One of our members didn’t renew this year. I hate when that happens. When an INCPAS staffer contacted this member letting her know her membership had lapsed, the response was not only discouraging, but kind of made me mad. Not mad at the member, but mad at her employer. This was an “industry” employer as we call them. We have members in “public,” “industry,” “education,” “government,” etc. Our membership of public to industry used to be about 50/50 and now it’s leaning toward 60/40 (more public than industry). During the recession we found it harder to keep our industry members engaged since many companies were cutting dues to professional associations from their budgets.

business organizationI honestly don’t know the name of this person’s employer. We don’t have that information in our database and the member didn’t share it, but here are a few facts:

  • This member doesn’t get time off to attend CPE. Even if, like for the Professional Issues Updates, courses are offered for free. She has to use PTO and only gets 2 weeks a year.  Attending classes takes a toll on personal time in a big way.
  • This member had to give up membership in all professional associations (INCPAS, the AICPA, etc.).
  • This member hasn’t had any time to volunteer with the Society or network with other CPAs – this isn’t considered valuable by her employer to take the time to do that – thus, further alienating the member from her profession.

Wow. What a wakeup call. I won’t say I’ve never heard this before; I’ve heard it much too often. However, with the economy looking somewhat brighter, I just got lulled into a false feeling that this attitude was diminishing. I know that many companies want to HIRE a CPA, but then they don’t want any part of helping that professional MAINTAIN their credential.  This is something I warn young members about all the time – make maintaining your license a part of the deal with any employer! Organizations want to hire someone with the education, experience and know-how that a CPA has, but when it comes to the requirements of maintaining that level of professional, employers don’t always know what’s involved and you can’t assume they will be supportive if you don’t have that conversation up front.

I would like to think that INCPAS membership is important enough for any member to pay the money from their own pocket to maintain it. Having said that, dues are over $300 and this is a lot of money. I have no way of knowing this member’s personal story or what $300+ means to them.

In the end, my bigger concern isn’t even for membership in the Society. We know we provide value and we hope this member will be back. But, as the years go by, will this member maintain her CPA license at all if it is so challenging to maintain the requisite CPE and with no support from the employer? Wouldn’t it be a waste of the effort put in to getting the license? And what if, as we saw in the recession, this member lost her particular job? Having a license (and professional connections) is key to finding another job. I won’t even get started on the number of industry members who called us between 2008 and 2011 asking how to get their license back because their 20-year employer didn’t value it and they let it lapse but now they were looking for work. (That’s a story I will tell another day).

I’m sure there are arguments to be made by the employer and I know membership dues, CPE and license renewal are all expenses that may be hard to cover during financial hard times. But if you want to have a successful business you have to have successful employees. Membership and education seem like important investments and benefits worth offering.

Over the years the Society has tried various initiatives to spread the word to employers. We’re very open to suggestions about how we can help our industry CPAs in their workplaces so they can communicate the benefits they need. But, if our CPA members’ employers have just one CPA on staff it’s hard to get to them. CPAs need to look out for their own interests and make sure, before they are hired, that they are on the same page with their employer about the value of professionalism.