Understanding Different Advisor Membership Organizations – and Where You Can Find The Right Advisor For You

Financial advisors can belong to many different types of membership organizations. These organizations serve several purposes:

  1. They offer advisors resources to enhance their services and continue their education. 
  2. They create an advisor community that allows advisors to share ideas to improve their services and add extra value for their clients. 
  3. They often have a “find an advisor” tool that helps consumers find a financial planner who meets their needs.

Today, we want to review a few organizations Wood Smith Advisors personally advocates for, and how you can leverage them to find the right planner for you.


The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is one of the most acclaimed organizations for financial professionals. To be an AICPA member, advisors must:

  1. Be a Certified Public Accountant
  2. Adhere to a code of professional ethics 
  3. Adhere to a professional code of conduct 
  4. Agree to abide by the AICPA bylaws
  5. Complete 120 hours of continuing education every three years

CPAs are considered the most trusted financial advisors consumers can choose to partner with. Their rigorous certification, continuing education and ethics requirements ensure that you’re getting the best possible guidance available. Although CPAs are typically associated with accounting and taxes, they can specialize in many areas along with the knowledge gained in those core areas. In addition to being a CPA, Donna Wood also holds her PFS credential (a specialized personal financial planning and wealth management credential only available to CPAs). 


The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors has a national presence and holds their members to very high standards

To be a NAPFA member, advisors must be: 

  • A Certified Financial Planner Professional (™)
  • Fee-only, no products or services provided for commissions
  • Act as a Fiduciary, providing services in clients’ best interests
  • Prompt in notifying NAPFA of any disciplinary or legal events against them or their firm

NAPFA is a fantastic first place for consumers to look for an advisor because their “Find An Advisor” tool allows you to search by location and because all NAPFA members are true fee-only advisors. In other words, when you work with them, your engagement will be defined and fees transparent. NAPFA clearly communicates the services an advisor offers, where they’re located, whether they have a focused niche that they work with, and whether or not they have any investable asset minimums. 

CFP Board

The CFP® Board houses one of the most prestigious certifications in the financial advisor profession. To be a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, advisors must pass a rigorous certification exam and maintain their continuing education credits each year after they are certified. This ensures that the advisor you partner with both has an extensive education in financial planning, and is continuing to enhance their skillset every year. 

You can see Donna Wood’s profile on the CFP website by clicking here.   

When you’re looking for a financial advisor, it’s wise to look for someone who is either CPA and/or NAPFA member, which ensures they also have their CFP® certification.  

Looking For An Advisor?

Prospective clients can leverage the Fee-Only Network, an online advisor search engine, to find an advisor near them, although any advisor can work with clients throughout the US. The Fee-Only Network is a community and resource for advisors with one clear mission – to raise the visibility of fee-only financial planners on a national scale. There are many advisors out there who aren’t fee-only. 

You can see Donna Wood’s profile on the Fee Only Network here. 

Even if you aren’t using a “find an advisor” search engine to seek a financial planner who meets your needs, you can always look for designations that describe what they do! 

For example, the CFP Board offers the CFP® designation. However, there are hundreds of other designations out there that may focus on specific categories of financial and investment planning.  

Need Help In Your Search?

The team at Wood Smith Advisors is always happy to help. Our goal is to ensure that you find a financial advisor who meets your unique needs. Whether you have questions about different designations or want to know more about the membership organizations we belong to, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us today by clicking here.

Wood Smith Advisors, a woman-owned Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), is a fee-only financial services firm that partners with its clients to simplify their financial lives. We focus on women, entrepreneurs, and individuals with complex financial situations, providing objective and competent advice, education and services to help them develop and build their businesses and reach their financial goals. We can be reached by clicking here.

"Finance Made Simple" blog posts are intended for educational purposes and not for specific advice. Each person’s situation is different. Consult your financial advisor for advice relating to topics discussed.

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