Every year, over 150 volunteers join Ariva to help prepare free tax returns in over 30 locations across New York City. Since 2003, we have prepared free tax returns for more than 100,000 clients, returning over 100 million dollars in tax refunds to under-served communities.
A large number of our volunteers are corporate volunteers. Corporate volunteering is a valuable way for organizations and their employees to give back to their communities. Not only is it a great way to help others, but it can also help you build new skill sets, expand your professional network, and develop a strong internal culture.
Bryan Miller, one of our former Tax Prep Volunteers, made a significant life change shortly after volunteering with us. He left Wall Street and now works in the social impact field as the CFO at BBMG–a brand and social innovation consultancy. Below, he shares some anecdotes and advice from his time as a Tax Prep Volunteer with us.
- What led you to volunteer with Ariva?
I had been doing some corporate volunteering for a while through New York Cares. I was looking for volunteering opportunities in the winter, and as someone in the financial sector, I was interested in learning more about tax preparation. I knew that people in lower-income communities are targeted by deceptive practices that cause them to pay exorbitant amounts of money; just to do their taxes! I wanted to teach members of those communities’ financial literacy so they could stay away from predatory schemes. Ariva was the place to do that.
- What were you looking for as a corporate volunteer with Ariva?
It was all about building connections for me. In my case, volunteering is about people and getting the chance to help them meet their needs. I loved seeing how our clients’ faces would light up when we did their taxes. I didn’t know how impactful tax preparation could be. On a professional level, I wanted to learn more about our tax system. I realized that you don’t have to know the tax code’s intricacies to do your taxes. Now, instead of going to an accountant, I can do my taxes on my own.
- What was the most satisfying part of volunteering with Ariva?
One of the most inspiring moments for me happened at the end of each volunteering session when we would help a client get a refund and get a bank account set up. We did all of that in one place. I found great satisfaction in having a deep understanding of financial management and passing that knowledge onto others.
I also loved the group of people I volunteered with. We learned a lot from each other. Every so often, random things came up that we didn’t know how to do–and we were able to turn to one another. It was such a supportive environment. I had a very cheerful team leader who always greeted the participants and us. That kind of energy was a great motivator, and, in the end, all of the volunteers became good friends. I ended up volunteering with Ariva for 1.5 tax seasons. It was very fulfilling.
- As a corporate employee, did you receive any benefits for volunteering with us?
First off, I loved going up to Harlem. I used to go up to 115th and 3rd. At the time, I was working on Wall Street on the Emerging Markets trading desk. I worked every day from 7 am to 7 pm, except on the days I worked at Ariva. We got paid time off to volunteer. It was a great reprieve from work, but most importantly, we got to help people.
- Do you have any advice for our future volunteers?
Just try it. You’ll be surprised. You’ll surprise yourself and others. Tax preparation is surprisingly engaging. You’ll get to make a measurable and lasting impact on the community while learning about solutions to address the wealth-building barriers low-income people face. All you need are basic math skills and a willingness to learn. It’s that easy.
Are you interested in becoming an Ariva Tax Prep Volunteer? Sign-up now!