Slouches Don’t Volunteer

My parents embedded a lot of worthy values in their children: faith, family, friends and the Red Sox—and not always in that order. We had few family meetings, as ours was not a Democratic household.

But for one conversation, Dad and Mom were intent on including my brother, sister and me: Contributions. Simply put, you give a percentage of your income and a percentage of your time. Period! Where and how much is up to you (Dad would say, “That’s between you and your God.”). That’s just who we are and what we do.

The message took. I’ve coached and bake-sale’d and walk-a-thon’ed and Vestry’d, so I think I can check that one off of the Bucket List. What I’ve come to find out is, in addition to the obvious benefits, there is one that Dad and Mom didn’t cover—Slouches don’t volunteer. That is, the 10% that do 90% of the work are not only quality individuals, they are people you want to know!

For example, I recently ended my reign as president of the Duxbury Youth Softball program. As one particular meeting droned on, I remember glancing down at the e-mail addresses of those in attendance: Bank of Boston, Children’s Hospital, Talbots, Novartis…Wow! The people in this room are players. If I were a print sales rep, I’d be passing out business cards like crazy!

Since then, with every volunteer organization I have either helped run or been a part of—The Pan Mass Challenge, the Jett Foundation, Island Creek Oyster Festival, etc.—it’s been the same story: Presidents, VPs of Marketing, and a general C-level smorgasbord of volunteers. It’d be like shooting ducks in a barrel! Even though I don’t sell print, I still expand my network via LinkedIn. You never know!

One volunteer gig leads to another (see below*), and the story is always the same. I doubt that you’ll ever find the suggestion, “Go volunteer!” in a book on prospecting, so a quick blog will have to suffice: GO VOLUNTEER!

  • Do it because it is the right thing to do.
  • Do it because you want to give back.
  • And do it because you are no slouch!

But as you are stuffing envelopes, biking 192 miles or painting your church, keep your eyes open and work the following question into your conversations: “Tell me, what do you do for work?” Networking is not the reason to get involved, it’s just an ancillary benefit.

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
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  • Jim David

    Spot on with this one Bill!

  • Kevin Keane

    Hi Bill, Whilst I love you as one of the great (and wickedly funny) sales coaches of our time, I think more of you as a real "Human Being" as Chief Dan George might salute you.

    My pal Jim David says you are spot on, and he’s right on!

    In these straightened economic times, the idea of companies (and individuals) supporting volunteerism is all too often perceived as low hanging fruit for the cost cutters to lop off. Too bad as the rewards, intangible and imperceptible at first blush, can be remarkable and even sometimes financially rewarding.

    I know that you support our industry associations as you intuit that in some alchemy of connection, the members of those groups can be a great support for you.

    The wisdom of the sages holds that if you want something done, you are best off asking a busy person to help.

    As we approach the US Thanksgiving, it would behoove all we ‘busy’ souls to take your message to heart and to look for those opportunities to just give of oneself with no expectation for pecuniary gain — conveniently, the explosion of social media makes giving of yourself ever easier. And Wild Bill Farquharson is the poster child of frequent, funny, free giving of his-self.

    Thanks Sir Bill, you are a real mensch!

  • Bill

    Very good input. The only argument, if you want to call it that, is the saying you quote. I believe it should be shooting fish in a barrel not ducks. That, however might just be your sense of humor.

  • Diane


    Thanks for your article. Volunteers are always needed at United Way programs and agencies. To volunteer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay, simply visit our website: and go to the volunteer page to tailor-make a volunteer experience. Just a reminder, volunteers are needed year round, not just holiday times.

  • Andre Palko

    Your column reminded me of an old saying, "the hole you give through is the hole you receive through." Not sure who originally said it but I can vouch for its truth. For those who doubt what you say Bill, I can only say you have to try it.

    When you live a giving life, you always get what you need. Great post, thanks!