Volunteering at P+P, I had no idea what would unfold
To my teammates at Prepare + Prosper,
It’s hard to believe another tax season has come and gone. As a fourth-year volunteer, I feel compelled to share my story about how much I’ve grown from my experiences at Prepare + Prosper (P+P) and thank the staff for asking me to use Spark to do it.
For those of you who I’ve worked closely with, you know I was very open about my roller-coaster ride of a first year. I learned about P+P in my accounting class at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and signed up wanting to build my resume as I was prepping to enter the workforce. I was placed at one of P+P’s busiest sites, Creekside Community Center.
I didn’t expect it, but the tax clinic’s high-volume and fast-paced environment brought many unexpected surprises and scenarios. I often left my volunteer shift feeling guilty over mistakes I made, but thankfully were discovered by our volunteer reviewers before the tax return was filed. By the end of tax season, I felt taxed and relieved that it ended. I had little interest in continuing to prepare taxes. To be honest, I still sometimes wonder how I made it through that first year in one piece, being shy, new to tax prep, and working with customers.
Even though my first year was difficult, I still wanted to volunteer with P+P again. I liked P+P’s impact on the community and felt I had the skills to help out at the tax clinics in some capacity. So when the next tax season rolled around, I opted to come back as a tax site specialist, which was an awesome experience.
I caught on very quickly and could not have asked for a better team to learn the ropes, checking people in and going through tax paperwork. (You know who you are. :) ) I came into the tax clinics with a more open mind and learned to quickly turn the page on my mistakes, unlike last year. Being a tax site specialist helped me better understand various taxpayer situations along with overall tax clinic functions, which turned out to be quite the blessing.
With greater tax knowledge gained helping people prepare their paperwork, I decided to use the summer clinics as an opportunity to give the volunteer tax preparer role another shot. And it went really well!
Compared to the first year, I felt more confident and relaxed. By the fall, I knew I wanted to come back on board as a preparer during tax season. Preparing returns came with several moments of stress, but it became a satisfying stress.
After that successful season of preparing again, I took the training to become a volunteer reviewer. Once I caught on to that role, I found I preferred it over preparing. I now spend most of my volunteer time reviewing tax returns for accuracy—leaps and bounds from where I was my first year.
One thing that has helped me become a better volunteer is knowing that both staff and the other volunteers care about everyone involved. I’ve also had to remind myself that nobody is perfect and we all are constantly growing – personally and professionally.
I’ve enjoyed volunteering with P+P because of the great people, opportunities to develop new skills and build onto my current ones, and to give back to the community. Working with tax returns, both as a preparer and a reviewer, has helped me understand the challenges faced by those with lower incomes and why tax season is so important for many of them.
This may come as a surprise to some who’ve come to know me, but I still do have moments of shyness.
Thank you all for being the awesome people that you are!