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Jack Burke Jack Burke , 3/20/2014
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Community involvement is essential for any successful business.  Most business owners realize the value of “giving back to their community, whether it’s through a non-profit fraternal or civic organization.” Independent insurance agents, by and large, have been exceptional in this regard.


It would be nice to think that we get involved without any sense of “what’s in it for me?” However, most businesspeople hope to see some form of return in enhanced relationships, branding, marketing, and promotion. Although some people get involved due to a personal passion and expect nothing but the opportunity to serve, they’re generally the exception.


So, let’s take a pragmatic look at volunteer activities.


The biblical maxim holds that the bread you cast upon the waters is returned. tenfold.  Yet, there seems to be a multitude of perceptions when it comes to defining the term “involvement.” Ask yourself whether you’re involved in “name” or in “deed”. Maintaining a holistic symmetry, are your returns in “name” or in “deed”?


After years of serving on various boards, mostly non-profit, and assisting many other boards in their strategic planning, I’ve come to believe in the 50-40-10 rule of community involvement.


50% of board members seem to feel that they are fulfilling their commitment by simply attending a 90-minute meeting once per month.  They offer their opinion when asked, vote on various measures, say their goodbyes, and go on about their life.  In their defense, they feel they’re making a major contribution to the organization, are quick to cite their board membership. and never fail to attend high-profile fundraising events.  However they are members in “name” only.


Fittingly, these people get their returns in name only. Social and/or business conversations usually end with the comment, “We’ve got to get together to…give me a call and we’ll do lunch.”  As we all know, the relationship seldom goes any further than that well-meaning shrug-off.


40% of board members sort of split the difference between “name and deed” membership.  They do everything that the 50% group does, but they move forward into joining and participating in various committees and subcommittees.  These people receive much more in return than our first group.  Although their actions have earned them a higher return on their investment, the relations they develop are somewhat limited in scope and less fulfilling than they could be.  Their commitment is half-hearted and so are the relationships.


Then we get to the top 10%.  These are the people who not only make things happen, butt jump into the fray, roll up their sleeves, and git’er done.  Their actions make up for all the shortfalls of the other 90%.  Granted, they put in more time and effort than anyone else, but their returns are usually well beyond the 10-1 ratio.  As a result of their actions, people want to become close to them in both business and social circles.  After all, winners attract winners – and everyone wants to be associated with a winner.


Is it any wonder that this 10% also encompasses some of the most successful business leaders in the community?  The traits that they developed to build their success are the same ones that serve them well in the volunteer arena.  The qualities that enable them to lead their employees help them lead the community as well.


As a case in point, I recently produced a four-hour live talent competition show here in Branson for a charity.  I knew that there were several board members on whom I could rely to rally the necessary volunteers and get specific jobs done.  These people were also among the busiest of our b members in every facet of their lives. 


I also knew that I needed assistance in other critical areas and that I couldn’t rely on board members to follow through and complete such assignments.  So I looked out towards the community and found highly successful, non-board members who were fans of this r charity.  They jumped at the opportunity to help in many, many ways and were directly responsible for much of the event’s success.  Is it any wonder that they are so successful?  People want to do business with people like that!


I also invited a friend and a relative to the event.  One sat in the audience and did a little schmoozing to little avail – a few polite conversations, but that was about it.  My son-in-law, on the other hand, asked how he could help.  I chuckled and said, “How about being my legs during this twelve-hour day?”  He replied, “I’d love it, what time do we have to leave in the morning?”


During the course of the event, which took place in Branson’s largest venue, he probably ran about 15 miles helping to make things run smoothly.  Since he was backstage with me, I had an opportunity to introduce him to some movers and shakers, and explain that he lived in the Nashville area and was a genius in building websites – particularly for the entertainment industry.  These “action people” were able to see his hustle during the course of the day; and before we left several of them made a point to give him their business cards and ask him to call about some work they’d like him to do. By becoming involved on an active basis, he positioned himself to receive the rewards.



Whether you choose to get involved in hopes of making business connections or for the altruistic purpose of feeling good by helping others, you only get back in proportion to what you give.  If you’re involved, how involved are you?  If you’re not involved, why not?