CEO Compass - Spring 2024

by Aiysha (AJ) Johnson, MA, IOM | NJCPA CEO and Executive Director | April 23, 2024

Creating a Culture of Advocacy

The mission of professional membership organizations is primarily educational and informational, but here at the NJCPA we also leverage our expertise and influence in the state capitol, amplifying the voices of accounting and finance professionals such as you. 

Nearly 10 years ago, a member survey revealed support for being more active in Trenton. When asked what the top political priorities of the NJCPA should be, nearly 60% of members responded, “Advocating for legislation important to the CPA profession,” followed by “Establishing a larger presence on statewide policy issues” and “Educating and updating members on legislative advocacy initiatives.” Since then, the NJCPA has distinguished itself as an objective, evidence-based promoter of the highest accounting standards.

We learned long ago that just tracking activities in relevant areas doesn’t keep our members abreast of regulatory and legislative proposals; we strive to offer significant opportunities to provide input to important policymakers in Trenton and even with federal agencies. Remaining proactive, rather than reactive, is crucial, and that requires member engagement and support. 

As our survey indicated, most members recognized the need for associations to advocate effectively for themselves and their members, but those same surveys showed fewer members cited advocacy or government relations as a reason that they maintained their memberships. There was a disconnect between the member service (i.e., advocacy) and the perceived value that service provided to individual members.

In recent years, however, our advocacy efforts around tax policy, student loan debt, cannabis, childcare and other issues have catered to members’ interests and convinced them to act.

We’ve encouraged members to participate in the NJCPA’s advocacy efforts and established a “culture of advocacy.”

Perhaps no recent issue is more personal to members than the need for talent. As we continue to address profession-specific pipeline challenges such as the CPA brand and barriers to licensure, we’re also looking at the talent shortage through the advocacy lens, examining broader workforce development opportunities that will create, sustain and retain accounting talent that can support firms and businesses. 

Lawmakers and business leaders recognize that accounting staffing shortages continue to be a significant challenge facing individuals, businesses of all sizes and local governments, and they support the NJCPA’s efforts to help grow the pipeline through public policy. 

I’ve mentioned previously that the NJCPA is actively supporting and advocating at the state and national levels for initiatives that recognize accounting as a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject and that allow STEM K-12 grant funding to be used for accounting awareness and education. Additionally, we’re pursuing both state and federal workforce development funds, researching new initiatives to increase accounting education in high schools and identifying state assistance programs that accounting students and employers can take advantage of.

While these efforts are led by the NJCPA government relations team, there are opportunities for members to get involved: 

As always, we invite you to share your thoughts. What issues are you most passionate about? What types of advocacy are you most interested in? Are you willing to contact your local representatives?

Aiysha  Johnson

Aiysha Johnson

Aiysha (AJ) Johnson, MA, IOM, is the CEO and executive director of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. She previously was the executive director of BKR International’s Americas Region where she was responsible for overseeing the implementation of all strategic efforts for BKR accounting and business advisory member firms in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. She has more than 20 years of wide-ranging global experience working for nonprofits and professional and trade associations.

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