By Amy L. Welch, Director of Communications, Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants
It all began simply enough.
In the winter of 2002, an article in The Oklahoman featured financial statistics for women and the disparity between males and females when it came to saving and investing.
Thinking there had to be something the OSCPA could do, staff and leadership began planning the first "Do It Herself: A Journey to Financial Freedom."
The rest, as they say, is history.
Now in its fifth year, "Do It Herself: A Journey to Financial Freedom," has become a cornerstone financial literacy project for the OSCPA, born before "financial literacy" was a hot topic for the CPA profession and inspiring other states to follow suit. Each year, the conference experienced growth and success beyond previous years, owing much of the achievement to sponsorship and participation from others, especially the co-hosts: the AICPA and the OSCPA Tulsa Chapter.
Because of that sponsorship, in addition to keeping the attendance fee affordable at $10 per ticket, the OSCPA was able to bring in nationally-known author and frequent guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Glinda Bridgforth.
"My mission for the last 17 years has been to share my knowledge and experience with individuals to help them take the fear out of dealing with money issues and enjoy financial peace of mind," Bridgforth said. "OSCPA's theme, 'Do It Herself' speaks to my current passion, which is that we must take personal responsibility."
Bridgforth is a leading financial expert and motivational speaker who has also been featured on CNN, NPR and PBS, and in USA Today. She draws on more than 30 years of professional experience, plus her own personal experience of recovering from financial instability.
"The agenda for the conference was so very comprehensive so I felt it would address the broad spectrum of money issues that women need to be aware of," Bridgforth said.
For the first time, the OSCPA hosted two conferences in the same year - one in Tulsa, OK on September 7 and one in Oklahoma City, OK on October 5.
"Last year, we almost had to turn people away because we were so crowded," said Kellie Grayson, CPA, a tax manager with Sartain Fischbein & Co. in Tulsa and secretary of the OSCPA Tulsa Chapter. "It was a good problem to have, but at the time it was a little stressful."
In light of the overcrowding, the decision was made to host two conferences to not only perhaps split some of the audience, but also to, ultimately, help more women.
Last year, the Tulsa conference had nearly 200 participants. This year, the Tulsa and Oklahoma City conferences had more than 400 participants, some repeat attendees.
Another fun aspect of the conference is giving away door prizes at the end of the day.
"No matter who you are, it's always great to win stuff," Grayson said. "This year, we had some awesome prizes, thanks to our members and supporting community organizations."
In addition to area business donations, many OSCPA members and firms made generous contributions, including gift cards for day spas, books, dining, and jewelry, as well as boxes of cookbooks, wine, and autographed memorabilia.
Mike Crawford, CPA, a general partner with Crawford & Associates, PC in Oklahoma City, donated an autographed and framed Bruce Springsteen "Born to Run" album, complete with concert ticket and guitar picks. Crawford donated the highly-prized collectible to be used as a door prize for the women's financial conference in Oklahoma City.
"I thought it would be a unique way for me to show my support for the efforts of the OSCPA to promote financial literacy and to give back to the profession that has given so much to me," Crawford said of his gift. "Why Bruce Springsteen? Had it been a men's financial conference, I would have donated my autographed Madonna album."
For the most part, feedback on the conferences was positive. Some of the comments received included:
"This was an excellent conference at a great price with nice people. I will attend next year."
"Informative and enjoyable…it was hard to pick only a few classes."
"This was great!"
"I will recommend this to all my friends."
"It's obvious the OSCPA cares about empowering women."
The Tulsa conference, in fact, received unsolicited praise in a surprise letter to Bridgforth. Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor sent a note of thanks to the conferences' keynote speaker and commended the OSCPA.
"Thank you for sharing your financial experience and advice with Tulsans at the recent seminar co-hosted by the Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs," Taylor wrote. "You certainly raised our residents' awareness of some unsettling statistics about personal finances in Tulsa, while also guiding them toward financial freedom with your expert suggestions."
Not content to rest on laurels, the ladies who plan the women's financial conference have already started brainstorming and planning for 2008.
"We were very exited with the increased attendance at this year's seminar," said Tulsa Chapter Executive Vice President Dana Curtis, CPA, who also served as a seminar co-planner. "The responses we have received are overwhelmingly positive. The Tulsa Chapter of the OSCPA will continue to support this event in the future, and we hope to expand our efforts to promote financial literacy within our community."