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Zaphod

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Zaphod last won the day on September 24 2016

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About Zaphod

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    Chicagoland
  1. Zaphod

    Sibling Discounts?

    If you are already charging as low of a price as possible fur dues then just be transparent. Show them the break-down -- how much the Pack must pay per scout for the items you listed and explain you really can't reduce fees any lower. However..... What we did instead is allow families to pay a reduced membership fee the following year if they sold X amount of popcorn. So if your normal popcorn goal is $200 per scout, then take your desired discount, multiply it by 3 (to cover the amount council/Trail's End take when selling popcorn) and increase the goal by that much and offer it as a "stretch" goal. We actually have a bunch of stretch goals and some of our scouts are motivated to sell up to $1,500 per year. Some people might say this sounds too much like scout accounts but it's not. The money can't be applied to anything they want and does not roll over. It just gives people a way to pay for things they can't afford that normally come out of pocket. We had 1 family with 4 brothers sell over $1,200 in popcorn year after year and still have to pay hundreds of dollars in dues (which was a struggle for them). I didn't think THAT was fair. I think incentives are fine as long as the Pack doesn't go in the red because of them.
  2. Zaphod

    Fundraising - Kids or Adults?

    Seriously?! As former Popcorn Kernel, Treasurer, and veteran, I think that's a terrible idea! For one, some people do not wish to support the military and that is their right. When they are giving your Pack cash they wish your Pack to benefit from it. Also, some of us who give cash don't want Packs to lose 2/3 of the money to overhead. I know exactly what I am doing when I give cash and when I give $10 it is because I want the Pack to have $10 NOT $3 with Trail's End and the Council each taking their cut. We NEVER solicited donations, but when we got them they went right into the bank because that is what the donor intended and that is allowed by BSA policy.
  3. Zaphod

    Scoutbook

    The WORST thing about the scoutbook calendar is that it does not automatically add new families to event notifications (even scoutbook does that). That was almost a deal break for us.
  4. Zaphod

    Did Lions Pilot anywhere in 2015-16?

    Thanks for the info! Yes, she is in the Northern Star Council. That's interesting.... glad they did that though before rolling it out nationwide. As a former Cub Scout family that dropped out because of burn-out I too am very skeptical about the Lion program.
  5. My sister just told me that she is going to join a Lions den that piloted last year. I thought this year was the first time it was being piloted. Does anyone know of any pilot programs anywhere else? Specifically the Twin Cities?
  6. Who's going to perform an audit? If your CO is a church, school, or community group chances are your liaison is another volunteer. If they don't suspect mis-conduct already, I find it hard to believe they are going to make it a priority to find the time (or someone else who is willing) to conduct an audit. This reminds me of when I joined scouts 5 years ago.... I thought BSA was ultimately in charge and took an interest in each group's well-being. I used to say things like "They ought to make sure den leaders receive better training" or "They really should.... [insert Pack failing here]." Now I laugh at that because I realize there is no "They". Just a bunch of volunteers who may or may not improve things as they pass through but are just as likely to mess things up or barely keep the status quo. By all means, strive to do better. But you'll catch more flies with honey. If you have already pushed back and raised some hackles, this might not work but your "I'm in training and just want to learn" approach is definitely the way to go. Seriously reconsider the audit approach. There is no District, Council, or BSA accounting service. There are no pro-bono accountants waiting in the wings to fight scouting corruption. Instead consider taking it slow. Start by making sure the committee nominates and seconds you as Treasurer for next year and account signer for this year. (Our bank requires a copy of the Minutes stating this before adding a new person to the account). Then ask the current Treasurer to set up a time to meet you at the bank to add you to the account so you can start learning the ropes. This HAS to happen eventually so avoid making an enemy of the current Treasurer. Being on the account will allow you to at least monitor the situation and catch a mishandling of funds. You don't have to overthrow the current treasurer just keep tabs and mitigate disaster. If the key 3 refuse to do this, then you gotta' wonder if they are worried about their incompetence coming to light (or if they are really planning on making you treasurer next year). It's one thing to be lazy but another thing to hinder you from transitioning altogether. If that ends up being the case, I would take that to the CO rep (not allegations or audit demands). Just innocently say, "I don't want to be lost next year and have no tools to do my job. Please come to the committee meeting and ask them to help me put a strong transition plan in place." If they do agree to nominate you and add you to the account, then you're golden. Just start putting in place the proper systems and bide your time on the other stuff. Create a Continuity Binder or Treasurer's Book. Print up a year's worth of bank statements from online and stick them in there. Start putting a copy of the Committee meeting minutes in there. Put a budget in there that lists every event. At each committee meeting ask what the most recent events actually cost and what the budget is for the events coming up in the next few months. If they push back say you just want to have good records for setting next year's budget. Don't worry about receipts just totals. Also ask for and collect fundraising data (popcorn should be in full swing, so the Popcorn Kernel should be giving updates at the meetings). You can also ask the Popcorn Kernel to login into the Trail's End website and print you up some historical data. You don't need the current treasurer to get prepared for next year if you just get on your game now. If anyone thinks you are overstepping, then play the absent-minded professor.... say, "I'm gonna' be lost next year if I don't have a year's worth of bank statements, Minutes, etc." Personally, I just embrace my inner accountant and say "I'm an OCD nerd... that's just how I roll...." that's usually enough. I am surrounded by incompetence, but the worst thing to do is make them feel judged. That just puts up defenses and makes your life harder. Good luck! I do feel your pain.
  7. I just stepped down as Treasurer for our Pack and am currently Treasurer in two other organizations. I honestly believe it's probably nothing malicious just incompetence. Everyone in Scouts at the Pack level are volunteers. As such, they are not always meticulous unless they just happen to have a math bent or OCD. Also, unless your Pack is huge with wildly successful fundraisers or your CO is really generous, there is probably not enough money flowing through to cover several people's mortgage payments. But you are right to want to turn things around and I commend you for stepping up! If it helps you to be patient, know that every year of scouting should start relatively fresh. It's wise to put a little into savings each year for equipment or to make repairs but other than that, the money the boys raise each year should be spent on them that same year. So if you start out next year with nothing that's not the end of the world -- you are just starting with a blank slate. But you can do things better and once I figured out the following steps, life as Treasurer got a million times easier! The following is my secret plan for having a great year (and not just financially). #1 Plan your calendar for the entire upcoming year around graduation time. This is best done with the entire committee before people scatter for the summer. This would also be a great opportunity for your new committee to get to know one another and start off on the right foot. In your planning, include camp-outs, Winter Lodge, Blue & Gold, Pinewood Derby, etc. The previous year's calendar would be good to have since lots of things are cyclical. Another bonus to doing this is that you have your calendar ready for recruitment time. #2 Set a budget based on the events on the calendar plus awards, etc. I find it's best that events are kept affordable but that families have to pay something to feel invested (our worst attendance is always for free things... it's a mystery). We aim to keep monthly activities/go-see-its around $3 - $7 per scout with one big thing a year costing between $20 - $40 per scout. Also remember to figure out how much of dues can be used for expenses. For us dues are spent entirely on the annual BSA fee ($25/scout and their handbook, scarf, and slide). We make NOTHING on dues because we are a lower income area and want scouting to be affordable. We also get nothing from our CO so again... it's all fundraising. #3 Work with the Popcorn Kernel/Fundraising Chair to set the individual scout goal. This is crucial! In popcorn training they tell us that a good scouting program costs about $200 per scout which means they need to sell about $600 in popcorn. I find this to be accurate for a Pack of 17 - 25 scouts. We make the goal $650 to give us some wiggle room (if that sounds like a lot, know that it's only about 40 bags/boxes -- that's quite do-able). If your CO gives you money each year, divide that by the number of scouts and subtract it from the individual goal. If you don't do popcorn, calculate your goal based on what you do. For example, if you sell candy bars that each earn you $0.50, then each scout would need to sell 400 bars. We hate fundraising so we only do one a year. I think that makes expectations very clear and if the fundraiser happens early in the season you know how much money you have to play with for the rest of the year. #4 Adjust your budget/activities based on fundraising results. At popcorn kick-off, I tell people that events are tied to popcorn sales. I estimate the cost of each event based on goal and then revise the event based on actual sales and then send it to every parent. I believe in transparency plus it helps the low/high sellers see what effect they had on the whole group (I don't embarrass low sellers by name or anything, but they know what they sold!!) For example, we have a pumpkin carving event every year. If sales are good we add in a hayride. If sales are poor... too bad, no hayride. It's still fun and it's a good lesson in being thrifty and spending within your means. Blue & Gold could be a catered event or a family potluck based on sales, and so on. #5 Spend the money on the boys! I am excellent with money and planning so ever since I took over as Treasurer we have had a surplus each year. One year that surplus allowed us to schedule a bonus LegoLand Discovery Center Bage Workshop. Definitely save a little money each year (if you can) but remember to reward the boys who earned the money. BTW want to know something funny? I came up with this on my own through painful trial and error.... but it was never a secret to the BSA. They had already laid out a similar plan and it's called the Perfect Year of Scouting. It wasn't until I had been secretary for a year, then treasurer, then popcorn kernel that I heard about this plan at Kernel training. That's when I learned we poor volunteers waste a LOT of time reinventing the wheel. This has ALL been done before. Use scouting.org, scouter.com, and your council's website to make your job easier and save yourself a LOT of hassle. And welcome to the club! One last word of warning... as Treasurer, you really need all these things to get done to set a budget and spend responsibly. But don't fall into the trap of DOING all these things yourself (that's a word of advice for any parent joining a weak committee). Den leaders/Cubmaster should be at the planning meeting. The secretary should write up the calendar and post it for the rest of the Pack. The popcorn kernel should help set the fundraising goal, etc. I did allow myself to become become the task-record keeper though and that was a great move. At every meeting as people said, "Someone should really look into...." I replied, "Great idea, why don't you follow-up on that or delegate that to one of the Pack parents! We'll follow up with you on that at the next committee meeting." During the meeting I would make a list of all those suggestions or tasks in a blank email message, tag it with the name of the person who suggested it, and then send it to everyone as soon as the meeting ended. Following up with that list became a routine committee meeting task and kept things from falling through the cracks.
  8. Zaphod

    Struggling to stay in Scouts

    Don't feel too bad that your boy did not attend summer camp. Mine did and we are still in the same boat as you. He enjoyed camp but here we are just a few short weeks later and already he wants to drop out of scouting. He just wasn't pulled into the troop like I was hoping. The older boys just don't care about him and have no reason to pull him in. They go through the motions... take him aside at meetings and ask if he needs anything signed, etc. I don't blame them.... It's just not working for my 11 year old. But honestly Cubs wasn't working anymore either. Those who are saying that 4th - 6th graders need their own thing are spot on. He really was tired of the chaos of Pack meetings that included lots of 1st and 2nd graders but is not enjoying the new and completely different type of chaos that comes from a boy led troop. He attended every last event since he crossed over until a week or so ago and gave it a real shot. So it's just time to let go.
  9. Some CA school districts have year round schooling. What makes it really hard to adjust is that they are not all on the same schedule. They have 2 months on and one off but not all at the same time (this allows them to save money by having teachers teach year round). My stepson lives in that area so I researched it to figure out how it would impact his visitation schedule. It was almost impossible to predict what schedule he would be on from one year to the next. So I think Scout Troops would have to make plans to accommodate all the different schedules and say goodbye to entire Troop outings in the summer. Probably group Patrols by schedule and be willing to make changes every year.
  10. That is a good one. My son crossed over in May, went to camp in June and is faltering now because there is nobody else his age and no crossovers in the pipeline. I feel like we did what we were supposed to do (visited several Troops, attended a camp-out with the one he liked best, etc.) but still got it wrong. I love boy-led in theory but it is chaotic and a lot gets over-looked. My son has made very little progress towards Scout and I think that contributed to him losing interest. From my side of things -- I have 4 boys. We can't afford to invest $800/yr (the amount each scout will spend out of pocket per year as per last week's annual fundraising meeting) on an interest that the boy doesn't absolutely love. But I really wanted him to love it. I wanted Scouts to work out and I am disappointed the Troop did not do more to pull him in.
  11. Zaphod

    Amazon Smile

    We use Benefit mobile to allow families to raise money. You get cash back on gift cards that you buy through an app -- usually around 3-5% (for a bigger variety of stores Benefit also sells physical gift cards). Families can use the proceeds however they wish. We made about $75 around tax time buying a month's worth of gift cards for Meijer, movies, and eating out. Some families make up to $500/yr who are disciplined and use it regularly. You can even buy Amazon gift cards! Check it out.... it's a pretty good return and easy to use. https://www.benefit-mobile.com/
  12. Zaphod

    Chaplain's aid prayer policy

    No offense here.... I don't actually think there is any set formula to prayer. I don't think you need to actually say "In Jesus' name" or anything like that. But other faiths/denominations teach certain prayers (and the boy from the OP's post seems to have been taught something specific) and I don't see anything wrong with that. But even if you omit saying Jesus, God, Yahweh, or Allah, it doesn't change who you are actually addressing. It just seems so disingenuous to be talking to one person but never use His name so others can pretend you are talking to someone else. It's like we are all agreeing to participate in a polite farce. I went to Bible College before enlisting in the Air Force. I know the issues that military chaplains face. I know the DoD would prefer them to conduct watered down services that never cause offense. But many chaplains struggle to find a balance between meeting people's various sprititual needs vs staying true to their own beliefs. It's not as simple as saying, "Chaplains should just encourage people to practice their own faith." Many do not actually feel that is their calling at all. It just seems to me that this issue is not simple and I am surprised that anyone would even think of trying to instruct someone over whom they have zero spiritual authority on how to conduct themselves (much less a child). I think the best bet is to let the scout pray however he wants. If someone doesn't feel it is "inclusive" then open up the floor to allow anyone else to pray however they want. Then end with a moment of silence to allow anyone who doesn't wish to pray aloud to be reverent in their own way. If the other boys feel a chaplain's aid is being too pushy or not meeting their needs they can choose a new one later.
  13. Zaphod

    Chaplain's aid prayer policy

    This topic is a bit troubling to me. In my faith, prayer is not a speech for the benefit of its listeners. Prayer is a conversation. When I pray, I know exactly who I am addressing and I have a name for this being. So why then must I pretend that all of a sudden I don't know His name just because others will be listening? That indicates that I am slightly embarrassed or ashamed to be speaking to my God. Being purposefully vague is something many Christians (and I imagine Muslims) would be very much against. It says something about BSA that someone who has very strong convictions is actually less qualified to be a Chaplain's Aid than someone who is willing to speak at their "higher power" in a vague and non-committal way lest they offend. Personally my faith is such that if you told my son he could not pray as he'd been instructed then that would be a deal breaker for me and I would leave the Troop immediately. Better that we just leave religion out of scouting altogether than to teach boys its better to practice watered-down faith. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would instruct my son to either listen respectfully as someone else offered up a prayer appropriate for their own beliefs or tell him to use that time to silently reflect. This is very uncomfortable ground to tread. I had no idea that BSA advocated that boys alter how they practice their faith to be PC. This has come as quite a surprise and I am very disappointed to read that policy.
  14. Zaphod

    Troop Recruiting

    Reading these posts makes me think scouting in my area is really dysfunctional. Every boy in our Pack went into the same Troop for 5 years (maybe longer... before our time though) and they never once offered us a den chief or invited us to an event. Pin workshops sound like a great idea! And you are right, my son joined the Troop that asked him to come along on a camp-out (after we reached out to a bunch of Troops trying to schedule visits). Most other troops acted like they were doing us a favor by allowing a Web to tag along. It's so weird to see what scouting is meant to be and comparing it to my experiences thus far.
  15. Zaphod

    Scout with no money

    Our Troop offers a lot of fundraisers but so far none of them have resulted in a deposit to my son's scout account. I know a lot of you don't do them, but this Troop does so we are stuck with what we have. Because we have already shelled out about $600 in 2 months I have recently told my son that we just can't afford this anymore and everything he does from now on is on him. We have 3 other kids who are doing nothing special this summer because every extra penny has gone to scouting so our new scout could get off to a good start. (Luckily they are pretty happy to just play Pokemon Go, lol). Honestly, I want him to be in scouts and I want him to enjoy it but he's teetering on the edge already and if he can't afford to attend anything else and they lose him because of it, so be it. Although I think they mean well and are all wonderful people, sometimes people with money to spare just do not get what it is like to have to count every penny. I balk at paying $20 for a 1-color, cotton, screen-printed t-shirt because I know it can be done for $10. I pause at paying $40 (not including food) for a camping trip 2 hours away when for $10 you can camp in a local forest preserve. Maybe they are tired of doing the same thing all the time and all the leaders are like.... "Well the boys picked it and we are boy led....soooooo what can we do?" Then I think the boys should also be required to figure out how to pay for it! And include the new people that haven't been around for over a year to pad their scout accounts. What really burns me is that this particular son sold over $600 of popcorn every single year as a Cub Scout (one year over a $1,000) for the good of the Pack (no individual accounts) but then leaves the Pack and is immediately stuck coming up with hundreds of dollars. Sorry to be griping all the time. I know all the whys (every unit is owned by CO, it's not up to BSA or council or District to decide how money is handled, etc. etc.). It's just been a rough transition and I think forward thinking Troops would reach out to Packs and partner with them and do something to make this whole process a little easier.
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