Following the Impulse of Gratitude

Written by Shawn Mai, ACPE Board Chair

In a world filled with pain and suffering, it can be easy for all of us to become overwhelmed by the darkness that surrounds us.  From the violence of war, the devastating effects of global warming, the ongoing struggles of poverty, inequity and inequality, it is undeniable that there is much to grieve and lament.

Amidst these challenges it is crucial to remember the power of gratitude.  I write this to you in this month of Thanksgiving, a season that lays in front of us the practice of gratitude.    The weight of the tragedies and conflicts can overshadow our ability to find gratitude amidst the chaos.  However, it is precisely in these moments of struggle that the power of gratitude becomes even more crucial.  Gratitude does not dismiss or diminish the pain and suffering; instead, it offers a glimmer of hope, a reminder of the resilience of the human spirit.  It is through gratitude that we can find solace, strength, and the determination to work towards healing, unity, and a better future.  Despite the challenges, cultivating gratitude becomes an act of defiance against despair.

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received.  Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling.  Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”- Howard Thurman

I share with you the Thurman quote because it captures the essence of gratitude and its connection to effective leadership. In mid-November the ACPE Board of Directors, the Accreditation Commission, and Certification Commission will be meeting to do the business of ACPE.   Thurman emphasizes that gratitude is not just a feeling but also an impulse to express that feeling.  As an association, when we cultivate gratitude and express it towards our colleagues it fosters a positive and inclusive environment where people feel valued and motivated.  This, in turn, inspires trust, loyalty, and commitment, leading to effective leadership and a thriving association.

Daily I feel gratitude and awe about all the members who do the business of ACPE.  There are literally hundreds of members who do the work of accreditation, certification, psychotherapy development, ACPE’s international work, research to further the depth and understanding of our work, curriculum development, and advocacy, to name a few. 

Mid-November, members will give of their time and talent to accomplish the work of ACPE.  Here are some pieces of that work.


Jonanthan Ball, our secretary and treasurer of the ACPE Board shared this information regarding our finances:

It is budget season in ACPE, and as in all non-profits, our budget reflects our values and priorities as an association. We have much to be proud of in ACPE as we lead the field of spiritual care and education. We know how important our work is to our communities as we strive to live into our mission “to positively affect people’s lives by nurturing connections to the sacred through experiential education and spiritual care.”

In November the Board of Directors will review and approve a budget that will frame our operations for the coming fiscal year. Following our longstanding process, the Finance Committee will send a recommended budget to the board. The board will review, debate, and ultimately approve the operating budget. Many staff and finance committee hours go into developing the budget and I am grateful for everyone’s work on this.

Once the budget is approved by the board, it will be published and available to all of our members. Budgets, though, are not an easy document to fully comprehend due to the many “intangible” expenses that are incurred by an association like ours, so naturally, many of us are less fluent in reading finance documents than we are in reading ancient religious texts!

A big question that is asked every year is, “Where do my membership dues, unit fees, and donations go in ACPE?”

Here are some of the costs ACPE incurs in operating as a nonprofit association:

The basic costs of running ACPE include:

  • Technology Infrastructure (hardware and software), as our technology is the backbone of our databases, communications with our membership, our certification processes, and our accreditation processes.
  • Insurance, we are covered in a sensible way against the unexpected.
  • General Legal Support, for our business needs we often need the support of lawyers to help us do our work wisely and legally.
  • Annual Audit, as a non-profit our annual audit is our financial health checkup that helps prevent waste, fraud, and guarantees accuracy of our financial transparency.
  • Staff salaries, we love our staff and appreciate their vital work in the organization. In addition, we know that many volunteers contribute many hours to the association and for that we are grateful.


        Then, there are costs that are unique to our association, and associations like ACPE, that we  incur due to the nature of our work:

  • Legal Fees for Ethics complaints
  • Site Visit Costs for Accreditation
  • Leadership Meeting Costs (Airfare, Lodging, and Meals)
  • Sevis-International Student Visa Fees
  • Annual Conference costs that exceed registration revenue
  • Dues to professional associations
  • Record Retention Storage
  • Supplementing Community of Practice gatherings


To provide a bit of historical context, in 2019 our budgeted revenue was $3,156,406 with an intentional allocation from the foundation’s endowment interest of $190,000 to create a balanced budget. Today, in 2024 our budgeted revenue is $3,169,379 with $0 from the Foundation because those funds now support our grant programs. Our revenue is consistent because other than adjusting student unit rates to a single, nationwide rate, we have not increased dues, fees, and other rates.

Since 2019, inflation has climbed 20.39%. This means what we could buy for $1 in 2019 today would cost us $1.20. In 2019 our budget was $3,397,000. If we were to make the same budget today it would cost us $4,089,648.30. However, the stark reality is that our anticipated revenue is $3,169,379 not $4,089,648, which would leave us with a projected deficit of $920, 269—a financial model that is not sustainable.

As a result, this year’s budget will have some cost-cutting in it. The budget being sent to the board also includes a substantial draw on reserve funds that we built up in the years of the pandemic when we could not travel. The caveat, however, is that the practice of drawing on reserve funds for normal operating functions is not sustainable. With this in mind, the Finance Committee is advising the Board of Directors to plan for a multi-year process of seeking more efficient practices and spending (where possible) and to begin to increase revenue by raising fees to account for inflation. The finance committee’s recommendation is to raise fees in a manner that allows for programs to budget and plan for increases in 2025 and beyond, with no increases of membership dues or program fees planned for 2024. We believe that moving to a multi-year planning process will allow not only allow our programs the opportunity to budget properly, but also allow for our strategic planning process to help guide us in how we live into our mission and values through our budget.

As a finance committee and as the board of directors, we know well the value of the work that we do and the importance of a financially strong ACPE in the field of spiritual care.  Together, we look forward to a bright and sustainable future.



To build on my earlier update, the Search Committee is diligently continuing its work and completed a first round of potential candidates in early October.  These interviews were done by Zoom and our next step is to do face-to-face interviews with a small group of successful candidates in November.  The Committee is committed to getting the right, best candidate for the position.  When the best candidate has been identified, the Committee will make a hiring recommendation to the Board.  At that point, the Board would be in a position to interview the selected candidate and offer them the position.  The Committee hopes to be able to make a recommendation to the Board by the December meeting. 


Here’s a quick update on the strategic planning process.  The four work groups (ACPE’s place in the larger eco-system of spiritual care and education, member experience, member development, and a greater integration of the psychotherapists into ACPE) have continued to work with Onuka Ibe, our consultant, to finalize a draft of the strategic plan to go to the ACPE Board of Directors.

I appreciate your unwavering dedication to your practice, compassion, and commitment to the work of spiritual care and education.  I look forward to continuing that journey together as we strive to contribute to the healing that is so needed in this world today.  Hold close your loved ones and all that is dear as you enter into this season of Thanksgiving.

With gratitude,

Shawn Mai