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OA Election Frustrations

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You are probably coming here thinking this is going to be about a troop election gone bad. It isn't. It's about a Chapter Adviser's frustration with SM's out there who don't seem to have a clue and at times seem like they don't want to have a clue.


It is our election season. We held election training for OA youth and adults so we can form election teams. Due to what appeared to be a loack of education on the SM's part in the last couple of years I've been Adviser, we invited the SM's to the training so they would have an understanding of the process. We have 23 troops. 1 SM showed up.


Each year, we send a detailed email that explains the election process from beginning to end along with attachments they can print or forward to desiminate information and ask them to select an election date. Out of 23 troops, we've scheduled the 7 who responded. So yesterday, I sent individual emails and named the SM by name rather than a a broadcast email in the hopes they might respond. A few have. Here are the kind of responses I got.


"At this time, Txxx will not be holding OA elections for 2012."


That's it. No reason. Just that they aren't holding one.


"We do not have anyone participating in OA so therefore we will not be having any elections."


The reason why they don't have anyone particpating in OA is because they have never let us come do an election since they chartered a few years ago.


"John Doe is the new scout master for troop xxx. Also I do not think anyone is interested. John, will you please ask on Wednesday if anyone is interested in OA?"


Interested? Do they ask if boys are interested in wearing a uniform, advancing or camping? You hold the election as part of the program and then let the candidate individually decide if they want to complete their Ordeal.


"We are having court of honor and expecting some one to show up and tell the parents what OA is and how it impacts our boys. Then we are going to vote in the boys."


Oh my!


We have an active Chapter and Lodge program. We have a Lodge website that can be reached independently or thru the Council website. I have a Chapter website. The Lodge and Chapter have a presence on facebook. I have a Chapter email list and the Lodge has a Lodge email list. We do Crossover ceremonies into these Troops. We have a presence at Webelos Woods, Camporees and summer camp.


I know why these guys are so clueless......they choose to be. It isn't for lack of communication. So, now that I've vented, I'd like for the SM's out there to tell me what we as a Chapter can do to get your attention and more importantly, your support? What is it about OA that scares you, turns you off or just flat out disinterests you?

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While our troop is very active in OA affairs, it can be very frustrating as a unit leader. Each January or so I am called too set up a date for the troop election, which we normally schedule for April. Three out of the last four years the election team has failed to show up on the proper night. The excuses I get range from You have your election late in the year, and the election teams tend to burn out, to the team member was without transportation, to the team member had a lot of homework. I have had my JASM and SPL conduct the election in any case. If I had not been a staunch supporter of the OA, this conduct would certainly tip the scales to the negative side of the whole OA experience.


It is very frustrating that this continually happens.(This message has been edited by eagle90)

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I was going to suggest you go to the source. Ask for 30 minutes of time at a Roundtable. Approach the subject in a positive manner. And ask for direct responses to your concerns. It might take a bit to get the conversation going, but be supportive. It may start off like pulling teeth, but be ready for challenging responses. It may be you just need to open a dialog with any of the Troop leaders available to you at the Roundtable. To me, direct contact will work best.



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That wouldn't happen to you in my district/chapter. If we ask you for a date and you give us one that isn't full, you will have a fully uniformed and trained team on your doorstep on that date at the time you told us to be there. When YOU forget we were coming and you haven't determined who is on the ballot or even have the ballots prepared, the team will just smile and tell you they can wait. Or they will gladly reschedule if you ask to do that. They may say things about you to each other when they leave, but they'll extend every courtesy to you while they are there. :) Seriously, we do have to negotiate dates because we have kids who are in the band or on a team and can't make certain dates. With enough guys enlisted, we should have enough that one or two kids don't hold us up from keeping a date.




I'm not happy with 7 out of 23. In 2010 we held elections in 12 I believe. In 2011 it was 15. I had hoped to increase it for 2012 to 18. Right now it isn't looking too promising. While technically, we can do elections up until the forst Ordeal in May, we try to do all elections in the 4th quarter of the prior year. We are already forced to extend into January and February when the active guys should be working on Crossover ceremonies and Ordeal and Brotherhood ceremonies. As far as using boys from the units to organize there elections.....I wish. We have one troop in our district that 95% of our active Arrowmen come from. One of my goals is to get other troops, SM's and youth to get involved. But when you have SM's who won't even respond to requests for an election, it is kind of hard to get their boys to get interested. It's a task we are diligently working on.

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Just a thought, but you might consider organizing a Webelos-To-Scout transition program of some kind.


That might give you an opportunity to sell Webelos Scouts on the OA program and give you an opportunity to provide access to Webelos Scouts to Scoutmaster eager to recruit those boys for their troops.


What I'm suggesting is that you look for new ways to market your program to key decision makers.


Personally I don't think the feathers and dancing are the best marketing tools for OA to use.

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Got to agree with Eagle90 on this one! Our SM is discouraged because of constant no-shows on scheduled election/camp promotion nights.


Excuses? Heard them all, and got 'em covered:


"We couldn't find your meeting place". In 2011 with GPS, Mapquest, and Google Maps? Not to mention whatever else? Please.


"...too much homework" How about a phone call, text, or email? The Lodge DID confirm the date at least twice by one or more of these methods. These scouts certainly didn't earn Communications Merit Badge from ME!


"Didn't have transportation" If you had CALLED/EMAILED/TEXTED, perhaps we could have made arrangements to PICK YOU UP!


I can totally sympathize with the SM. As COR/CC they have even contacted me about scheduling elections, I informed them that I will not ever overrule the SM/PLC on Troop program. (NOT my job, I SUPPORT program, not create it.) I related the SMs feelings and why he feels that way. I told the Lodge rep that they have a serious PR problem with our troop, and best go about fixing it. I've offered assistance in this regard, and I know that if the phone doesn't ring, it's the OA lodge taking me up on my offer.


So, how would YOU feel in our Troop's position?





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If I read this right - you can only conduct elections in the fall or early spring? That may be part of your problem right there. Why are you locked in to running elections only at a certain time of the year?


I know the GTI says that a lodge should set an "election season." I think that's ridiculous. There's no good reason why that season can't last for 365 days. A lodge should really be running elections year-round, at the request of the troops - according to their schedule, not its. The inductions schedule should be set up so that candidates have multiple opportunities within their induction year to complete the Ordeal.


When I was active in chapter elections as a youth, we bent over backward to schedule them at the unit's convenience. The lodge had three inductions weekends throughout the year, so it didn't matter when a candidate was elected - all had three chances.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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Here's your problem: email.


Pick up the phone and give these guys a call. You've only got 16 calls to make. That way you can have a dialogue with the SM, educate them, overcome their objections and offer to explain the program over a cup of coffee.


I can imagine a fair number of SM were not in Scouting as youth, crossed over from cubs and got about 20 seconds of OA at Scoutmaster specific training. To them, your email is just one more person from council wanting their time and attention. Inviting them to go to an OA election team training serves your purpose, but look at it from their perspective. They're not running OA elections, is sitting through the whole training a good use of their time? Would they think so?

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You can't hold elections all year long. Elections can only be held once a year and the candidates for that year must complete thier Ordeal within the year they were elected for. If they do not, they must be reelected. Based on past experience, our Lodge chooses to hold elections in the 4th quarter of the year for the coming year. The Lodge holds two Ordeals, one in May and the other in August. Technically, we "can" hold an election right up until the first Ordeal in May and have for the straggler troops, but it's rare. All elections are at the convenience of the troops. All we do is let them know it is election season and they select their own date they want us to come.




I wouldn't be happy if I were in those unit's position of being stood up. But as I stated earlier, you won't have that problem with my chapter. We have mature dedicated scouts and scouters who are trained for elections and a team will be on your doorstep on the date you requested. We've never missed one or rescheduled one yet because of us. We have shown up on the date a troop requested only to find out they cancelled their meeting and didn't bother to tell us. Look, I've been a unit scouter longer than I've been an adviser. I see both sides. That's why my chapter operates the way they do.

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You misunderstand me. Yes, a troop can only hold elections once a year. But there's no need to say "We only run elections during the fourth quarter."


Candidates are eligible to complete their Ordeal within a year after their election - that's not necessarily a calendar year. If Johnny Smith is elected in October 2011 within your lodge, he has two chances, in May and August 2012, to complete his Ordeal. Ditto if he's elected in June 2012. He would have two chances, in August 2012 and May 2013, to complete his Ordeal. That's still within the year.


Personally, I think your lodge is unecessarily handicapping itself by that artificial timeframe. You'd likely get a better response by extending the season, and thus the convenience to the troops.

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Of the units who "do" OA, are the OA Troop Representatives involved in the process? I never understood the attitude that "we don't do OA". That's like saying "we don't do Advancement" or "we don't do merit badges". It's part of the program, and to me, should not be optional if there are scouts willing to be members.

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My lodge's inductions advisors (present and past) insist on a election timeline of January - March because they don't want to track individuals past the fall Ordeal opportunity in September. Good? Bad? Can't say, but to me, the whole problem of getting troops to even respond, let alone schedule elections, goes more to the perception that OA is an optional part of Scouting. Until National makes it mandatory, and I'm not advocating for that, then you just contact each unit six times (letter to SM and CC, email to SM and CC, phone call to SM and CC) and leave it at that.



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goes more to the perception that OA is an optional part of Scouting


Well, that's not a perception, that's reality.


I know that among many Scouters, and in many Scouting circles, the OA has earned itself a rather negative reputation. I don't want to get into whether or not that reputation is justified, but it certainly does "turn off" many troops to inviting OA representatives to speak to their youth members.


I personally take a rather dim view towards the OA, due to a number of encounters with them. However, I do get frustrated when Scoutmasters deliberately deny their Scouts an opportunity to be involved in optional parts of Scouting - be it the OA, NYLT, Philmont or High Adventure contingents, Jambo, etc. The Scouts should have the option of "taking or leaving" these programs - they shouldn't have the adult leadership making this decision for them.

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Long story short...


My perception from your post is the Chapter and Lodge are unable to sell the added value of the Order to the Troops. That's a red flag that the Chapter will have big problems in 2-3 years, if not now. Stop the email. Get the list of registered Scoutmasters from your DE. Go and have friendly cups of coffee with each of them. Take a DVD player. Hopefully your Lodge has a 5 minute show of the adventurous/fun things they do throughout the year. Use it.


You have to sell that the Lodge adds value to the Scout and to his unit, or you won't get your teams in for an election. PERIOD.


PS: I hope you have a youth Arrowman who has a passion for marketing; he can do a lot of the sales job under your supervision. Even so, depending on the Scoutmasters you have, he may not get entry to see a particular SM unless you are supplying some adult-adult armtwisting.

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