A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of new recruits to the North Texas Alumni Association about how best to take advantage of their membership.  Seeing as how I work at the Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization, and I hold membership in numerous professional and civic organizations, this is a topic with which I am quite familiar.  The crux of the matter is that, regardless of the group or mission, we only get out of anything what we are willing to put into it.

We see this in the Chamber on a daily basis.  If you are a member of any kind of group, I’ll wager that you see it too.  The majority of people, roughly 80 percent in every organization, write a check or drop some money in the plate when it’s passed, and that’s it.  Somewhere down the line, there comes a moment when they ask themselves what they are getting for their money.  The answer is:  probably not much.

On the flipside of the majority is the small group of worker bees also evident in every organization and mission because, let’s face it, without them the mission would fail.

These are the other 20 percent, the drivers, the people who volunteer, those who are visible as the face of the group’s objectives.  They see something that needs to be done and do it.  And if you ask these folks if they get anything out of their membership, they light up and expound on the rewards they reap by being involved.

Twilight Tunes Tammi Paul Photo Credit: Tammi Paul

We’ve all heard of the old 80/20 Rule, and we’ve experienced it, consciously or not.  What you may not know is that it’s a legitimate management principle.  It evolved in 1906 when Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto developed a mathematical formula to describe wealth distribution after finding that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of Italy’s wealth.  Some 40 years later, quality management pioneer Dr. Joseph M. Juran observed what he called the "vital few and trivial many," the principle that 20 percent of something is always responsible for 80 percent of the results.  This precept became known as Pareto's Principle, Pareto’s Law or the 80/20 Rule.  (management.about.com)

Now that spring is here and community activities are in full swing, I’ve thought a lot about the 80/20 Rule.  This past Thursday, for instance, The Denton Main Street Association’s (DMSA) kicked off their Twilight Tunes series downtown.  These are fun evenings surrounded by friends and community relaxing in the shade, enjoying local music and perhaps a picnic.

For more than 20 years, we Dentonites have had this pleasure on Thursdays during May and June.  Who makes it happen?  The DMSA, yes, but there are actual people behind the organization name.  DMSA has many members, but a handful, that 20 percent-ish, vet and book bands, enlist sponsors, write grants, prepare signage, promote, set-up and tear-down each week, and so on.  These are volunteers, regular people giving of their own time to produce something wonderful for Denton.

Come September, the DMSA will produce the annual Arts, Antiques & Autos Extravaganza (AAA) on the square.  It is another 100-percent-volunteer-planned-and-implemented event.  And guess what?  The same people making Twilight Tunes a reality will be the ones pulling off AAA!  Why?  Because they will.  And because they will, other groups take notice of their names and faces and begin recruiting them for other roles in the community.  They are perceived as valuable, engaged, and likely leaders.  Soon, they are leading in other places like community feedback committees to local government, task forces and boards of directors.

You may very well know the names of some of these folks.  There are several front-of-mind for me.  We see them all around, always involved.  Why do they do it?  They do it because they get out what they put in.  They invest in us, in our sense of place and quality of life, and we give back when we do business with them.  And we do patronize them because we take our business to the people we know, like and trust.

This week is a shout out to the "vital few.”  You know who you are.  Thanks for being a 20 percenter.  And to everyone else in the 80 percentile, you know who you are too.  Denton has plenty of opportunity to go around. Step up to the plate, reach outside yourself and get the most out of your membership in this original independent Denton life.