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  • #31
    I'm in a different district than SP, though in the same Council. I think from the Troop angle, our district functions pretty well. I notice that most of the District level volunteers are what you might call "semi-retired" Scoutmasters. They were very active in troops years ago, but their sons aged out long ago. Many are still active with their units as ASMs or committee members, but for the most part the day-to-day unit program is someone else's job now. Meaning the district folks have time to devote to their district jobs without taking away from their units. And being mostly former unit folks, they have a pretty strong unit-centric view of things and maintain a strong focus on the District helping units rather than the other way around.

    On the Cub Scout side of things though, it's not quite the same. You don't get many "retired" Cubmasters. They move on and become SMASMs if they stick with Scouting. From his posts, SP is generally more involved in the Cub Scout program, so I can understand why he might have more struggles. We have a huge dearth of Pack UCs in our district (but our Troop has two great district guys sort of fighting over who gets to be our troop UC). I think it's just plain harder to find Cub Scout level volunteers, and quite rare for Pack unit volunteers to wrap up their tenure with the Pack and move on to District roles. And yet, the BSA program continues to put more and more emphasis on Cub Scouting, needing more and more program support...

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    • #32
      I think the difference was that day camp was run by an ad hoc group of unit volunteers who came together for a few months to run a program which they could not do alone. I understand that's how some would describe the district committee generally, but to me the key difference is the ad hoc nature of the day camp staff. For the majority of our camp staff their commitment was a day of training plus the five days of camp. The middle-manager level added a few planning meetings, a day or two of setup to that. Only the senior staff -- maybe 6 or 8 people were involved longer than that. But almost all went back to their units in July and didn't worry about camp again until the early spring.

      I still think my Congressional analogy is a good one.

      And I hear what you're saying about needing some new blood on the committee. But instead of doing a "ya'll come" and/or trying to guilt the CORs into it, go out and find folks who are proficient and have a desire to fill a specific need. Maybe you find a DL who is fluent in Spanish, or a Cub Master who really has an enthusiasm and talent for recruiting boys to help with membership.

      I'm not saying you should never recruit from units -- the good guys I described above were very good unit volunteers. But my concern with your COR idea is it just feeds the Good Ol' Boy beast by bringing in committee meeting attendees not Scouters.

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      • #33
        JM Hawkins describes the situation in my district very accurately, except the Boy Scout side is weak at the district level too.

        Frankly, as I read the BSA advice for how to run a district, "retired Scoutmasters" aren't recommended as district leaders. Instead, you should have able and ambitious business and community leaders taking charge of making the district run and recruiting volunteers.

        That would be FINE with me if it were happening. And indeed I'd like to see our district nominating Committee try out that model for a district chair.


        But it aint happening --- so far anyway.

        So I'm trying to find ways to make things work.(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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        • #34
          Frankly, as I read the BSA advice for how to run a district, "retired Scoutmasters" aren't recommended as district leaders. Instead, you should have able and ambitious business and community leaders taking charge of making the district run and recruiting volunteers.

          Ha ha, the "retired Scoutmasters" who make our district work are also successful business leaders. Perhaps the problem with BSA Corporate is that they're so focused on fund raising from business leaders that they've lost sight of the fact the skills those business leaders have are even more important than their money.

          The message is "Hey, you've got lots of money. Why don't you give us some of it so we can help young boys grow up to be great men like you!" But it ought to be "Hey, you've got skills and experiences. Why don't you help pass those on to young boys so there's another generation of strong leaders."

          Anyway, back to your problem trying to find ways to make things work. I would suggest you start by trying to revitalize the Boy Scout program in the District. I know that's 180 degrees opposed to your general approach, which is that Cub Scouting is the foundation and Troops will fail if they don't have strong feeder Packs, but hang with me a moment.

          Your District is not going to be effectively staffed with adult Pack leader alumni, because they're either busy with their son's new Troop, or else have dropped out of Scouting altogether. It's going to succeed or fail based on your retired Troop leaders, who can be convinced to stick around after their sons age out. If you don't have an effective Boy Scout level program, you're not going to have effective District level volunteers. Forget this nonsense about finding "community leaders" for your staff - if they don't understand the Scouting program they're going to do more harm than good. I'd suggest you find the most successful couple of troops in your district and go meet with them. Let them know you need UCs and ask their leaders to consider doing a turn as a UC when the time comes for them to turn the unit over to new folks. Once they're engaged as UCs, see if you can upsell them on a bigger commitment. Then try to convince them that the Cub Scout program is vital to the troops...

          Yeah, it's a long-term deal. You can't fix it overnight.

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          • #35
            From the perspective of the experienced unit leader with a successful program, the district is of zero value. A strong Cubmaster or Scoutmaster who knows what he is doing can recruit without the district, he can arrange outdoor experiences without the district, and he usually learns nothing at roundtable or district committee meetings except that his fellow leaders are crazy people that he has little in common with.

            They spread their negativity to the new unit leaders, and this is how round tables and committees die over time.

            To overcome this, district leaders must present themselves as servants of the units. Commissioners and committee members too often only approach units when the district needs something. They need someone to help with this or that. They need the unit to help them get the word out on something. Hurry up and recharter! Have you helped with our fundraiser this year? Can we do an FOS campaign in your COH?


            When the district is seen as having its hand out all of the time with nothing to offer, it is not surprising that they can barely function. Add to this typical district leader behavior: Constantly bragging on arcane scout knowledge, arguing little points of order that matter nothing to boys going outside and having fun, and generally running around like a snotty nerdy know-it-all who annoys everyone and never shuts the heck up.

            Most unit leaders would probably not care or even be happy to see the district collapse as an entity and just deal directly with the council themselves for everything.

            So, the question all district leaders must ask themselves: Have you given to units more than you are about to ask?

            I assure you the answer is "Hell no."(This message has been edited by bsa24)

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            • #36
              We gotta get together for a drink sometime!

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              • #37
                Now that you mention it, perhaps this will increase attendance at district meetings:

                Open bar

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                • #38
                  We did a wine tasting after a pack committee meeting once.

                  I think parent meetings ought to be made fun for parents and adults to attend. We are having our first parent meeting of the new school year Monday. New parents are invited to this reception in their honor, and I am planning to have some treats available.

                  Our plan is to have parent meetings last no more than an hour ---I think people are a lot more likely to attend if they know they wont be talked to death.

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                  • #39
                    I went to a district committee meeting once. I was bored beyond what any reasonable participation in any Scouting activity should make me. The only interesting thing was to chart how boring it was.

                    I agree with TwoCub that the district is there to support the unit. And I agree with BSA24 that a strong unit really doesn't need the district.

                    Things of value that the district does for us:
                    - organizes a join Cub Scout day at the local park. Gets a flyer for that into schools, and invites the packs to show up and have a table.
                    - delivers popcorn to the units. At least for the Cub Scouts, this is a big fundraiser. The council gets a ton of money out of it, too, though.
                    - organizes a luminaria fundraiser for the Boy Scout troops.
                    - runs the Eagle boards

                    I really feel like that's about it, and that doesn't take much of a committee to run. There are a few other things the district does but I would not want any of my unit volunteers to spend time on them when there are other things at the unit level that would have more impact.

                    I know my COR would never go to such a meeting.

                    I think the only thing the district committee meeting really does is to provide a deadline for some volunteers to report back on how they are doing on some of the items.

                    Running a Cub Scout day camp seems like a huge undertaking, and it never seemed all that valuable to me. We could do a better job at the unit level. Same thing for the district Cub-o-ree. We do have a district Boy Scout camporee, and it's fine, but I don't think we'd even notice if it got cancelled. We'd just put a different monthly outing in its place.

                    The district does occasionally put on training, but I've become so frustrated with the fact that they don't ever publicize it more than a month in advance that I'm not going to give them any credit for it.

                    Seriously, you have to ask yourself, why would a leader want to attend this meeting? There might be things you'd want him or her to do, but I think you could find a way to encourage them to do those tasks without pulling them into a meeting first.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      >


                      DO you organize your own unit Cub Scout Day Camp and Cub O'ree?



                      Why not? Saying you COULD do it is quite different from actually doing it. Does your pack participate in the popcorn sale? Use council camps or training?


                      Unfortunately, this sounds like the self satisfied comments of someone blessed by being in a strong unit who doesn't care a fig about anyone else.


                      There are strong units that manage very well decade after decade. Mostly they are in upper income areas and draw from well educated, intelligent families.

                      If that's our intended membership, we can certainly dispense with lot of Scouting activities --- and probably about 3/4s of our membership.

                      Four years ago I undertook to rebuild a Cub Pack in a poor area that was down to a single boy. We still depend on the Cub Scout Day Camp, Cub Scout Marble Tournament and Cub Scout Bowling tournament as pack activities we use the popcorn sale as our major fund raiser --- families can get their Cub Scout expenses down to $0.00 if they want to sell popcorn and most get at least a free membership. We started out using the District Pinewood Derby that first year.

                      I took district and council training in a variety of different subjects, and attended Cub Scout Roundtable --- the past two years leading those Roundtables myself. If I weren't the district Membership Chair I'd be depending on the District Membership Chair to help with recruiting ---indeed the DE WAS at our recruiting night September 12th and help sign people in so we would have a record of who attended.

                      You should appreciate of how fortunate you and your units are. Relatively few are in that position.

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                      • #41
                        I might add to my post above that if Oak Tree wants to read through the "Was I too BOLD" thread he can read an account of how a Unit Commissioner helped revitalize a failing Cub Scout pack.... twice.

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                        • #42
                          SeattlePioneer,

                          Like TwoCubDad, I recognize that you do valuable work at the district level and that your work in revitalizing the pack(s) is excellent work at the unit level.

                          Maybe there are districts and units where things are much more district-centric. I do not think that my unit is all that unusual around here.

                          DO you organize your own unit Cub Scout Day Camp and Cub O'ree?

                          We did organize our own pack outings that seemed to generate more individual family satisfaction. They were more organized, had a higher ratio of adults to Scouts, and had fewer frustrating logistics.

                          Does your pack participate in the popcorn sale?

                          Yes, I did mention that. We raised a lot of money for council.

                          Use council camps or training?

                          We made incidental use of council camps, but that's at the council level, not at the district level anyway.

                          We do attend a few training classes, but most of that is on-line now. And as I said, I'm so frustrated with the entire council training program that I'm not inclined to give them credit.

                          Unfortunately, this sounds like the self satisfied comments of someone blessed by being in a strong unit who doesn't care a fig about anyone else.

                          So I just don't view it as being "blessed" to be in a strong unit. Our adults worked together as unit leadership to keep the unit strong. I do wish other units the best, but I just don't get the idea of being loyal to the district. When I signed my son up for Scouting, and I signed on as a volunteer, I did so in order to make his experience in Scouting useful and good. We all have limited time and energy, and I choose to devote mine to the unit. The district doesn't have some automatic "right" to demand anything of me or of the adults in the unit.

                          There are strong units that manage very well decade after decade. Mostly they are in upper income areas and draw from well educated, intelligent families.

                          That is in fact true for our units.

                          If that's our intended membership, we can certainly dispense with lot of Scouting activities --- and probably about 3/4s of our membership.

                          My sense is that most units are staffed by parents of the Scouts.

                          Four years ago I undertook to rebuild a Cub Pack in a poor area that was down to a single boy. We still depend on the Cub Scout Day Camp, Cub Scout Marble Tournament and Cub Scout Bowling tournament as pack activities we use the popcorn sale as our major fund raiser --- families can get their Cub Scout expenses down to $0.00 if they want to sell popcorn and most get at least a free membership. We started out using the District Pinewood Derby that first year.

                          That is excellent. The question, though, is how you manage to draw volunteers to help you provide functions like this. I don't think you'll have a lot of luck in demanding or expecting that other people are going to see it as their duty to help you. I think you want to sell other volunteers on why they would want to contribute time or money.

                          You should appreciate of how fortunate you and your units are. Relatively few are in that position.

                          I do recognize that we are fortunate in a number of ways. There are a few "super-troops" around here that are in even better shape than we are. But we do have supportive parents, a reasonable CO, decent finances, a sensible council, and a growing youth population. That said, it still takes a lot of work at the unit level to make this work. I've seen a number of other units deal with substantial in-fighting among the parents, or wither away for lots of little reasons. I do not take our ongoing success as something that will necessarily continue.

                          As I look around at the successful units, though, I don't see that much of it is due to work at the district committee level.

                          So please, if your units appreciate the work that you are doing, keep doing it. But understand that not everyone is eager to jump in and help at the district level. Some people can make a meaningful contribution at the district level, but I know in my case I can have a much bigger impact at the unit level.

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                          • #43
                            > Unfortunately, this sounds like the self satisfied comments of someone blessed by being in a strong unit who doesn't care a fig about anyone else.

                            It is the unit's choice. Caring a fig or not about others is irrelevant and not our place to judge others - only ourselves.

                            It is the responsibility of the district to make fun activities, run them well, and then market them such that units wish to attend. Units skipping it is feedback about the quality of the event or the desire to even have such an event.

                            Supply-side scouting always fails.

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                            • #44

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                              • #45
                                Local councils are responsible for providing program RESOURCES, not the program itself. Delivering the program is up to the unit.

                                Not all councils are the same.

                                Do councils, and districts, need volunteers? Certainly they do.

                                However, "encouraging" volunteering by threatening units is not the way to go about it.

                                A council's worth of pissed off charter organizations can have a pretty negative impact. Especially when they discover that with enough of them at a council/district committee meeting the CO's have it in the bag when it comes to voting to put thru an agenda.

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