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ChuckSt8er

Parent Volunteers - - Sound off!

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OK Scouters, I want to hear from a WHOLE bunch of you on this one. We're all coming up on Back to Scouting after our summer 'break' (peals of laughter from most of us), and many Units will soon face the timeless dilemma of how to broaden our base of parental support for Pack and Den activities.

 

Our Pack is pursuing a philosophy and program of mandatory family support during two activities per year with assigned teams. Unless there is a REAL good reason for doing so, nobody ducks this expectation, not even Den leaders (they only have to support one activity due to their Den responsibilities). We believe that much like any other activity (sports, school) that has an expectation of parental support, Cub Scouting is no different - - for the program to work at its best, it needs a broad base of participation, support, ideas and leaders. No family is exempt. (We also believe that much like being told to eat your vegetables, once the initial resistance is over, it becomes an expectation, and part of your Pack's culture. Shoot, you might even like it (vegetables AND volunteering)).

 

My interest is not so much hearing your feedback on what we do (though that's welcome), but to have Scouters share their Unit's approaches to this challenge. What works, what doesn't. And more specifically, how do you create and nurture a 'culture of leadership' in your Pack where active family participation is expected and understood as a price of entry and a 'membership reward'?

 

Speak up! I'm all ears.

 

YIS -

Cubmaster Chuck

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Hi Chuck,

 

We were just talking about this last night as we conducted our district's round up training. Fun stuff. And yes you're right, this problem is pretty much universal!

 

A couple of thoughts:

 

1) In school I always hated "group work" where I didn't get to pick the group I was in, because inevitably some of the people "assigned" to my group would be total slackers and I'd have to carry them too. Grr.

 

If you're going with mandatory "teams" for activities, make sure that people have some choice in the matter.

 

It might also help to have a designated point person for the project before you throw it open to the rest of the group (at least, for the big, complex stuff like pinewood derby or blue & gold). Not only are more people likely to volunteer if they're just "helping" instead of being in charge, but also you're less likely to be in a lurch where people signed up to run an event and then vanished.

 

2) Asking individually works best. Making a large group appeal "we need people to help" is less successful. You need to be able to look them in the eye.

 

3) Getting people who KNOW them to ask works better. One UC told me the other night that he eyeballs the crowd, waits to see who seems to have their act together, and then asks their spouse "has ___ done anything like this before, because you know s/he seems like a natural for ___ position." He claims it never fails and the spouse ends up doing the recruiting for him.

 

4) Consider that many parents of cub-aged boys are young-ish and don't have a lot of experience organizing things for larger groups. Keep the tasks you want help with small, manageable. "We need help getting 10 pizzas donated" is a lot less scary than "we need help running our pinewood derby."

 

5) Make sure all of your existing leaders are on board and upbeat first! Nothing kills the vibe like a morose den leader sitting around griping about the pack. This is a group people should want to join!

 

 

 

 

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Make sure your parental involvement starts where it should, in the program. It is rather counter productive to let parents get away with not working with their son on his achievements and projects, but then to make activity assistance mandatory.

 

For Webelos dens, parents should be working as Activity Pin Counselors.

 

In the Wolf and Bear dens parents should be working with their boys at home on most of their achievements and many of their electives.

 

And, where it all starts, in the Tiger den, Shared Leadership should be used extensively. Start them early with the expectation that they must work with their son and his den and most of your job will be done.

 

Den leaders can use their families for any number of jobs from driving, to photographer, to den newsletter, to snack maker and more.

 

If you have a need for a Pack committee for an activity, have your den leaders recommend a few parents they feel would do a good job. Then have the den leader, who knows the families, ask them face to face.

 

Do sign ups for activities thru the den so the leader can encourage den families one-on-one to attend.

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This is something we always struggle with. One of the first thing I tell parents on sign up night is that their son will get from scouting exactly what they, the parents, put into it. I tell them up front, if you plan to drop your son in the parkinglot and come back an hour later, not work at home with him, and sit in the very back at pack meetings, scouting is not for you, sign up for soccer. So we get at least some participation. We're always looking to step it up, though.

 

This year we are coming at it a little differently. We know that parents will never head up a committee or event. So instead, we're going to give denleaders those jobs, voluntarily at first, by demand if needed. We will then give them all the guidance and help we can, and let them recruit their own committees for their events. As cubmaster, I expect to sit on every committee, but I won't have to preside over each and every one of them.

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I (CC) am going to meet with parents at the August pack meeting while the boys play a game. Our roundup isn't until Sept, so all the parents at the August meeting have boys who have been in cub scouts at least one year. In other words, they have participated in our regular events at least once, so they can't say (like a new parent) that they don't know what to do. We have a number of event positions to fill (Popcorn, fall campout, PWD, B&G, etc), all of which are for a defined (1-3 month) period of time. I have been pretty successful at recruiting help from groups in the past (10+ years), even though the BSA recommendation is that you ask a particular person to do a particular job.

 

For all of the jobs, we have people (mostly uniformed leaders) who have done the job before and can help/advise, but the goal is to have all/most of the events lead by parents who are not already den leaders/committee members. For the biggest events, campouts, I've talked to a former den leaders with a younger boy - she will probably run the fall campout, with another parent helping - that parent will then lead the spring campout, with another parent helping.

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Please keep in mind, the person who is running the Pack campout MUST be BALOO trained.

 

It defeats the purpose if you have the BALOO trained person just a name or signature on a Tour Permit.

 

 

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ScoutNut - the person SUPERVISING the campout by signing the tour permit and being onsite during the campout must be BALOO trained (4 leaders in our pack). The person ORGANIZING the campout (getting volunteers to do various jobs, reserving the preapproved campsite, buying the needed materials) does not necessarily have to be BALOO trained, as long as the activities conform to what is allowed. I do not believe that defeats the purpose of BALOO. It does spread the load, and allow a role for parents who may hesitate to take on a long-term commitment.

 

The former den leader taking the lead role in the fall is BALOO trained - with any luck, we'll be able to get the parent volunteer who helps at the fall campout trained before the spring campout (no BALOO training available this fall).

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I'm thankful that my son is past Cub Scout age.

I'm 100% sure that I really wouldn't want to entrust his care to a group of people who were mandated to serve.

While the selection of leaders and volunteers does seem like hard work and might seem to be cumbersome, when the steps are followed it works!!

" Unless there is a REAL good reason for doing so, nobody ducks this expectation"

I really would hate to try and set myself up as having to be the person who makes this judgment.

Her Who Must Be Obeyed (Even through she has done her bit in the past)

Works shifts.

Unlike her husband who is very outgoing, she is very shy.

She would sooner have a root canal than be forced to work with a group of people she doesn't know.

She would and has never got up and spoke to a group in what might seem to her to be a public gathering.

She freely admits that she doesn't like other peoples kids and jokes that if she had to work with the "Little darlings" membership would suffer as a few of them might go missing!!

 

"We believe that much like any other activity (sports, school) that has an expectation of parental support."

I don't know about this!

OJ was on the HS track team, other than going to watch his participation , we his parents were not involved or were we asked to be.

Same goes for the soccer team and the year he played on the girls volley ball team.

We were never invited or asked to support him, or the team.

Back when he first started playing soccer at age six I did volunteer my services as a coach. Most of the parents were happy to come and watch the games without getting involved or supporting the team other than paying the sign up fee and paying for the equipment that their son needed.

 

What will be the consequences if a family doesn't have a reason that the judge doesn't deem to be good enough?

Do you ask the Lad to quit?

I somehow think that mandatory volunteerism is a contradiction.

It isn't going to work.

Kinda like trying to teach a pig to sing!!

My advise is don't waste your time doing something that isn't going to work, will harm the kids who more than lightly would get the most out of the program.

Is not in keeping with the guidelines of the BSA.

I strongly suggest you rethink this, maybe with a few modifications the http://www.scouting.org/boyscouts/supplemental/18-626/index.html

Will help you select the people you need to deliver the program to the Cub Scouts and the families you are trying to serve.

Good Luck.

Eamonn.

 

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The prudent Cubmaster would very closely study every word Eamonn, a former Distict Commissioner, just wrote!

 

Then, he'd add in the words of Lisa.

 

Then, he should probably re-cast his expectations. Better to have a point person for each activity who can recruit parents at Den meetings and Pack meetings.

 

BTW, it's a really good way to drive off Den Leaders by demanding more of them!

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If possible, Take your calender and schedule the events as far in advance as possible. Rough in the event and date.

Put these on a largish paper, chart size, poster on the wall by the parents hangout (back of the room? Hallway?) CM announces and ACM/CC button holes the parents and gets them to sign up then and there ("well I'll help, but I can't be responsible because...")

Often the empty spots are an encouragement for others to step up. When they see all the neat stuff, months in advance, then they can get a handle on it.

Vacations, employer concerns, church events, school events all need to be accounted for.

 

Good luck...

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Rather than requiring parents to help, we have tried incentive programs. Any scout whose parent helped with planning and/or running an event got their recharter fee paid for by the Pack. We got lots of "helpers" this way, but still ended up having leaders do most of the running of the events, due to the reasons Eammon mentioned.

 

We've also tried having each den be responsible for a specific event, but didn't have as much success with that.

 

Even without requiring parental help, we still lose a few kids early in the scout year, because parents say the kid is too busy. I'm sure a big part of it is that the parents don't want to have to be so involved.

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A Pack I know of has done the following. They would have a non-BSA adult evening. This would happen usually in September. They would meet at someone's home, barbeque, have the option of adult beverages, and play card games or board games (Queen of Hearts, Pictionary, etc). There was no or little mention of scouting. It was a method of getting to know one another in a pleasant social gathering. Later on in the year, when folks were contacted to assist or help with a project, they were not strangers to each other. Contact and communication went more smoothly. Also, there had been the opportunity to possibly discover strengths and/or over-views of each other (single parent/ has a 15 seat van, etc).

 

This didn't solve all their volunteer problems. But, they said that it did make it easier to recruit "new" help.

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Great feedback so far - - I appreciate the comments.

 

A point of reference and inspiration - - when I was at Woodbadge this past spring (I used to be a Fox), our PL re-introduced me to the wonderful and egalitarian concept of the duty roster. As soon as I saw it, the rationale clicked: In what Troop is ANY Boy Scout allowed to continually sit on his tush while the rest of his patrol prepares, cooks, serves and cleans? Jobs are supposed to be shared equally among all participants. If you want to enjoy the benefits of this activity (e.g. eating), then you are expected to equitably share in its preparation. Not everyone does the same job at the same time, but everybody plays a supporting role.

 

What would we be teaching Boy Scouts if 80% of the Patrol's work was continually done by the same 20% of the group, time after time? And if we want to teach the principle of 'equal support' to our boys, why would we allow participating Cub Scout akelas and families to be accountable to any other standard?

 

Not everyone on an activity committee is asked to do the same job, but to serve on a team of 5-10 other adults. One person might make recruiting night signs. Another might write and deliver announcements for the school's morning assembly. Another person might put together information packets. Another person might make an informational powerpoint presentation. Another person might write thank you notes to the school and PTA. Depending on the skills and strengths of each team, you assign responsibilities that are appropriate to the group and give them the best chance of success.

 

My question to a parent who doesn't want to live up to their expectations would be this: Do you believe your reasons for not participating are any more valid than those who did get past their excuses ('I'm too busy.' 'I'm too important.' 'I don't have time to write an email and send it out to the Pack.')? I would also point out that the very real impact of the "usual suspects" volunteering method: The "usual suspects" ultimately recognize they are doing a vastly unequal share of the work, which denies them their rightful share of quality time with their Scout during Unit events. And unless the Usual Suspects are on their way to sainthood, they will become resentful of those who constantly get a free ride. Is that fair? Is that right? By allowing it, aren't we giving it tacit approval?

 

In the end, I am less concerned about offending those who continually sit on their hands, and more concerned with promoting principles of 'equal support from all participants.' The ultimate benefits to the boys, parents and unit FAR outweigh any perceived risks. And yes, if there are families who will not acknowledge their responsibilities, then there are other Packs within minutes of ours who may not be as concerned with 80% of the work being continually done by 20% of the members. And yes, these parents will be re-introduced to the principle of equal work in person.

 

As an institution, Scouting upholds the ideal of Service, not servitude. Our Unit believes in walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

 

But again, that's a little more backstory on how WE are enacting a solution. What do YOU believe is right for YOUR unit, and what are YOU doing?

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In the end, I am less concerned about offending those who continually sit on their hands, and more concerned with promoting principles of 'equal support from all participants.

 

A Scouter is Courteous. If you are offending, you are not being Courteous.

 

I'm also starting to see a disconnect in this Pack. It seems to me you are doing the Committee Chairman's, and the Committee's, job. The Cubmaster is responsible for the program. He works with the Den Leaders to implement a BSA approved program every month.

 

The Cubmaster hands off support requirements for Pack events to the Committee. The Den Leaders ASK their parents for specific support for specific events.

 

It's the Committee's job to resource the Pack program, in terms of people, equipment, funds, and seat belts.

 

The duty roster works for Boy Scouts, who are in a program where they are prepared for increasing responsibility. It also works at the adult level because the Scouters buy into taking a specific share of the workload, based on their own personal skillsets.

 

When you have Cub parents who are not registered Scouters, you need to bring them along incrementally, with a lot of praise. "Gee, we need someone to weigh in the cars for Pinewood Derby. We've heard you are really great with attention to detail. Please can you help us help the boys have fun? THANKS!"

 

1/1, not casting calls.

 

Bite sized elements, not "do your full share."

 

Let the Committee Chairman do his job, you do yours.

 

YIS/ICS/IFAW

John

I used to be an Owl...

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My concern here is that means if a parent can't help, say they have an insane job where they often work 60 plus hours a week or something. Or do to a disability. They just cant help. That means the boy, who could use scouting can't join????

 

That is wrong. As the saying goes the biggest dis-service we can do to a boy is not invite them into scouting. Every boy should have the opportunity.

 

If you turn kids away just because their parents cant or wont help, then how can we mold and shape and turn them into the futures leaders?

 

Ok sorry, my rant is over...

 

Scott Robertson

http://insanescouter.org

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