How a Professional Association’s Strategic Alliance With a Charity Benefits Both

Peggy Dzierzawski

Many professional associations, firms and corporations want to give back to their communities but are uncertain how to do so in a way that will be positive for the community and meaningful for their own organization. For the past seven years, the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) has embraced a strategic partnership with the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure, an event drawing 30,000 people to Midtown Detroit to walk or run in the fight “to end breast cancer forever” which this year will be presented by the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute on Saturday, May 22.

The Komen Detroit Race is one of more than 100 races with 2 million expected participants across the country. Three-quarters of the funds raised support local breast health education and breast cancer screening for the medically underserved. The remaining proceeds fund breast cancer research grants by the national Komen for the Cure nonprofit organization. Since 1992, the Komen Detroit Race has raised $17.5 million to fight breast cancer.

Sean Keenan

Making a positive difference in the community is part of the MACPA’s mission. Our leadership team became familiar with the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure through the involvement of one of its Board members. Recognizing the universal impact of breast cancer, the MACPA Board agreed that Komen was a cause that would inspire our members and provide a great avenue to give back to the community. In addition, Komen Detroit was a good match for MACPA because of its very strict financial standards-”especially important for certified public accountants.

MACPA’s participation with Komen Detroit includes being a Stage and Banner Sponsor, underwriting 10,000 inspirational pink ribbons posted along the Race route, and organizing a Race team of more than 110 employees, members and board members. MACPA employees work with school groups, Girl Scouts and others to decorate the ribbons and talk about the impact of breast cancer.

MACPA employees and members serve on the Planning and Finance Committees and assist with fundraising. To build support and enthusiasm among members and employees, the MACPA communicates extensively through email, online publications and information at member events. The MACPA makes a special effort to reach out to accounting students and new professionals, helping them understand that volunteering within their communities is an important aspect of being a CPA.

MACPA staff makes it easy for members to sign up for the Race team or sponsor a walker. Race day brings people to the city of Detroit, many of whom might not normally come downtown. Members and staff look forward to the Race and make a day of it -” many going on to visit Detroit attractions such as Eastern Market, the riverfront and the cultural center. The Association staff always receives very positive feedback from MACPA Race team members.

Along with the positive impact of participating in the Race as walkers, runners and volunteers, MACPA receives significant benefits from its alliance with the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure. The Association and the accounting profession gain positive name visibility for sponsorship–on the stage and on banners and t-shirts which receives media exposure. Plus, serving on Komen Detroit committees provides great networking opportunities. MACPA volunteers and staff have developed relationships with business leaders they might not otherwise have met-”a benefit for any professional association or business.

The greatest satisfaction comes at the finish line when the announcer declares, “Here come the CPAs.” It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling to know that CPAs are making a difference by helping with an important community need.

Recognizing that the alliance with the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure has been great for the community and our members, we have shared this model with CPA associations in other cities that host a Komen Race for the Cure to inspire them to get involved and achieve similar positive results. CPA associations now have similar partnerships with the Komen Race in their cities.

Tips for Community Involvement

1. Choose a cause that will be meaningful to many of your employees and members.
2. Ensure that the organization has a valid nonprofit 501(c)3 status and sound financial practices.
3. Involve employees/members in planning, volunteering and fundraising.
4. Choose methods of nonprofit support and participation that will give your organization positive public visibility.

Peggy Dzierzawski is president and CEO, Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) and Sean Keenan is past chair, MACPA.