By Michael D. Colgan, PICPA CEO and executive director
For the PICPA, an association with a rich history and many long-standing traditions, we strive to balance current demands with the expectations of our members. This past year, our main areas of strategic focus – talent and pipeline, member engagement, professional development, and being the voice of the profession – have been consistent, but our approaches to achieving progress within them have been altered to respond to quickly evolving needs. I was pleased to present PICPA’s 2017-2018 accomplishments as part of our Annual Meeting on June 4.
In this blog I would like to expand upon our “Executing a Strategy to Succeed” year in review. The entire meeting was broadcast via Facebook Live.
The boldest initiative in the past year was the dissolution of the PICPA Scholarship Fund and the establishment of the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation. The foundation was created to inspire students to pursue careers in accounting and provide educational, motivational, and financial support to future CPAs. In our first year, we exceeded our goals by raising $151,000. The Foundation’s efforts reached more than 8,000 students, educators, and future CPAs and exceeded our fundraising goals by more than 50 percent.
Because students are making career decisions much sooner, we are increasing emphasis on our high school outreach program. Our career days attracted a record-breaking 2,000 students from 100 schools. We’ve also initiated a new high school educator membership category to provide high school teachers with the resources and support needed to reach this important student audience. We also have partnered with the AICPA to host the Accounting Bridge program for high school educators, a program that provides teachers with the tools needed to introduce an advanced accounting curriculum and better explain the opportunities for today’s CPAs.
Our college recruitment efforts remain strong. We have student ambassadors on 42 college campuses and 3,000 student members. We awarded $250,000 in accounting scholarships in 2017-2018. For accounting grads, we work hard to keep them on the CPA career path. This past year we awarded $19,500 in CPA Exam scholarships to help subsidize exam prep courses and testing fees. We also introduced CPA Mentor Match in our Career Center. If you are interested in helping others navigate the CPA career path, I encourage you to join our volunteer directory.
Diversity and inclusion efforts continue to be a PICPA priority. Through the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation, we hosted the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy Summit; participated in the National Association of Black Accountings Eastern Region Student Conference; launched a diversity pilot program for firms; and participated in a Penn State roundtable on diversity.
In the coming year, we will continue to focus on these efforts while also increasing our Foundation fundraising efforts. We are grateful for our current corporate sponsors, including RKL, Baker Tilly, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, Eisner Amper, Herbein + Company, and Wipfli, as well as all the individuals who donated. To view last year’s donors and to contribute this year, visit the Pennsylvania CPA Foundation section of our website.
PICPA members consistently list networking as a key member benefit, and we strive to offer both in-person and virtual opportunities for members to grow their networks. On the chapter level, members plan both technical and social events that appeal to a broad range of interests. This past year, chapters scheduled ax-throwing, painting, amusement park, volleyball, and golf excursions, just to name a few. During the course of the year, we processed more than 6,800 registrations to chapter events.
It’s not all fun and games. Our year-long community outreach program recognized 900 volunteers who participated individually or joined chapter or firm events. There were 28 firms who notified us of their community service projects. Check out the events and member recognitions at the PICPA Cares section on our website.
Technical sessions continue to be an important way for members to both gain knowledge and grow their network. In the past year, we processed more than 14,700 registrations to technical CPE programs. We have also seen a growth in virtual engagement, as webcast viewers grew by 150 percent to 1,873 participants. Our online discussion boards, PICPA Connect also experienced a 73 percent increase in views to 143,500.
As noted under engagement, interest in virtual learning opportunities has grown, and now exceeds more than 50 percent of PICPA’s registrations. This has led to strategic technology investments to improve the online learning experience. While we have been offering conference webcasts the past few years, this last year we added 42 seminar webcasts, which attracted 955 registrations. In addition, our On-Demand course offerings continue to evolve, with more than 400 programs rotating through our course offerings.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the most significant piece to tax legislation in more than 30 years. The Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board produced the Federal Tax Reform Guide to provide members with a comprehensive discussion of the changes, applying Pennsylvania-specific considerations when applicable. PICPA subject-matter experts have also produced blogs and podcasts to complement the course offerings that can be found on the PICPA’s tax reform resource page.
We recognize that members’ educational needs are evolving. That’s why we offer alternative information sources, such as CPA Now blogs and our CPA Conversations podcast. This past year, we surpassed 30,000 downloads of our podcasts, and had more than 60,000 views of our technical blogs.
The PICPA continues to offer programs on evolving issues, including technology and the future of the audit. This past year we offered a webinar series on technology for members in industry and an additional series addressing the concerns of members in public accounting debuts in the fall. We will continue to be a primary source of updates and developments for members as change continues to impact the profession.
Voice of the Profession
PICPA’s core mission is to protect the public interest and to position CPAs as thought leaders. We do this on several fronts: composing comment letters to regulatory boards and elected officials, testifying before legislators, and writing letters to the editor. This past year, we introduced Facebook Live to expand our messaging. Our members produced 23 comment letters, testified before the state House Finance Committee, and fostered media coverage of bonus depreciation, federal tax reform, and state pension reform.
In 2018, we heighted our presence on the federal level, meeting with Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey. Members were also invited to meetings with Reps. Tom Marino, Pat Meehan, and Lloyd Smucker.
Our advocacy efforts in Harrisburg remain strong, and we continue to highlight PICPA’s key legislative priorities. An important win for CPAs and the business community was the passage of House Bill 866, now Act 18 of 2018. State Rep. George Dunbar introduced this legislation to streamline the local tax collection efforts, avoid double taxation, and establish safe harbor provisions. Another important issue was the successful passage of Act 6 – Expungement – which allows members to expunge their disciplinary records on the Commonwealth’s license database under certain limited conditions, which has been a legislative priority. To keep members informed, we offer legislative update webinars throughout the year. This past year, members of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue participated in two webinars to answer questions and alleviate confusion related to Schedule C deductions and tax amnesty.
This year, the PICPA developed its first-ever election guide, which was introduced during the Pennsylvania primary elections. As the PICPA works to build a strong CPA presence in Harrisburg, our political action committee, CPA-PAC, will need your support as we assist statewide candidates. I encourage you to make a CPA-PAC contribution.
Audit quality is a foundation to the profession, and our peer review process is the self-regulatory mechanism designed to protect the public interest. The PICPA has expanded its peer review administration activities to include New York firms, doubling the size and scope of our program and increasing our national profile as a leader in enhancing audit quality.
Our CPA Voice program is an invaluable method of reaching out to consumers and small businesses and positioning CPAs to provide guidance. PICPA members fielded 220 Ask a CPA questions, which were viewed 50,000 times. There were an additional 218,00 views of other consumer resources, which included the CPA Locator, blogs, and videos. YouTube and Facebook attracted an additional 220,000 video views of consumer resources. Traditional media interactions included fielding 81 media calls, which had a potential reach of an additional 3 million impressions. Recognizing the work of reporters in traditional media, the PICPA salutes outstanding financial reporting through our Truth in Finances Award.
Technology & Operations
The PICPA’s overall operations and investments in technology gives our professional team the ability to provide the services and research to assist our active committee volunteers. We have developed a technology roadmap that is focused on efficiency, automation, and process improvement. We are committed to driving decisions based on data, and have enhanced our email marketing software to better identify member areas of interest and offer information to foster success. Our web analytics and robust reporting tools help us identify areas of interest to members and develop applicable programs and resources to meet their needs.
To continue to enhance member service and assist in our goals to provide personalized content based on your interests, I encourage all members to review their PICPA profile to ensure that your record reflects your current professional interests.
It’s been a productive year at the PICPA, and as we strive to keep up with the pace of change, I am confident that we are poised to respond. Our members play a vital role in providing quality service, and I am grateful to the many members who serve as leaders, speakers, spokespersons, authors, and contributors for propelling the PICPA forward.