Five Things I Learned from the NJCPA Bylaws Vote

by Ralph Albert Thomas, CGMA, CEO and executive director, NJCPA – September 20, 2017
Five Things I Learned from the NJCPA Bylaws Vote

At the NJCPA, we remain committed to promoting and protecting the CPA, our profession and its foundation of quality and ethics. Our members have, and always will, come first. We determine any new programs, policies or organizational changes with our members, never as an afterthought. Earlier this year, members voted to turn down a proposed expansion of the Associate category to include those who do not hold a CPA license. We heard you, loud and clear. We stand by the membership's decision and are thankful for the number of participants who voted. 

We also learned a few things along the way. These include: 

1. The Voters

We need to do a better job of understanding our members before we bring an issue to a vote — on anything.

Specific voting stats:

  • There were 2,617 votes cast: 1,646 voted no; 971 voted yes.
  • Younger members, in general, were more supportive of the proposal. Millennials were more likely to vote for the bylaws approval with 46 percent voting no, compared to 65 percent of Baby Boomer voting no. 
  • The most recently licensed members voted in the majority for approval of the bylaws. Those most opposed to the bylaws vote were sole proprietors. 

2. The Message 

There was a misunderstanding of the proposed Associate definition, and misinformation was posted on the Open Forum. There was a perception that the membership category would be open to virtually anyone. In fact, the proposed Associate category would only have applied to those accounting professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and meet specific employment criteria: owners or professional staff members of a CPA firm; corporate, government or college/university finance professionals; or full-time college/university accounting professors.

Administrative Change:

  • Since the vote was all-or-nothing, administrative changes included in the proposed bylaws were also voted down and will be resubmitted for a new vote. We should have split up the various elements of the bylaws changes so they could have been voted on individually.

3. The Medium

While we used many mediums such as press releases, articles and social media to explain the bylaws changes, we should have listened more to your responses along the way and utilized other opportunities, such as in-person meetings, to discuss the proposal.

4. The Timing

It was not ideal timing for the communications about the proposal. We should have provided information sooner, allowed more time for the proposal to be reviewed/discussed and provided more opportunities for discussion.

5. The Outcome

As a result of what we’ve learned during the voting process, we are developing more initiatives to reach out to members and have more contact in general via chapter and interest group meetings, online forums and in-person gatherings. Coming soon, we plan to conduct a survey to garner your feedback.

In short, we’ve listened but we’re going to listen more.

We welcome your feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me at rthomas@njcpa.org or 973-226-4494 ext. 232 or any of our staff