PICPA members regularly go incommunicado during tax season. And as we get closer to the tax filing deadline I shudder every time we get a request for a CPA volunteer to help with a media request, call-in program, or community event. It never ceases to amaze me though, that we continue to get members to step up to the plate for media interviews, phone banks, and other tax assistance programs, regardless of the time of year. I could understand if our call for volunteers elicited a few, “It’s tax season, don’t bother me” responses, but luckily, that’s not how 40 members responded who helped us fill volunteer requests so far this tax season.
March 29 was a particularly busy day. We had 14 volunteers at two programs: a call-in radio program on WITF radio in Harrisburg and a call-in phone bank at NBC-10 in Philadelphia. When I walked into the NBC-10 studio, it was like entering a reunion. Most of the CPAs have done phone banks before, and they were talking about what kinds of questions they may get this year, or laughing about some of the crazy calls they fielded in the past. Why do they come back year after year? They tell me they come back because it’s fun and it’s a different challenge from the day-to-day client concerns. Unless you come to the studio and experience it on your own, it is difficult to explain the excitement created as cameras roll and phones start ringing, members thumb through reference books, and even more frequently, answer the questions from memory.
Not only do our volunteers come back year after year, but sometimes they bring others along. Jim DiFilippo (Fish to his friends) brought along his son James (also known as Little Fish). The questions come in rapid fire, with members handling on average 20 calls an hour. As you can guess based on the number of calls handled, most callers do not have complicated questions. They are just afraid they are going to make a mistake, or they are hoping to get a bigger refund. As veteran volunteer Jim Newhard said, “They want to call someone they trust to get the right answer, and CPAs are the trusted professionals.” Most of the callers would never have the benefit of a CPA to provide them with advice.
At NBC-10 we added a bit of social media into the mix. Not only were members answering the phone, they were also answering questions on Tracy Davidson’s Facebook page and via her Twitter account. And, as we were walking out the door, the producer stopped us because they had one last tweet about deducting mileage from their home to the office. It was easy to answer that question in less than 140 characters: No deduction.
To the March 29 volunteers and all our tax season volunteers thank you for helping to enhance and promote the CPA image. You can see more photos and a list of names of the NBC participants in our Members in Action section of our website. A complete list of volunteers will be posted in the summer issue of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal. To find out more on how you can share the spotlight and give back to the community, check out our website, view our video or give me a call. For our active volunteers, share your thoughts about your PICPA volunteer experience. I’d like to know what works for you.