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PPBSO President's Message: Leading and Volunteering

In this note to members today I want to give you an unvarnished view of the high-level workings of the not-for-profit organization that is The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario. Simply put: we need more volunteers. We may even need a new operating model.

As the president of the PPBSO I am proud to know that the organization has weathered the pandemic and has good support from members - as evidenced from membership renewals and event attendance. On top of that, and on the heels of our Diamond Anniversary last year, its exciting to think that we’re on the road to the lead-up years that will mark our centenary (and what a great celebration we’ll have when we hit that milestone!).

If I have learned one thing in my three years as president it is this: getting enough hands to get stuff done is not easy.

Successfully engaging people to volunteer is hard going. For instance, the PPBSO’s framework that ensures Highland games happen - from negotiations to on-the-day operations - is a delicate thing. If one person has trouble keeping a commitment (say, for example, a piece of work critical to games-day operations) the task at a hand invariably falls to an already over-burdened volunteer.

And, finally, we are, in the language of corporate human resources, “key resource dependant”; that is, we currently rely on too few people to do the jobs that need to be done. And, to state the obvious, that’s a bad thing: for the PPBSO, for our games partners, for pipers, drummers and all those who love the music we make.

In my travels, in talking to people about this problem (and it IS a problem) - including colleagues in the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations and people who lead similar organizations around the world - I’ve found the PPBSO is not alone in the challenge it faces in what I will call the “volunteer problem”. In fact, volunteerism, in Canada, at least, is at a crisis point. Statistics Canada data released in November 2022 show that more than 65% of non-profit organizations serving households and individuals are experiencing a shortage of volunteers.

On that it will strike you, maybe, as a paradox, that I tell you today that I will not be continuing as president following the PPBSO’s next annual general meeting in December of this year.

While I will, of course, continue to support piping and drumming in Ontario - and beyond - as much as possible (including committee membership) I’m “administratively tired” - and, so, I want to direct more of what energy I have to playing - and teaching - more pipes (two things that I know are always a tonic for weariness).

I encourage all of you to volunteer and help the PPBSO - beyond playing with your band or at the games. If you have the inclination and time please consider putting your name forward to lead - or join a branch or broader committee. Leadership doesn’t require an individual to know how to play the pipes or drums. Those gaps can be filled by a savvy leader who actively seeks out consulting from experienced resources, people who will ensure that leader is equipped with context and the knowledge to successfully lead.

A non-playing leader should be a passionate advocate of the pipes and drums and understand the important role they play in ensuring the centuries-old tradition of the music continues - and thrives.

As I have said to the many people I have talked to this summer about volunteering generally and, the PPBSO president role specifically, “everyone should take a turn”.

Talk to a representative of your local branch or drop me a line for more info on how you can help - or for specific details on the PPBSO president role.


Michael Grey

President, PPBSO

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