A New Era of Member Involvement
People often tell me how much the NYSSCPA has changed over the last several years. That’s natural, because when the accounting profession is going through major upheaval, change should be expected.
A recent indication of how different things are today was seen in the recent election of the nine-member NYSSCPA Nominating Committee, which nominates the officers and the Board of Directors for the next fiscal year. The election, which concluded in early January with more than 3,200 ballots cast, was the first time in 10 years that the membership elected the Nominating Committee. The Society’s bylaws require such an election when we receive more than seven petitions for the open committee seats (the board appoints the other two committee members). In years where the Society didn’t receive enough petitions to require an election, the Board of Directors appointed the remaining members. In May, the members vote on the Nominating Committee’s slate for the Society’s directors and officers, whose terms begin June 1. Democracy and openness are healthy in membership organizations, so my hope is that the membership will be electing the Nominating Committee every year going forward, and that the number of petitions and the extraordinary ballot count will increase.
The large number of ballots—about 10% of the total NYSSCPA
membership—happened despite some minor snafus with the ballot information,
a different address than the return-addressed envelope, and confusing information about whether the envelope required a stamp or was postage-paid. These are problems that we’ll make sure don’t happen again. The independent ballot counters received all ballots by U.S. mail; had it been possible for members to cast their ballots electronically by e-mail or on the web, the election returns would probably have been even greater. The exciting news, however, is that this active nominating process is yet another recent example of greater member involvement in all Society activities.
It’s also significant that this was the first time in recent memory that members actively circulated endorsements of certain candidates. This heightened interest seems to be largely connected to the Society’s new focus on taking strong positions on issues affecting the profession, such as the various Enron-inspired legislative issues at both the state and national levels, and the AICPA’s global credential and CPA2Biz initiatives.
This heightened interest is apparent when NYSSCPA officers visit chapter meetings, where 200 people now attend meetings that used to draw 25. As further evidence of a stronger sense of purpose, average attendance at committee meetings has increased more than 25% during the last year, and many of our Foundation for Accounting Education conferences and seminars are setting new attendance records, at a time when many education sponsors are watching their enrollments dwindle. Our committees are taking an increasingly proactive role in the regulatory and legislative arenas by submitting letters of comment on behalf of the Society. In all of these activities, members are also benefiting from opportunities to network with each other in the same ways as before, but now, during this high-anxiety time for the profession, the need for a sense of self-determination is stronger.
I think another reason we’re seeing more member involvement at the NYSSCPA is the enduring memory of September 11, which has caused people in all walks of life to reevaluate their values and priorities, recognizing their need to join together in directly addressing the issues that matter to them, and pursue their common goals.
When members of a group contribute their time and energy to a purpose, when they are no longer content to simply pay their dues and expect the organization to do the rest, that is when the organization really comes into its own. The NYSSCPA’s rising tide of grassroots membership participation is what caused the NYSSCPA’s leaders to stand up at the AICPA Council meeting in Maui last October and introduce a motion to reexamine the AICPA’s governing structure and make it more responsive—and more accountable—to its membership. The motion was tabled, but I believe strongly that enough CPAs want to be active participants in shaping the future of the accounting profession that their voices will be heard.
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA
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