We began the last fiscal year, in May 2020, in a place we could never have imagined: Quarantined. Like nearly everyone else, we juggled how to work from home or socially distance in the office, handle children home from school, counsel clients through massive financial challenges and government loans, and so much more. We heard from so many of you — tax season never ended. You were tired, and sometimes scared. You didn’t know what the future would bring.
So many challenges, and yet, you rose to the occasion. Despite the fear and the changing workplace, we heard countless stories of surviving and thriving. Many CPA firms and employers developed exciting new ways to build their teams remotely. You doubled down on remote learning and kept your CPE on track. Those of you in corporate finance managed to navigate uncertain financials and PPP loans. Now, a year and a half later, you’re even showing optimism for the future economy.
So, as we navigate an ever-changing environment, we continue to focus on our mission and strategies. This year, we even added a new one: increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the profession. Here are our current five bold strategies:
You can read more details about each strategy here, and below is a snapshot of the 2020–2021 State of the VSCPA.
All of these strategies point to our larger mission: Empowering our members to thrive. Here’s a snapshot of the 2019–2020 State of the VSCPA.
The heart of the VSCPA: Members
At the end of FY 20–21, VSCPA members comprised 13,314 CPAs and accounting professionals working in public accounting, corporate finance, government agencies or educational institutions, as well as accounting students. To accommodate the pandemic, we extended our membership renewal payment deadline by two months and continued member benefits to everyone by three additional months.
A culture of learning
Ensuring you have world-class CPE options and other educational opportunities at your fingertips is a core VSCPA strategy. The pandemic tested us in new and challenging ways. Once it became clear that we needed to table in-person offerings, we made all conferences and seminars virtual, and used multiple online platforms to help deliver everything from large conferences to small webinars. You were extremely understanding and patient when hiccups happened, as they did for everyone at some point during virtual work, and we continue to work hard to ensure you can easily and safely take virtual education.
In a year of immense challenges, we doubled down on ethics, offering more courses than ever before and expanding our delivery options. For the first time, we introduced a class focused just on ethical considerations in diversity, equity and inclusion. Other courses covered ethics for tax pros, new CPAs, and CPAs working in corporate finance and government. We’re committed to being the highest-quality provider of ethics education for business professionals.
Members could also take advantage of more than 40+ free CPE credits (up from our normal free CPE of 20 credits), including opening up our virtual Leaders' Summit to all members, and we continued to offer free education throughout the year on hot topics, like roundtables on mental health and webinars on managing remotely.
An eye toward innovation
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that a keeping a watchful eye on ways to innovate is never a bad thing. As CPAs had to implement and learn new technologies, there was also a new spotlight on areas requiring an innovative focus, such as mental health support for employees and resources to address talent issues. Here are ways we brought new and innovative resources and programs to the membership:
- A weekly COVID-19 series of the Leading Forward podcast. VSCPA COO Maureen Dingus, CAE, interviewed VSCPA members and thought leaders about how they managed and even thrived in the pandemic.
- Access to whitepapers, case studies, industry analyses and more in the new online VSCPA Knowledge Hub.
- Hiring help. Through a new Career Center, members can find and post jobs with ease. A partnership with Accountingfly is a great new member benefit that gives you a discount on hiring fees for remote accounting talent, and the Career Resource Center offers job hunting and hiring guidance.
- Members-only compensation guidance. A 2020 Compensation & Benefits Survey for public accounting firms in Virginia helped determine the mean and median salaries offered across the state at all levels of employment.
- Mental health support. As it became clear that everyone (bosses and employees alike) needed help navigating the mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic, we launched the Mental Health & Wellness Resource Center online, and a free virtual CPE event, the Mental Health Empowerment Kick-Off, in January. We continued to offer mental health webinars, conference sessions, podcast episodes, and other resources all year.
Creating an inclusive profession
Advancing our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) last year was a natural extension of work we already do in living our DEI core organizational value, striving to foster an environment that recognizes and reflects a diversity of people, cultures and perspectives. When issues of racial injustice became a national imperative, we were able to double down on our commitment and easily expand our efforts. In FY 20-21, our DEI efforts included:
- Adding a new bold organizational strategy: To increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the profession, and encouraged CPA firms to embed diversity into company values.
- Establishing a new DEI Advisory Council.
- Releasing a Statement on Racial Injustice in June 2020.
- Offering more DEI-related resources to members (like webinars on inclusion, for example), articles in Disclosures, and the DEI Resource Center online.
- Embedding diversity principles into the ethics with our Ethical Considerations in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion offering.
- Implementing the first-ever Women To Watch awards to honor veteran and upcoming women making a positive impact to the profession in Virginia.
- Encouraging minority students to pursue accounting careers through our CPAs in the Classroom program (which went virtual during the pandemic) and continuing to support minority accounting students with scholarships from the VSCPA Educational Foundation.
- Conducting unconscious bias training for the VSCPA Board of Directors and staff.
Inspiring future CPAs
The VSCPA remains committed to helping pack the CPA pipeline with talented, committed professionals. We collaborate with educators and their colleges/universities to promote accounting careers on campus, and we provide information and resources on the profession to students and new CPAs.
Even among the pandemic, we found ways to reach potential CPAs. The first-ever virtual career showcase on Oct. 29, 2020, gave attendees the opportunity to digitally explore different career paths within the profession. The CPAs in the Classroom on-demand video was used throughout the state by more than 1,000 students.
More than 150 accounting educators attended a free, virtual idea exchange in June, and other roundtables over the summer gave them the opportunity to discuss best practices and learn new ideas.
The scholarships offered by the VSCPA Educational Foundation reward academic excellence. In 2020, 25 deserving students received $57,500 in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral scholarships. We also launched a new opportunity, the Samuel A. Derieux, CPA, Memorial Scholarship, to commemorate a long-time VSCPA member who had a lasting impact on the profession. The Foundation will award the inaugural Derieux scholarship in 2021.
Always advocating for your interests
To say that the legislative and regulatory climate was challenging over the last fiscal year is an understatement. While we continually heard from members about their challenges with federal and state tax deadlines, conformity delays, and other important issues, we continued to cultivate our relationships with Virginia government officials.
Advocacy on coronavirus-related topics was ongoing , from asking for penalty relief on pass-through entity withholding to urging the Virginia General Assembly to conform with the CARES Act. As we do every year, we urged lawmakers to quickly pass tax conformity to ease tax filing burdens on preparers and practitioners. During the 2020 General Assembly session, we successfully lobbied to kill a bill that would have allowed the governor the power to grant licenses to persons who were denied by licensure boards. Read more on our legislative successes, and the long two-month road to tax conformity, in the spring 2021 issue of Disclosures magazine.
The VSCPA Accounting & Auditing Advisory Committee and Tax Advisory Committees monitored proposed standards updates and exposure drafts and issued comment. All comments and positions can be found here.
To demonstrate that CPAs are trusted business experts, we continued our partnership with Virginia Business magazine on the Economic Expectations Survey. Survey results revealed that CPAs remained optimistic for 2021, and some businesses were expanded. A large spread in Virginia Business featured five members who discussed the economic health of their various regions.
We sent a weekly email communication with COVID-related news and updates to all members, which pivoted to a new, monthly advocacy e-newsletter called CPA Voice. A biweekly town hall series broadcast live on the VSCPA Facebook page boasted short conversations with VSCPA President & CEO Stephanie Peters, CAE, and state officials on reopening issues. The advocacy video playlist on our YouTube channel has a variety of informational conversations.
Our bottom line is healthy
The VSCPA is fiscally strong and we are committed to using our funds to help you — and the profession — thrive. We ended the year with a positive change in net assets. Check out our full audited financial statements for more.