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Cburkhardt

Suggest Councils that should be Combined

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Carebear3895:  It is all about restoring membership growth and health to our program in those geographies, and re-targeting resources to the program and district/unit operations.  They can do those things better when together in a metropolitan-scale entity.  It is not change for the sake of change.

Your comments focus on the potential of property sales.  I have no idea regarding whether the properties of the combined entity would be right-sized and of sufficient maintenance and quality.  When Pathway was combined, three properties were sold after a comprehensive evaluation of a summer of fully-funded operations.    One essentially unused, and two which were summer camps and quite remote from the user population.  Those two properties were operated as summer camps for only two weeks each during the summer and unvisited the remainder of the year.  The council-funded subsidiary per scout attending those summer camps was  -- get this -- $400 each.  The going-forward Pathway camps were consequently and noticeably improved with the funds generated by the camp sales.  So, not every sale of property is without justification or benefit. 

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I don't have enough data on the individual councils to pick any to merge.   I'm guessing There are a number of councils that support around 2000 max scouts (pre march numbers) and will show even less on next Monday. They might be candidates depending on the geography 

Unless mergers are directed either by national or the bankruptcy court, it is unlikely councils Executive boards will do any mergers on their own. Circle the wagons and shoot inward.

Cburkhardt suggests that mergers will happen (and maybe should) but I have heard nothing (not surprised) around here.

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5 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

Parkman:  Why don’t you suggest a sequence of events and the timing that would go with it?  What we need to grapple with is that the bankruptcy court is going to force a short schedule.  
 

The bankruptcy process will essentially strip national operations to the bare essentials over the next 6 months.  During that time our weakest councils will struggle financially and programmatically.  I am aware that up to 20% could be at a structural standstill or in default.  The suggestions for a broad grassroots re-envisioning of Scouting at the local level has an appeal, but I do not yet understand how that happens in the bankruptcy environment.

Councils that are dysfunctional now are likely to be even more dysfunctional in a time of transition.  If reallocation of resources to the district/unit service level is an agreed priority, what is the advantage of continued spending and wheel-spinning by so many councils?  

@Cburkhardt - Maybe I'm missing something - but what do you see changing from National that will result in councils struggling financially and programmatically?  Beyond things like employee support programs and some guidance on national program items such as OA, Eagle Process, Wood Badge, etc. I don't see a lot of impact from national at a program level in our council.  Truthfully - I think that the program changes by national in the last 20 years could be never been done and I don't most of us would have noticed.  New Cub Scout programs, changes to advancement, updates to YPT, online training - sure they impact us - but I don't think anyone I know was really relying on them.

The biggest risk I see is that of reduced membership.  Fewer scouts will result in revenue, program fees, and FOS donations declining.  This will strain weak councils and result in staff layoffs.  Some weak councils will likely not be able to make payments on their debt and will be forced into default.  

My take is simply:

2020:

  • national focuses on the national bankruptcy
  • national empowers regional staff and volunteers to gather best practices from local councils.  Those best practices are shared through the regional/area/whatever structure.
  • national provides assistance to local councils whose finances place them at risk for bankruptcy.  The remedy is done on a council by council basis

2021 - 1st half

  • bankruptcy over - national "surveys" the landscape.
  • Based on finances and need from local councils, national determines what the new national can do to best Scouting.  This is conveyed to councils
  • local councils receive this information and innovate locally on the "new normal"
  • national empowers regional staff and volunteers to gather best practices from local councils.  Those best practices are shared through the regional/area/whatever structure.

2022 - 2nd half

  • national more actively promotes best practices based on the new model focusing on agenda on quality program and growing membership.
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19 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

When Pathway was combined, three properties were sold after a comprehensive evaluation of a summer of fully-funded operations.    One essentially unused, and two which were summer camps and quite remote from the user population.  Those two properties were operated as summer camps for only two weeks each during the summer and unvisited the remainder of the year.  The council-funded subsidiary per scout attending those summer camps was  -- get this -- $400 each.  The going-forward Pathway camps were consequently and noticeably improved with the funds generated by the camp sales.

We were in Calumet Council when the PTAC merger came about, and I remember a lot of anxiety about what properties would be sold off and which would be retained - the only guaranteed property that would be kept was Owasippe.  I was told at one of our roundtables that prior to the merger that Cal Council was going to use their excess capital and "a lot of dedicated volunteers" to upgrade their properties, so they would be less likely to be sold off.  As far as I'm aware, it was most of the old Des Plaines Valley Council properties that were the ones to be sold off.

Finances aside, as a Cub Scout Committee Chair, there seemed to be an extra layer or two of bureaucracy that came along with the merger, when I needed help with various issues that arose in the Pack.  The new "central" location we were told to use for popcorn distribution was an extra hour and a half away for our Popcorn Colonel, which was a major inconvenience.  A lot of the traditional Cal Council events that we previously participated in were discontinued in favor of more "central" events.

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21 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

@Cburkhardt - Maybe I'm missing something - but what do you see changing from National that will result in councils struggling financially and programmatically?  Beyond things like employee support programs and some guidance on national program items such as OA, Eagle Process, Wood Badge, etc. I don't see a lot of impact from national at a program level in our council.  Truthfully - I think that the program changes by national in the last 20 years could be never been done and I don't most of us would have noticed.  New Cub Scout programs, changes to advancement, updates to YPT, online training - sure they impact us - but I don't think anyone I know was really relying on them.

The biggest risk I see is that of reduced membership.  Fewer scouts will result in revenue, program fees, and FOS donations declining.  This will strain weak councils and result in staff layoffs.  Some weak councils will likely not be able to make payments on their debt and will be forced into default.  

My take is simply:

2020:

  • national focuses on the national bankruptcy
  • national empowers regional staff and volunteers to gather best practices from local councils.  Those best practices are shared through the regional/area/whatever structure.
  • national provides assistance to local councils whose finances place them at risk for bankruptcy.  The remedy is done on a council by council basis

2021 - 1st half

  • bankruptcy over - national "surveys" the landscape.
  • Based on finances and need from local councils, national determines what the new national can do to best Scouting.  This is conveyed to councils
  • local councils receive this information and innovate locally on the "new normal"
  • national empowers regional staff and volunteers to gather best practices from local councils.  Those best practices are shared through the regional/area/whatever structure.

2022 - 2nd half

  • national more actively promotes best practices based on the new model focusing on agenda on quality program and growing membership.

 

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Sorry folks, the "quote" function does not seem to be working properly with my software and re-posted some lengthy text.

Parkman:  The second paragraph of your post is precisely what will be happening in the struggling councils.  The loss in membership and resulting financial problems will be too much to handle.  And, there will be scant resources to bail out failing councils.  Seems like a better way is to combine or divvy-up portions of those councils rather that have a cascading series of crises that we will need to react to.  I believe the financial impacts will become apparent very soon.  Unless there are a number of silent folks out there that do not want to dip their toe into this admittedly-sensitive topic, it would seem that most readers prefer to take a pass on proactive activity and see if councils can "ride it out".  That would be consistent with the BSA's past practices.

NDW5332:  Indeed, the predecessor council headquartered in LaGrange was the previous owner of the three camps sold.  That predecessor council, which was suffering catastrophic membership losses and was in deep financial difficulty was operating three properties.  One severely underutilized weekend camp and two distant and undermaintained summer camps utilized two weeks each year requiring tremendous subsidy.  And, those two summer camps were close to other BSA properties with far superior physical attributes and program strength.  I understand the position volunteer boards are in on the camp issue.  Even in the circumstance presented in that case, the volunteers were unable to act to reallocate resources and professional time away from the marginal property effort back to membership and programming.  Situations like that are studied and remedied during a good merger.  Calumet was another splendid council, but was similarly experiencing catastrophic membership and financial losses for different reasons.  Things do change in a merger and not all are convenient.  But, the membership figures from the combined council show that the retention/growth challenge has been turned-around.  Scouting in Pathway is growing, and no longer from "purchased" membership strategies.

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42 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

Things do change in a merger and not all are convenient.

The one big drawback to the PTAC merger, I think, was poor communication about the benefits of the changes to the proverbial "rank and file" and it ticked off a lot of people, particularly parents and other Pack/Troop volunteer leaders that weren't as involved on a district level.  Changing day camp locations, cutting back on offerings, and centralizing popcorn distribution definitely have major financial and organizational benefits to the merged council.  But talking up all of these benefits while minimizing the inconveniences came across as hypocritical and patronizing.  Parents were upset over the new availability of day camp or STEM opportunities and some outright left the program over it.  Our Pack's Popcorn Colonel complained to everyone she could about issues she had with Council's new coordinator she had to deal with over missing orders and missing prizes and our DE's reply was "Take it to Chicago".  That with the extra driving she had to do was her last straw and she quit.  It seemed after the merger, we were being introduced to new Council Key 3 every month at Roundtable.  This made it especially difficult to plan district events with input from Council, and again more hurt feelings.

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19 minutes ago, NDW5332 said:

  It seemed after the merger, we were being introduced to new Council Key 3 every month at Roundtable.  This made it especially difficult to plan district events with input from Council, and again more hurt feelings.

I have friends that worked in PTAC. Man...the stories I head from the Professional side during the mergers were horrific. Not appropriate to share on a public forum. 

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1 hour ago, Cburkhardt said:

But, the membership figures from the combined council show that the retention/growth challenge has been turned-around.  Scouting in Pathway is growing, and no longer from "purchased" membership strategies.

I'm still vary wary of your "restoring the village" program, but i am very glad you got rid of Scoutreach. If it has Volunteer oversight, RTV can be very good for the kids in Chicago.  

To PTAC's credit, things really got better after some folks in upper management "retired" or "transferred". Their traditional DE staff works their tails off. Wouldn't be surprised if some of the folks on that crew were able to turns things around in their Districts. 

Edited by carebear3895
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What Carebear3895 is talking about is the discontinuance of Scoutreach in Pathway and its replacement with a home-grown approach called "Restoring the Village".  The quick way to describe it is that volunteers from the Black fraternity alumni associations are now running the most-difficult urban units as volunteers with specialized pro assistance.  No more paid Scoutmasters and no-fee kids.  These people are actual Scouts and Scouters.  Sorry to hear some of the pros had a rough time there, but it was a complete re-organization from scratch that was done within 2 years.

NDW5332's comments remind me just how important solid DE and District service is.  Every one of those reasonable issues raised would never be a problem if we had distinguished District Committee leadership that was listened-to.   Curious about the Key-3 comment, as Pathway has only had 2 presidents, 2 Council Commissioners and 2 SEs in its five years (the first pro was temporarily on loan from national).  

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9 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

Mds3d:  I do not suggest an immediate timeline.  But, it is not going to take more than a year or so to understand where the BSA is.  There is no advantage to delay discussions until then.  

My sense is that with fewer and more-targeted services being performed at the council level, getting to the central office is not going to be as important as before.  Small satellite scout shops where DEs might also have work spaces is where we might be headed.  

Area boundaries are not drawn for volunteer convenience, as these are purely configured for national supervisory convenience.  With the Regions likely being dropped, areas will probably double in size.  That is just going to be too big for a council.  Better to combine geographies in a way that makes cultural and organization sense — like the consolidated Chicagoland/NW Indiana Council I have suggested.

I think it is entirely possible that the bankruptcy proceedings will take more than a year.  I doubt that the 80 days the BSA has requested for victims to come forward will be granted. As long as we are waiting for lawsuits to be filed, there is the chance that they will go after councils.  Merging councils puts assets at risk. I am not saying we shouldn't do it but I think we have to be careful about the timing.   

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I think the question is … will it be better to see each Council go bankrupt as they are structured now, or wait for them to merge, sell of property and go bankrupt?

Illinois is a perfect example.    Nearly every day, when listening to Chicago radio, I hear ads to file lawsuits given Illinois change to the statue of limitations they passed in 2019.  They specifically mention scouts, hospitals, schools, etc.  If the northern councils in Illinois are strong financially, they will be a target.  So, will it be better for these 3 to merge, combine all the lawsuits against them, and go bankrupt together?  Or, perhaps 1 or 2 could survive without bankruptcy.  Not sure, but that should be the only driving force behind mergers at this time. 

Most settlements I have seen with the Catholic church show payouts averaging $1M per victim.  BSA is estimating 1,000 to 5,000 victims, so $1B to $5B in a settlement.  $1B means loss of all high adventure camps and national cash.  $5B probably means all council camps are lost as well.  Councils, just like National, needs to be focused on navigating bankruptcy.  

The lawyers suing the BSA want to liquidate everything.  National, councils, units, charter orgs … everything.  Churches are hard to sell ... but camp property is fairly easy, so I don't expect them to rest until they have their pound(s) of flesh.  I really believe the next 3-4 years (I expect it will take that long), national, councils and charter orgs focus will be some sort of financial survival.  The day to day program survival (recruiting, events, etc.) will be up to districts (who have no assets) and units (who are probably too small to sue).  So, I think topics such as what units & districts should be doing during bankruptcy makes sense, but councils and National will be focused elsewhere.

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@Eagle1993 Unless the bankruptcy court brings the councils into the process (which no one has ever provided precedent for).  Council properties will only be in danger from lawsuits/judgement against individual councils, not against national.  So if no one sues my council, it doesn't matter how much the payouts are against national or another council, our council property is not at risk. 

 

I am still doubtful that the lawyers will be able to target the unaffected councils.  Certainly CO's are safe unless they are named in a lawsuit.  

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3 minutes ago, mds3d said:

@Eagle1993 Unless the bankruptcy court brings the councils into the process (which no one has ever provided precedent for).  Council properties will only be in danger from lawsuits/judgement against individual councils, not against national.  So if no one sues my council, it doesn't matter how much the payouts are against national or another council, our council property is not at risk. 

 

I am still doubtful that the lawyers will be able to target the unaffected councils.  Certainly CO's are safe unless they are named in a lawsuit.  

Except, if we consider one angle that might become a necessity for National going forward: putting some sizable increase to the franchise fee Councils pay to put $ back into the National coffers, which for some Councils might mean having to liquidate at least some of their underutilized camp properties.

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2 minutes ago, HashTagScouts said:

Except, if we consider one angle that might become a necessity for National going forward: putting some sizable increase to the franchise fee Councils pay to put $ back into the National coffers, which for some Councils might mean having to liquidate at least some of their underutilized camp properties.

But that isn't the situation that Eagle1993 is talking about.   Once the bankruptcy proceedings are done, new assets can't be targeted.  National won't be looking for more money to pay lawsuits.  This is all about if the lawyers are able to convince a judge that the Councils assets should be included in the proceedings.  If they aren't then the lawyers will have to go after councils individually. 

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