Not just volunteers

Twice in as many weeks, the phrase ‘we’re just volunteers’ was uttered to explain the work of committees facing difficult circumstances at the moment. While volunteering to sit on a board, committee, or service club is commendable, there must be a desire to do right as well as good.

We think back to days long ago in 4-H as an example. One of the excellent aspects of that organization was the election of officers and the basic education in parliamentary procedure. Granted the issues facing our little group were pretty insignificant, minutes were taken, votes were called and meetings were held according to some semblance of order. Friends who went onto Junior Farmers also used similar meeting styles to get through their business.

Today, without choosing one particular service club, political group, or municipal council, there are many occasions where it is abundantly clear that no such education was available to people running meetings. That qualifies as a kind analysis of how work is undertaken, whereas the worst case scenario is individuals sitting on boards have adopted the mentality that rules and procedure are for someone else.

Then, the excuse of being simple volunteers raises its head as a reason for poor records, poor procedures, and mistakes.

There is much to be said for orderly meetings. The agenda item on the floor requires a motion for action. Once that motion is offered, debate ensues until a vote is called. The simplicity of that way of doing business outshines any loud argument that might happen in less civilized proceedings.

What many volunteers forget in this day and age is that most groups handling public dollars or receiving public funds are accountable for the decisions made. The phrase which rings a bell when we see poor or questionable business done is “directors shall be held accountable, severally or otherwise.” That is “legal speak” for, if you are a volunteer director, you could have trouble as a group or individually should trouble raise its head. The notion that “we’re just volunteers” has little credence, when on the stand defending unrecorded actions or hopelessly poor choices that led to a legal problem.

We are not suggesting that volunteers should shy away from their important roles in our community groups or that all groups suffer from laissez-faire leadership. It is important that people involved in public affairs do their very best to be professional, keep good records, and ensure business is performed in a way without challenge at a later date.