By Deanna C. White
Under normal circumstances, nobody likes to hear the words "CPA" and "locked up" in the same sentence. But for the past several years, countless CPAs across the country have enthusiastically done mock "jail time" for a great cause by volunteering for the annual Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Lock-Up.
According to the MDA website, the Lock-Up is the association's premier fundraising program. These high-profile events occur all across the country at various times throughout the year.
Business and community leaders agree to be "put behind bars for good", as MDA organizers say, where they then utilize use their vendors, coworkers, family, and friends to get donations that will go toward their "bail."
MDA "jailbirds" then have weeks to raise their donations, MDA organizers say, leaving them time on the day of the Lock-Up event to enjoy the experience and network with fellow volunteers, business leaders, and supporters. They also have a chance to directly meet the individuals and families they're helping in their community.
"All funds raised by the MDA Lock-Up assist the MDA in providing lifesaving research, a nationwide network of medical clinics and accessible summer camp experiences to individuals and families affected by neuromuscular diseases", according to the MDA website.
Carrie E. Miller, CPA, of Roorda, Piquet & Besse (RP&B) CPAs in Riverside, California, said she gladly volunteered to serve as an MDA jailbird when she got the call in 2011.
Miller said a friend, who knew that she and her colleagues at RP&B were very active in several local charities, volunteered her for the MDA event. Miller said she was game from the get-go.
"Like many Americans, I grew up watching the MDA telethon, and I knew this was a great cause", Miller said. "I was wholly willing to participate."
Once Miller agreed to serve as a jailbird, she said the MDA helped her set up her official fundraising page on the MDA site, and she began inviting people she knew to donate to her bail. It didn't take long for community support to start rolling in.
Miller said she and colleagues from her firm raised approximately $500 for the cause. "The MDA made it very easy", she said.
On the day of her actual lockup, Miller was escorted, per Lock-Up protocol, by a local fireman to a town restaurant where she was figuratively "locked up" with her fellow volunteer "inmates."
The restaurant was decorated with mock holding cells where people could take pictures, and inmates and donors dined on a spread of appetizers. "There was an ongoing flow of people from the community coming in and out. It was like a big party", Miller said. When she was finished with her dinner, the fireman drove her back to her office.
"It was hardly hard time", Miller joked. "It wasn't bread and water."
Jeff Kennard, CPA, of Boldt Carlisle + Smith, Certified Public Accountants, headquartered in Salem, Oregon, has also served as an MDA jailbird. He volunteered for the first time this September.
Kennard, who is also an active volunteer his church and community, said he signed up for the Lock-Up after being contacted by an MDA representative.
"I knew that the MDA Lock-Up was a very reputable program and it was a great cause", Kennard said. "So I decided it was my turn to try and help."
Kennard said he was a little worried whether he would be able to raise his $2,400 bail goal in the relatively short period of time given, but once the MDA representative helped him set up his personal page on the MDA website he was "off and running."
"MDA has organized the program very well, which makes it very easy to reach out for donations", Kennard said. "The MDA also assigns you a 'parole officer' to help guide you through the process. In all, it's been a good experience."
Kennard said during the Lock-Up, he was able to meet other professionals in his community, raise additional funds toward his bail, and "just have a good time" with his fellow inmates and donors.
"Before I left the event, I had raised approximately $1,900 toward my bail", Kennard said. "It was all actually pretty exciting, especially knowing that the money raised was going to such a great cause."
The CPAs who volunteered for the MDA Lock-Up said they view participating in charitable events that allow them to give back to the local communities they serve as an integral part of their mission as CPAs.
"RP&B supports several charitable organizations, and members of our firm serve on the board of several nonprofit organizations. It's just part of the culture of our firm", Miller said. "I think that if you're fostering community organizations, you improve the quality of life in your city. It all comes back to you."
But the "primary" reason Miller believes she and her fellow CPAs volunteer for causes like the Lock-Up is even simpler: They volunteer because they love to help others.
"As human beings, it just feels so good when you help somebody else. And, really, many people become CPAs because of the joy of helping others – whether that's helping them save money on their taxes, passing down their legacy to their children, or building their business", Miller said. "It's great to be part of a profession that promotes charitable giving and making a difference."
For more information, visit the MDA Lock-Up website.