Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation (CGPA): Strategic Planning for Membership Growth and Long-Term Sustainability

Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation (CGPA), formerly Canadian Group Psychotherapy Association, is a national association of group psychotherapists providing education and training for mental health professionals in group psychotherapy across Canada. CGPA engaged Endeavour to help determine how it could reverse a decline in membership and ensure the organization’s long-term sustainability. Through market research and stakeholder surveys and interviews, Endeavour provided insights that led CGPA to refine its vision and mission. Working closely with the client, Endeavour developed a strategic framework and recommendations to streamline operations and offer more membership services to help CGPA grow and achieve long-term sustainability.

About the Client

Founded in 1980, Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation (CGPA) is a multidisciplinary association of group psychotherapists who work together to provide education and training for mental health professionals in group psychotherapy across Canada. CGPA aims to encourage research in group psychotherapy, to set national standards for quality in training, practice, and research, and to gather Canadian group psychotherapists from various disciplines in a spirit of professional development and mutual learning.

“The consultation process was a highly collaborative and constructive one that allowed us to access the varied and valuable knowledge and experience of our excellent consulting team… Through our work with them we were able to develop and begin refining a strategic plan for a sustainable future.”

Terry Simonik, President, Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation (CGPA)

The Need

As a national non-profit organization committed to promoting awareness and education about the value of group therapy approaches, CGPA had arrived at a pivotal point in its narrative where it needed to make some critical decisions about its future. Much had changed in the 31 years since CGPA first began and it was time to reflect on its accomplishments and chart a clear course for the future.

In addition, the organization was struggling with the following challenges:

  • Lack of clarity with the organization’s vision and mission
  • Declining membership and financial resources
  • Difficulties in retaining members and volunteers

CGPA’s primary goal in the consulting process was to work collaboratively with the Endeavour team on developing a strategic plan that would ensure the long-term sustainability of CGPA.

The Project

The Endeavour consulting engagement focused on the following deliverables:

  • Recommendations on potential revisions and refinement to CGPA’s vision and mission
  • A comprehensive review of the current mission and objectives of the CGPA and how they relate to its membership base and the community it serves
  • An implementation strategy for recruiting, retaining and engaging members and volunteers

The Work

The Endeavour consulting team developed a methodology that was broken down into four phases: Gather; Synthesize; Confirm; and Recommend. The team’s work and key insights from each phase are described in more detail below.

1 – Gather

In the first phase, the Endeavour team carried out an internal scan of the organization through interviews and data collection, as well as an external scan of CGPA’s landscape and other organizations, including trade associations and training institutes. A member and non-member survey was also conducted to learn more about the profile of CGPA’s market.

Key insights gathered from the research included the following strengths of CGPA:

  • CGPA is the only Canadian organization with a mandate specific to group therapy and processes
  • The association has a long-standing membership base
  • Conference and networking opportunities are extremely well received and valuable to CGPA members
  • Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool for recruitment
  • 81 percent of current membership is satisfied with the value of CGPA membership

The following findings were also identified as opportunities for CGPA:

  • It is complicated to become a member and benefits of membership are not well defined
  • CGPA is not well known outside of the membership
  • A large number of members do not pay member fees
  • The association is lacking relevance to new professionals
  • Students represent a vibrant and untapped resource
  • Members want more exclusive benefits, training and education opportunities

2 – Synthesize

Phase 2 of the engagement focused on the refinement of CGPA’s vision, mission and goals, and the development of preliminary recommendations based on the research gathered in the first phase. The challenge with the organization’s existing mission and vision was the lack of clarity regarding how CGPA could best achieve its mandate in the current context and future context. Based on survey results, research findings and key insights gathered from the first phase, the Endeavour consulting team defined key elements for CGPA’s vision, mission and goals.

3 – Confirm

In Phase 3, the Endeavour consulting team worked with the client to create the final vision, mission and goals, and prioritize and confirm recommendations.

The final vision and mission statements that guide CGPA’s strategic planning and directions were confirmed as follows:

  • Vision: We will create public awareness about the merits of group processes and therapy in Canada, and become the primary resource for expertise, education and networking in the field.
  • Mission: To provide Canada-wide accessible expertise, education and networking resources to students and professionals interested in group processes and therapy.
  • Goals: Create an open environment and act as a central communication source providing:
    • Educational training programs and networking conferences pertaining to group therapy and processes.
    • Networking, mentorship and communication forums for open discussions on group therapy and processes.
    • An online hub for resources and discussions on current practices in group therapy and processes.
    • A bridge to universities, residencies, health centres and hospitals to educate about the value of group therapy and processes.

4 – Recommend

In Phase 4, different strategic options were identified and evaluated based on their value to members and the level of investment required. Based on the results of the assessment, the final phase of the engagement focused on the creation of a strategic framework, the refinement of recommendations, the development of an implementation plan and financial assessments.

The Recommendation


Members of the Endeavour consulting team with Jackie Kinley, incoming President, and Terry Simonik, outgoing President, of CGPA.

Working closely with the client, Endeavour developed a strategic framework and recommendations to streamline operations and offer more membership services to help CGPA grow and achieve long-term sustainability. A phased implementation plan was recommended and an assessment of the financial implications of Phase 1 was also provided

Strategic Framework

The strategic framework centres around education, networking and advocacy to create value for CGPA’s membership. Within each of these components are three areas of focus:

  • Education: national conference; national standards and training program; and hospital affiliation for training
  • Networking: enhanced student focus; mentorship program; and revitalized local sections
  • Advocacy: relationships with hospitals and universities; consultancy services; and public education

Within the strategic framework, a combination of partnerships, technology, business processes and marketing serves as the foundation to support the delivery of education, networking and advocacy.

“Volunteering with Endeavour and CGPA was a fantastic experience. I was looking for a short-term opportunity to volunteer with an organization in my industry that would benefit from my skills. I didn’t imagine that I would learn so much, meet so many great people or develop so many new skills. The passion, energy and commitment displayed by the CGPA executive was truly inspiring. Congratulations to everyone involved in this exceptional engagement.”

Christine Gordon, MBA, MSc, BPHE
Project Manager, Corporate Planning, St. Michael’s Hospital

Phase 1 Strategic Recommendations: Build the Base

Phase 1 recommendations focus on building CGPA’s base over 18 months, and consist of five strategies.

1. Recruit Students

At the time of the Endeavour engagement, CGPA had only one student member. Students had expressed interest in being mentored, and research indicated that few other psychotherapy organizations were targeting students. Recruiting students would bring fresh ideas and additional volunteer hours to assist an already stretched executive committee. It would also allow CGPA to teach the value of group therapy to students, and engage students with the organization at an early stage in their career.

2. Establish a Mentorship Program

Survey results showed that both students and seasoned professionals were interested in a mentorship program. A mentorship program also builds on CGPA’s strengths in networking and supports the focus on student recruitment. It would also be a method for CGPA to provide training and networking before establishing a formal training program.

3. Hire an Association Management Company

Given that CGPA has no full-time staff, outsourcing administrative work to an association management company would allow CGPA’s leadership to focus more time on program development, membership growth and enhanced member communications. Three external service providers to manage web, accounting and conference functions were recommended for CGPA.

4. Create Online Tools and Resources

Endeavour’s research found that members wanted exclusive online tools and resources related to group processes – training materials, news, latest research, interactive media, and a database of members and professionals. With membership spread across Canada, including members that cannot afford to travel to attend conferences, online tools and resources would help to increase member engagement, and provide more networking and flexible learning opportunities.

5. Redesign Membership Process

Endeavour recommended a redesigned membership process to improve the collection of membership dues, free up valuable volunteer hours and generate additional revenue. Findings showed that members were discouraged by the lengthy and demanding membership process, which also deter non-members from joining. In addition to an online payment process and simplified documentation, a three-tiered fee system (associate member, member, student Member) was recommended along with a “general” membership category for consideration.

Phase 2 and 3 Strategic Recommendations: Enhance Value and Achieve Mission

Phase 2 and 3 recommendations focus on ensuring CGPA’s long-term sustainability. Once CGPA has executed on the recommendations from Phase 1 with results, Endeavour recommended implementing Phase 2 strategies. Phase 2 aims at enhancing value over the longer term through launching a national training program; setting standards for quality in training, practice and research; introducing an institutional membership category; and establishing partnerships that would allow CGPA to invest in new programs and services for members. To achieve CGPA’s vision and mission in the long term, Endeavour recommended Phase 3 strategies that focus on advocacy, expansion to all group therapy and processes, hospital affiliation for training, local sections, and consultancy.

To help CGPA get started, Endeavour provided a simple guide to implementing the recommendations from Phase 1 and an assessment of the financial implications of Phase 1 strategies.

The Impact

CGPA is currently in the thick of transformative change and implementing Endeavour’s recommendations. Endeavour followed up with Terry Simonik, President of CGPA during the consulting project, six months and one year post-engagement to learn about the impact of working with Endeavour.

Endeavour: What is your overall impression with your engagement with Endeavour?

CGPA: “Our association was very fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to work with Endeavour Volunteer Consulting for Non-Profits. The consultation process was a highly collaborative and constructive one that allowed us to access the varied and valuable knowledge and experience of our excellent consulting team. The consultation process offered us a very valuable opportunity to reflect, gather relevant information and advice and plan for the future.

Through our work with them we were able to develop and begin refining a strategic plan for a sustainable future. The research provided by our team was most valuable and was not something that we could have accessed on our own. It has helped us to develop clarity regarding our future plans and make decisions about what can realistically be accomplished and in what order. We are very grateful for their assistance and would recommend them without reservation to other non-profit associations who are facing the complex challenges of working in the rapidly changing context which is the modern world of non-profits.”

Endeavour: What results have you seen or expect to see after implementing the recommendations?

CGPA: “We are gradually implementing all of Endeavour’s recommendations. We have been utilizing a working group model to develop our member services and in particular have made progress with our national training program initiative. Our plan is to launch the new national training format at the 2013 conference in Winnipeg next spring.

Our association has also undertaken a process of major structural change. At our 2011 AGM, we adopted a completely new set of bylaws and approved a plan to simplify its governance structure. The new bylaws outline a much simplified membership process and other changes that align with our strategic plan. At the AGM, we also elected a transitional board of directors who are currently guiding the association through this change and will assist with the election and orientation of a new board of directors in 2013.

We are also currently in talks to hire an association management firm (another recommendation of Endeavour) and hope to have this arrangement firmly in place before the new year.

We anticipate that the implementation of the recommendations that we received from Endeavour will help our association to achieve our goal of long-term sustainability. Streamlining our operations and offering more member services will allow us to grow and successfully achieve our mandate. We will also be much better prepared to navigate the rapidly changing and technologically demanding world of modern non-profits.

There is no question that working with Endeavour was a catalyst that proved immensely helpful in this process of transformative change. The Endeavour consultants helped our group to take a step back and assess our situation and then begin to set priorities thereby creating a road map for the desired changes. The support and guidance of our Endeavour team also resulted in a reinvigoration of our volunteers and our energy and optimism as a not-for-profit association has definitely been boosted!

So once again, our sincere thanks to our Endeavour consulting team. We’re hoping that once we’ve completed the current process of implementing their recommendations and we’re ready to launch our new member services, we’ll be able to “come back for more” assistance, perhaps with our marketing strategy.

One last change to report – we went to our members to ask about whether we should change our name and after a lively and interactive exchange, it was decided that we’d keep the acronym CGPA but add a descriptive tag line: Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation. A new name, a new day. Successful transformation is underway!”

Endeavour: What impact do you expect on the community from the results?

CGPA: “We anticipate that we will have a heightened impact nationally in our efforts to promote the value of group therapy and offer quality educational programs for group therapists.”

As a token of gratitude for Endeavour’s assistance, the CGPA membership also voted at the association’s AGM to make a donation to support Endeavour in continuing to provide volunteer consulting to help non-profit organizations improve their impact in the community.

The Consulting Team

he Endeavour team working on the CGPA consulting engagement was made up of professionals from various indus­tries. The co-advisors for the project were Sarah Farrugia and George Oliver who brought complementary skills and experiences from their work in industry and consulting in both the private and non-profit sectors, including at Bain & Company, The Bridgespan Group, CBC Radio and IBM Canada.

Engagement Manager

Suthan Sukumar, BEng, PEng, PMP, Manager, Strategy – Product and User Experience, Rogers Communications, MBA Candidate 2011, Rotman School of Management


Cale Dann, BSc, MSc Candidate 2010, University of Toronto
Christine Gordon, MBA, MSc, BPHE, Project Manager, Corporate Planning, St. Michael’s Hospital
Doris Kimutai, MS, BS, Corporate Performance Analyst, Mount Sinai Hospital
Elizabeth Lee, MSW, BA, Social Worker, Woodgreen Community Services
Sherif Masood, MBA, BEng, Investment Analyst – Portfolio Management, Oxford Properties Group
Marina Tran-Vu, Bcom, Media Planning Assistant, Cossette Communications

Project Advisors

Sarah Farrugia, Director, Value Creation, Bell Canada
George Oliver, President, BGO Consulting

Contributing Writers and Editors

Lucie Drabinova, Director, Client Relations, Endeavour
Judith Lau, Director, Evaluation, Endeavour
Terry Simonik, President, Group Therapy, Group Training, Group Facilitation (CGPA)
Andrea Wong, President, Endeavour

Back to Case Studies