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OldGreyEagle

Perceptions about Scouting Professionals

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First of all RMV, Welcome to this forum and I hope yo will become a regular, we seem to atract all types from middle-high age scouts to those of us who are a bit more experienced in the world (read old).

 

This can be a fractious group, but most are serious about being the best scouter they can be. I understand your point about growth, but the perception of the volunteers tends to be all the professionals want is money and growth, and if at the cost of a quality program, oh well, thats too bad. Notice I didnt say that was true, but often its the perception. What can BSA, Councils, and Districts and we volunteers do to correct the misconceptions we have of professionals and to keep things "fair and balanced" how are volunteers perceived by the professionals?

 

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Thanks for the welcome!

 

Would put my tenure somewhere in the middle. Been a pro for 17 years. Involved in Scouting since 1969.

 

Read posts on both sides of the issue. Most were fair. I am one of the ones that am on a mission to grow the program. Every life I put at the feet of good volunteers is one that I might have saved or helped. As a servant of youth, it is nice to know that I have been able to make a difference in this world. I would be surprised if more than 10 youth in my council know my name. Because I am a middle manager, most units have no idea that I am out there either. My job is to teach DE's to be good ones.

 

I can't speak for all pro's, but I think that most of us look at volunteers as individuals. Some I would do anything for and believe anything they tell me, others I won't waste my time with. Empty calories. I try to surround myself with volunteers that are positive about what we are doing and are likely to be able to attract more volunteers to them. Do we always agree? No. But we believe in each other. I do think the perception issue is a two way street. Both groups have to want it.

 

Do I make mistakes. Absolutely. Are there volunteers that can't stand me. Absolutely. When was the last time I attended a weekly troop meeting? Before I became a pro. (I tried once, but the SM thought I was spying on him.)

 

Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time trying to mediate issues between volunteers. One of my favorite sayings is, "I can help you succeed, but I can't help you get along."

 

I think that in the end the relationship has to come down to trying to work together. I am in a large council that is financially solvent. I hear the stories from some councils that lack the resources to provide basic services.

 

If your DE is wondering if his pay check will clear, how can he devote his full effort to making Scouting succeed? Get your council finances in order and you will quickly see the pro's moving into other areas of importance. If the popcorn sale in your council was to triple, what would happen? Units would have three times the money to provide quality program.

 

RMV

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Boy, am I glad you're here! Many of our topics would really benefit from the perspective of a long-time professional...hope you've got a thick skin; some of these guys can really lay it on!

 

KS

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Thick skin is in my job description. But you know....I do admit that sometimes we deserve what we get.

 

 

RMV

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I must echo the welcomes that you've already received, but would like to pose a question...

One of the problems that we see from the volunteer side is a constant turnover of personnel at the DE level - while its understood change is a constant in today's employment market, and that nobody's getting rich as a Scouting professional, what is being done to try and keep these folks stable for a while?

Thanks again for being here!

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Even within our Council, the DEs and DDs play "musical chairs" every year or two...once you develop a relationship with one, he/she gets "transferred" to another district and you have to start over. Of course, that can be a good thing, too, depending on who you get.

 

As I said in a different forum, "you can sit around my campfire any time...even if you are a professional." ;-)

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Would be happy to sit around your fire!

 

I feel your pain with the high turnover. When a DE leaves I find myself having to train someone else. I know that it takes a year to make them productive, and for that year, all of us will hold our breath to see if they survive and better yet, thrive.

 

The number one reason that most pro's say they quit when they leave is that they didn't realize the number of hours it would take to do the job. All the night meetings and weekends make it tough on family life. Make no mistake, I expect them out there when they are needed.

 

A few rules I have for my own attendance at meetings. First, will I have an active part in the meeting or am I asked to be there as a dignitary from the office. I do the active meetings, not the ones where I sit and wave. Second, I don't go where things are going well. Don't see me at an activity or event? It means I have complete faith in the vol's ability to run this without me getting in there way. Haven't ever seen me at your unit meeting, congratulations, I think your unit doesn't need me.

 

The other issues are about moving around and promotions. Some districts are considered districts for entry level DE's, others need someone with experience. This can be for a multitude of reasons, but most often has to do with size of the responsibility. How many units, how many youth, total available youth, FOS to raise. The larger the district, the more experience needed. I personally am an advocate for the two pro district. It means that one of them is usually a little more experienced and that when turnover happens, we have a lot more consistancy in the program. For most districts the geography would make this difficult. And imagine combining with one of your neighboring districts and the issues surrounding that type of merger. Also, experience costs more.

 

How often should a new person be put into vol positions? I would think that after three years, a person would have done what they came to do, fought the battles they came to work on, given every resource they can, and be ready for a new challenge. DE is the same way. After three years, a fresh challenge makes sense for them. Doesn't mean that we have to move either out after three years.

 

What is being done? I just heard that a new SRI test is coming out. (not sure what SRI stands for) This is a test that applicants used to take to see if they would be a good candidate. The new one will hopefully be a better tool than the one we used befor and make us as managers better able to hire someone good for you.

 

There are many councils that can't get anyone to apply. Anything that we can do to send good candidates to the council will help. They end up hiring a warm body to take some of the heat off of them. Not a great plan, but at the same time, we don't have positions that are not full time already. Add a DE job to being a middle manager, and suddenly the outside world starts to sound good.

 

If all a Scout in college hears from the Scouters around him is how awful the pro's are, why would they subject themselves to becoming a part of this group? (That is my story by the way.)

 

What makes a good candidate? Desire to succeed. Good sales skills. Good organizational skills. Good people skills. Willing to work long hours. Wow...wish I could pay the successful candidate more. When I call the region and ask for someone with two to three years experience, they laugh. Those candidates are not available unless you grow them in your own council.

 

What would you suggest we do to keep people around longer?

 

RMV

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Is there room for one more professional around the campfire?

 

I'm one of those Eagle Scouts turned professional scouter and have been in the profession almost fifteen years. Much like my colleague, I'm a middle-manager with the Boy Scouts of America, although in a much smaller council. As Assistant Scout Executive for the council, I supervise four district executives and work with all four functions of Scouting in the council -- membership, program, finance and unit service.

 

To tag on to RMV on DE turnover, I can tell you from personal experience that relationships with volunteers are a big part of why we stay or leave. If I was enjoying my relationship (professional and personal) with a volunteer or group of volunteers -- meaning I felt welcome, necessary and part of the team -- things were great. The job was a lot of fun. Being around people who grumble about "council," etc. was a real sore spot and could ruin a wonderful day.

 

Not that everyone loves everyone all the time. It's just more fun that way.

 

Thick skin is in my position description, too.

 

YIS

Another Proud Scouting professional

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This discussion is a real eyeopener for me! I'd not considered the idea of the DEs serving as firefighters, and guess that we should be honored to NOT have them attending our events - While it does seem somewhat obvious in hindsight, I'll make a point of sharing that idea around a bit.

In regards to volunteers grumbling about 'Council', some of this is just going to happen regardless of any good reason - think about your workplace... But it must be said that the more open we can keep the lines of communication, the better off we all are.

Recently attended a camporee that had detailed information maintained on a website; with regular updates, good communication and feedback, lots of common sense and agreement rising to the surface. Turned out to be an excellent event in spite of some unforeseen weather, and served as a local model of how good things can be.

Thanks again to the professionals that take the time to join us on this forum!

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I feel like our council is fortunate to have a good corp of DEs. I know mine does a pretty good job and of what I know about the others, they seem to be pretty good as well. Most of the complaints I hear are a result of not understanding the DEs role.

 

I participate at the council-level on a couple of things, and my exposure to the middle management guys has been positive as well. My perception is that most of the guys in our council are already on the second rung of the ladder and are on a track to take them up through the organization. We don't have a lot of entry-level guys who burn a year to find out that this isn't the career track for them.

 

On the other hand, I don't have that confidence and respect for either the upper management or the administrative staff. Both our SE and Asst. SE for Operations have been in their jobs far too long. I know the pro ranks have a fairly well-defined pecking order for both jobs and councils. Not only do you move up from DE to DD to SE, but also to larger and larger councils. Our senior guys seem to have found a nice quiet cul-de-sac on the career path and have parked there.

 

As a result, the administrative end of things is a disaster. The scout shop never has all the awards we need, no one in my unit has their training properly credited (according to Scoutnet, my unit is 0% trained to position), I still have boys waiting for popcorn prizes, registration is a mess, on and on and on....

 

We are fortunately in an area with a very strong scouting tradition, and I think we deliver a good program through the efforts of the volunteers and DEs. But trying to accomplish anything which requires council-level involvement is a struggle.

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Twocubdad:

 

I feel your pain.

 

I've only been the Assistant Scout Executive here since last June, so I know you're not from my council. My plan (although I really like this council and area) is to serve three years well and move on to, hopefully, a Scout Executive position.

 

However, while it's true that some professionals stay in positions for a long time, most would like to move up the ladder. The problem for some, however, is that there are fewer and fewer slots at the higher levels.

 

For example, let's say I serve my three years here and only want to move if it's for a Scout Executive position. My classification here would only allow me a shot at a class 800 or 700 council (the smallest sizes there are.) There are only 38 councils in my region that fall into those categories. If none of those 38 Scout Executive positions are vacant, I would have to wait. I know of one example who was in that position for 6 years before he became a Scout Executive. It's not uncommon.

 

Luckily, I'm not one who is going to insist on waiting for an SE position, so that opens the field slightly. However, it could still be a couple of years or more before there is a position in the movement I want and where the movement wants me.

 

I don't know if that clarfied or cloudied, but it's a scenario.

 

 

DS

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What you're telling me is just the way I understand it. It's like the airline industry: at a given level of seniority, a pilot may choose to be the captain of a small plane, or the co-pilot of a larger plane.

 

In a position like this, where the job function is fairly static, 5 or 6 years is about the maximum anyone can be effective (and that time may be as short as three years). You spend a year learning the job. Another year is spent putting your program in place. After five years, you should have met your goals and be looking to move on. Beyond that, the job starts to become a bureaucracy and you loose the ability to judge things with a critical eye.

 

What has happened here, I think, is that these guys are at a point in life where they are comfortable in their positions and are established in the community. They have no motivation to try and move up. Their goal everyday is to not rock the boat.

 

Unfortunately, the entire administrative staff is in that mindset. They've forgotten who their customers are and who pays the bills. THEY need to feel my pain.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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Never thought of myself as a firefighter, but there are times when that is a great description of how I spend my time.

 

Have a couple of fires burning now, no matter what I do there will be a least one volunteer that thinks I have no clue what I am doing. They may be right, but I think that all I can prove is that I looked at the situation and gave them my honest opinion. We are all Scouts here, and should treat each other as such.

 

This goes to something that was said in the Smoozin thread. How can we keep pro's in position for a longer period of time? Sometimes it is too long. How do we know and how do we find balance?

 

I've been the guy doing popcorn before. My motto was never to step over dollars to pick up nickles. Your unit would come first in my book. Don't know why they don't let you keep your commision when you pay for the popcorn, that is what we do, and would make it so that you never felt you weren't paid on time. Why do you do popcorn? To make money for your unit. At the same time, if a council has no way to pay the bills, the pressure to find a way to get vendors, the government, and the employees off of their backs is pretty great.

 

Gotta run. Will think on this one some more.

 

RMV

 

 

 

 

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So, do you want to know why some professionals are willing to go the extra mile? I'll give you a great example -- I just got a private message from a volunteer I worked with when I was a district director quite a while ago. It made me feel terrific. Thanks, DH.

 

Now on the popcorn commission to the unit . . . I just managed my first council sale as a professional and learned a lot. I don't know why the poster didn't get his commissions on time, but I can tell you that I have never experienced a unit keeping the commission up front until I came to my present position. Simply never thought of it. What a great way to cut out administrative work and get the money to the people on time!

 

However, if someone hadn't thought of it, it never would have been in place.

 

RMV is correct -- some councils need to manage their cash very carefully. They may, for example, have a problem with units who write checks (usually post-dated) to pay for take-order popcorn that aren't good when they go to cash them. That happens a lot. In this case, the council may find it better to pay the units after the unit has paid them (meaning the check cleared the bank) and they have the money to cover the cost of the product. This happens more than any of us would care to admit -- and it's not criminal or with malice -- it's simply good people who, for one reason or another don't manage to collect the cash for the product in a timely manner.

 

On a different topic -- please allow me the indulgence of pointing out the times that RMV and I have posted messages. As you might be able to tell, our postings aren't always during "business hours." Like mose professionals, we don't have "business hours." You may be unable to reach us at our desks at 9 AM, but, as a generality, we care very much about the program. Thinking about work and working in odd hours is part of our nature.

 

And it ain't for the money.

 

PS -- if anyone has sent me a private message prior to today, please resend. There was a glitch with my email address and I haven't gotten any since I signed on last week (except for DH that is.)

 

DS

 

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Here is some logic you can use to help sell a council on this idea of unit only paying the council what they owe them when they close out popcorn. There will be fewer bounced checks from units.

 

Because of the fast turnaround time from getting the popcorn to having to pay the popcorn company for it, the council does have to collect fast, if the units have to collect faster, than often times they are paying before they have collected all the money for the product. The check bounces because the unit doesn't have extra money to cover what they owe in their account. I would bet if you checked with the bank, the checks don't ever bounce by a lot. I don't know all local laws about this, some councils may not have a choice as to how they do this.

 

We collect a post dated check for what the unit owes us, on the day the popcorn is picked up. We have an agreed upon date we will cash the check and the units know to call us if they need us to delay. This makes it so the kernals don't have to chase down money, the council gets paid very quickly, no checks have to be cut and the units can spend their money on program very quickly.

 

One of the areas that we are getting some complaints about is the prize package. We have been using Trails End for several years. At first it was great, now it seems that the prize quality is diminishing. Anyone else think have thoughts about this?

 

RMV

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