March 04, 2008

Mankind is our business

Cha-ching.You hear it quite a bit these days: pipe band associations saying that they’re going to be run “like a business.” I have been to annual general meetings where leadership is determined to look at the financial statement and do everything that they can to show a monetary profit, with a healthy bottom-line seemingly the association’s principal objective.

That’s completely wrong-headed.

The first “business” of piping and pipe band associations should always be the good of piping and drumming. “Profits” should be counted in an increased membership, better standard of play and bringing that good music to more people. An association’s profits should be calculated in what it’s doing to teach more people piping and drumming. An association’s earnings should be calculated by the amount it has helped to increase members’ knowledge of music theory and history.

And with all those objectives reached while members have had fun along the way.

Pipe band associations should be run like a good not-for-profit organization: doing something for the greater good. Pretty much all the year’s revenue should be spent wisely, with just enough left over to keep the organization in good shape should a rainy day come.

I dedicated a good portion of some 18 years to producing a quarterly print publication for the PPBSO that was held up by many, I believe, as the standard against which piping and drumming publications were measured. But almost every year I had to stand up and defend the publication’s cost, as if money were the only benefit to the association. Along the way, the PPBSO’s bean-counter often liked to use the magazine as a scapegoat for financial loss, even though my interpretation of the financial numbers proved otherwise. The last years that I produced the print magazine were by a wide margin the toughest in terms of criticism I received from the organization’s leadership.

Whatever. The “profit” from that magazine I always thought was incalculably positive for the association, but that was routinely over-shadowed by a yearly spreadsheet. Most unfortunate.

The point is that associations should do things that benefit and improve piping and drumming, that increase knowledge and enlightenment for more people. If they do that and they’re smart, the money will follow with a happy and growing membership feeling that they are getting a high return for their dues.

The business of associations is good piping and drumming.




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