website to be easier to navigate.
Currently, years of WSPA office files are being restructured into an archive system. And, with new digital strategies in place, it’s important that we don’t lose site of the past. With the help of Dr. Diane DeWitt, the past 20 years of important WSPA information is being archived with the University of Washington. While some may not see the value of preserving our past, I urge you to think about how important online researching is today. If you don’t find past history online, it does not mean it did not happen, and it will be good to know that finding WSPA’s historical information means going old school through the University of Washington Archive Library.
This past August I attended the APA Council of Executives of Sate Provincial (and Territorial) Psychological Associations (CESPPA) in Denver and was honored to be asked to give a presentation on Branding, Value Statements and Membership Retention. And, recently I was honored again to learn that my name has come up several times to join the CESPPA Executive Committee, which I have agreed to do.
With all the great news, I cannot paint a totally rosy picture for 2016. Over the past 3 years, the the Association has operated at a loss and it was hoped that in 2016 we would break even. Instead we are ending the year at a -$15,750 loss; which is heading in the right direction at 55% less of a loss than 2015. A good portion of the loss in income comes from non-renewing members. Membership organizations with an active membership can expect 5 to 8% attrition from members retiring or moving out of state. I have reported in a Fall WP article that WSPA has been experiencing losses in renewing members over the past few years. Our latest report since the Fall WP shows we will have 60 fewer members in 2016 which equals a 12% loss in membership. With the new 2017 board, we will concentrate on gaining back lapsed members and gaining new members to build our membership back to the 480 members we had in 2014.
Next year WSPA celebrates 70 years and five years afterwards a historic 75 years. In 2017, I am looking forward to helping the new board and cultivating new board leadership, creating new initiatives, and begin increasing WSPA’s membership leading up to a Diamond year celebration.