Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 9:06 am | Fair 41º

 
 
 

Paul Burri: When Not to Volunteer or Make Suggestions

There is truth to the adage that no good deed goes unpunished

I’m reminded about how we did things in the Army — hugely different from a civilian volunteer organization. Our sergeant would stand before a formation of men and say, “I need three volunteers. You, you and you.” They also used to say, “I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do, but I can make you damn sorry you didn’t.”

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

Yes, they could. There were always onerous duties to be assigned, such as guard duty patrolling a motor pool at 3 a.m., KP washing hundreds of steel mess trays and digging “practice” fox holes in 110-degree weather, just to name a few.

Here’s some advice based on personal experience and that’s not intended to show bitterness or rancor. Rather, it’s another lesson to be learned from experience. If you’re ever a member of a volunteer organization of any kind, and you have any kind of a bright idea, do not — I repeat, do not — offer it as a suggestion. The reason is, if your idea is deemed to have merit, a committee will immediately be formed to implement it. And guess who will be named the chairman?

Being the chairman of a committee within a volunteer organization — especially one made up of a bunch of experts, and especially retired experts, and especially retired experts who were the CEOs of their companies — is harder than herding cats. Why? For one, each of the expert committee members will have strongly held opinions about the goals of the committee and how it should be run. Second, if you were to find yourself in the position of having to demand performance from a laggard volunteer member, what could you threaten them with? Firing? Withhold their pay?

Aside from whatever problems can and will arise within the committee, there will inevitably be suggestions from other organization members who didn’t volunteer to be on your committee but who will have any number of suggestions about what or how to do something — almost always too late to act on them. Not to mention criticisms of something the committee did or did not do — always after the fact and without that person ever having been involved with the committee’s meetings or decisions.

You will find organization members who will send a note saying something like, “I will help you in any way that I can.” It sounds great until you translate it. Translation: “I will help you in any way I can, except when I am out of town, on vacation, have a golf date, have something else I’d rather do, there is something my wife wants me to do or if I don’t forget that you asked me to do something.”

I hope my readers don’t take all this too seriously. I strongly believe in volunteering and using one’s experience to “pay back” their community. It can be the most rewarding activity in life.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.