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VSCPA Volunteering 101

September 7, 2018

The VSCPA could not operate without its volunteers. From the governing boards that lead the VSCPA, VSCPA Educational Foundation and VSCPA Political Action Committee to technical committees to members who engage in their communities, volunteers serve as the brains, ears and, perhaps most importantly, faces of the Society.

Our volunteers come from all practice areas and regions of the Commonwealth. From large firms to small businesses, they represent the VSCPA both internally and externally, in front of the citizens who are their clients. They bring their unique expertise to an organization that requires the CPA perspective to effectively represent its members. Here’s the what, how and why of volunteering with the VSCPA.

The Nuts and Bolts

We’ve covered this before, but it’s easier than ever to get started as a VSCPA volunteer! We launched our Volunteer Manager system just about a year ago on our Connect platform, and it’s already helped hundreds of volunteers find their preferred opportunity.

Here’s what you need to do to get set up:

  • Visit Connect at connect.vscpa.com/Volunteer, or use the Volunteer menu on the right side of the Connect menu bar. As always when using Connect, you’ll need to be logged in with the same login and password you use on vscpa.com.
  • Open the Volunteer menu and click “Opt In to the Volunteer Pool,” then click the link on the page. You can opt out of updates at any time by setting the “Invite me to volunteer when opportunities match my expertise?” toggle on your volunteer profile (more on that below) to “No.”
  • Update your volunteer profile as much as you can, because that lets us match you with appropriate opportunities. Some demographic information will sync automatically from your Connect profile, but you’ll need to add more information to get better matches. Be sure to specify your preferred type of opportunity, travel requirements and time commitment while adding in your credentials and practice area information.
  • Watch your email for opportunities and emails from VSCPA staff about anything you signed up for. We’ll contact you with next steps.
  • Volunteer!

We’ve got a variety of volunteer opportunities to fit any schedule or time commitment needs. Those who want to take an active role in VSCPA governance should look into the VSCPA or VSCPA Educational Foundation Boards of Directors, the VSCPA Political Action Committee Board of Trustees or the Young Professionals Advisory Council. At the other end of the spectrum are one-off volunteer opportunities like conference or webinar presenter, VSCPA writer or speaking and community engagement opportunities.

Bring Your Expertise

Particularly for one-off or limited-time opportunities, your CPA expertise is the most important factor. VSCPA staff are enthusiastic, driven and dedicated to the CPA profession, but (with one exception) we’re not CPAs. We can’t speak with expertise on technical topics, so that’s where you come in.

“When members write for us, it allows us to compensate for our own limitations,” said VSCPA Communications Manager Chip Knighton, who heads up the Disclosures Editorial Task Force and other content-related volunteer opportunities. “Our member contributors allow us to cover technical topics and provide valuable content for our members across all our communications channels.”

Sometimes that expertise means writing content for fellow VSCPA members in Disclosures or on vscpa.com. Other times, members are asked to speak in schools or to community organizations, or to offer tax advice through several VSCPA-run outlets.

“Taxes are confusing,” said Jennifer Warnick, a multimedia journalist at NBC 12 in Richmond who helps administer her station’s Call 12 tax segment, where VSCPA members answer tax questions from the community. “I don’t know all the answers. If you have a group like this where all it takes is a phone call to get to them, it’s amazing.”

In addition to the professional expertise VSCPA volunteers offer the communities they serve, volunteering for these public-facing opportunities gives a positive impression of the profession to people who may not know much about it. Depending on the opportunity and the population served, they might even influence some future CPAs in the process.

“It’s very important that our members really serve as the face of the organization,” said VSCPA Public Affairs & Communications Director David Bass, who runs the Call 12 segment and other community relations efforts. “In addition to performing their speaking duty and representing themselves, they’re representing the profession at large.

“Without our participation, these programs wouldn’t be successful or even happen in many cases, so we’re really providing a true benefit. We always get positive feedback and appreciation.”

Planning Your Education

Conference planning committees are another area where the VSCPA relies on member expertise. The Virginia Accounting & Auditing Conference (A&A), the Business & Industry Conference (BIC), the Business Valuation, Fraud and Litigation Services Conference (BVFLS), KnowledgeNow and the E-Summit (formerly the Digital Rewind) are the most prominent of those conferences, but the VSCPA also relies heavily on member knowledge in planning some of its smaller and digital events.

The flow of information is a two-way street for the members who make up those committees and task forces. Former A&A Conference Committee Chair Greg Jenkins, CPA, takes the ideas from his committee back to his day job as an accounting professor at Virginia Tech (which partners with the VSCPA to plan and host the three A&A conferences).

“It really has given our department, over the many years, a chance to develop deep relationships with people in the accounting profession and in business generally, not only in Virginia, but really across the entire country,” he said. “That then translates to our taking those lessons back into the classroom and sharing those with our students.”

Other modes of education also have dedicated committees, notably the Online Programs Planning Task Force. These groups help shape the VSCPA’s educational offerings, suggesting topics and best practices and helping to fulfill the strategies contained in the VSCPA2025 framework. They are at the forefront of the VSCPA’s culture shift as Society staff work toward a more holistic look at learning.

Shaping the Future of the VSCPA — and the Profession

Those who wish to make an impact on the profession at large can scratch that itch by joining one of the VSCPA’s technical committees. The Accounting & Auditing Advisory Committee crafts the VSCPA’s official responses to exposure drafts from standard-setters. The Tax Advisory Committee serves the same function with the Virginia Department of Taxation and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Other prominent VSCPA committees include the Peer Review Committee, which deals with peer review topics and administration, and the Ethics Committee, which responds to ethical issues and complaints. And interested CPAs can even explore a potential spot on the Virginia Board of Accountancy, which works closely with the VSCPA in filling its openings.

It’s through these committees and VSCPA boards that you’ll find the most dedicated, motivated CPAs with the desire to contribute directly to the future of the profession. The VSCPA works hard to make it easy on them, offering conference call options for all its groups, allowing for greater geographic diversity and representation of all areas of Virginia.

"My volunteer experience has greatly increased my perspective and network in both my professional and personal life,” said Charlie Valadez, CPA, chair of the VSCPA’s Accounting & Auditing Advisory Committee. “It has enabled me to participate in the standard-setting processes and stay on top of the business areas which impact my career. I am most surprised by the caliber and professionalism of my colleagues and their ability and willingness to assist me in all aspects of my career.”

“The one thing I wish I had known ahead of time before volunteering with the VSCPA is the level of exposure to other professionals, community members and public officials,” added Brett Sinsabaugh, CPA, a member of the VSCPA PAC Board of Trustees. “Honestly, if I was more aware of this I would have probably been involved earlier.”

Members of these committees and boards also represent a link to the profession’s past and a vast repository of institutional knowledge.

“I wish I had known members who had volunteered before me in the employee benefits community and found a way to connect with them about what had been done in the past and their view on what they believe can still be done to advance what we do,” said Lisa Germano, CPA, a former VSCPA Board of Directors chair who remains active in the VSCPA’s efforts to improve work quality in the employee benefits industry.

Pay it Back, Pay it Forward

Members volunteer for various reasons — professional development, leadership training or just the desire to give back. Harold Martin, CPA, chair of the BVFLS Planning Committee, views it as a way to give up-and-coming CPAs the same opportunities he had as a young professional.

“The VSCPA helped me personally in terms of my professional career development and also served as a stepping stone to provide me with the opportunity to participate at a national level in the AICPA,” he said. “My continued involvement in the VSCPA has been one way of expressing my appreciation by ‘paying it forward’ and helping other practitioners in Virginia develop professionally.”

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