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  • Encouraging Volunteers

    Over in the politics forum there's a thread about the future of Boy Scouts. One issue I thought of is getting volunteers. I found an interesting paper about volunteering in 1974, 1989, and 2002-2006 (http://www2.illinois.gov/serve/Docum...ull_Report.pdf ). It was done using data from the census bureau. The big surprise for me is that the amount of volunteering is considerably higher now than in the 70's and 80's. At the same time it seems like scout units are having a harder time finding volunteers. If I tie this in with the fact that it seems like nobody outside of scouts has any idea what goes on inside of scouts, it seems to me that the BSA's problem is more a case of education than anything else.

    ​To me, there's a certain magic that scouting has that no other activity has. It's not sports and it's not school, but it's a mix of outdoors, adventure, service, leadership, and civics that just works. If it's hard to describe then it makes sense that many adults don't get involved because they don't understand it. There is the Methods of Scouting but that's very cursory. Does anyone dive into the methods any more than the usual?

  • #2
    Why do are adults volunteering more often for OTHER service groups? It's EASIER.

    Over the years, I have been a volunteer for public and private schools, Little League, JOAD, 4-H, church, fire dept, Red Cross, local hospitals - all were a magnitude easier in training and PAPERWORK than BSA.

    My $0.02

    Comment


    • #3
      Lets look at the size of the commitment when volunteering for the BSA....If you volunteer as tiger den leader you could be volunteering for 12 years or more.... weekly meetings, one weekend a month campout, one week of summer camp a year.......Then your taking boys who have, boy type judgement, so there is an element of risk .It is a huge commitment

      Let me see little league, what 12 weeks maybe Volunteering with the parks...sure.

      We are now dealing with the millenial parents....They expect atta boys for showing up and running the weekly den meeting, or helping with a trash pick up........Lets face it being a volunteer with the BSA won't get your picture in the paper or an invite to the local volunteer recongition banquet....

      The other thing to keep in mind that many large corps now require volunteerism as a condition of employment....I have been to several events were corporate HR folks are holding sign ins and outs........

      So while the numbers look good.....I am going to bet if we remove the forced corporate volunteers the numbers will go down.

      The final problem.....How does one exit the BSA???? So do you just quit and hope someone steps in.....Or do you keep working till your replaced.....

      Comment


      • #4
        I think Schiff is correct in that other volunteer organizations are easier, but not because of the paperwork and training required of the BSA, but because other volunteer organizations are built around making life easy for the volunteers.

        I think the nature of volunteering has changed. I was always surprised that I could get 100 volunteers to take a week off work and serve as "den leaders" at day camp. Basically all day camp DLs do is shepherd 12 kids from activity to activity for a week. But get two or three volunteers to be real den leaders and take responsibility for a den program for a year -- for get it.

        Every job I've had in BSA has required commitment and taking responsibility. Like Scoutmaster, Cubmaster or CSDC director. Now, when you get to district and council committees, there seems to be a mix of people there to get something accomplished, those who believe the rest of us are in need of their wisdom and the ROMEOs (Retired Old Men Eating Out.)

        When I was a kid, the volunteer stuff I remember my parents doing were roll-up-your sleeves volunteer jobs. My dad did a lot of fundraising for the Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce and United Way. I'm sure he did stints as a worker bee, but I mostly remember him being campaign chairman and later board chairman of the UW and that sort of stuff. Mom did the typical June Cleaver stuff at church and the PTA, but at one time she and a couple friends created a program to teach under-privileged folks how to sew and make clothes for their families. When that caught on, she started shaking the bushes for people to donate used sewing machines to the program. I can remember delivering sewing machines to tar paper shacks where I though the machines would fall through the floor.

        People now want to be drive-thru volunteers. They want to show up for the walk-a-thon, drink a couple glasses of wine with their friends, write a check and go home. Or show up at the local Habitat build with their new hammer and nail apron and get their picture in the paper. It's volunteering as entertainment. There aren't many jobs in Scouting like that.

        But people try. My biggest issue with the volunteers in our troop is the lack of responsibility. I can ask someone this week to change the toilet paper roll in the Scout House and they are more than happy to do it. But next week the roll is empty again and I'm back to asking some to take care of it again.. Maybe my brain is just wired differently from other folks, When I get involved in an organization, I look for ways to contribute. If the TP is empty, I'll replace it. If I don't know where they keep the spare rolls, I'll find them. If there isn't any, I go buy it. it's really hard for me to understand folks who don't think that way. How can you walk past a full trashcan and not empty it?

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree that the Boy Scout volunteers have a harder time getting involved. So the Habitat people have an entry level volunteer position that involves a hammer, 3 hours of time, and no learning curve to speak of. The new person, after having done that, can take some pride in saying they did something. Maybe they'll come back for more and eventually be responsible for building a house, which is no small responsibility. What are the entry level, no skill required jobs for the Boy Scouts? Honestly, changing the toilet paper roll is not going to feel like much progress for the volunteer. What are other tasks for the new parent that we should be pushing them towards?

          Comment


          • #6
            Try table decorations for B&G. Can't even get them to do that.

            Comment


            • #7
              Do you have an equivalent of what we in the UK call a Troops (or Pack, or Unit) Assistant? We have SLs which is like an SM, ASLs which are like an ASM. But a troop assistant is rather different. They are basically there to turn up and be pointed in the right direction on a week to week basis. It's quite broad as well. Some chose to be uniformed some don't, some get involved in background planning, some don't. All in all it is a basic entry level position. If you don't have the equivalent it sounds like you could do with inventing one!

              Comment


              • #8
                One of the differences of today is parents are a lot busier. Sure Den leaders are hard to find, they have been working all day long and we ask them to take on another dozen young boys for a couple of hours when they come home. Moms didn't work in the 70's and early 80's. The added complexity of running a pack over the last 30 years hasn't helped either. By adding the Tiger program, adults can see themselves stuck for five years. I'm personally amazed that we get as many adults as we do. I am a pretty good recruiter, but I do it by getting them to commit to just one small step and hope they get hooked for climbing the whole mountain. Climbing a mountain isn't so hard when you look at one step at a time. The problem I see with troops is adults have a hard time seeing their participation in the big picture and there is very little incentive to put out the effort. Unless they are one of three or four key leaders, they simply don't see how their time makes a difference. They either do way too little or sufficate the program with way too much. I've said before that 50% of my Scoutmastering was working with adults just trying to get them to see the mission and where they fit in that mission. Troop programs are attractive to narcissists who want full control of steering the program. You see a lot of them even here on the forum. Twocubdad and MattR types of leaders are rare.

                Comment


                • Basementdweller
                  Basementdweller commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Locally the troop tends to take on the personality of the SM. We have the Parlor troop ran by the metrosexual. We have the high adventure SM who runs a trip to philmont, northern tier and Sea base on a rotational basis. And a lot of guys like me who try to get the boys out monthly.

                  So your sitting at the PLC planning meeting.....They are staring at the walls the ceiling, with blank looks....Do you start dropping crumbs and help them find their way or let them wander around in the dark.

                  I let them struggle a bit... then start dropping crumbs....It tends to be things I like to do.....So I do steer the program....I hope someday I can sit in the background and they do it all themselves.

              • #9
                Originally posted by Cambridgeskip View Post
                Do you have an equivalent of what we in the UK call a Troops (or Pack, or Unit) Assistant? We have SLs which is like an SM, ASLs which are like an ASM. But a troop assistant is rather different. They are basically there to turn up and be pointed in the right direction on a week to week basis. It's quite broad as well. Some chose to be uniformed some don't, some get involved in background planning, some don't. All in all it is a basic entry level position. If you don't have the equivalent it sounds like you could do with inventing one!
                Skip, over here most leaders are parents of current scouts plus any younger alumni and parents of alumni you can hold on to.

                At the troop level, the only positions were scoutmaster, assistant scoutmaster, and committee (support: fundraising, equipment management, advancement paperwork, transportation planning, event booking). Plus ScoutParent, a non registered position, intended for active parents.

                With training becoming mandatory for quality awards (and even reregistration in some ares) some new positions have come about with in the past two years. The first was the 92U: Unit College Scouter Reserve (derived from 92, the position code for College Scouter Reserve, a seldom used district-level position). This position was intended for college-aged alumni (usually Eagles) who were previously registered as assistant scoutmasters and helped the troop during school breaks but did not have the time to complete the training. They only need the online youth protection course.

                The ScoutParent designator is being phased out and another new position, 91U Unit Scouter Reserve (derived again from a rarely used distritct level 91) as a catchall registered, background-checked adult with no training required other than youth protection. This will probably develop to be similar to your sectional assistant position.

                Comment


                • #10
                  As a scout parent(not an official volunteer) and forum lurker, I wanted to comment on this topic. I’m sorry if this comes off as a rant, but this is a major irritation I have with the boy scouts. I want to emphasize that I would love to volunteer for my son’s scout troop or volunteered when he was in cub scouts. I am very involved with a number of activities which my children participate in and truly love the work I do in those programs. However, I have never volunteered with the boy scouts for one main reason: I absolutely refuse to give up my social security and driver’s license numbers for a volunteer position.

                  There are three main reasons for this stance. The first one is obviously the privacy issues and the possibility of identity theft from giving this very confidential information out. Second, I don’t believe background checks do very much; it’s simply a PR stunt that accomplishes very little. For example, Jerry Sandusky could have passed a background check well past his 60th birthday. The two-deep leadership rule(which I have always observed is followed and is my personal rule I follow when I volunteer) does far more to protect the boys involved with the BSA than any background check can every hope to accomplish. Finally, there are ways to do criminal background checks that do not require a social security number. As a scout parent, the two-deep rule is infinitely more reassuring to me than any criminal background check that a scout leader has passed.

                  Comment


                  • NJCubScouter
                    NJCubScouter commented
                    Editing a comment
                    aph5, first of all, welcome to the forums!

                    Second of all, I understand what you are saying about privacy and confidentiality, but personally I think it is worth giving up my SSN to the BSA in order for them to do a criminal background check on everybody else who volunteers. (I say everybody else, because I already know I don't have a criminal record.) If there was evidence that the BSA misuses this information, it would be a different story, but I have never seen any such evidence. (And I suspect that if such evidence was out there, someone would have posted about it in this forum, just as we have read many times over the years about inflated and fictitious membership figures, etc.)

                    The fact is that every once in awhile, the criminal background checks DO "catch" someone, sometimes because the person apparently thought the conviction had "expired" or something, and probably more often because the would-be leader looks at the application, realizes that a background check is about to happen and that they are going to be "caught", and they themselves raise the issue with unit leaders before submitting the application. We have had a few threads in this forum over the years about what happens next, whether the 25-year-old conviction for "possession" or simple assault is enough to prevent someone from being a leader, etc.

                    I also don't think there is any need to "compare" the background checks with the youth protection training/guidelines (including 2-deep leadership) in terms of which makes the kids "safer." It's not a competition. Both methods work in combination with each other. Yes, the YP program probably IS more effective, because it regulates the behavior of everybody, whereas the background check doesn't tell you about the hidden intentions of someone who has never been convicted of anything. But I think the background checks provide some additional amount of effectiveness in the overall effort to protect the Scouts.

                  • King Ding Dong
                    King Ding Dong commented
                    Editing a comment
                    NJ, I completely agree on the background checks. Having just gone through the process of renting my house it is amazing the BS you hear. They want the house but the moment you hand them an application with authorization for a credit check they get very belligerent. I had 4 military families insist that it was not needed because they were in the military. Huh? One threw a fit over providing his checking account number and address to his bank. huh? What was he planning on paying his rent with (chickens ?). I wrote him a nice letter explaining I did not understand his objection because every single check he has ever written to any person or business or charity has his account number AND routing number printed on it. The address to his bank is in the phone book. I wasn't asking for his PIN. Never heard from him again.

                • #11
                  Originally posted by MattR View Post
                  Over in the politics forum there's a thread about the future of Boy Scouts. One issue I thought of is getting volunteers. I found an interesting paper about volunteering in 1974, 1989, and 2002-2006 (http://www2.illinois.gov/serve/Docum...ull_Report.pdf ). It was done using data from the census bureau. The big surprise for me is that the amount of volunteering is considerably higher now than in the 70's and 80's. At the same time it seems like scout units are having a harder time finding volunteers. If I tie this in with the fact that it seems like nobody outside of scouts has any idea what goes on inside of scouts, it seems to me that the BSA's problem is more a case of education than anything else.

                  ​To me, there's a certain magic that scouting has that no other activity has. It's not sports and it's not school, but it's a mix of outdoors, adventure, service, leadership, and civics that just works. If it's hard to describe then it makes sense that many adults don't get involved because they don't understand it. There is the Methods of Scouting but that's very cursory. Does anyone dive into the methods any more than the usual?
                  Are Scout units having harder time finding volunteers? The majority of our Scout's parents are either ASMs or Committee members. Thankfully, most of them are MCs.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    My troop is doing ok. We tell all the families they have to help out somehow. We have signup parties. Most do. We have more than enough adults working on COH stuff, not quite enough that want to work with kids. Maybe hammering nails is easier than working with kids. My district is struggling. I was also thinking of the packs, as those are the units losing the most kids.

                    It seems like the ratio of families that help out to those that don't is roughly 1 in 3-4. If you have a troop with 14 scouts (the average size), that means 2 or 3 adults are going on every campout. That's stressful. With 8 scouts in a den, that means 2 adults are doing everything. After several years it's complete burn out. This is compounded by the fact that your average den leader is clueless. I certainly was. Then there's the problem that Webelos want to do something besides crafts, which places more burden on the adults. Some dens can get half the adults involved and they do great. But that's the exception and not normal. How much greater would it be if half the adults were regularly involved, jazzed, and enthusiastic? I like Eagledads idea of teaching the parents. I might get more adults to work with scouts.

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by MattR View Post
                      My troop is doing ok. We tell all the families they have to help out somehow. We have signup parties. Most do. We have more than enough adults working on COH stuff, not quite enough that want to work with kids. Maybe hammering nails is easier than working with kids. My district is struggling. I was also thinking of the packs, as those are the units losing the most kids.

                      It seems like the ratio of families that help out to those that don't is roughly 1 in 3-4. If you have a troop with 14 scouts (the average size), that means 2 or 3 adults are going on every campout. That's stressful. With 8 scouts in a den, that means 2 adults are doing everything. After several years it's complete burn out. This is compounded by the fact that your average den leader is clueless. I certainly was. Then there's the problem that Webelos want to do something besides crafts, which places more burden on the adults. Some dens can get half the adults involved and they do great. But that's the exception and not normal. How much greater would it be if half the adults were regularly involved, jazzed, and enthusiastic? I like Eagledads idea of teaching the parents. I might get more adults to work with scouts.

                      Webelos doing something besides crafts is the joy of Webelos. As a DL, I punted on crafts--got parents to run that.

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        One thing I wish my Council would do to encourage volunteers is to not lose our paperwork. I've been trying for almost a year to be an official Merit Badge Counselor. The other thing is for the professionals to treat volunteer Scouters as customers instead of the help. Several of our professionals have been downright rude to me as a volunteer Scouter. Had I not been a true believer in scouting, I would have quit on the spot.

                        Comment


                        • perdidochas
                          perdidochas commented
                          Editing a comment
                          MattR,

                          I agree about MB apps ideally being online. However, with the example of the systems we currently use online, I'm not certain it would be any better.

                          The staff needs to realize that the volunteers are the ones who actually do the heavy lifting and deliver the majority of the program. They need to either help us out or get out of our way.

                        • MattR
                          MattR commented
                          Editing a comment
                          perdidochas, you have a great point that the online version will be just as troublesome, but it will be less of a fire hazard. If you're going to lose the information, you can do it much more efficiently with a computer.

                          I agree about the heavy lifting part. My council does a good job with respect to that. My DE is always thanking me and the other units.

                        • perdidochas
                          perdidochas commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I think I've met the DE twice in my 3 yrs as a BSA leader. He had taken over a newly formed district (combined from two old districts), and had a deer in the headlights look. My problem is with a higher up part of the council staff. Every time I have ever met/talked with him on the phone he has been short and rude, even when I tried to engage him in small talk when he was not doing any work, just waiting for the next group to check in. I've let the council know this on several occasions with the annual surveys, so they know about the problem.

                      • #15
                        I have been dealing with volunteer groups for over 40 years and they all basically function the same. They all have their 10% that do the work while 90% sit on their hands and reap the benefits. Sometimes this 10% is the Old Guard that circle the wagons rather tightly and won't let in any new blood. But on the other hand the 10% can be those dedicated few that will always step up to keep the program going. It varies from one group to the next which one applies.

                        However, I have always promoted the: "If-the-program-is-important,-here's-what-needs-to-be-done." approach. It's not all that difficult to introduce into any group. For example, the Roundtable has a flyer for the up-coming fall camporee. No problem. I would after opening flags, hold up the sheet and say, "There's the fall camporee flyer, who wants to take charge?" If no one did, I would crumple it up and toss into the trash. I never had to cajole, beg, plead, guilt, people into doing something they didn't think all that important. There were times that the boys "changed their minds" and stepped up after pulling the paper back out of the trash.

                        Too often we promote programs the people aren't all that interested in and then can't figure out why anyone doesn't want to work on putting them on. Just because we did it last year is not sufficient justification to doing it again this year.

                        Stosh

                        Comment


                        • qwazse
                          qwazse commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Stosh,

                          The "pulling out of the bin" happened at the last crew meeting. Up until this last point I had heard zero interest from the boys about the fall council camporee. Then, they reviewed their sports calendars and realized that they could make this work. I explained that the venturing portion may very well be scaled back because no crew has committed thus far, and they may have to contribute some sweat into having the fun. They were okay with that and brainstormed a few ideas. Gauntlet thrown ...

                          Now to talk to the reservation director about the possibility of flaming arrows and exploding targets ...

                          Thing is, if adults are afraid that I'm gonna cause lil' Johnny to lose a limb, the odds of volunteers to help supervise increases.

                        • jblake47
                          jblake47 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I just got back from the 150th Gettysburg Reenactment, and there there isn't any flaming arrows, but a ton of stuff exploding, cannons, aerial burst fireworks and musketry all over the place. The Venturing crew boys seemed have a good time. Duh!

                          If there isn't any controlled danger, then where's the adventure?!

                        • CubScoutIdeas
                          CubScoutIdeas commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I love the crumple up idea! I'm the pack committee chair, and it can be difficult to get the parents to take charge of events.

                          I think you have a very valid point about not doing something just because we've always done it.
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