Tips for Giving Back and Finding Meaning as an Accountant

Accountants have skills that can make a positive difference – not just for their companies’ bottom lines, but also for the world we live in. Here are some ideas about how you can give back.

Let’s not be bashful here: as an accountant or finance professional, you possess some highly valuable skills. You’re probably a very organized and disciplined individual, with a close eye for details and a good head for numbers – to name only a few of the highlights from your repertoire. These are all qualities that, paired with a commitment to hard work, should bring you great career success (especially if you’re proactive in enhancing your skillset through ongoing professional development).

But once you’ve “made it” as a professional, you may find yourself looking for some new experiences and challenges as a person, through philanthropy or volunteerism of one form or another. Like many others who, having reached a certain level of achievement and stability in their careers, are moved to give back to their communities, you may find it rewarding to lend your time and efforts to a worthy cause. Of course, there’s no shortage of charitable organizations or endeavors that could use an extra hand today. This, however, can make choosing one something of a struggle in itself – particularly if you don’t know where to start, or how you might help.

Make no mistake about it, though: as an accountant, you can help (read how CA Alison Spitzer is making a difference everyday). As it happens, your specific know-how and savvy in areas like accounting, tax law, or business are often in high demand from cash-strapped nonprofits and charities, among others, which are typically operating on limited budgets and starved for assistance. There are a number of ways you can contribute to these organizations and aid them with their accounting and financial operations – ways that can prove as beneficial to them as they are fulfilling for you.

Extracurricular volunteering
If you’ve got extra time and energy to spare, you might consider volunteering on top of your regular accounting work. The good news is that, since so many organizations are in need of accounting volunteers, finding the right match shouldn’t be too difficult. Charity Village is a good resource for volunteer listings.

If volunteering on a charitable board is of interest to you, check out Altruvest, which matches corporate and public workers to charitable board service.

…your specific know-how and savvy in areas like accounting, tax law, or business are often in high demand from cash-strapped nonprofits and charities, among others, which are typically operating on limited budgets and starved for help.

Jeff Jackson, CA, says he’s been volunteering through the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario since the mid-1980s, preparing personal income tax returns for low-income individuals. “The people I meet are very thankful and enjoyable to deal with,” says Jeff. “I have had, over the years, a few cases that required extra effort beyond the time spent completing their returns, but have been happy to assist them.” He is also hoping to get involved with a few other charities as a board member, to offer his services as a CA by assisting in the management of financial and fund-related affairs.

 

 

 

 

Jeff notes that the ICAO is a good resource: it acts as a facilitator, matching CAs with individuals or organizations in need. “I am proud to be part of a professional organization that recognizes the need and facilitates giving back through its’ membership’s willingness to help.”

Notes on volunteering
Of course, if you are going to volunteer, it’s important to pick an organization – and a cause – that’s right for you. Ask yourself what aspects of charitable work most interest you and connect to your life.

Being personally invested in a cause, perhaps due to an experience that directly affected either yourself or someone close to you, can be a powerful motivation for doing socially valuable work. Do your research and choose wisely; find something that is close to your heart. And don’t hesitate to set up an informational interview with a charity or nonprofit of interest before fully committing yourself.

Do your research and choose wisely; find something that is close to your heart.

You should, however, be realistic about the time and energy you’re able to give to your volunteer work. The truth is that if you’re simply “dabbling” in volunteer accounting, you risk doing more harm than good. Change can happen gradually in the charitable sector, so organizations usually require something of a longer-term commitment from volunteers.

To avoid overcommitting, have an upfront chat with the organization about commitment and expectations before starting. And above all, be honest with yourself about how much you can really give.

Make a career change
At the risk of sounding dramatic, if you’re not satisfied or happy working as a finance professional in the private or public sector, there are plenty of opportunities to do accounting work in the charitable sector. To scope out jobs as a controller, bookkeeper, accountant or the like within the nonprofit realm, check out job board sites like Charity Village. (And make sure, of course, to leave your current job gracefully.)

Anyone seriously considering switching to the third sector should keep in mind that they’ll almost certainly be working for an organization with fewer resources than its counterparts in the corporate or public spheres. In other words, be prepared for possibility of taking a pay cut of some sort. And don’t expect to be in a position to ask your boss for a raise anytime soon.

Also, unlike private companies, most nonprofits and charities don’t measure success by simply achieving certain bottom lines. Rather, they tend to be more concerned with finding ways to engage stakeholders. You’ll need to have to adjust your own compass accordingly.

But if you’re not satisfied or happy working as a finance professional in the private or public sector, there are plenty of opportunities to do accounting work in the charitable sector.

Choose a company with a strong sense of corporate social responsibility
There are some financial companies out there that put particular emphasis on integrating social justice or charitable initiatives into their corporate schemes and values. KPMG, for example, includes Community Leadership as one of the pillars of its business strategy, actively supporting  and encouraging its staff to engage in socially worthwhile causes. The firm, along with others like it, gives employees a certain amount of paid volunteering hours, letting them spend time working in the community without having to spread themselves too thin.If working for such a company appeals to you, do some research into a prospective employer’s corporate culture as well as their social responsibility ventures, and find out how you, as an employee, might be able to play a part. Then reach out to them.

Accounting might be about numbers, but in the end, it’s the people who count. So whether you choose to give back by working in the charitable sector, or volunteer as part of your day job or in your spare time, know that your efforts, as a trained accountant or finance professional, will be appreciated by the organization you offer them to.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!