Pro Bono U2

By Don Williams

Pro Bono does not mean being a fan of the group U2. Rather, it is pro bono publico – for the public good – basically Latin for you are not getting paid.

Why would people do unpaid work? There are a number of reasons – the main one being that without volunteers little would actually happen, particularly in the security field. All of the security industry and professional associations are run by volunteers. There may be the occasional paid administrative positions, but they are the exception.

The work to raise the image of the security industry, set standards, increase professionalism, have recognised certifications and registrations, recognise the efforts and gallantry of security employees and to represent security to government is driven by volunteers.

There are benefits to volunteering to be on a committee, but there are also significant responsibilities.

The benefits include making things happen and being part of the forces for change. There is a profile that comes with being on the committee of an organisation; it looks good on a CV. In some cases, it adds to the continuous professional development requirements for certifications such as CPP. It provides the opportunity to meet and work with others, sometimes quite influential people on the committees and in the government, industry and corporate sectors.

The responsibilities include having to do something. Far too many people join a committee, discuss the issues, debate the options and consider the next step. Far fewer actually make things happen. And it can be hard work. Someone (a volunteer) has to arrange the meetings with government and external agencies, draft the newsletters, organise the seminars, take and publish the newsletters and seek the views of members and others. If lucky, people have to help draft policy and even legislation.

Not only are volunteers not paid, there are real time and financial costs. Few organisations pay people to attend meetings, so travel and accommodation, if needed, come out of the volunteer’s pocket. Only the most enlightened of employers sees the benefit of having their staff working on committees of professional and industry organisations.

For those that are self-employed, the time spent in improving the world through volunteering takes away from business time. It can be seen as soft marketing; it provides exposure to other views and people, some of whom are good business contacts and it puts volunteers in the centre of decision making and developing change.

Unfortunately, it has been a truism for more than 2500 years that “when all is said and done – a lot more is said than done” (Aesop). The main problem is those who ‘say’ but do not ‘do’.  Committees need people who will put into action the decisions made, often after much long-winded discussion.

A technique that assists is to do the volunteer work first; the paid work will happen, but the committee work will continue to drop to the bottom of the priority list. Get it out of the way and off the desk quickly.

Is it worth being on a committee? Certainly. There is a huge sense of achievement when change is achieved and the society made a little safer or peers are a bit better provided for or respected because a group have achieved what was needed. You can make a difference but if you do offer to help, make sure that what you promise to do happens. If you will excuse the pun – volunteering to improve the security sector should be for U2.

Don Williams CPP RSecP has provided managerial advice on security and strategic security analysis for 30 years. Don can be contacted via email donwilliams@dswconsulting.com.au


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