Scouts-L Mail Archive for December of 1999: Re: The ethics of buying an award, i.e James West
Re: The ethics of buying an award, i.e James West
Jim Miller Sr.
Sun, 19 Dec 1999 12:47:07 -0500
About once a year, this topic comes up on scouts-l and I respond. This
time, I think I'll save it so that I can send it out again next year
In order to understand the James E. West award, it is necessary to look
at a lot of factors.
First, the award is not made just for contributing $1,000 to scouting.
Lot's of us do that; some contribute lots more every year. For that, we
get a nice thank you letter from council (sometimes) and a request for
the same amount or more the next year (always).
In order to be awarded the James E. West recognition, you must
contribute, or have contributed in your name $1,000 or more to your
local council ENDOWMENT. The endowment is a permanent fund set up to
provide FUTURE on-going support for scouting in your council. The money
contributed to the endowment is kept in segregated accounts, and only
the earnings (interest or dividends) from those funds may be used for
current operating expense. Some of these funds may be specifically
"designated" for a particular purpose like camperships or camp
maintenance, and some may be for general council use.
The idea was basically "borrowed" from the Rotary International
Foundation which has had "Paul Harris (the founder of Rotary) Fellows"
for many years. The Paul Harris Fellowship program has enabled RI
Foundation to become on of the most effective in the world in its
support of international goodwill programs such as the Ambassadorial
Scholar and Group Study Exchange programs. It also helped Rotary to
develop a program called Polio-plus which has a goal (almost achieved)
to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. No small task that. At
any rate the Paul Harris Fellowship program had a track record which
showed that this type of endowment development program can work. So much
for the origins of the award, now let's get into the reasons behind it.
Over the years, many councils in the US became heavily dependent on
United Way contributions with some councils having as much as 80% of
their annual budget coming from UW. That was just great because the
council didn't have to go out and solicit a lot of individual donors.
The other edge of that sword however was the danger of UW to
"controlling" the council and its program. As long as UW had lots of
money and agreed with the mission of the BSA that was fine, but then a
number of things happened.
First there was the UW scandal in which the UW national president was
found to be milking the organization for a lot of money. The resulting
negative publicity caused UW contributions to shrink nationwide. The
local UW's started to look for ways to cut back on allocations to the
agencies which they supported. Simultaneously, UW came under pressure
to allocate more of its money to non-traditional and minority social
service programs. Since the BSA was definitely not "non-traditional"
and was perceived as servicing a "white middle-class" population with a
"recreational" program, the local councils began to find their
allocations cut to fund these new agencies. In addition, UW's began to
be influenced, if not controlled in some area like San Francisco, by
groups with an agenda in direct opposition to the BSA. In some areas
(SF) this caused the local BSA council to be "defunded" in UW
terminology. In addition, pressure was brought to bear for large
corporations to also stop funding scouting. In SF, this caused a period
when both Bank of America and Levi's Corp stopped giving to BSA. Some
of these hasty corporate decisions were later rescinded, but meanwhile
the damage was done.
In addition, at about this time, the non-profit world began to recognize
that the largest transfer of individual wealth from one generation to
the next was about to take place in the next 20 to 30 years. This led a
lot of organizations to look at ways to get their "piece" of this rather
large pie. BSA, along with a lot of other NPO's (non-profit
organizations) began to develop plans for "insuring the future" by
developing endowments. To their credit, the BSA decided that this
effort should be directed not toward a big national endowment with
centralized control, but should produce an ability on the part of local
councils to build up local endowments to support scouting in the 21st
century and beyond in your local community. One of the first steps of
this effort was the creation of the James E. West Fellowship
Now let's talk about why someone should "get a knot" for this.
Scouting, in order to work, needs two major resources - manpower and
money. Without either one, the program would flounder and ultimately
fail. For years, the BSA has had a strong adult recognition system for
those who contribute manpower in the form of their volunteer efforts,
but the recognition provided for the contribution of money has been
slipshod at best. With the James E. West program and other recognition
programs for larger endowment contributors, those who contribute their
hard-earned dollars to keep the program going are also recognized. Now
the council has another way to recognize the donor instead of giving out
one of the limited Silver Beaver awards to someone who only contributes
money and does not contribute time and effort. In reality, it makes
more of those limited Silver Beavers, Antelopes, and Buffaloes available
to the workers instead of the givers. Now, some people will get both
because they work and give, but does that really bother you? It doesn't
bother me at all.
Hope that answers your question.
Jim Miller, Sr.
ASTA # 3105