CPA societies in Illinois and Virginia provided the impetus for firms and individuals nationwide to take part in a day of service on September 24, the CPA Day of Service. The event not only helps worthy local organizations, but also highlights the contributions made by CPAs.
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Individual CPAs and firms plan their own day of service, selecting the organizations where they will volunteer, and the state societies promote the event, provide T-shirts, buttons, a registration site, and help with publicity.
For Sara Mikuta, chairman of the Illinois Society of CPAs (ICPAS), the first CPAs Day of Service was an opportunity for Illinois CPAs to join together and serve their communities as a profession, and be recognized by the general public.
“CPAs give back a lot. This is who we are and who we have always been. I want the public to know that we are out there, not just helping people with their finances, but in many ways," Mikuta told AccountingWEB. "We are willing to do what is needed. We will do it again.”
More than 600 volunteers in Virginia wearing electric green T-shirts supplied by the Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA) also participated. Their shirts proclaimed, “I’m a CPA Day of Service Volunteer.”
“CPAs’ commitment to public service will always be a cornerstone of our profession,” said Elsie Rose, principal at Yount, Hyde & Barbour in Glen Allen, Virginia. “Our focus on community is something we share not only with our other Virginia office locations, but with our fellow CPAs across the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The offices of Yount, Hyde & Barbour, P.C., held a food drive for the Central Virginia Food Bank, served lunch at Manna Ministry, and raised funds for the March of Dimes Walk for Babies.
“Our support of the Central Virginia Food Bank is an easy way to make a dramatic difference in the health and comfort of families in our community, where the need for food is very great,” Rose said. “This year we also included donations of pet food as so many of us know how important animals are in our lives. We wanted to help ensure people and their pets were cared for. It was a great time for all of us. We are still talking about it.”
ICPAS decided to sponsor the CPA Day of Service for the first time this year, in part, because “when the we conducted a survey of our members about community service and volunteer programs, we found that many said they were looking for opportunities that were not necessarily accounting related, and they did not want to favor one organization over another,” Jill Wiles Wolf, ICPAS public service manager, told AccountingWEB. “They wanted to be able to choose what they would be doing. The CPA Day of Service is a flexible opportunity for firms, companies, and individuals across Illinois to help people in their own communities.”
Elaine Weiss, ICPAS president and CEO, and Mikuta promoted the idea of a statewide day of service in a keynote speech at an ICPAS Accounting and Technology Event. Mikuta, who likes to speak in terms of “giving it forward,” said that “our young CPAs and others recruited participants at Town Hall forums downstate and at other events. Firms were registering until the very last day.”
Wolf said that the society began publicizing the CPA Day of Service in early June on all-member e-mail messages and sent out flyers and buttons with the date.
“We set up a registration page on our Web site where each participant listed the organization they would be helping or the type of service they would be performing,” she said.
More than 900 Illinois CPAs participated in a huge variety of activities, wearing black CPA Day of Service T-shirts. Mikuta, a CPA in industry, helped with bookkeeping at a women’s shelter “because I knew they had not been able to keep up.”
The CPA Day of Service program encouraged firms throughout Illinois and Virginia to showcase their community participation, often within the context of their professional involvement with the non-profit community.
“We provide professional services to the not-for-profit community all year,” said Andrew Lotts, partner at CJBS, LLC, in Northbrook, Illinois. “The CPA Day of Service was a great opportunity for the firm to give something back on a more personal level.”
The idea of the Day of Service appealed to CJBS because, “When it came time to plan our annual outing, we thought, 'How about volunteering this year instead of taking a firm outing?' One of our managers had heard about the Illinois CPA Society’s 'CPA Day of Service,' and suggested we take part,” Lotts said.
“CJBS has a large non-profit practice and we decided not to volunteer with a client. A tenant in our building had been involved with Equestrian Connection and said they needed some help,” he said.
Equestrian Connection provides therapeutic riding, art therapy, and equine-assisted psychotherapy for those with disabilities and their families. Staff members swept stalls, scrubbed a barn, and cleaned up a corral to help Equestrian Connection in Lake Forest, Illinois, get ready for its annual fundraiser.
“The whole firm was involved,” Lotts said. “We split up in groups and as a team-building activity, it turned out to be just perfect. Afterward, we all went out for pizza.”
VSCPA’s first statewide Day of Service, held in 2009, was planned as part of the society’s 100th anniversary celebration to cap off CPA week.
“It was the brainchild of Jamie Walker, last year’s chair,” said Brad Jones, a partner at CPA firm PBGH, LLP, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the current chair of the VSCPA Board of Directors. “We enjoyed it and thought it was a good team-building experience.”
PBGH’s strong focus on service in each of the communities where the firm has offices is a key part of the firm’s values.
“Most of our people are involved in the community. This is something we really encourage. The partners serve on boards for business reasons, but we want our staff to be involved. We don’t tell them how to be involved, and they are volunteering in a lot of different ways with Historic Fredericksburg, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, their churches, and many other organizations,” Jones said.
“For the CPA Day of Service, each one of our offices decided what they wanted to do,” Jones said. “We prepared and served the food for a community dinner which is held every week at the Fredericksburg Baptist Church for the Community. We must have fixed hundreds of baked potatoes. Everyone participated – some with family members. It was a great opportunity to see people in a different context outside of the office.”
Staff members from Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates in Champaign, Illinois, volunteered with the Center for Women in Transition. “We brought the whole audit department,” said Dave Hood, partner. “We cleaned everything in sight. I think our staff enjoyed watching the partners clean. It was good fun.”
Like other Illinois firms, Martin Hood Friese is involved in many local non-profit organizations on boards and as volunteers. Two partners currently are serving as co-chairs of the local United Way campaign.
“It is good to give back and to get our young people involved, Hood said. “Serving on boards is a good experience for our people because they get to see everything from a client’s perspective.”
CPAs commit to their communities early on. At Illinois State University, young and aspiring CPAs learn that “part of being a professional is giving back,” said Deborah Lindberg, professor of accounting. Lindberg advises Beta Alpha Psi, an international honors organization for financial information students and professionals.
For their contribution on the CPA Day of Service, the 31 members of the mission-based organization volunteered to paint and renovate guardrails in uptown Normal, Illinois, where the main campus of ISU is located. Working on the renovation project was not only a chance to help the community, but reinforced the fraternal bond.
“We wanted to start an activity that brings the Beta Alpha Psi members together and helps them get to know each other," Jon Mazzanti, master accountancy student, told the Daily Vidette, ISU’s campus newspaper. "This event is very informal and hands-on. It’s great teamwork,”