How to Have a Social Impact as an Accountant
Opportunities abound for accountants who want to use their unique skills to make the world a better place.
There’s no question that many accountants are wired to do good: It’s etched into the DNA of the work itself. “Accounting, by its very nature, is designed to serve the public,” says Katherine Lopez, assistant professor of Accounting at St. Edward’s University.
Still, many accountants want to take that idea of social impact even further. With their valuable technical skills, there is almost no limit to the impact they can make.
Below, Lopez and Louise Single, director of the Master of Accounting (MACT) program at St. Edward’s, share some of the ways that accountants can contribute to the greater good.
This robust national program provides free tax-return assistance to a wide range of people, including the elderly, those with disabilities, non-native English speakers, and lower income individuals and families. “We encourage our students to participate in this program while they’re in school, and it’s a very popular way to give back to the community,” says Single. Other national income tax programs include Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE).
All accountants learn about the bottom line, but the “triple bottom line” is an accounting framework that adds social and environmental impact into the equation as well.
To encourage volunteerism, many companies will help foot the bill. “Some firms allow their employees to partake in community service events on company time, particularly when busy season is over and the firm has fewer billable hours for their employees,” says Lopez.
From the PTA to the neighborhood association, many organizations have budgets to manage but limited knowledge about how to do so effectively. “An accountant will always be asked to be the treasurer,” says Single.
For nonprofits, having an accountant on the board can be a boon, says Single. “Accountants are in a very strong position to be on these boards. They have the financial knowledge these organizations need,” she says.
Financial literacy is rarely taught as a formal subject in schools, but it’s an important one for students to learn. Even an hour-long talk can help give high school and college students some of the basic tools they’ll need to manage their finances when they’re on their own.
The Master of Accounting (MACT) program at St. Edward’s University helps students develop deep technical expertise in areas including accounting research, advanced federal taxation and fraud examination. CPA pass rates for St. Edward’s University graduates are among the top five in the state.
Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.