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When volunteering isn’t just about giving

We all know the main reason why people give up their time to volunteer with ICAEW, but there can be real benefits too, says LSCA Honorary Secretary Richard Joseph.

Richard Joseph

April 2019

It’s getting much harder to find people to volunteer for committees and working parties for not only the LSCA but also for any ICAEW-based initiative.

So why volunteer to serve on a committee or any other ICAEW group?

The usual reasons given are along the lines of:

  1. To ‘give something back’ to the profession which has provided us with a very good income and life-style for all this time. (Understandable)
  2. To assist in enhancing the profile and outreach of the profession so as to attract the finest people into ICAEW. (Can’t really argue with that)
  3. To make available your highly developed expertise which can then be fed back for the benefit of the business world in general, and all without charging a fee. (Hmm……)

And so on…

But hey, we’re accountants, aren’t we? Aren’t we supposed to be all about the bottom line? Or in other words: what’s in it for me?

I’ve been involved with ICAEW District Societies since the days before email (yes, there was such a time, believe it or not). And I’m also an ICAEW Support Member. Apart from all the feelgood factors mentioned above, what have I actually gained, rather than given?

First is what you might think of as a source of free CPD. There have been numerous times that I have learnt about an important tax or accounting issue simply by attending a committee meeting or gathering, maybe just finding out that the issue even existed. Forewarned was forearmed.

You’ll probably meet up with some serious experts in their field, who could probably tell you more in five minutes (and will willingly to do so) about some professional problem than you will ever find out by messing about for two hours on the internet. Sometimes you can help them, too, by giving some perspective from the ‘real world’ to help a heavyweight expert who operates only in a relatively academic environment.

You could also find a ‘listening ear’ from like-minded practitioners. You might learn that they have similar problems to you. Just simply knowing that often helps. Sometimes you’ll both have half a solution to the problem. And then you might find that those two halves can make a whole solution.

But the best thing of all is just the opportunity to mix with and get to know some of the finest people anyone could ever meet anywhere, whether or not they are accountants. Some people have met their eventual business partners this way (maybe even their life partners). Some will become close friends. There’s no doubt this can’t help but to enhance not only your professional life, but your whole life in general.

So, while there’s nothing wrong with ‘giving something back to the profession’, but actually, there’s still a lot more the profession can give back to you!

Richard Joseph is Honorary Secretary of the London Society of Chartered Accountants.

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