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Cburkhardt

Positive Council Changes during Financial Reorganization

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14 hours ago, yknot said:

In trying to visualize a more decentralized future for scouting, one of the things that keeps stopping me is liability insurance.  

I don't know why.  Many of us have been saying for years that the BSA insurance coverage was probably insufficient to adequately protect us.  We recommended buying your own insurance policy.  I certainly did.  My Chartered Organization did as well.  

Insurance companies still sell insurance.  I would suggest that scout leaders contact a good insurance broker.  He/she will be able to help determine the amount and type of insurance needed.  Much better than asking for expert advice over the internet.

Edited by desertrat77
To combine two related posts.
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19 hours ago, David CO said:

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.  

Alarms go off in my head when I hear of Council board members who work in real estate.  :eek:

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15 hours ago, yknot said:

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

Tort reform would certainly help.  If you have deep pockets, some lawyer somewhere is trying to think of a way to take your money.

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1 hour ago, JoeBob said:

If you have deep pockets, some lawyer somewhere is trying to think of a way to take your money.

If he were around today, the Artful Dodger would probably become a lawyer.  There is more than one way to pick a pocket.

 

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21 hours ago, David CO said:

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.  

I often wonder why our aspirations as a movement as so low.  My council probably covers a metropolitan area of 2 or 3 million people.  How hard can it be to setup a fund to protect camp forever?  That takes what - 5 million dollars?

Hire a professional endowment company to guide you through the process and make it happen.  I see stuff like this happen regularly in the religious and university communities.  Time for major improvements at church - let's raise $2,000,000 dollars.  Let's grow the university endowment to $250,000,000 dollars.

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9 minutes ago, MattR said:

I was going to write something about council camps and management and all that good stuff, but I stopped.

There really is only one problem that needs to be solved at the council level. The person running it (and this includes the board as well) needs a very unique set of skills. For one, they need good, real experience running non-profits. Balancing budgets, hiring good people, replacing bad people, working with volunteers and poorly paid employees, drumming up donations, solving problems and, most importantly, making a positive impact in the area of the non profit. This does not come from an EDGE based training video. This doesn't even come from WB. Second, they need skills in making scouting work. How to help units thrive, how scouting really works and outdoor skills.

Related to the once council level problem is a national level problem. National needs to make councils successful and listen to them. Give them the tools they need. They also need to review councils by people that also know this business. Check the books. Ask why council troops no longer go to the council camps. Finally, they need the real threat of revoking franchises of failing councils. While there is claim that this review exists my guess is it's superficial at best and done by some guy that really doesn't know what to look for.

If this were in place then we wouldn't need to be having these discussions here because they would have been going on a long time ago between councils and national.

Council level problems are people problems. Hire the right people and let them do their job. What's preventing this are national problems. Boards that don't do their job, inbreeding, a top down culture and just being so far from scouting that they don't understand their own product or their own customers.

Compounding all of this is that there aren't many people with all of the skills described above. Not only that but doing this in the context of a greatly weakened national is going to be even more difficult.

Fully concur.  Great points.

Not to relieve national of this responsibility, I have to imagine that we would could take some of the ideas out of these recent threads and bring them together into a series of guidelines for councils.  A blueprint for success for councils in the 2020's and beyond.

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1 hour ago, JoeBob said:

Tort reform would certainly help.  If you have deep pockets, some lawyer somewhere is trying to think of a way to take your money.

I worked on tort reform as a national public policy issue some years ago. Nothing happened then, nothing has improved since. It's only gotten worse. In parts of Europe and Canada, the legal liability system works differently and organizations like scouting don't have the same kinds of issues and challenges that we have here. We would have to change our system and also our cultural outlook. Americans like to sue. It's why I have always carried a very large personal umbrella policy. I don't like a lot of the changes National has made over the years, but I can understand why some of them happened. 

 

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2 hours ago, ParkMan said:

I often wonder why our aspirations as a movement as so low. 

They aren't.  My unit has high hopes for the scouting movement.  These aspirations just don't include the council.  Many people make the assumption that the scouting movement and BSA are inseparable.  Not true.

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3 hours ago, ParkMan said:

I often wonder why our aspirations as a movement as so low.  My council probably covers a metropolitan area of 2 or 3 million people.  How hard can it be to setup a fund to protect camp forever?  That takes what - 5 million dollars?

Hire a professional endowment company to guide you through the process and make it happen.  I see stuff like this happen regularly in the religious and university communities.  Time for major improvements at church - let's raise $2,000,000 dollars.  Let's grow the university endowment to $250,000,000 dollars.

One very bad example: my council. Through the wisdom of one staff they had one council property put into a conservancy (they can't add or increase any structures) and were paid around $750k to go into a trust. The council spent all that money. Recently, they did create a $6M endowment. They have already started spending it. To add insult to injury our CE got his job (some 10 years ago) because he was going to clean up the financial aspects of the council. Incompetent or corrupt?

I understand the sentiment from people that say councils should have a lot less to do.

This is why I think the purpose of the council has to be figured out. Our council's budget divided by the number of youth served is around $350/youth (and that was before the LDS departure). What do we get for that? Volunteers do the training. We get no marketing. Volunteers put on our own events. Our camps are not being improved nor used. We have a handful of DE's that are stretched to the limit and paid garbage (one is entirely paid from taxes on event fees that the volunteers put on).

I always wonder what percentage of that cost per youth goes into the overhead vs how much directly impacts each youth. This is kind of an ultralight backpacking thing. The more stuff you carry the more you need to support carrying it the more stuff you carry....  Anyway, my guess is our DE costs less than $50/youth. I don't know what our camp costs are. I have no idea what a reasonable number is, but $350 + $60 to national is too high for each youth to pay.

I honestly don't know the answer but taking a hard look at the core purpose of the council might enable some needed change.

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It seems as though all of the issues and discussion about councils can be reduced to this:

  • What services essential to carrying out the Scouting program can only be performed by councils?
  • Which of those essential services that can only be performed by councils, if any, can only be performed by paid council employees?

 

Edited by dkurtenbach

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10 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

It seems as though all of the issues and discussion about councils can be reduced to this:

  • What services essential to carrying out the Scouting program can only be performed by councils?
  • Which of those essential services that can only be performed by councils, if any, can only be performed by paid council employees?

 

I'd adjust it slightly:

  • What services essential to carrying out the Scouting program are most effectively performed by councils?
  • Which of those essential services that are most effectively performed by councils, if any, can only be performed by paid council employees?

In the ideal post bankruptcy structure, we're not trying to get rid of councils.  The idea is to right-size their tasks, reduce the institutional instinct that professionals need to run things, and then proactively deal with some of the chronic issues like financial planning for the reduced membership.

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16 hours ago, MattR said:

One very bad example: my council. Through the wisdom of one staff they had one council property put into a conservancy (they can't add or increase any structures) and were paid around $750k to go into a trust. The council spent all that money. Recently, they did create a $6M endowment. They have already started spending it. To add insult to injury our CE got his job (some 10 years ago) because he was going to clean up the financial aspects of the council. Incompetent or corrupt?

Ouch - this is exactly the opposite of the idea.  We want an endowment that will not be raided to protect the camp in-perpetuity.  Raiding the endowment is exactly the wrong idea.

16 hours ago, MattR said:

This is why I think the purpose of the council has to be figured out. Our council's budget divided by the number of youth served is around $350/youth (and that was before the LDS departure). What do we get for that? Volunteers do the training. We get no marketing. Volunteers put on our own events. Our camps are not being improved nor used. We have a handful of DE's that are stretched to the limit and paid garbage (one is entirely paid from taxes on event fees that the volunteers put on).

I always wonder what percentage of that cost per youth goes into the overhead vs how much directly impacts each youth. This is kind of an ultralight backpacking thing. The more stuff you carry the more you need to support carrying it the more stuff you carry....  Anyway, my guess is our DE costs less than $50/youth. I don't know what our camp costs are. I have no idea what a reasonable number is, but $350 + $60 to national is too high for each youth to pay.

That's the crux of the issue.  There's some intellectual fallacy in those kinds of statements.  Part of those expenses stem from the fact that the council spends a lot of money on fundraising.  That fundraising activity is expensive, but it results in more income than expenses.  As a result, it means that families don't have to pay a lot for the council services.

I think it would be an interesting exercise to do an audit of a council budget and determine how money is spent on activities and services directly visible to Scouts, how much money was spent on indirect things such as DE salaries, and how much on council operations, admin and fundraising.

I'm not anti-council or anti-professional - it's just my gut feeling that in doing this analysis we'll see that so much of council costs are incurred because we believe a council has to work like it does today.  But, that council model was developed in an era when we didn't ask parents to pay for it - we asked big donors to pay for it.  Now that we're increasingly asking families to pay, things start looking very different.

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1 minute ago, ParkMan said:

I'd adjust it slightly:

  • What services essential to carrying out the Scouting program are most effectively performed by councils?
  • Which of those essential services that are most effectively performed by councils, if any, can only be performed by paid council employees?

In the ideal post bankruptcy structure, we're not trying to get rid of councils.  The idea is to right-size their tasks, reduce the institutional instinct that professionals need to run things, and then proactively deal with some of the chronic issues like financial planning for the reduced membership.

Great idea, but I'd suggest that "most effectively" become a second level of the analysis because it is more subjective - a judgment call that could vary from council to council.  That may be perfectly appropriate because circumstances can differ wildly from council to council.  But we might want to have a nationwide baseline that says, "Here are the things that only a council can do.  Here are the things that only council employees can do."  Then we can ask what other things are most effectively performed by councils and council employees, until we reach a tipping point where the disadvantages to council / council employee control of those tasks and services (such as cost and burden on units) are greater than the advantages.

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46 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

Great idea, but I'd suggest that "most effectively" become a second level of the analysis because it is more subjective - a judgment call that could vary from council to council.  That may be perfectly appropriate because circumstances can differ wildly from council to council.  But we might want to have a nationwide baseline that says, "Here are the things that only a council can do.  Here are the things that only council employees can do."  Then we can ask what other things are most effectively performed by councils and council employees, until we reach a tipping point where the disadvantages to council / council employee control of those tasks and services (such as cost and burden on units) are greater than the advantages.

I could go with that - but I do believe we'd find a relatively short list.  There are very few things that only a council can do that a district or that national cannot.  Similarly, the only time you really need a professional employee is when specialized knowledge or dedicated focus is required.  Accounting, Youth protection, fundraising, etc. - these all require specialized skills.

 

For example, I see:
 

councils:

  • serve as focal point for all registration issues in the council
  • provide advanced, council level training classes
  • Oversee, develop, and coach district teams

council professionals:

  • Serve as specially trained council YPT escalation point
  • Audit council budgets
  • Organize fundraising efforts
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