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Cburkhardt

Positive Council Changes during Financial Reorganization

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5 minutes ago, carebear3895 said:

Look at this bigshot, being able to keep DE's for almost a year. What's the secret to your retention?  :) 

The sad thing is i'm only half joking. The national average is 6 months 

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6 minutes ago, carebear3895 said:

The sad thing is i'm only half joking. The national average is 6 months 

I believe it.  We've had three DE's the field and two open positions for the past year and half.  Sad thing is those are not the same three DE's that were in the field at the start of that 18 months.

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17 minutes ago, carebear3895 said:

The sad thing is i'm only half joking. The national average is 6 months 

I've said it before, but I still believe that one of the big council issues is an ill defined DE role.  A DE has too many things he/she is responsible for, too many expectations on their time, too many demands from volunteers, too many demands from their management.  

They basically have to be super volunteer, fundraiser, membership driver, product sales expert, program specialist, face of the council, go to unit meetings, district meetings, council meetings, etc.  They work in an organization that is notoriously autocratic and demanding.  They work ridiculous hours for mediocre pay.  They have be deal with a volunteer community that thinks that they are all shady and after their money. Many of those same volunteers have no compunction about calling them up at 8:30am on a Saturday morning and chewing them out.

If you can find the fun in that - great.  Those folks go on to make a career out of it.  Most folks - it's not worth it for them.   

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We're probably thinking too hard if we're trying to figure out what district executives should be doing versus what they shouldn't be doing.  The DE's job is to do whatever the council needs done.  That means that DEs spend a lot of time trying to get the district volunteers on track doing their jobs, and fill critical gaps in district operations and activities wherever they appear.  And other duties as assigned, which include support for council activities and events and operations wherever bodies are needed. 

The key point is that district executives exist  because district volunteers aren't fulfilling council's priorities (usually for membership and fundraising, but also for things like unit visit entries in Commissioner Tools) to the level desired and on the schedule desired.  Council-level priorities determine what DEs work on.  Get a handle on council-level priorities, and you get a handle on district-level organization and priorities and whether you have things like turn-key district camporees or instead have casual multi-unit roundtables over at IHOP. 

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In theory, the DE's job is to do what the units need.

 

Then there's reality.  $$$$$$$$$$$$$

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"Look at this bigshot, being able to keep DE's for almost a year. What's the secret to your retention?"

That's the average, not the mean.

Edited by TAHAWK

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15 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

We're probably thinking too hard if we're trying to figure out what district executives should be doing versus what they shouldn't be doing.  The DE's job is to do whatever the council needs done. . . . Council-level priorities determine what DEs work on.  Get a handle on council-level priorities, and you get a handle on district-level organization and priorities . . . 

And that gets us back to the core issue of this thread:  positive council changes in a time (two to five years, or more) when the financial future of the National BSA organization and of many councils is being litigated.  What are council priorities and how could they or should they be adjusted in a reorganization driven by potentially large council financial contributions to a child abuse settlement trust?  More precisely, what activities are councils spending money and staff resources on that could be cut without a significant impact on local unit programs?  I think expenditures on the following council activities should be largely protected from reductions (if not expanded as part of the reorganization):

  • Administrative support for registration, rechartering, advancement, adult leader training, and other elements requiring entries in a database, approvals, or other record action above the unit level.
  • Marketing and communications (going to need it).
  • Fundraising (really going to need it).
  • Legal support.
  • Safety and compliance with laws, regulations, and BSA policies.  This may actually be the most important thing that councils do.  When something bad happens (an adult has a heart attack at camp, there is suspicion of child abuse in a Scout's home, a natural disaster strikes), there has to be someone who knows exactly how to respond, who to call, what steps to take in what order.

Council-owned camps and camp operations have to be looked at closely.  We have camps in which user fees and other revenue can't even pay operating costs.  We have camps that break even on operating costs, but can't pay for deferred capital maintenance and are not accumulating funds for replacement of facilities and equipment that reach the end of their useful lives. We have camps that generate a surplus of revenue above operating costs, but much of that surplus is diverted to pay for the council's general operations rather than being returned to the camp budget for maintenance and replacement.

  • Camp operating budgets and capital budgets, including revenue, should be entirely separate from the general council operating and capital budgets.
  • Camps that can't break even operationally (operating expenses in excess of user fees and other revenue) after being given a fair chance to restructure have to be mothballed (shut down but not sold, though that still generates some expenses) or sold.
  • Camps that can break even operationally but can't pay for deferred maintenance or replacement of capital assets either need a capital campaign or a plan for winding down operations before they fall apart.
  • Camps that are financially sustainable for the long term can be retained and improved.

That pretty much just leaves field operations, including the work of district executives.  I would describe field operations as (1) helping district-level volunteers help units, (2) helping district-level volunteers help council.  And I think one approach to think about this is to start with a clean slate, assuming no district organization at all and no professionals in the field.  So we might ask:  

  • What support do units need?
  • What, if any, support for units requires a council employee to accomplish or is best and most efficiently accomplished by a council employee?
  • Is it realistic to think that we can find enough knowledgeable, experienced volunteers to do everything else?
  • Does support for units from other knowledgeable, experienced volunteers require some kind of organization for those knowledgeable, experienced volunteers or for the units that want to have access to them?
    • For example, could units just be encouraged by the council to group together informally, with regular gatherings of leaders (roundtables) and occasional cooperative events for the units in the group (camporees, bake-offs, etc.)?
    • Could those informal groups of units compile lists of experienced folks (inside or outside the group) for consultation, training, etc.?
    • Is something more formal/organized required, such as a council-level list of approved experienced/knowledgeable volunteers (subject-matter experts), similar to a merit badge counselor list?
    • Is something even more formal/organized required, even to the point of "district" organizations?
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19 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

 

The key point is that district executives exist  because district volunteers aren't fulfilling council's priorities 

 

This is yet another example of top down thinking.  The council thinks that volunteers exist to fulfill their priorities.  The volunteers, not surprisingly, think and act differently.  We tend to think that councils exist to fulfill our priorities.

I agree that this is the only reason that district executives exist.  They exist because the volunteers won't fulfill the councils' priorities.  Hiring district executives allows the council to create their own priorities rather than focus on things that actually benefit the units.

Edited by David CO
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@dkurtenbach - thanks for bringing up back to the original topic.

I believe that in looking at what Councils do, we need to weigh an important factor.  What are our members willing to pay for the Scouting program?  To start, we need to recognize three important points about councils:

  1. Most services a council spends money to provide are not visible to Scouts and families.
  2. Most programming the Scouts receive from councils is done at a fee to Scouts.
  3. Unit support from a professional is usually the least cost effective way to provide that service

In addition to my minor prior comments about focusing on building district volunteer teams, my approach to councils in essence would be:

1. Re-examine the efficacy of spending money on tasks not measurable by Scouts.  Fundraising, membership, finance, & marketing.  Is the overhead incurred by a council to provide these services worth it?  Proposal: reduce expenses here by 75%.  If it doesn't directly impact local Scouting, cut it.

2. Re-focus on councils organizing and promoting programming by volunteers.  Proposal: limit professional involvement in programming to special, highly visible activities such as Summer Camp.

3. Unit support from professionals.  What is it that professionals really do for units?  We see our DE once a quarter?  Is that support really so important? Proposal: Clarify just what it is that professionals do for unit support.  

council camps - Why is it that council camps are running a deficit?  The land for most council camps is paid for.  What costs money is stuff like salaries for staff, expenses for buildings, maintenance.  Yet, every year councils raise all kinds of money to cover council operations.  Imagine if donations to Scouting really paid for improvements to council camps.  Similar to @RememberSchiff, I'm of the belief that councils camps ought to have established trusts or endowments.  Universities do this, why not Scouting?  Imagine if your council camp was protected by an endowment and didn't need to charge fees to stay open.  Proposal: Council camps should be fully funded through self-perpetuating endowment funds.

focus on volunteerism - Imagine if councils cut almost all the red tape.  Imagine if district volunteers felt supported and encouraged.  Imagine if district volunteers were focused on programming and activity at the local level.  Imagine if district volunteers built strong relationships with units and those relationships were rewarding.  I expect we'd see a lot more volunteerism in Scouting.  Today most unit volunteers avoid district & council with a 10 foot pole because of all the overhead, red tape, and nonsense.  Imagine if it was easy and fun to be a volunteer outside the unit.  Proposal: reduce the council generated rules.  Build strong volunteer district teams.

Edited by ParkMan
expanded the thought
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4 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

 Imagine if your council camp was protected by an endowment and didn't need to charge fees to stay open.

Since many of the reported cases of sexual abuse occurred at camps, I don't think the camps and the endowment funds would remain protected.  The lawyers would definitely go after the endowment fund.  

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20 minutes ago, David CO said:

Since many of the reported cases of sexual abuse occurred at camps, I don't think the camps and the endowment funds would remain protected.  The lawyers would definitely go after the endowment fund.  

I was thinking about protection for the future, not so much protection from the abuse lawsuits.  Let's assume for a moment that the lawsuits do get to some conclusion that results in your camp continuing to exist.

Now, imagine that you knew the funding was there so that the camp would exist for 100 years.  You could make improvements knowing the council executive board wouldn't sell the camp because summer camp enrollment was down.  You could donate the "David CO" nature building and know it would be used forever. 

In my mind, the camp is more like college.  The council board is more like caretakers of an institution that will be there for 100 years.  Today we our councils are acting more like non-profits advancing a cause.  In my mind the whole council should be thought of with that permanence too - but this is a discussion for another day.

Edited by ParkMan
typos

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The judgments will be for cash.  How the BSA/Councils/COs raise that cash will be up to them.

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5 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

I was thinking about protection for the future, not so much protection from the abuse lawsuits.  Let's assume for a moment that the lawsuits do get to some conclusion that results in your camp continuing to exist.

It's a nice thought.  It would be great if camp alumni bought up these camps (and created endowments) as BSA and councils sell them off to pay debts.  I just haven't seen this happening.  The camps are mostly being bought up by developers.  

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In trying to visualize a more decentralized future for scouting, one of the things that keeps stopping me is liability insurance. Even if we are no longer BSA, if we are anything scout like, I wonder how we are going to be able to obtain affordable insurance. The liability insurance crisis isn't limited to scouts. In every sector I work or volunteer in, everyone is trying to avoid or reassign risk. You can't stand in front of a supermarket, use school or town facilities, or do just about anything else without a COI. Any insurance experts out there with thoughts?  

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