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Posts posted by MattR

  1. Curious about commissioner best practices: is there supposed to be a big feedback loop between units and the district staff? For example, there are 4 packs that can't get anyone to step up, let's have a barbeque and talk about how easy it is to run a pack. My district doesn't have the power to do that but I'm just wondering if that's the idea. As best I can tell the focus is mostly on fixing i's and it's. The issues most units have are people related - get more that know what they're doing.

  2. We've had a couple of commissioners over many years. One was totally useless, but we got him because our troop was very strong. Our troop is still good and we have a commissioner that shows up at all of our committee meetings. He is a good source of information about the district. He hasn't been asked to solve any of our problems and does not attempt to.

    @Beccachap, there might be other reasons for a quick change in cognition, such as something to do with meds. As for kids that want to join but the parents don't speak English, you can ask the kids to translate for you. Or ask them to ask the parents if there's someone else that can help, such as an older sibling. Or use google translate.

    • Like 1

  3. 21 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

    MattR:  If the fundamental metrics of a council are not going well, the conversations these days between council and area/region/national volunteers are not “affirming”.  

    It could be, in general. But I suspect that neither the council or area people know how to run a business. Just a few examples.  The 2018 financial numbers changed between reporting the 2018 numbers and the 2019 numbers such that in both cases things looked great. That's a huge no-no. Although our membership has dropped markedly in the past 5 years there has been no attempt to lower staffing, especially the staff that do nothing, or reduce capital expenses. Currently, my council has less than the equivalent of a month's salary in the bank and there is no money expected for a couple of months. They have not hired someone to run summer camp so there is nobody working on staffing camp. Hence, they have already missed the opportunity to hire good staff. My guess is they will not hire staff until after fos comes in in May, or they will dip into money raised for capital improvement of camps, another no-no, with no idea how to return that money.

    However, their JTE numbers are probably silver, so things are pretty good.

    BTW, the reason I know all of this is because I was on the district staff. I quit because I got tired of fighting off the council, which was only interested in raising event prices to increase their income. Because they're mismanaging their money I was asked to raise camporee costs to $40.

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  4. Perfect timing, @Cburkhardt. I just spent last evening talking to a financial guy about how totally screwed up our council is. The SE hires the board, so they will never complain. A capital fundraiser of $6M is in progress and the SE is already siphoning money off of it for other things (he can't explain what, though) The council president is a yes man. And the area leadership is chummy with the SE, so they will never do anything about the issues. The point is, for at least 20 years our council has been run by 2 different SE's that have no expertise in how to run a business. It used to be that we'd get enough donors to cover the mistakes. No more. All of the training in the world can't fix this hot mess.

    So, the most important change is replace the top down culture with servant leadership. The relationships between areas and councils, councils and districts, and districts and units needs to change. "How can I help" and "tough love" should be the mottoes.

    Also, have a standard best practices for every council that is transparent so anyone can see financial mismanagement. JTE is not enough. A council is a business so run it that way. This includes oversight to ensure the SE is doing a good job. The CO's should get annual reports that clearly explain the finances.

    Change the hiring model. Allow councils to hire the best people they can find rather than the current internal dictates from above that we now have. A retired VP at one of our local companies could do more in a day than our SE can do in a month. Once we get real leadership all sorts of possibilities arise. The same thing applies for areas. Make it possible to fire people that don't perform.

    • Upvote 4

  5. 1 hour ago, Jackdaws said:

    I will probably get flamed but I was never more relieved to hear that 2 scouts were not re-chartering.  Its been much smoother sailing since.  If they had gone to another unit, I am sure it would have been the same situation for whichever unit they went to.   I do feel bad but these 2 scouts just killed our program for a year.  We couldn't get them to cooperate, work on advancement, earn merit badges or participate in meetings other than distracting the others by running around or laying on the floor while someone else was talking.   Most 13 year olds are impatient at the best of times and to add further friction in a situation, we were lucky to only have some bad language and a shoving match be all that happened. 


    I won't flame you, but I do have a slightly different experience. We had two different scouts that were on the spectrum. One might have been co-morbid with ADHD. Anyway, one scout had a parent that was heavily involved, knew the issues, and taught us how to work with his son. Everything worked great. Another parent didn't want to admit their son had challenges. They did volunteer for a while but eventually their son got in so many fights that they took him out. So, it depends on the parents. I will add that kids with hyperactive ADHD likely will not sit still for advancement. They should have been taken out and run around. That's how they're wired. For inspiration look up famous people that have/had ADHD. 


    • Upvote 1

  6. 3 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

    You could run our troop with 2 or 3 people working 10-20 hours a week or 20+ each putting in 2 hours a week.

    True, but a program that only needed 2-3 people working 2 hours a week would eliminate the issue of not having enough volunteers, or those volunteers would be having a lot more fun. And, as @yknot said, scouting would be more competitive with other youth activities.

    Since this thread is about helping districts help units, the question is how do districts help units run a program with fewer volunteers? Off hand, I'd say units need a lot more training that isn't even close to what districts and councils currently give. JTE certainly needs to be rewritten.

  7. On 2/12/2020 at 2:18 PM, dkurtenbach said:

    How about a variant of the thriftiness concept:  A Scout is Resourceful.  Scouts look for ways to use, re-use, repair, and alter materials and equipment already available in order to meet their needs and become handy with tools and craft skills.  They identify fun and interesting low-cost or no-cost events and activities in the local area.  They research nearby trails, campgrounds, scenic locations, wilderness areas, parks, lakes, rivers, and nature preserves to find free or inexpensive destinations for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.  They seek out experts from area schools, museums, parks, medical facilities, and government agencies, as well as local craftsmen, hobbyists, and tradesmen to learn about a wide variety of Scouting-related topics.  

    Absolutely, the gear can be done on the cheap. I still have a Tyvek tent we made.  But what about the other costs? $100 for unit dues, $400 for summer camp, $200 for weekend campouts, $200 for FOS (that is the "recommended" amount per scout in my council) and $60 to national. So, without gear or uniform or high adventure it's over $900/year. Oh, and parents that volunteer also get charged. Of those costs, the money used at the unit level are $300. If we did our own summer camp that would cut costs by about $150. If we skipped camporees and did our own that would save about $50.

    I'd rather see scouts working a job and getting paid than working on eagle. Better yet, working as a patrol. Wouldn't the program be more meaningful if there were half the campouts and the scouts worked together to pay for their trips by raking leaves, shoveling sidewalks, walking dogs, or cutting lawns - rather than selling popcorn for the council? Talk about life skills. Forget personal management MB, just pay for summer camp. I bet a lot of scouts would be a lot more critical of summer camp if they had to pay for it. I know some parents that did this but I wish more had done it.

    How much money can a scout comfortably make? I think that should drive their expenses, and what the council and national charges.

    • Upvote 2

  8. let me see, someone was complaining about not enough comments on this thread? :)

    I think this thread has mostly come down to there are needs for more volunteers.

    The bigger question for me is why does scouting require so many volunteers? We have 1000 scouts in our district and we have, I don't know, 2 dozen units with, say a dozen volunteers in each unit and the district needs another 60 people (but isn't close to that). So we need nearly 1 volunteer for every 3 scouts? That's crazy.


    • Upvote 1

  9. Just now, David CO said:

    No!  No!  No!   I was joking.  The one time people agree with me here, and I was joking.  Aaargh.

    I'm not talking about scouts, I'm talking about 20 something folks. Likely the same ones that work at the summer camps. Is that who you're disagreeing with? Ideally, it would be nice to get college students to volunteer but my experience has been they aren't very reliable.

    BTW, I took my daughter out of girl scouts because the troop was charging other troops to have her train them.


    3 minutes ago, qwazse said:

    Let's dream of doing one better. Pay 1.5*interest on student loans while every qualified 20-something serves as an ASM or SM. 

    And that's how we could get scouts as an after school program, making it so much easier to recruit scouts. And those older scouts in high school could be used in those schools.

    I think one could apply for grants to fund it.

  11. 5 hours ago, Eagledad said:

    When I look at what District could do to make a cub leaders job easier, it's not so much what district could do, but what National could do. Reduce the program to a manageable level for the "Average" volunteer.

    Reducing or simplifying the program to make it easier on volunteers should be national's vision. That vision should be simple enough that every volunteer understands it. That would help everyone. Volunteers, parents, scouts, district, council, donors, prospective parents. Everyone.

    Let's just say the vision is "fun with a purpose" and the purpose is developing responsible young adults with good character. Cub burnout is certainly going against that as so many cubs leave before they get to scouts. Another problem is advancement at all costs. It seems like a lot of district effort goes into that. It's not that advancement is bad it's just that it's sucking limited resources. One event that districts shouldn't have to put on are MB fairs.

    Shouldn't the district focus be more on helping units achieve the aims of scouting? Rather than a MB fair a video on how to cold call a MB counselor as well as efforts to make more MB counselors available would better help that vision. Good training is something the district or council can provide. One thing I've noticed is that the reason there's so much focus on advancement is that it's all laid out. Requirements, ranks, badges. It's all so simple. Just follow along. On the other hand, having fun learning skills is this vague abstract idea that requires a lot of work for people to turn into something concrete. It requires some imagination and time to play with the ideas. I've spent years coming up with ideas for my troop and the district and it takes a lot of time and effort. Training to help scouters with that might be really beneficial. The same goes for developing camaraderie within a patrol and the patrol method for that matter. That is getting closer to the vision. That all said, the district nor council have the resources to make this training available. Again, national could really help with this.

    • Upvote 2

  12. Maybe a quote about how challenges can be blessings in disguise will help? (maybe for you or maybe your troop)

    Anyway, suggestions in no particular order:

    Talk to the parents of the scout with the most severe disabilities. Can they help? Having to remind a scout to go to the bathroom is asking a lot. If scouting is just a reprieve for the parents then ask your troop if this is what they're interested in doing. If so, figure out how to share the load.

    Next, talk to the scouts. The issue you brought up is competitions between patrols. First of all, find out if they have a problem with the competitions. If they don't care about the competition then your problems are over. If they do or just some do, then next talk about the scout law. At the same time recognize that their problems are real. On the one hand they need to help and on the other they want to compete. Now you're set to ask the most important question: how do you guys want to solve this? You might be surprised at the insights they have.

    • Upvote 1

  13. 48 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

    1. know and understand the vision.

    I agree in that what a council really needs is just one person with a vision. One of two people needs that vision. Either the council president or the SE. If they don't, as in my council's case, I'm not sure how any of the changes discussed can happen. My council is broke and the board is just another income stream. That's all it does.

    7 minutes ago, David CO said:

    I think it is clear that the powers that be will never step down from their control of BSA.  Positive council changes can only occur if a bankruptcy process forces them out.  I hope it happens soon.

    But bankruptcy will likely not change anything with the councils. If anything, there will be less oversight. I'm not sure how there could be less, though.

    @David CO, I will add one thing, though. I like your idea of getting the CO's more interested. Every CO I know of is interested in helping kids and in particular, kids that need more help. Their input would be very valuable. And the goodwill between CO's and the council would help the local scouting scene.

    • Upvote 2

  14. 3 minutes ago, MikeS72 said:

    We are one of 2 districts in our council that still has a Scoutreach program.  We currently have 15 Scoutreach units, most of which are in schools with a high 'at risk' population.

    I think that's great and I wish it were the rule rather than an exception. It doesn't appear that anyone is promoting it. I looked for scoutreach websites and found something on the "wayback machine" (an archive of old web pages).

    17 minutes ago, walk in the woods said:

    Isn't this the lane occupied by Boys and Girls Clubs of America?  Not that Scouting couldn't compete I supposed but barriers to entry seem high.

    I'm not real familiar with Boys and Girls Clubs, so I looked around. In my county (which is also my district) there are 3000 youth in B&G clubs while there are 1000 scouts. B&G clubs do have leadership opportunities for 11-13 year olds and 14-18. I don't know much more than that and there certainly is some overlap. Outdoors and adventure, not so much. As for barriers to entry, the challenge seems to be the same as the BSA - finding adult-ish help and donations.

    I'd be up for helping these kids do scouty things once a week.

  15. Just a hunch, but maybe this extra digit thing is a leftover from bad software practices decades ago and each council decides their own way to deal with the fact that there's still no way to filter a database by unit type. 

    It's just truly amazing to me that this is still an issue. It's sort of like why ID numbers are still not unique across BSA. Oh well, something else for the new guy to fix.

  16. For the scouts that join my troop it makes me feel like we're doing the right thing. For scouts that join another troop it gives me pause to wonder why, but I'm sure glad they stay in scouts. 

    Usually, scouts join our troop because we do more than their old troop. The scouts that join other troops from ours go because they want a smaller troop or they have friends there. A few transfered because they wanted to do less (!)

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