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Equipment on loan, vs. donations

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The thread about ownership of OA equipment got thinking about a situation we're currently facing in my council.


Background: For a particular training program, over the past several years we have accumulated quite a bit of equipment, probably worth a couple thousand dollars total. Reason being, the council wasn't interested in footing the bill for the equipment, and fortunately we have several committed volunteers who agreed to donate the equipment.


The curveball is that the equipment wasn't technically "donated," but rather is on an "extended loan" to this particular program. So the equipment remains privately owned by various individuals, who agree to allow it to be used for this training course. The concern with donating it "for real" to the council is that the equipment would get "repurposed" for other programs, would get lost, get broken, etc. Since the council won't pay for the repair or replacement of the equipment, we'd be left hanging for our own program. So this seemed like the best solution to the problem.


While this has worked fine for many many years, we're currently sliding into a situation where new people, new program, new ideas, etc and being introduced into the mix. Some of the "old timers" feel that this transition is being handled poorly. Long story short, I'm worried that we'll end up in an "I'm taking my toys and going home" situation, we're the program will be left without essential equipment - unless the current situation is handled with a great deal of diplomacy.


I don't want to get into some of the background and personalities and debates about whether or not everyone is acting maturely - suffice to say, both "sides" have some legitimate arguments, but both sides have also slipped into some non-Scoutlike behavior from time to time. What I'd like some input on is the equipment and financial situation in general. I'm trying the current situation is a fair price to pay, or if we made some bad choices that allowed this situation to happen.


Any thoughts or advice?

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That's one of the challenges when using personal gear for group use. I wrote about my story in the original thread.


One idea is to budget some gear to replace the personal items, and find someone to store it. BUT if that person get's angry, it may cause some issues the same issues


Best example of that was an individual who left Scouting under bad circumstances, and had a bunch of lodge gear. Going to college near where they lived, and not knowing the circumstances, I volunteered to pick it up. While I got the gear, and was my normal friendly self, I got a very cold reception fromthe individual, the spouse, and the son, all of whom I knew. It was only after I delivered the gear did I find out what happened, and it was not pretty.


Ditto with personal, or in this case a troop's gear, being used by all. One local company donated some equipment with the intent that it would be used by all Scouts in the district, however the way the transfer was made to prevent council from picking taking the gear, it was given to one specific troop, and hence that CO owned the gear. While we the district did have access to the gear, when the troop folded, we no longer had access to it, and the canoes sat in someone's yard for years with no one being allowed to use them. good news is the troop has restarted,a nd we got access once again.

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I've been through most permutations of this with day camp, on both sides of the table. The best thing to do is put down the swords and shields and ask "How can I help?"


If the original ownership of the items isn't in questions, the honorable thing to do is give it back with a word of thanks for their support over the year. Why they would want it back isn't important.


If ownership isn't clear (which is highly likely), I would send a letter or email to the current and former volunteers explaining the committee is conducting an inventory of it's equipment and would like anyone who has "loaned" equipment to the committee over the years to please claim it. Make clear they still have the option to extend their loan or make their donation permanent. Add that after 30 days, all items in the possession of the committee will be deemed to be council property and added to the inventory.


Can of worms? You betcha, Skippy. But I think it is owed to the folks who have supported the program and have "provided" the equipment over the years. When faced wit asking for the stuff back, I would bet most will just say, "Oh, keep it." If they want to continue the loan, then put that in writing. If they want it back, let them have it.


You need to figure out what standard of proof needs to be provided -- receipts would be nice, or confirmation from another volunteer would be okay by me. But I would be okay with a reasonably detailed story. "The council's junk projector blew up half-way through the first weekend of Wood Badge back when I was course director back in '02. I ran out to Wal-Mart and bought this one. Of course it wasn't in the budget, so I just ate the cost myself." Okay, fine, and thank you for your service. Do you want the 10-year-old projector back, or shall we dump it for you? The bulb is burned out and costs more than a new projector.


You should also check with the council finance people. If it were paid for out of council money, there should be records.


The goal should be to create a clean, unambiguous inventory. If something has been donated, send a receipt to the donor and process the item as council inventory. If it is on loan, it should be clearly marked ON THE ITEM with the inventory records backing up the loan.


Edited to add: I dont' know what the BSA policies for this are. I don't have any background in inventory control or even what the legal standards may be. But my goal would be to apply the Scout Oath and Law to the situation. You are dealing with individuals who have been great supporters of our program and should be treated as such. Maybe they had a falling-out with the council or maybe their sons aged-out they moved on. But this is an opportunity to make their last contact with the council a positive one and maybe even to sooth some ruffled feathers.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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Even if you lose the equipment at this point, you have gotten the use of it for several years. As you say, had it been donated, it would have suffered from mission creep and wandered away or been broken. As a result, you would be in the same situation either way -- worrying about equipment.


I plan on loaning some equipment to a startup scout troop for much the same reason. I don't want it becoming the property of the Charter Organization, because the odds of the troop succeeding are slim, and the next troop that I work with will no doubt have more need for equipment than some member of the CO. I have no real use for the gear at this stage of my life, so I don't really care if I get it back. I just want it put to good use.

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The bad choice was people getting their egos wrapped up in the program!


Time to ask the donors "Can we return the gear to you? Or, can we recognize your donation of the gear at fair market value?"


Yep, you're gonna have to fundraise for the gear if they take it back, but maybe your council has already done just that over the years and has some gear they can loan you!


The other option is to clearly understand the conditions under which the owners of the gear will cheerfully loan it. Get those in writing and circulate it to all parties involved. Set a time limit on the policy. (E.g. this year only, the next 5 years, or as long as Troop X is functioning with CO Y.)

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While I of course I don't know how things are dealt with in your area. I know that a District going cap in hand asking to buy used equipment and stuff would not see any funding being made available.

When things like this happen, someone needs to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

The right thing is that if someone owns a whatever call him or her and ask them to come and pick it up ASAP. If they don't pick it up offer to drop it off at their home.

A lot of times them asking about items that are on "extended loan" has more to do with some sort of a power issue than the return of the item.

One sure way to not have to hear the "And they are still using my...." Is to give it back to them. - By returning it you have taken away any power they think that they might have had.

If they say that you can keep the whatever have someone write them a thank you letter and keep a copy. This is a good job for some sort of a titled person like a District Training Chair or Council Training Chair.

If the item is worth a fair amount maybe have someone in the Council Service Center write a receipt that can be used for taxes.

Depending on how far things have got out of hand? You might want to not use any of the "extended loan" items until such a time as the owner tells you it's OK.

Of course this very well might mean that whatever your doing might not be what it once was! But maybe it will open up a dialog where the District, the Council and maybe the Executive Board will see that Training and the needs of the Districts has to be a line item on the budget.

Much as things can be a real mess, it has been my experience that doing what is the right thing is never wrong and most often gets the people who are acting like children to shut the heck up and go play some-place else!


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Yah, dScouter15, if it's their stuff, it's their stuff, eh?


I think the error here is treating their stuff like it's the council training team's stuff. For every course, there should be a formal request of "Hey, George, do you think we could borrow your gear again for this course?" And every single time yeh make the request an answer of "No" should be perfectly OK. The folks who own the gear can take their toys and go home any time they want to for any reason, and the only honorable response is "thank you VERY much for supporting our training team over the years." I'd throw a party for the guys or at least make sure they are honored in some way at the next council function for offering such huge and dedicated support to the training program for so many years.


If the direction of the program has changed and some new folks have come in, then it's up to them to deal with the issue of finding new gear appropriate for the new direction. Maybe this time around the council will want to purchase it, or maybe one of the new folks will donate it, or maybe you borrow it from a troop for the weekend in exchange for a small donation to the troop or a bit of "make & mend." The need for gear should not hold up necessary change. Change should be based on what will provide the highest quality support for the units in the district, and nothing else.


If yeh keep the right attitude in these things then there's no need for all the "personalities" and angst. The program should go where it needs to go to support the units, and the loan of gear should never be assumed. The two issues are independent of each other, and should be kept independent of each other in everyone's minds and behavior.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Thanks all for the feedback. Just to be clear, I'm not trying to do an end-run around anyone with regard to this equipment - In fact, I personally have some equipment "on loan" to this program, so it's not like I'm trying to find some kind of loop hole that will allow us to continue to use gear that doesn't belong to us. In fact, as much as I hope to not have to deal with finding a bunch of replacement equipment over the next few months, I'm personally somewhat sympathetic to the folks who are uncomfortable with continuing to lend us this equipment, so I definitely wouldn't hold anything against them if they do decide to take their gear and move on - but my hope is that we can find a better solution for everybody!


Making a clear inventory of who-owns-what is a great idea, and something we've already been working on. This information has been shared with the "new regime" (for lack of a better term.) Again, not wanting to get too much into the politics and backstory, but I think the message that got across was that "maybe you could run, and even improve this program without the help of some of these people... but can you do it without any equipment?"


Another part of the problem is that we're not just talking about a few individual pieces of equipment - not just one dining fly, or a cook set, or a projector. We're literally talking about roughly 75% of the equipment that is ESSENTIAL to running this program potentially all vanishing overnight. So, worse case scenario, we'd be looking at buying, building or borrowing several THOUSAND dollars worth of equipment. And while our current inventory has been accumulating over several years, we'd only have a few months to solve this crisis. I agree that the owners would be well within their rights to stop making their personal property available to, and I personally can understand why they feel driven to that point, it would certainly leave the program in a rough spot - but that might just be the cost of doing business.


I guess I'm concerned about going forward - is the situation we're in now the lesser of all the possible evils? Is relying on "extended donations" preferable to soliciting the council for funds? Or donating the equipment directly to the council?

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I guess I'm concerned about going forward - is the situation we're in now the lesser of all the possible evils? Is relying on "extended donations" preferable to soliciting the council for funds? Or donating the equipment directly to the council?


This boils down to one variable: "How much do your people value control?"


If they want stuff, but they don't want personal baggage, and they want zero risk of corporate mis-management, then they have to pay up.


If saving some dimes is more important, then they need to eat a little crow.

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Donations do not go home with the donor. They reside at the CO or storage place.


Loan....Person brings it with them, Uses it and maintains it....then it returns home with them to be stored until it is needed again.




I suggest the new guys buy there own gear and make the fight irrelevant......Once you do this a time or two the old guys will get the message.



So what are we talking about here???? A couple of dutch ovens????? Patrol Box????? Dining flys?????

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I'm not sure that "control" is a priority in and of itself; the priority has been being able to deliver a quality program to the youth at a reasonable price. Up until now, we needed to have some control over the equipment to achieve that goal, which is how we got to this point. Maybe we made a bad decision initially, or maybe we should have done things differently somewhere along the line.


BD - Well, the scope here consists of some fairly large items - patrol boxes and cooksets for around 20 patrols, several dining flys, a large refrigeration unit, industrial stove and oven units, assorted electronic equipment (projectors, computers, sound systems), etc. Again, stuff that's been accumulated by several people over several years.


Making the new guys buy their own stuff? Well, it might come down to that, but I worry that the cost will be passed along to the participants of the training program. Might not be any way around that, though.

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Well if they leave then the program will just have to change to meet what you and the new guys can provide then. Big refrigeration units can be replaced with coolers.....Projectors can be replaced with Easels and Markers. Patrol boxes can be borrowed.



No big deal in my book.



If the old guys want to play games......don't work around the problems or at least have a backup plan for all of the borrowed equipment......


Succeed despite their efforts.


I understand what your going thru.......I put on a Day camp with nothing....I was recruited in march and begged or borrowed enough gear and supplies to put it on in June.

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