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Eamonn

Is the partnership coming undone?

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Back home in the UK,when I was active over there, Scouting was really in the hands of the volunteers.

The District I was in had something like 50 units. No DE, no professional support.

Our County (I was in Greater London Central) Covered a lot of ground and at that time served a lot of Scouts.

Again without any professional involvement.

When I moved to this side of the pond, I used to joke about our tiny little Council having a bigger staff than the National Office (It's not called that!)of the Scout Association.

I was, when I first arrived in this green and pleasant land, amazed and pleased to see how well organized the BSA was and the support it got from different communities.

Over the past twenty odd years that I have been in the BSA, it seems to me that things have changed. Or maybe it's just me who has changed?? Then again maybe America has changed?

Twenty years back it seemed that most of the professionals I met came from a strong Scouting back ground. They must have really loved Scouting as they sure as heck weren't earning very much!! I remember a good friend telling me that he was earning $13,000 a year.

I don't know what the SE's were earning?

Maybe it was just me but when I talked with these pros. It seemed that we talked about Scouting and program type stuff. Not numbers and money.

When I first went on the Board, most of the board members were involved in Scouting at some active level or had been. Sure there were a few business executive types, but they had knowledge of the program.

At a board meeting we held last November I looked over the list of Executive Board Members. The list had over seventy names, but less than fifteen were what I might call people with real Scouting experience.

Which is really sad as we were looking at ways of trying to save money and the idea of selling a camp was up for grabs. The majority of people discussing the idea had never seen the camp.

I worked very closely with our last DE,in fact we are the best of friends. Looking back, I now see that we started working on the FOS Campaign (Community and Family) in January and that seemed to occupy most of our time until April or May. Then we worked on special events -Events that raised money.

July till October was spent working on recruitment and October till November was spent pushing popcorn.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was the idea that we as a District had to earn enough money to pay the DE's salary.

Sure we worked on Camporees and Training events and attended meetings that were to do with program. But even our attendance at B&G banquets was more to do with FOS than any great love of Cub Scouting. Even if we didn't get very much cash, at least we could report that we had gone to the unit and could cross that unit off the list.

I like our SE. He is a nice fellow, but I'm unsure what he is good at?

I'm maybe a little confused at what I want him to be good at?

He isn't that great at bringing big money into the Council. I've recently got involved in a few foundations and was very surprised when I seen that the Council had never even applied for any money.

He doesn't seem to fit the role of a knowledgeable Scouter. He doesn't interact well with kids and other than attending Wood Badge (Which I give him a lot of credit for!!)He doesn't seem to be the outdoor type.

He isn't that great with numbers. If he was maybe we wouldn't be in the financial mess that we are in.

He is very good at recruiting Board Members.

Sadly we are not an area where we have many corporate headquarters, so these guys nice as they all are don't really have much say in what support the company they work for will give and I sometimes wonder if they are just adding a line to their resume?

Twenty years back it seemed that nearly everyone on the board seemed to be a parent of a child who was in or had been in Scouts. That is no longer the case.

Of course while it's easy to moan and groan, I really think that the grass roots Scouter's do need to start working at forming better relationships with their CO's and do whatever it takes to get their COR involved at both the District and Council level.

It really is sad that we don't see more COR stepping up.

I really like the idea of the partnership between the volunteers and the pros. But if we are not making our COR's accountable to us -We are lost in the water!

Eamonn.

 

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In the US, most non-profit organizations hire professionals to run their daily operations. These people used to be called 'Executive Secretaries', now usually called 'Executive Directors'. They usually run the organziation's office, do fundraising, deal with mail, etc. They do this ON BEHALF OF and FOR the volunteers who run/own the organization.

 

If they don't do their job, they're out.

 

Professionals in the BSA should serve the same purpose.

 

Sadly, it seems that over time its become that the professionals feel they run the show, and not the volunteers. The professionals many times fill a board with the people they want, 'fire' volunteers they don't, etc. A recent set of documents from National on 'volunteer-professional' relationships is written from the point of what the volunteers must do to work with the professionals, with no concept of 'the professional works for the volunteer' in it. In fact, I think the document frowned on that attitude.

 

Part of this problem was caused by the fact that James West gave the COR voting rights in the BSA, and NOT the rank and file volunteers. In most non-profits, if you are a dues paying member, you usually have voice/vote (or you pick those who vote for you).

 

Professionals should not be allowed to select the membership of the executive boards of councils. (also, exec boards should not be choicen solely from a slate of nominees. Nominations from the floor should be allowed, and EACH member of the board should be voted on individually).

 

Professionals should only be doing things (approvals, 'firing' volunteers, etc) ONLY when acting upon the approval of the council executive board.

 

I'm reminded of my Fraternity. We have a National Office with about a dozen employees. They work for US. Every year, the executive director is reviewed by our National Board of Directors, who decide if we keep him or not. Same for the other top employees. Everything he does is on behalf of the BOD. Only the BOD has the power to remove a person from membership, etc.

 

Sadly, unless there occurs a radical organizational change in the BSA, I don't see this being fixed.

 

 

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Back when I was a professional, in the seventies, I made 13,000.00 as a multiple man DE and had a car. Our SE made around $40,000.00. This was in a medium sized council. I was single and don't know how the married guys did it.

 

In those days, everybody was a former Scout. However, those were the days of Boypower '76, the program that almost killed Scouting. There was a big push to make professionals more like business executives. It succeded, but it also cut the bonds between the profession and volunteers. It also had the effect of pushing up salaries. With the pressure and the long hours, fewer people were willing to do it for peanuts.

 

Of course, any organization changes once it hires someone to run it. After that, it becomes a guy's livelihood. His job becomes to keep his job, get promoted and get more money. His objectives change. In my research about professional Scouters, I came across a story of a man in Tennessee in the twenties. He was a coach and was hired as SE. He worked at his coaching job until noon and went to the Scout office after that. During the Depression, he was willing to forgo a salary and lived on his earnings as a coach. In summer, he ran the council camp and the secretary came out weekly with papers for him to sign and decisions to make.

 

You won't find professionals doing that now. Their priorities are professional (not as in professional Scouter, but a profession). Of course, the turnover at the DE level is horrendous. Doesn't bode well for the future.

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At a recent District Committee meeting we had a heated discussion on this very point. Our district has a DE and a DD, their primary duty is to raise enough money to pay their salaries. Be it through FOS or Good Scout Dinners or Community Breakfasts or what have you they must find a way to solicit enough money to cover their salary. They utilize the efforts of many volunteers to this end. Council staff is hired specifically to work on fund raising. Scouting has become a place where you can get a job begging for your salary without disgrace, in fact you get to feel like your doing good because your involved in The Boy Scouts of America. Id really like to see a time study done, this is a business after all, and find out just how much time is devoted to fund raising and membership (a justification for fund raising) as opposed to providing support services to the volunteers and strengthening programs for youth.

LongHaul

 

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I was thinking about this the other night. Who do the professionals expecially on the National level answer to. Obviously not the membership.

 

In the most recent Scouter paper for our council was the announcement that the DE for the district next to us has regigned due to "unhealthy levels of strees."

 

Also did not B-P say this would happen? Did he not say it should be an all volunteer run organization? Maybe Kudu, you can shed more light on that.

 

Sad, very sad.

 

(This message has been edited by ronvo)

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perhaps BSA is becoming top heavy

I was asked by my district to run the winter camp klondike, I then asked our DE what resources the council had to help me. (none) not even a how to run a winter camp guide (which I found online) so I would like to ask the council people who read this form what services does the council give the district other than loosing our paperwork, and running a store for awards, and books. So that in the future I can ask my council to provide them for our next district event.

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I thought of a few other things that he council does

manage a web site that is updated about once a year

manage council camps (about six or seven of them for 4 week a year for all but one of them)

sit in meetings

 

 

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First, let me step up to defend what the professionals do and how they do it. In any organization there are certain things that simply must be done. Some of these things include: accounting for funds properly, supporting volunteers with training & materials, maintaining properties, ensuring safety of members (youth protection) and etc. Our councils for the most part do a good job of that.

 

Most volunteers would be very surprised at how an Executive with the Boy Scouts spends his or her days. It is not the way many would like it portrayed. The average District Executive works with just less than 70 units (Packs, Troops and Crews). These units require all manner of support both directly and indirectly from the Executive Staff. The main job of a District Executive is to recruit, train and support District-level volunteers. These volunteers in turn secure financing for Scouting, assure positive public relations and community relationships, promote camping to units, train unit leaders, plan activies for units and track and promote advancment. These are very large tasks that require a full complement of volunteers. A good executive will spend little time in direct service to units. Rather he or she will spend time ensuring that a large number of volunteers are at the ready to help the units in the community.

 

The Executive/Volunteer relationship in the Boy Scouts of America is a time-tested method. It has changed very little over the course of the movement. There are some slight changes, but not huge shifts that seem to be described here. There have been shifts in society, however that have affected Scouting as well. How many of you have had parents offer to pay a leader rather than volunteer? People today want quick short-term volunteer opportunities. Scouting, does not nessecarily lend itself to these sort of commitments. Executives over the years have often (foolishly) found it easier to "do it themselves" than to recruit enough volunteers to get the job done. This is where the Executives of the Boy Scouts have caused the most harm. Over time this leads to the degredation of our Districts and Councils. It puts the reins of power in the hands of too few and causes us to deliver an inferior product.

 

New Quality Unit Leaders see little of value in their District or Council and distance themselves from it. They see things as us vs them. This lack of buy-in only exaserbates the problem. The fix is to make sure your best people move on to the District or Council. Make sure they do not walk away from Scouting. How many quality people are actively involved on a District or Council committee from your unit? The best Districts and Councils see a huge interaction between units and councils. Make it happen in your neighborhood. It will lead to stronger units, stronger districts, stronger councils and stronger executives.

 

Are professionals are overpaid? Someone on here stated that they worked for the BSA in the mid-seventies and that their salary was $13,000 then. Adjusted for inflation, according to inflationdata.com, that would amount to a salary of $36,400 (more than today's $33,000 starting salary). This poster also stated that mid-sized Council Scout Executives made about $40,000. Today, that same mid-sized Council Scout Executive would make about $95,000 or $17,000 less than the $112,000 that $40,000 would equal today.

 

There is nothing wrong with the BSA (and professionals) that what is right with the BSA (and professionals) can't fix.

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Thank you commandopro

I knew they did something else

In our district we have about 30-50 volunteers depending on where you count the ones that only work one activity or not

So what can I do to inprove relations with the council

 

 

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I see a lot of pressure on our DE to get the numbers up, both in dollars and registration. The fact that overall BSA membership is down, which puts downsizing and merger pressure on our executives doesnt help. Its gotten to the point where the DE wants everyone to be focused on the numbers, instead of doing their jobs.

 

I feel the District Commissioners job as to make sure the units are delivering a quality program. He does this via his staff of UCs. He is like the Scoutmaster of the district. Our last DC resigned due to the pressure from Council to have the UCs focus on FOS instead of their job.

 

I see the District Chairmans job as to recruit and fill the other Chair positions and make sure they are all doing their jobs, which is the business of the District. Our current Chairman was selected by our Council solely to bring in the dollars, not to run the district.

 

I believe what our DE should be doing is represent the Council and make sure the district is conducting its business in accordance with BSA policies, to pass down decisions and changes in policy made at the Council/BSA level and to address the districts concerns to the Council and it's executives.

 

All our DE is doing is focusing on the numbers. I dont blame him, since his performance rating and ultimately his job is based on this. But, what I object to is our Council and the DE manipulating the key district volunteers to do the same.

 

What kind of partnership is that?

 

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A good analogy might be a ship. Every crew member has a job to do, but when a fire breaks out that threatens the survival of the ship, everyone drops what they are doing and helps put out the fire. As a District Committee member, I am expected to not only chair my own function, but to chip in and help put out the fires. The latest expectation was that everyone would take a stack of about 100 FOS forms and call each one asking for a donation. (They gave last year, but we had nothing on them for this year). I politely declined. I signed up to be the Camping chairman, not Finance. Unfortunately, that means we will pay the DE to do it himself. I also have done emergency Eagle Boards, which I find less distasteful, but it's not my primary job.

 

Bottom line is that everyone has a role to play. If we don't stop the hemorrhage of membership and donations, there won't be a BSA program. I, too, hate focusing on the "numbers". But as our SE said it, "it doesn't matter how nice a camp you have...no one is coming to it!" If we don't have the "numbers" there's no need for a "program".

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To abandon the program for the numbers puts scouting in a downward spiral. We need to focus on a quality program first, at both the district and unit level. A good program and properly trained leaders should attract more scouts to join.

 

The council, district and units should all be working towards the same thing - a quality program. Otherwise, there is no real partnership between them.

 

It's a known fact that the overall membership numbers in the BSA are decreasing. Our Councils executives need to react to this by focusing on the program first, instead of desperately trying to save their jobs. If the downward trend continues and they need to right-size themselves or merge with another council -- then so be it.

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Which came first the chicken or the egg?

 

Does it really matter, as long as we have a chicken in the pot?

 

Any Council or District that ignores program for "numbers" (which to me is highly offensive, numbers are people, boys and girls enjoying program), igores it at their own risk.

 

Any Council or District that ignores membership to focus on its program, does that at their own risk. The answer is BOTH.

 

There is no point recruiting hundreds of new youth into a program that does not hold their interest or is failing. At the same time, there is no point pouring your heart and soul into program that nobody takes part in.

 

How does this work in practice?

 

1) When you plan an incredible District Camporee or other event, do you use that event to recruit new youth to the program that we all love so much?

 

2) When you recruit youth into the program, are you using that first meeting to deliver a quality program. To let them have fun, or are you boring everyone to death with rules, regulations and announcements?

 

3) Do your Unit Commissioners focus on Commissioner work everyday? Or are they busy working on Camporee and FOS and Training events and everything BUT unit service?

 

4) Is your District Advancement Committee focused like a laser beam to ensure every unit has a high quality advancement program, or do they only concern themselves with Eagle Boards and issues?

 

5) Is the District/Council Training Committee busy going to Den Leaders, Cubmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters and Scoutmasters with Essentials and Specific Training so they are prepared to deliver a quality unit program? OR, are they too busy with Wood Badge and JLTC to bother?

 

6) Does your District have a vital Camping Committee that is busy helping every Troop and Pack get outdoors every month? OR do they just talk about Summer Camp?

 

7) Have you ever served on the District Membership Committee? If not, why? Is it not important that we attract youth to our program?

 

These are just a few things that every District and Council should be doing. Let's not blame all of our problems on professionals. We all have plenty of blame to go around. The professionals account for a fraction of the hours spent in delivering Scouting in your District every week. How are you doing your job in Scouting? How can your professional support you in completing your tasks. That's where we begin.

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With all due respect Commando your purer than snow analogy of BSA professionals is a little distorted and part is just untrue. I was A DE, and Sr. DE for four years in the late 80's to early 90's and the emphasis for a DE was always money and numbers, in that order, that has not changed to this day. I am currently on the executive board of my council and this is a hotly contested issue everytime we meet. Program always takes a back seat because these guys are out to protect their job and get promoted, that is and always will be their number one priority.

 

Commando I suggest you take a look at some past threads where this topic has been throughly discussed and debated. To get back to Eamonn's original topic, there never truly was a relationship to come undone. The professional side have always had their own agenda and priorities and usually they run contrary to the goals of the district volunteers.

 

 

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Baden -

 

With all due respect to you, you are wrong. Professionals are always deeply concerned about program. In fact, this year one region's director has challeged the Executives to concentrate on the "big three": Advancement, Training and Camping.

 

In turn these will lead to more members and better funding.

 

Now I ask you?

 

If the professionals are worried about membership (not numbers) and money and the volunteers aren't then who is undoing the partnership. I find that professionals are usually quite interested in program. The fact is they can't spend much of their time on it, because they have many, many program volunteers and very few Membership and Fundraising volunteers.

 

For some reason, many volunteers turn their nose up at doing anything focused at attracting boys to the program or raising money. So tell me then, what is a professional to do?

 

Which is the answer?

 

1) Ignore financial and membership growth and allow the program to slowly (or rapidly) decline into irrelavancy and bankruptcy.

 

2) Spend all of their time working on district program and hope to win over the program volunteers to the point that they decide to care about finances and membership.

 

or

 

3) Let the quality dedicated volunteers deliver a high quality program and then develop newer and less dedicated volunteers to help with more the more transactional nature of membership and money. Thus spending more of their daily effort on these functions, but being successful for the program.

 

The fact is that this problem can't just be laid at the feet of professionals. Let's face it, our "in the trenches" volunteers somehow find membership and money distasteful. I don't know why. One side can't exist without the other.

 

I appoligize for my tone in advance, but this is a real hot button for me. I have been involved in this program for the vast majority of my life. 15 years as a youth and volunteer and 10 years as a professional. I am an Eagle Scout. I am a former Camp Staff member. I love this program, I have lived it for 25 years. I was one of those "numbers" and I am glad I was. I am so happy that a DE someplace met their goal, because I joined the program. That goal, that number, changed my life!

 

But because I decided to dedicate my life to growing this program, my dedication is less pure. Excuse me, but that is just untrue. Is the pastor of a church less of a believer because he gets a pay check? Absolutely not. But in the end, the Pastor has to pass the collection plate every week. Why? because if he doesn't the lights go out, ministries end and he loses his job. Scouting professionals are very much like clergy in this respect.

 

Sure there are some with less dedication than that, but not very many. This job doesn't pay enough to keep those people around very long. My experience is that 90% of tenured professionals have a real dedication to the program. They want to see it grow in every respect. The next time you speak with your DE or SE, remember that. If they don't have that dedication, shame on them, they should find another line of work. But if they do (the chances are good) feed it. Develop it. You are the best trainers. Help them to fulfill the commitments of the organization, so they can spend more time with you, spending that money to deliver the highest quality program to an increasing number of youth!

 

Partnership, that means both sides must form that symbiotic realtionship. Neither can do it alone.

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