Finding Opportunity Beyond Obstacles

Finding Opportunity Beyond Obstacles

Mar 01, 2021

Hard to believe, but we are one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t think any of us imagined at the beginning the impact the virus would have on so many. From the accounting profession’s perspective, the pandemic accelerated the use of technology to allow for the continuance of services. From PICPA’s perspective, the virus demanded the same broad use of technology and flexible work arrangements that our members were experiencing, but it also forced us to review how we engage members.

Engagement is critical to any membership organization, and while the PICPA had been providing digital engagement opportunities in our learning and development before COVID, we were faced with going 100% virtual for all connections until our members are able to safely gather again. 

The forced separation turned out, from an operational perspective, to be less disruptive than we imagined. Digital member engagement in PICPA programs increased by over 70% from the prior year, and twice as many individuals participated in our programs this year versus last year. These results demonstrate that the digital-first strategy we began to implement incrementally in 2019, and were forced to fully implement in 2020, was a strategy worth keeping. But while we will continue with our digital-first strategy in 2021, it is not designed to be a digital-only strategy. The PICPA will return to a mix of digital and in-person programming as soon as the health crisis recedes and the corresponding guidelines allow us to gather again. We can’t wait to be with you at events across the commonwealth, belonging, growing, and achieving together again.

The pandemic also allowed us to reimagine the PICPA in a technology-driven environment and to examine how to deliver value to members in the future. PICPA Council, your strategic planning group, has been discussing the evolution of the PICPA for some time. It met with consultants, analyzed member survey results, and reviewed existing programs, products, and services with the goal of increasing the impact we make on our members’ lives. Two outcomes of those discussions will shape PICPA as we move forward. 

First, a new member engagement framework was adopted. In it, five drivers of value were identified by Council: peer-to-peer connections, advocacy, learning and development, career path, and business development. The PICPA will then align our resources within the broad categories of programs for members in public accounting, corporate finance, and individual professionals (including niche groups and the membership at large). All PICPA programs, products, and services will reside within this framework.

Second, Council reviewed our governance model and recommended the sunsetting of our chapter-based structure. We have learned that members value peer-to-peer connections based on areas of practice, roles within the profession, and special interest more than geography. We will continue to support in-person programs and services throughout the state through local connection committees (formerly chapters) and continue to provide volunteer opportunities for members. The programming planned by those committees will provide local opportunities to connect, advocate, and build business relationships. 

I cannot overemphasize that the PICPA will continue to support both digital and in-person member engagement, just through a more agile model that includes thought leadership committees at both the state and local levels. The PICPA will always need to create meaningful member connection opportunities, and we see the future of engagement as leveraging the best of what both virtual and in-person connections can offer.  

What do you think would be an ideal mix of digital and in-person member engagement?

Michael D. Colgan, CAE, is CEO and executive director of the PICPA. He can be reached at
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