scouts-l Mail Archive for April of 2000: Re: Denied Money-Earning App?
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@BELLATLANTIC.NET
Tue Apr 18 2000 - 22:03:36 CDT
Sounds to me like some ugly lines have been drawn in your Council that may
be a contributing factor to the issues you have raised. Any time a
professional says that "without us there would be no program" in anger, that
professional ought to go see a career counselor for help in finding a job
somewhere else and preferably one where people skills are unnecessary.
Maybe as a shoelace inspector.
Bear with me on this answer - there are some things I want to relate before
I get to your question.
I've always thought that if folks want your money, they have the obligation
to tell you why and why it is a good thing. In some Councils, many
professionals give the appearance of being obsessed with fundraising to the
point that volunteers can't understand or would have no reason to know that
the professionals are doing other things that are helpful. This is bad
marketing and bad public relations.
However, the fact is that running a Council with camp properties and good
programs is not without costs. And that means they do need money. Funding
from traditional sources like United Way is much less than it used to be for
a variety of reasons. FOS has been used to try to make up the gaps to keep
things running well.
A Council would be foolish not to make a big effort at fundraising each
year. It has to have money to operate. However, the manner in which it goes
about it is the key. Fundraising should always be well managed, but never
given the appearance of being the primary objective or taking so many
personnel resources that other things suffer. When it gets to the point
that people can legitimately say that Council is paying $xx in salary and
Joe spends all that time raising the same $xx, so why don't we just get rid
of Joe and quit raising the money, there is a problem in Council management.
First and foremost a Council ought to be making sure that it does offer
strong and valuable programs and also making sure that it communicates to
the volunteers that it is doing just that. It needs to sell the program and
that it is providing a valuable program. When the interaction between
volunteers and professionals is primarily about good and better programs,
the fundraising business becomes more of a cooperative venture that both do
as a team, because both understand the need and keep it in perspective.
Some Councils publish excellent newpapers and news digest that feature lots
and lots of program information with scarcely a mention of money items,
except to recognize big donors. This drives home where the priorities are.
In these Councils, you are apt to see the professionals at every event,
visiting camporees, unit events, and so on to lend support and
encouragement. And most of them do a great job of recognizing volunteer
effort with awards, citations, certificates, public congratulations, news
stories, and even letters to employers thanking the employer for time and
praising the employees leadership skills (really great for promotions in a
company). In short these Councils take care of their leaders and make sure
the boys get a good program. When they go out money-hunting, it is clearly
secondary and causes much less resentment. The best of them publish reports
to volunteers on how the money gets used and how it was raised. I know that
in the National Capital Area Council I get a "Shareholder's Report" every
few months with four or five pages demonstrating exactly where the money
raised goes into program - what is getting built at camp, what activities
are getting funded, and so forth. The report gives me a lot of confidence
that the money is well spent.
So far I've been talking about how good relationships work and good
partnerships do business. This is not always the case. In other Councils
there are some pretty nasty lines drawn because of distrust and because
people have had bad experiences (on both sides of the line in the sand).
That's when you see some of the things that you've described where there are
recriminations on both sides. Those are symptoms of a sick relationship
that needs to be fixed. And the fixing is on both sides. But as customers
to the program paying for the services, I guess I'd side with saying that to
merit the name "professional" the professionals ought to begin the process
and also ought to walk with a bit more humility into the fray. Likewise
once this begins, the volunteers need to step back a bit and start working a
dialog on how to make things better. It does no good to make statements
like the one heard not just in your Council but elsewhere that there would
be no program without professionals. It just isn't true. It is true that
the present BSA program wouldn't exist without professionals, but that
doesn't mean that Scouting couldn't exist. In many countries it does exist
without professionals. Would be far better to sell the sizzle and show why
it is a good value to us for BSA to have professionals paid to help with the
Anyway, I've gotten long-winded and strayed a bit. To your question. A lot
of what is normal in such situations depends so much on the relations in the
local Council. The curt answer that you got that a car wash would conflict
with FOS and to run it as a church activity may be a result of such a
I just can't see any reason why a car wash would have any impact on FOS at
all. And I would defy anyone to offer a documented analysis that shows that
the random strangers that stop to get a car washed would otherwise spend the
same $5 on FOS. Just can't be done. That is all conjecture and fear.
Why fear? Neil raised an excellent point. During some major fundraising
efforts not just in Neil's Council, but in many, many Councils, businesses
have told the fundraisers that they already contributed to Scouting thank
you very much. Their contribution was small and to a unit in many cases.
Had they not already given, they might have given a larger amount. I know
of a company that was all set to give $25,000 to a Council. The comptroller
called the CEO and asked why he was giving a second gift explaining that the
company already had given $500 and it was against company rules to make more
than one donation to a single charity in a year without a shareholder
meeting and resolution. Well BSA lost $24,500 then, but the Troop was
perfectly happy with four new tents. That year a new handicraft shelter did
not built at the camp. Hundreds of kids attending the camp got cheated.
This does happen and that is why there is a bit of concern that fundraising
is coordinated, but it has to be applied with reason.
In some Councils, a decision is made to blackout a certain time period and
reserve that period for FOS. In others there is a blackout during the time
when United Way is collecting contributions and the blackout is a condition
of participating in United Way. Sometimes the blackout is to avoid
squabbling by units; e.g., why does Troop XX get to have a car wash and why
can't Troop YY go ask for help getting money for tents.
In your case I would ask for an explanation as to why there is a conflict
with FOS. If it is because there is a blackout that affects everyone, then
fine - so be it. But, if not, there is a lot of explaining to be done as to
why it should be a problem. I don't think they'll be able to explain it in
such a case either.
Maybe this is a good opportunity for input to the local Council about
building a collaborative environment with a team approach instead of drawing
lines. The local Council needs very badly to sell and market why its
services are valuable and to assure that volunteers know that money is going
to good purposes. At the same time it needs to work to avoid statements
like the ones you heard. They accomplish little and usually just give a bad
taste. Instead it needs to explain its actions and help you understand the
reasons for its decisions. Scouting succeeds best when all the adults act
like adults and when the adults try to work together instead of taking pot
shots at each other.
Michael F. Bowman email@example.com
Vice President, http://usscouts.org
U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.