Association Looks to Boost Member Relevance With New Innovation Center

Recognizing that its members are dealing with ever-changing technologies and other shifts that will require them to think differently to remain relevant, the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants introduced its Center for Innovation late last year.

To equip its members for the changes the future will bring, the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) launched its Center for Innovation in November.

It’s focused on two areas: technology and talent.

Like many associations, VSCPA members are facing rapidly changing technologies, such as robotics, AI, and cybersecurity. The Center for Innovation offers future-forward resources and learning opportunities to help them adapt to, embrace, and leverage these technologies. For example, the association has partnered with MindBridge to create new learning programs, and it held a Cybersecurity Summit in December.

When VSCPA launched its 2025 strategic vision in 2017, the organization asked how it could position CPAs to be ready for the future. It came up with four strategies, and one was innovation and vision. “We knew that innovation and vision would become part of the fabric of our organization,” said Tina Bates, CAE, vice president of innovation. “By creating this center, we felt it would provide a way for us to be viewed as a leader in this area, and it would give us a unique brand and a way to talk about it with our members that would make sense.”

With the new center, VSCPA is making it clear to members that it is dedicated to and investing in innovation—not just naming it in a strategic plan that gets shelved. “We wanted our organization to be that go-to resource for CPAs in the areas of technology and talent,” Bates said.

An Eye Toward Talent

In the world of accounting, there’s a high demand for talent. Plenty of accounting students are working toward their CPAs, but “the makeup of CPA firms and organizations that use CPAs is changing, so they need different types of skillsets,” Bates said, including critical and strategic thinking.

Since some firms use software to handle tasks like data analytics and auditing, the talent they need is “strategists and people who can develop relationships and advise corporations and individuals in the future,” Bates said.

The center will help individual members develop future-ready skills to help them stay relevant, which, in turn, will also help their organizations maintain relevance and “build cultures that really attract and retain CPAs and future CPAs,” Bates said.

Leadership development is a key part of VSCPA’s talent-focused offerings, building on its existing programs for young professionals and middle management, Bates said. Through a partnership with Dale Carnegie, for example, members can earn a leadership-development certificate through the center.

To reflect the association’s shift toward innovation, it also realigned some staff, including Bates’s position shifting from overseeing membership and PR to an added focus on innovation. VSCPA is also planning to renovate its office building in 2020—a physical center that will offer cutting-edge technology that addresses different learning styles and enhances member engagement.

In developing the Center for Innovation, Bates noted that the VSCPA talked with other associations that are focusing more on innovation. “It’s something that can be a game-changer” for organizations that are preparing for the future and trying to maintain relevance, she said.

What is your association doing to make sure your members have the skills they need to remain relevant in the future? Please share in the comments.


Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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