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Volunteerism represents a critical pillar of the propane industry

November 26, 2019 By    

Imagine for a moment the propane industry without the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) or state associations. Would your business be as successful without them?

“E pluribus unum,” one out of many, must be the spirit of the propane industry. Photo: iStock.com/scyther5

“E pluribus unum,” one out of many, must be the spirit of the propane industry. Photo: iStock.com/scyther5

As you consider the answer to this question, consider the pillars that built the propane industry – the entrepreneur, the employee, the product and the volunteer organizations, each serving a critical role.

All volunteer organizations exist for the common good. NPGA and state associations represent the industry’s interests in struggles against other industries and policies intended to put us out of business or add costly operating burdens. PERC develops new products, creates a national brand and promotes safety collectively – tasks impossible to achieve as individual companies. The importance of these three entities working together with engaged, dedicated volunteers will help ensure the continued success of our industry.

Each of these organizations depends on willing volunteers to give their time and talent to work on behalf of the propane community. This is done without pay or recognition, demonstrating care for the interests of others. A single thread is weak, but when joined with others, a strong woven fabric is created. The relevance of this metaphor is profound because we are a small industry.

Overall, volunteerism in America has been hurt by our cultural move toward individualism. Self-interest is on the rise. We see it in declining support for the arts and churches.

Our industry has also been impacted by this trend. The NPGA Benchmarking Council is one example. In the mid-1990s when the council was formed, Doug Rinke, Thermogas’ president, was its executive sponsor and NPGA leader. He knew that by forming the Benchmarking Council the independent marketer who competed with his multi-state propane company would become stronger. He put the interests of the industry above his company.

Sadly, just 10 years later, the council’s leaders chose not to share bobtail benchmark data with the industry because they did not want to help their competitors. Significantly, Ferrellgas’ and Suburban Propane’s decisions to drop both NPGA and state association membership dealt a financial blow to these volunteer organizations and made us question whether we as an industry could be unified. No company, even the largest, can go it alone.

Our industry needs its best and brightest to be engaged leaders in our volunteer organizations. The need for volunteer leadership in the NPGA and state associations is more acute today given major threats from the climate change movement, natural gas expansion, government regulations and our workforce development challenges. PERC must be a volunteer-driven organization to determine how best to invest in growth and safety.

No doubt, volunteerism is challenging, as business leaders already have busy schedules and limited discretionary time. Further, volunteer work in our industry has its share of frustrations. Our best leaders must step forward to volunteer. They stand in the gap between today’s propane industry with its challenges and threats and the propane industry of the future, which could sell more gallons and become a more significant player in the energy industry. These volunteer organizations will have fulfilled their implied duty to the common good.

“E pluribus unum,” one out of many, the motto that forms our great nation and great organizations, must be the spirit of the propane industry. Those who will come after us to invest their capital and careers in the propane industry depend on us to carry out our industry’s legacy of volunteerism and fulfill the interests of the common good.


Randy Doyle is a 30-year propane industry veteran who serves on the PERC council and on the NPGA board of directors.

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