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5thGenTexan

New Council Fee

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3 hours ago, 5thGenTexan said:

I was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout in the 80s.  I am entering my 4th year as an Adult leader.  I am pretty active outside of my Unit in that I know leaders from other Units, I know the DE, I am getting pretty familiar with the people in the Council office.  I can tell you exactly what our Pack dues will get you.  I am not sure I can sit down with a new parent and explain what the fees that go to National are used for.  As a parent, I am not sure what I send to National has any value.  

That's my problem nationally too.  As far as I can tell, I write a check for $66 per scout so that someone will update the various manuals, so that there is insurance should something bad happen, and some amount of money for a national marketing team.  I can't fathom that this is a $66 per scout cost.

 

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7 hours ago, yknot said:

The issue is not the monthly expense it is the perceived value. BSA does a terrible job of promoting value.

 

3 hours ago, David CO said:

No, I think it really is the expense.  1 out of 7 kids are raised in low income families on food stamps.  Poverty is a real thing.  

 

2 hours ago, yknot said:

How many of those kids realistically have ever been part of the scouting universe from the National perspective? A tragic mistake, because if scouting was living up to its own values, those kids would have been the target audience. But the corporate marketing reality is that they are not and never have been the goal. The market at least in recent decades has been families that want their kids to get to Eagle and are able to spend on on all the uniform and advancement permutations along the way. 

To me, "this" is issue.  The BSA doesn't really know what it is.  Is it a frugal activity for low income kids?  Is it a high cost activity for well off kids?  Is it both, is it neither?  I've got no idea and I doubt anyone else does either.  But, we all have an opinion on what it should be.

  • If the BSA really wanted to market to lower income families, it easily could.  But, we would actually need to try.  We'd also need to stop doing things like spending money in ways that results in $66 to national and $48 to council.
  • If the BSA doesn't want to worry about low income families, then just admit that and let's charge $250 a year per kid and move on.

But, the BSA needs to have a better fee strategy than it does right now.

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Insurance fees and camp maintenance need to be paid, and we need at least a skeletal staff at the council level.  In our Troop we raise funds to partially subsidize the Scouts from under-resourced families.  The out of pocket cost to participate in a typical unit program runs 500-1,000 a year (depending on localities and how often a unit camps).  We nibble that down as much as we can for thee families.  National and council fees should be in lieu of expectations that units participate in FOS and product sales.  I am more concerned with long term predictability, so we can properly anticipate things.   

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@Cburkhardt - agreed.  In fact, I would favor a higher council fee to a higher national fee.  For example, I would not begrudge $60 a year to council, $20 a year to national.  That strikes me as an appropriate ratio.  Further, I have no issues with local units having varying degrees of fees.  A troop in a more affluent community certainly charge more and in return provide a different kind of experience than a troop in a lower income community.  

As has been pointed out, the problem with the various fees is that it is difficult to communicate the value one gets for those fees.  We sort of understand a national fee.  Someone has to write the manuals and pay for the insurance.  Today it just seems that the fee is too high for those items

Council fees are often difficult to communicate to families. 

  • Yes, the council provides a camp - but usually a Scout pays for Summer camp and other council events.  Why does a family pay an annual fee if there is going to be yet another charge per event?
  • The district is almost entirely staffed by volunteers.  It's unclear how that money helps them.
  • The council provide a paid staff, but the value of that staff is lost on my Scouts and families.  Most Scouts will see a DE in passing maybe once or twice a year.  Why an idividual scout needs to contibute $15 or $20 to have a DE is not clear.

The core issue I see with council fees is that they were designed to provide a more steady income stream than FoS.  Yet, an FoS donation is very different than an annual fee.  Parents who are motivated will say - sure, I'll provide you some money so that the council can operate.  But, requiring a family to do the same is very different.  In my humble opinion, the councils need to shift the focus on fees such that they provide for clear, demonstrable value such as the removal of all program fees at the council level.

and district.

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43 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

- agreed.  In fact, I would favor a higher council fee to a higher national fee.  For example, I would not begrudge $60 a year to council, $20 a year to national.  That strikes me as an appropriate ratio. 

 

I agree about the council fee being more tolerable.  But that's If (and only if), they use those more stable funds to actually provide competent administrative and record-keeping services.  No more submitting MBC applications 3 or 4 times before they get processed.  No more taking 2-3 months between MBC list updates.  No more losing our Scouter's award requests or Insert other media taking 6 months to get them signed by the appropriate parties.

Paying $60 now vs $12 before and getting the same sort of shoddy service they've been providing would be intolerable. 

If they could do their annual budgets based upon like 85%-90% of those expected council fees (with the rest going into either a rainy day fund).  Then any funds still collected via FoS could be used for capital improvements and repairs to the reservations. (NOT council buildings, which is where ours decided to dump a bunch of cash)

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33 minutes ago, elitts said:

I agree about the council fee being more tolerable.  But that's If (and only if), they use those more stable funds to actually provide competent administrative and record-keeping services.  No more submitting MBC applications 3 or 4 times before they get processed.  No more taking 2-3 months between MBC list updates.  No more losing our Scouter's award requests or Insert other media taking 6 months to get them signed by the appropriate parties.

Paying $60 now vs $12 before and getting the same sort of shoddy service they've been providing would be intolerable. 

If they could do their annual budgets based upon like 85%-90% of those expected council fees (with the rest going into either a rainy day fund).  Then any funds still collected via FoS could be used for capital improvements and repairs to the reservations. (NOT council buildings, which is where ours decided to dump a bunch of cash)

Fully agree. In a weird way, I believe that council fees will be good for councils.  Those fee will force councils to have more accountability to their Scouts and families.  You won't be able to lose the MBC applications 3 or 4 times because people won't accept it.

However, there are three primary hurdles to this:

  1. The challenge for councils though can be summed up in - "that they don't know what they don't know".  Most are small organizations of 15-30 professionals.  They have people who have lived most of their careers in the BSA system.  That registrar who is used piles of paper on his desk doesn't really understand what needs to happen to take this all online.  They are often inefficient because they do not know another way.  They can certainly be retrained, but barring real leadership it will be difficult
  2. Most councils are trying to stem holes in their budget with these new fees.  Yet, the kind of service we are talking about requires them to devote a portion of those fees to that effort.  If a council has 10,000 scouts and they charge $48 a year, that is about $480,000 dollars.  That's a lot of money - but it's not transformative money.  A council in the 10,000 scout range probably has a budget in the range of $3,000,000-4,000,000.  So to completely revamp how the organization works for 15% of your budget will be a cultural challenge.
  3. Because councils have been largely thought of as charities for so long, they funding side (fundraising) is disconnected from the spending side (program).  It is a huge culture shift to now need to tie funding to the quality of how resources are spent.  Until these new fees, a council could largely put up a picture of how great Scouting is an get a donor to write a check.  Now, with fees becoming a bigger part it's a very different conversation to the moms and dads who have to pay the dues.
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1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

In a weird way, I believe that council fees will be good for councils. 

Of course it will be good for councils.  It will be great for the executives.  It's not good for the scouts.  

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1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

Fully agree. In a weird way, I believe that council fees will be good for councils.  Those fee will force councils to have more accountability to their Scouts and families.  You won't be able to lose the MBC applications 3 or 4 times because people won't accept it.

Respectfully disagree. If they didn't learn when FOS donations started dwindling because of lack of service, what makes you think they will do any better when a mandatory fee is added? That is guaranteed money.

My council has had problems for over 20 years. They have lost all kinds of stuff: day camp registration forms and check, youth and adult applications, Popcorn checks and paperwork, advancement reports, eagle applications, ad nauseum. They have tried to blame the local post office, but even when things were hand delivered, the items at the office got lost. Long story short, because of my council's issues, FOS started dropping, and units no longer participate in popcorn sales.

We had two units at the same CO that paid for popcorn, and turned in unsold popcorn with the requisite paperwork, only to have the paperwork lost, although the checks were cashed. That CO had to pay to prove they paid for popcorn sold, and also had to pay for the popcorn they turned in. They have never touched another kernal. The Troop in the matter also had an Eagle Scouts paperwork, which was hand-delivered tot he office lost. Thankfully the district advancement chair give the Eagle a copy of the signed application, and we had to email that copy to the office. And this didn't happen just to units I was in. Every unit in my district has had issues. And some of the units I have talked to outside of my district have had the same issues as well.

When asked why units do not want to do sales or allow FOS presentations, the council told exactly why, and nothing has been done. So I do not think this will hold the council more accountable.

Just now, David CO said:

Of course it will be good for councils.  It will be great for the executives.  It's not good for the scouts.  

You put much more succinctly my thoughts.

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1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

Fully agree. In a weird way, I believe that council fees will be good for councils.  Those fee will force councils to have more accountability to their Scouts and families.  You won't be able to lose the MBC applications 3 or 4 times because people won't accept it.

Question for a newbie to council politics: Who selects the Scout Executive who runs the Council? Is it some sort of council committee or is it a group higher up the chain? Is this a bottom up selection or is it top down?

Who selects the District Executive? A district committee or the council? 

If these are top-down decisions, then I highly think there is not much one can do to bring more accountability on behalf of customers. If it is bottom up, then many of us in the lower levels need to get involved beyond our local units. 

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Owls...

I have some incomplete info about how the SE is selected, but would love to have some of the actual pros here outline the process with more granularity...

As for DE's, anyone who walks in the door with a college degree and no disqualifying criminal record will probably be hired.  This is a Council decision, so, ultimately SE (??).

The turnover rate for DE's is super high.  Most come in with great intentions and dreams, and after they find out what it is really like, they leave.

I have been offered a DE job in every council I have been a part of (except the overseas councils)...and turned them all down at the advice of my DE friends ;)

 

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10 hours ago, ParkMan said:

The BSA doesn't really know what it is. 

This is the same argument that James West and William Boyce had 100 years ago.  Boyce wanted to expand scouting to include working class boys.  West wanted to build a program that would appeal more to middle-class and white-collar households.  The executives have always wanted an elitist scouting program.  That's where the $$$ is.

Edited by David CO
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17 minutes ago, Owls_are_cool said:

Question for a newbie to council politics: Who selects the Scout Executive who runs the Council? Is it some sort of council committee or is it a group higher up the chain? Is this a bottom up selection or is it top down?

Who selects the District Executive? A district committee or the council? 

If these are top-down decisions, then I highly think there is not much one can do to bring more accountability on behalf of customers. If it is bottom up, then many of us in the lower levels need to get involved beyond our local units. 

 

6 minutes ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

Owls...

I have some incomplete info about how the SE is selected, but would love to have some of the actual pros here outline the process with more granularity...

As for DE's, anyone who walks in the door with a college degree and no disqualifying criminal record will probably be hired.  This is a Council decision, so, ultimately SE (??).

The turnover rate for DE's is super high.  Most come in with great intentions and dreams, and after they find out what it is really like, they leave.

I have been offered a DE job in every council I have been a part of (except the overseas councils)...and turned them all down at the advice of my DE friends ;)

 

Former Pro here.

Do you want theory or reality?

In theory The national office will select several professionals that will be interviewed and selected by a volunteer committee of the council executive board members. The selected SE is then responsible to the council executive committee, and they can get rid of of the SE if they don't perform.

In actuality, once an SE is selected, they are in until they retire or move, unless they really screw up, i.e getting caught doing something illegal. The SE has ways to manipulate who is a member of the council executive board, and stay in his position.

As for DE's, @InquisitiveScouter is correct, anyone with a pulse and college degree can get the job that is ultimately up to the SE. I interviewed in 3 councils. First council had me meet with several volunteers in addition to the SE and council staff. I liked that council, and at the time wished I went there. Second council had me meet with the DFS only. Third council, the one I ended up at, brought me in to their Winter Planning Conference for the interview.  I thought it was unusual and talked to one of my friends who was a pro. He stated that if they were bringing me in for a 4 day interview at their planning conference I had the job in the bag. 

 

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8 minutes ago, David CO said:

That's where the $$$ is.

David CO, are you saying that the early guys saw a money-making opportunity in the Scouting movement, quickly incorporated, merchandised the operation, eliminated the competition, and used their influence to garner a Congressional Charter to seal their virtual monopoly?

Say it wasn't so!!

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2 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

The SE has ways to manipulate who is a member of the council executive board, and stay in his position.

This is the dirty little secret...

The other piece of this that many council professionals want to remain hidden, is that the Chartered Organization Reps are voting members of the Council Board, and a grass roots movement among them is the scariest thing in the world to the SE, as they hold a great deal of power that they never wield...

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12 hours ago, yknot said:

How many of those kids realistically have ever been part of the scouting universe from the National perspective? A tragic mistake, because if scouting was living up to its own values, those kids would have been the target audience. But the corporate marketing reality is that they are not and never have been the goal. The market at least in recent decades has been families that want their kids to get to Eagle and are able to spend on on all the uniform and advancement permutations along the way. 

Not to defend National too much, but, they've made several attempts to reach underserved youth.  That was part of the thrust of the ISP.  Learning for Life, Scoutreach, Scouting and Soccer, generally fall into that category.  They may be bad at it, but, they've certainly tried.

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