Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Loomans

Why does council make it so hard on volunteers? Yes, a rant!

Recommended Posts

After spending a good chunk of my afternoon getting ready for a leadership meeting tonight, I am ready to resign! Our council website promises much, delivers little. Cub camping information hasn't been updated since last year though all the links are still active and pointing to outdated information. There is a Cub Camping Rally coming up, according to my UC, but since it wasn't on the calendar or any of the aforementioned pages, it was tough to find the time and date. I did locate an announcement on a side feed of upcoming events. And trying to find information about facilities and rates for using the council camp for a family campout? Equally obscure. I don't understand the logic behind having online! registration! for your event! as trumpeted on the website when I have to call a person (who didn't pick up, so waiting for a call back) to get real information about availability and fees.

 

This follows a horrible experience in registering troop scouts for the upcoming merit badge round-up where a new, untested registration system was deployed. Scouts had to be registered individually and any changes processed by phone call or email. Of course, there was no communication on this so a week went by while we waited for someone (anyone!) from council to let us know that the 'edit your registration' button didn't work. All changes had to go through one of two people. While waiting for call backs and emails to be returned, every one of our scouts were closed out of the classes they wanted which only increased the time lag as info went back and forth between the scouts, the troop and the registrar. Then the council contact went on vacation right before registration closed!

 

And re-charter was another mess. All registered scouters had to have updated records through my.scouting.org and a printout included with the recharter documents. Except it took up to 2 weeks for the records to appear on that system, so the person doing rechartering kept trying to do the training records and freaking out when her changes weren't reflected on the screen. Yet another instance where communication would have made a big difference to a volunteer. Other issues as well, but I find it discouraging to keep typing it out.

 

I know why I volunteer. I do it for my sons and the other scouts in our unit. The amount of time I end up wasting because BSA and our local council are so incompetent is infuriating. And I am tired of apologizing to parents and scouts for the screw-ups, as well. I won't quit, but I am pulling back and reducing my commitment just to keep the time I devote to scouting manageable. I feel like I've been given no choice.

 

Is it like this in every council?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rechartering my crew was nasty. That's partly my adults' faults for waiting so long to do their YP online, then discovering that the site was resetting their password or whatever. Partly, because the system didn't recognize who my COR was even though he was registered as the troop, so I had to touch base with our troop CC to make sure we had our documents in line before I even bothered sending them to HQ.

 

Staff in most councils aren't IT saavy, and unless there is a volunteer who knows how to design user interfaces they set things up badly,

 

You're not alone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a fundamental 'truth' with respect to weak leadership and it applies to administrative systems throughout the private and public sectors. They don't value volunteers (or respect them) because they don't PAY volunteers. They measure their own success and importance in terms of their salaries so they apply that approach to other people as well and...because you don't cost anything (in fact you pay them to some extent), you have little value on their 'value' scale and they take you for granted.

In short, it's because we allow them to.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, I think BSA places WAT too much of a burden on volunteers. And it keeps getting WORSE. They think they can keep dumping on volunteers by making more and more things compeulsory and more and more complex.

 

 

This year I applied my own method to simplifying rechartering.

 

After receiving the rechartering package I recharted only the leaders whose YPT were up to date and were needed for recharting. I recharted three boys who had sold enough popcorn to qualify for our pack's free membership.

 

Then I turned in the recharter --- a week after receiving it --- the first in the COUNCIL to do so.

 

When I get additional youth or adults to renew their memberships, I send in a check to the DE and they reactivate those memberships.

 

Easy peasy!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Unfortunately' date=' I think BSA places WAT too much of a burden on volunteers. And it keeps getting WORSE. They think they can keep dumping on volunteers by making more and more things compeulsory and more and more complex.[/quote']

 

Unfortunately, this is not just a BSA issue. We see it in lots of places. A lot of it is driven by fear of lawsuits and nannystateism (is that a word? :)). So we all need to be background checked, trained, certified, etc. and all that needs to be documented. Going on a trip? Get all the paperwork in order. Verify all the drivers have insurance, all the cars have road safety gear, first aid kits, get all the health forms, make sure you have someone with BALOO and hazardous weather training, and safe swim defense if you are going in the water, carry a copy of the GTSS with you at all times, document all this stuff in the tour permit and get it approved, etc. And your charter org probably has their own hoops to jump through (we are chartered by a Catholic school, so we need to get finger printed by the diocese, and go through their YP training). Gone are the days when you could take your cub den into the back yard and teach them how to shoot BB guns (like when I was a cub scout). Now you need a trained range safety officer, at a certified range, etc.

 

Now a lot of these rules are based on good ideas (you should have a first aid kit with you, the YPT has lots of really good advice, you should conduct group swims in a safe manner, etc.), but as SP points out, it still places a large burden on the volunteers. Especially in comparison to when I was a boy scout (going on a trip? What paperwork? Training is required to take the boys camping? Why?). It may not have been as "safe" (i.e. lawsuit resistant) as today, but it sure was a lot simpler.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I won't quit' date=' but I am pulling back and reducing my commitment just to keep the time I devote to scouting manageable. I feel like I've been given no choice.[/quote']

 

There you go! Cut back on your work with the Pack/Scouts - that will show those idiots at council !

 

Seriously, putting up with bureaucratic baloney is all part of the cost of doing business in the real world.

 

Cutting back on your volunteering with your unit is not the answer. If you don't want to deal with council, then don't. Get someone else to do that. Concentrate on the Scouts, and delivering them a good program within your unit.

 

Also, since you see the problem areas so clearly, you might consider volunteering to be your council's webmaster, or an event coordinator. Now THAT might make a real difference!

 

Happy Scouting!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not a big fan of the lower level paid staff in my local council. I find them to be rude and/or non-responsive. Our top guy is pretty good, but the rest of them are not people persons, which is ironic, considering that is what their job is. Part of why I love being an ASM vs. other roles, is that my job is just to deal with Scouts, not with adults :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since we are on a rant -

I hate to say it but the volunteers have brought some of this on themselves. The biggest reason my council started doing on-line registrations (about 8 years ago) was to control costs and record income and expenses more accurately. .

 

For example we had a troop than ran the District Klondike Derby and used it as a fund raiser for thier troop. The Scoutmaster of that troop would set the registration fee and collect all the money himself. If the event "made money" he would keep the extra for his troop. If the event "lost money" he would send a bill to council and then would complain (very loudly) when council asked for an itemized list of expenses.

 

I had a District Training Chairmen purchase all the food for an IOLS training and I told him to send his receipts into council so they could reimburse him. Several months later he was complaining to some unit leaders that Council had never paid him back. I called the council office and asked about his reimbursement. Council said they never got the receipts. I got the receipts from the training chair, turned them in, and he got his check within 2 weeks. But to this day he will tell everyone that it takes council forever to reimburse you.

 

But Councils and Professionals are not innocent either -

Right now our council is trending toward having more professionals run more District/Council events for 2 reasons. One, like I said above has to do with money and controlling costs. The other is because they can't get volunteers to step up and run events anymore. But part of the reason they can't get volunteers is because of the way they treat some of us.

 

Our local Merit Badge College is a good example. That event was started about 10 years ago by a small group of volunteers. It has been a very popular event with anywhere from 300-600 kids attending (current limit is 500) every year. We were one of the first to use the councils on-line registration system and budgets/money have always been handled through council. And this event has always made the council money since we get the use of the building donated and it is completely run by volunteers.

 

Last year we had a scout from another council just show up at the event without being registered. The volunteer that ran the event, our Program Director (professional) and the kids Scoutmaster had a discussion and the kids was not allowed to participate. The Scout and the Scoutmaster were not happy but they were ok with the decision. At some point after the event the scout's parent called our Council Exec. and complained very loudly and rudely. Because of that complaint our Council Exec. forced the program director to fire the volunteer that was in charge of Merit Badge College. Then he changed the Program Directors job duties so he is no longer involved in Merit Badge College. He gave that responsibility to another Program Director who lives 2.5 hours away and doesn't know hardly anybody around here.

 

The new Program Director is very different from the first one. The first Program Director was always available if you had questions or needed his help (just ask) but he also knew when to stay out of the way. The new Program Director is very good at telling people what to do and that you are doing things wrong but not so good at actually being helpful and taking care of the things we need help with. So far the new Program Director has not been able to find a volunteer around here that is willing to run the event. He had one all lined up and after 1 phone conversation the volunteer quit scouts all together. So the Program Director is running the event himself. He is having trouble finding Merit Badge Councilors because the guy that got fired refuses to share the list of people that helped in the past and the old Program Director refuses to talk about the subject at all. He was told to stay out of it so that is what he is doing. Most of the people that have helped with this event before have heard about the "firing" and are refusing to help this year. Registrations are way down, partly because of the stories going around, partly because the registration page didn't go up until really late, and partly because people are afraid the boys won't get the classes they want because of the shortage of MBC's.

 

In this case both the professionals and the volunteers are at least partially to blame. We all need to learn to work together and respect each other. It's really hard to respect anybody when everybody is acting stupid.

 

As for me I am sick of the politics and drama. I was asked to help with this event. But because I am friends with the volunteer that got fired, the Program Director and the guy that quit scouts, I really feel like I need to stay away from this event. And even though I know I am not being very scout like right now I hope this event blows up in peoples faces and is a complete disaster. I feel sorry for the kids who will, once again be stuck in the middle, but I don't see any other way to get people to wake up and start acting right.

 

I am so glad that I am on my way out of all my scouting jobs that involve the District or Council. In 6 months my only scouting job will be Campmaster and I can go back to teaching cooking, archery, bb, first aid and bunch of other stuff to kids again.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"There are a million stories in the naked council, this is one of them...."

 

1) Operate by the Scout Promise and Scout Law, 2) Document, 3) play nice, 4) make and keep copies (see #2), 5) when in doubt refer to #1.

 

"~~No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave". = Calvin Coolidge =

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What one often forgets is the nature of the beast. BSA is a non-profit business that sells a program, like the YMCA, churches, and other similar programs. Instead of being focused within a business facility like most, the BSA entities are scattered out into the neighborhoods through charter contracts with various other institutions.

 

But it's employee base is volunteers rather than paid individuals. YMCA runs a clinic they pay the instructors, BSA runs units by they don't pay anyone. BSA seems to run more like a religious organization in its structure than a business like YMCA today (which in fact was originally a religious organization).

 

While all these entities are basically the same, expectations vary considerably. One would not think twice about paying for a Yoga class at the YMCA at whatever price they set, but instantly balk when the BSA district puts a price tag on the Camporee. The only difference is in the minds of the people.

 

I don't think that the councils are making it hard on anyone, they are, just like any other business, trying to survive. If not, the BSA simply closes the council and the volunteers can then travel that much further to get services. Kinda like when the little church down the street closed its doors, everyone just went somewhere else to church. Happens all the time. No one makes much of a fuss about it, but if it has anything to do with BSA the volunteers seem to react to the level of someone abusing puppies.

 

Is there politics and drama in BSA? Sure, but as we all are fully aware, no one fights dirtier than churches. Every business has it's politics and drama. Why would BSA be exempt? In a Disney/Pollyanna world, maybe that could happen, but I don't think it's going to happen any time soon.

 

Stosh

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

This is a fundamental 'truth' with respect to weak leadership and it applies to administrative systems throughout the private and public sectors. They don't value volunteers (or respect them) because they don't PAY volunteers. ...because you don't cost anything (in fact you pay them to some extent)' date=' you have little value on their 'value' scale and they take you for granted.[/quote']

 

Wait a minute! When I said in another thread that all free resources are exploited until exhausted (or something similar to that) you called me a bologna sandwich (or something substantially similar to that :)!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The council calendar is a local issue which should be handled better, but you really can't fault your local council for the IT issues. They are relying on software run by national (your recharter issues) or provided by a third party vendor (event registration). National is so far behind in IT it is laughable. As far as the third party solutions are concerned, none of them are really up to date or easy to use. I doubt the Council can afford to hire a trained IT guy, so they do the best they can. I know in a for profit business you'd have a roll-out plan, testing and adequate user training, but unless everyone starts kicking in a whole lot more for Friends of Scouting, you've got to live with novices running those programs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DC, it's not about what you wrote. It's because you ARE a bologna sandwich, ;). Actually I have no memory at all of that thread whatever it was, but reading what you just wrote, I can't disagree with it so....I guess I'm salami. :rolleyes:

Sorry, like a lot of my memories, this one must just be stuck in cholesterol or caught in tangled plaques.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Unfortunately, I think BSA places WAY too much of a burden on volunteers. And it keeps getting WORSE.

 

 

YEAP- So my DE wanted to put together a Scouting Skill course. Whoever is boss is said "That's something for a volunteer to do"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jason; it is something volunteers would do. Scouting IS a volunteer run organization in its basic form, and always has been. Any well run unit or even council is dominated by strong, giving, volunteers who push the success with their time and often major resources. The less involved the pro's are in the important program elements, the better in most cases.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×