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Everything posted by ParkMan

  1. The BSA should be out there talking a lot more about what it is doing and why. The point isn't to blame those suing the BSA or to criticize those attacking it. The point is simply to explain and get the message out there. By doing nothing, the BSA is letting others define it. The BSA is doing itself more harm by not saying anything than by simply stating what is going on. If someone says - "the BSA should be punished", then engage in a conversation about how 1.5 million kids in the program today are paying to benefit from Scouting. If someone says - "the BSA should pay those abused", then engage in a conversation about the fund the BSA is creating. This conversation can entirely be positive and affirming. None of this is about blaming any victims or trying to avoid responsibility. It's about trying to do the best for both groups - those abused and those who are members today.
  2. ParkMan

    Suggest Councils that should be Combined

    Updated proposal based on feedback: 2020 - 1st half: National focuses on the national bankruptcy National conducts financial reviews of each council in the country. National identifies councils who are at risk of default due to reductions in membership or reductions in national support 2020 - 2nd half: Councils identified as "at risk" develop mitigation plans. National provides clear goals that must be met by local councils. National goals prioritize program quality and membership growth. National works with those councils to solve issues not resolvable by the local council. All options are on the table - including changes to the basic council operations model, council staffing rules, and council mergers. National does not force a particular structure on councils. Councils are free to innovate. If national is not satisfied with local plans, they reserve the right to revoke charters and grant to another council. a.k.a. - force a merger National establishes council operations excellence team. This team is chartered with capturing best practices from local councils and assisting struggling councils. 2021 - 1st half Bankruptcy over - national "surveys" the landscape. Based on finances and needs from local councils, national determines what the new national can do to best support councils. This is conveyed to councils. Local councils receive this information and generate updated financial analysis. Council operations excellence team monitors progress of councils and assists where needed. 2021 - 2nd half National and councils jointly monitor execution of council financial risk mitigation plans. National council operations excellence team actively promotes best practices based an agenda of quality program and growing membership.
  3. ParkMan

    Suggest Councils that should be Combined

    @Cburkhardt - I fully respect what you're asking here. I want to keep the thread positive, but I'd be remiss if I didn't state my concern. Pardon in advance. Fundamentally, I'm worried that we have attached ourselves to an organizational model in Scouting that is not correct for the challenges of today. I'm worried that in a effort to re-organize after bankruptcy we rush to deploy a model that has not proven successful over the past 40 years. My concerns can be summed up in: The DE to Scout ratio is wrong. We have a ratio of about 1 DE to 1,000 Scouts/50 units. If a DE costs about 40K that means we have to find $40 per Scout per year to pay for that professional. That is a significant amount of money. Imagine how different council finances would be if that money were spent on camp or on program. So many of our conversations around this topic seem to be centered on the notion that we have to maintain this ratio - but do we really? Imagine if it was 1 DE to 5,000 Scouts. Imagine if we preserved camps, but stopped having DEs. Would your world be all that different? The reliance on professional leadership. So many of the topics come back to the the concept: "Councils work when we have a the right SE." Why is our council model so beholden to one hire? I see it in our council periodically in actions such as when the SE decides to redistribute staff, we redraw district boundaries - why? Mega councils discourage volunteerism. I've not been impressed with recent updates on council reorgs. The stories we hear - defocusing on volunteerism and more focus on centralization. Councils seem to focus on reacting to problems instead of proactively providing a vision for the future. So, this led to my earlier post. Yes - I'd rather let some councils fail and then have us pick up the pieces instead of pursuing a structure that isn't working that well. I don't know what the structure should be - but I'm open to letting councils experiment.
  4. ParkMan

    Suggest Councils that should be Combined

    @Cburkhardt - Maybe I'm missing something - but what do you see changing from National that will result in councils struggling financially and programmatically? Beyond things like employee support programs and some guidance on national program items such as OA, Eagle Process, Wood Badge, etc. I don't see a lot of impact from national at a program level in our council. Truthfully - I think that the program changes by national in the last 20 years could be never been done and I don't most of us would have noticed. New Cub Scout programs, changes to advancement, updates to YPT, online training - sure they impact us - but I don't think anyone I know was really relying on them. The biggest risk I see is that of reduced membership. Fewer scouts will result in revenue, program fees, and FOS donations declining. This will strain weak councils and result in staff layoffs. Some weak councils will likely not be able to make payments on their debt and will be forced into default. My take is simply: 2020: national focuses on the national bankruptcy national empowers regional staff and volunteers to gather best practices from local councils. Those best practices are shared through the regional/area/whatever structure. national provides assistance to local councils whose finances place them at risk for bankruptcy. The remedy is done on a council by council basis 2021 - 1st half bankruptcy over - national "surveys" the landscape. Based on finances and need from local councils, national determines what the new national can do to best Scouting. This is conveyed to councils local councils receive this information and innovate locally on the "new normal" national empowers regional staff and volunteers to gather best practices from local councils. Those best practices are shared through the regional/area/whatever structure. 2022 - 2nd half national more actively promotes best practices based on the new model focusing on agenda on quality program and growing membership.
  5. ParkMan

    To star or not to star?

    I'm sorry to hear about your poor experiences as a youth. I'm struck by the idea that experience is still experience - regardless of the quality of that experience. Now, you as an adult better understand the impact of a poor program. Today you clearly are an advocate for high quality programs. Myself, I still think you should wear the star - even if to be able to point to it on a occasion as a reminder of what bad Scouting really does to youth.
  6. ParkMan

    Suggest Councils that should be Combined

    Lots of good points on this topic. I think a lot of this talk of merging councils is pointless without a vision for the future. If I were to offer an observation on why the BSA is struggling it's simple - we have to stop managing our way out of problems. The right way to chart a future for Scouting is to develop a vision for Scouting we can get behind. Let's figure that out first. Council mergers is way down on the list of important things to do. @MattR has hit on an important theme. The beauty of a bottom up structure is that it promotes innovation. The danger of a top down structure is that it stifles innovation. In my mind, councils are the place where we see innovation in large scale Scouting. National should have a team of smart people who are pulling best practices from successful councils and sharing them with others. Weak councils can learn from successful councils. The trick here isn't to force mergers - it's to learn from successful councils. What does a successful rural council look like? What does a successful urban council look like? Let's propagate that knowledge. Let's build a culture of innovation.
  7. Good list. For the sake of this discussion, I am going to accept that there is another, district level, list which is separate. One item I'd suggest need not be a council professional: signing contracts for goods and services on behalf of council (with council board approval / delegated authority) This could be a volunteer role.
  8. I could go with that - but I do believe we'd find a relatively short list. There are very few things that only a council can do that a district or that national cannot. Similarly, the only time you really need a professional employee is when specialized knowledge or dedicated focus is required. Accounting, Youth protection, fundraising, etc. - these all require specialized skills. For example, I see: councils: serve as focal point for all registration issues in the council provide advanced, council level training classes Oversee, develop, and coach district teams council professionals: Serve as specially trained council YPT escalation point Audit council budgets Organize fundraising efforts
  9. Ouch - this is exactly the opposite of the idea. We want an endowment that will not be raided to protect the camp in-perpetuity. Raiding the endowment is exactly the wrong idea. That's the crux of the issue. There's some intellectual fallacy in those kinds of statements. Part of those expenses stem from the fact that the council spends a lot of money on fundraising. That fundraising activity is expensive, but it results in more income than expenses. As a result, it means that families don't have to pay a lot for the council services. I think it would be an interesting exercise to do an audit of a council budget and determine how money is spent on activities and services directly visible to Scouts, how much money was spent on indirect things such as DE salaries, and how much on council operations, admin and fundraising. I'm not anti-council or anti-professional - it's just my gut feeling that in doing this analysis we'll see that so much of council costs are incurred because we believe a council has to work like it does today. But, that council model was developed in an era when we didn't ask parents to pay for it - we asked big donors to pay for it. Now that we're increasingly asking families to pay, things start looking very different.
  10. I'd adjust it slightly: What services essential to carrying out the Scouting program are most effectively performed by councils? Which of those essential services that are most effectively performed by councils, if any, can only be performed by paid council employees? In the ideal post bankruptcy structure, we're not trying to get rid of councils. The idea is to right-size their tasks, reduce the institutional instinct that professionals need to run things, and then proactively deal with some of the chronic issues like financial planning for the reduced membership.
  11. ParkMan

    Chapter 11 announced

    I concur. Every one of these big increases invite yet another family conversation of - "do you want to continue in Scouting?". Given our general membership issues today, this will have consequences. I am not sure how much longer I'd continue with ever increasing dues that are going solely to pay for lawsuit settlements.
  12. The other thing that this says to me is that the other troop was very organized. That counts for a lot. I've always believed that recruiting success is a lot about having a plan and simply keeping at it. Our recruiting plan looks something like: 1. Make sure the Scouts in the troop are active and having fun. The single best indicator of recruiting success is program success. Make sure to have a few really cool "wow" events. These don't have to be expensive or far away, but they need to be something that the Scouts will probably only do in Scouts. Also make sure you're thinking about retention of older Scouts. 2. Create some opportunities for the scouts to visit packs. Go to their Pinewood Derby or help at some pack meetings. Encourage being a den chief. The idea here is for the Cub Scouts to know the Scouts well before they start thinking of crossing over. 3. Invite the Webelos to a troop camping trip in the fall. Get them to know your troop. Doing this twice a year would be even better,5. Have a pre-printed calendar for the next 12-18 months. You might not know every camping trip, but you do know most things. Share it. 4. When you talk with parents and Scouts, you need to focus on what you already do and how much fun it is. You don't want to sell ideas, you want to sell your track record. 5. Have a clearly defined getting started plan for new Scouts. Communicate that. A plan doesn't mean that you have to promise them badges or advancement, but it does mean that you've got a plan for helping them get a successful start. The transition from pack to troop is daunting. Give families the comfort that you'll do you part to make it one that it fun. 6. Have a really well planned visit to your troop. When the Webelos visit, make sure it's a more active meeting. 7. At the Webelos visit, hold a session with parents to go over troop life and answer questions. 30-45 minutes is a good length. Go over schedule, what troop life is like, what they need to know to get started, introduce key leaders. This is your chance to talk youth led troops. Talk about how their youth will be successful in Scouting in your troop. You want parents to see how your troop is the right bet for them in Scouting. 8. After the event follow up several times. Send the parents and Scout an email immediately. Invite them to upcoming events. You don't want to spam, but you want to show your enthusiasm and organization. @swilliams - I like your idea of having older Scouts share some information on how they balance other activities and Scouting. My recommendation - have those older Scouts talk about this live. The most memorable examples will be that 15 year old talking about it. I know that doesn't help with external advertising.
  13. ParkMan

    To star or not to star?

    I concur - wear the star. When that application was submitted you were a member in the program. Yes, it may not have been the experience you'd have wanted - but that's ok. Service stars are our participation ribbons. You participated - you wear the star. The quality of your participation is evidenced in other awards. You don't have those.
  14. ParkMan

    Do you "Scout Sunday"?

    Though we attend our CO's service, I'm not a big fan of Scout Sunday. Having an event like this where you come out once a year in force seems like a check box item. Feels to me like it would be preferable to have a more regular interaction. Perhaps quarterly service projects or activites where the unit is more tied into the life of the CO. Make engagement with the CO part of what the unit does.
  15. Fully concur. Great points. Not to relieve national of this responsibility, I have to imagine that we would could take some of the ideas out of these recent threads and bring them together into a series of guidelines for councils. A blueprint for success for councils in the 2020's and beyond.
  16. I often wonder why our aspirations as a movement as so low. My council probably covers a metropolitan area of 2 or 3 million people. How hard can it be to setup a fund to protect camp forever? That takes what - 5 million dollars? Hire a professional endowment company to guide you through the process and make it happen. I see stuff like this happen regularly in the religious and university communities. Time for major improvements at church - let's raise $2,000,000 dollars. Let's grow the university endowment to $250,000,000 dollars.
  17. ParkMan

    Does mb counselor status expire?

    It would be desirable in my.scouting.org to see your registration status and items needed for re-registration. Imagine if... you could go in, see that you needed to re-do YPT and it has a needs to be done by date. if you needed MBC training, it had the link to the training. If there were other forms needed - such as a local council MBC form - it would be available there online, you could fill it in live, and then hit submit. The form would go to the correct district/council person who would receive it and hit accept. A district person could see the list of people online and see current status A unit key three member could see the list of MBC for the district. If only we possessed the technology in our society to do things like that. Ahh, but even if we did I'm sure it would be more cost effective for us to do this all by paper and having people chase forms.
  18. I was thinking about protection for the future, not so much protection from the abuse lawsuits. Let's assume for a moment that the lawsuits do get to some conclusion that results in your camp continuing to exist. Now, imagine that you knew the funding was there so that the camp would exist for 100 years. You could make improvements knowing the council executive board wouldn't sell the camp because summer camp enrollment was down. You could donate the "David CO" nature building and know it would be used forever. In my mind, the camp is more like college. The council board is more like caretakers of an institution that will be there for 100 years. Today we our councils are acting more like non-profits advancing a cause. In my mind the whole council should be thought of with that permanence too - but this is a discussion for another day.
  19. @dkurtenbach - thanks for bringing up back to the original topic. I believe that in looking at what Councils do, we need to weigh an important factor. What are our members willing to pay for the Scouting program? To start, we need to recognize three important points about councils: Most services a council spends money to provide are not visible to Scouts and families. Most programming the Scouts receive from councils is done at a fee to Scouts. Unit support from a professional is usually the least cost effective way to provide that service In addition to my minor prior comments about focusing on building district volunteer teams, my approach to councils in essence would be: 1. Re-examine the efficacy of spending money on tasks not measurable by Scouts. Fundraising, membership, finance, & marketing. Is the overhead incurred by a council to provide these services worth it? Proposal: reduce expenses here by 75%. If it doesn't directly impact local Scouting, cut it. 2. Re-focus on councils organizing and promoting programming by volunteers. Proposal: limit professional involvement in programming to special, highly visible activities such as Summer Camp. 3. Unit support from professionals. What is it that professionals really do for units? We see our DE once a quarter? Is that support really so important? Proposal: Clarify just what it is that professionals do for unit support. council camps - Why is it that council camps are running a deficit? The land for most council camps is paid for. What costs money is stuff like salaries for staff, expenses for buildings, maintenance. Yet, every year councils raise all kinds of money to cover council operations. Imagine if donations to Scouting really paid for improvements to council camps. Similar to @RememberSchiff, I'm of the belief that councils camps ought to have established trusts or endowments. Universities do this, why not Scouting? Imagine if your council camp was protected by an endowment and didn't need to charge fees to stay open. Proposal: Council camps should be fully funded through self-perpetuating endowment funds. focus on volunteerism - Imagine if councils cut almost all the red tape. Imagine if district volunteers felt supported and encouraged. Imagine if district volunteers were focused on programming and activity at the local level. Imagine if district volunteers built strong relationships with units and those relationships were rewarding. I expect we'd see a lot more volunteerism in Scouting. Today most unit volunteers avoid district & council with a 10 foot pole because of all the overhead, red tape, and nonsense. Imagine if it was easy and fun to be a volunteer outside the unit. Proposal: reduce the council generated rules. Build strong volunteer district teams.
  20. I've said it before, but I still believe that one of the big council issues is an ill defined DE role. A DE has too many things he/she is responsible for, too many expectations on their time, too many demands from volunteers, too many demands from their management. They basically have to be super volunteer, fundraiser, membership driver, product sales expert, program specialist, face of the council, go to unit meetings, district meetings, council meetings, etc. They work in an organization that is notoriously autocratic and demanding. They work ridiculous hours for mediocre pay. They have be deal with a volunteer community that thinks that they are all shady and after their money. Many of those same volunteers have no compunction about calling them up at 8:30am on a Saturday morning and chewing them out. If you can find the fun in that - great. Those folks go on to make a career out of it. Most folks - it's not worth it for them.
  21. @Cburkhardt - good point. I'm happy if we want to move this tangent over to that thread. Perhaps a moderator can help us here. @MattR - as I look through your list of items, I can't help but feel there's a trend where you see there is benefit to "multi-unit/district" things, but the BSA implementation today is lacking. Training can help, but the BSA "one size fits all doesn't help you" Multi-unit camping good, but the turn-key expensive camporees not so much. If I read that right, your observation matches mine. Units benefit from activities beyond the unit level. However, the current implementations are lacking. Your ideas appear to be around the idea that units can drive this. I'm optimistic that there is a role for a volunteer group pulling these together. In either model, I don't see a strong need for professionals in this kind of work. I don't see how it's worth the expense for a professional to do this stuff. Sure, a professional with the right mindset would be nice, but I don't think it's necessary to pay someone for these tasks. You start cutting out the expense of paid staff from these tasks and all of a sudden the dynamics change a lot. Fees drop, hoops you have to jump through go away, etc.
  22. I do remember reading that one. My thought wasn't even as radical as what you're suggesting. As a name - I don't love the idea of a district committee. I think it's too heavy handed a name. But, I do think there is a role for some kind of "Scouting Community" at what approximates a district level. I've been involved in a couple of districts in my time. What I generally see in the functioning ones is that there is a core community of Scouters who form the backbone of what happens in that area. Most have some sort of district role - but others might be in roles like a long time Scoutmaster or ASM. What I can easily see is something like a district committee existing. A group of volunteers who get together to do a little city/county wide volunteering - perhaps setting up a camporee or regular trainings. These people are not necessarily tied to a specific unit anymore - but are there to volunteer at this broader level. Yes, Scouting is about the Scouts - but there are some people who like to organize camporees and other larger events. This community of folks isn't all that worried about JTE scores or FOS presentations or fundraising numbers. But, they do care about regional programming and they do care about seeing healthy units. Call it what you will, but it seems a lot like the programming, commissioner, and membership functions of what we currently call the district committee. But, noticeably absent is the district executive. There's no paid person who's chasing FOS presentations, popcorn sales, membership numbers, budgets, whatever. It's just volunteers helping volunteers. To your point @MattR - they could hire a paid person to do some of that. I do worry that as soon as that happens, now you've got to have money to pay for them. At the council level, there's a few paid folks who hold down the fort. Someone to process membership stuff - though it's pretty easy because 99% is online now. Someone to man the small Scout store to sell uniforms, patches, books, etc. The Scout Store isn't trying to sell camping gear or other add ons in order to drive up sales. Maybe a few people who do fundraising from big donors. It's a goal now to have a Camp with an endowment that keeps it solvent and pays for upgrades forever. No more chasing people for money to keep camp open - you don't have to because Camp is already paid for.
  23. ParkMan

    Chapter 11 announced

    This is a big part of the problem. No-one publicly wants to describe the situation in these terms - to do so puts one in the position of being against the victims of abuse. No one wants that label.
  24. What about no DEs to work with units? No offense to our DE friends - but just a hypthetical. What would it look like if just about all unit support was done by volunteers? Pros were there just for the really unusual or serious issues like YPT.
  25. ParkMan

    Chapter 11 announced

    I'm skeptical. In my 10 years of recruiting kids, never once have I heard - are you a member of WOSM? You hear lots of "I couldn't wait for my son to be a Scout like I was." "I remember when I earned my Eagle", "I was on Summer Camp staff and loved it.", "I was very active in the OA."