scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: Re: Professionals vs. Volunteers
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Sat Jun 10 2000 - 16:01:39 CDT
<Randall Reed wrote>
I agree that the professionals bear watching. Have you ever noticed that
there is practically nothing of real value on the national BSA website? And
they have hundreds of pamphlets, fliers, and training programs available. I
can't help but it is to (a) protect their cash flow, and (b) keep the
volunteers like mushrooms. In this day and age, why not put every stinkin'
BSA rule and reg on line? Could it be that information is power and the
professionals have a vested interest in maintaining that power. I think the
profusion of unofficial BSA websites is a flat acknowledgement that national
BSA does not want to respond to the information age by publishing needed
information on the web. Example: That Health and Safety Program that was
talked about earlier this week: Is that on the Web?
It's important to remember that the BSA is attempting to maintain its
preferred method of communications AND make use of newer technology at the
same time. I've made this argument before with regard to "missing"
information on the National web site.
The reason the BSA doesn't include every piece of information available on
their national web site is because the BSA prefers to communicate through
local councils. Some of the information they could post on the national web
needs to be interpreted in accordance with state and local laws. Who better
to do that than someone who is physically located in the same area you are.
In response to your example, no the Health and Safety Program materials
aren't currently available on the national web site. They ARE currently
available at your local Scout center and through National Supply. Likewise,
the training courses are conducted locally so consideration can be given to
specific local and state laws.
A skeptic might note that there is a certain natural friction between a
group that gets paid for doing something (the professional staff) and a
group that is willing to do it for free (the Scouters). Given that natural
antipathy, wouldn't more complete disclosure of information and a more open,
inclusive, "management" style be a prudent thing?
The problem is that the professional staff has a considerably different job
to do than the volunteers. Volunteers are charged with the actual conduct of
the program. They make Scouting work. Professionals are charged with
supporting the efforts of the volunteers, disseminating information, raising
funds, and providing public relations. I personally receive a great deal of
satisfaction and joy from my Scouting job. I gladly do it for free, but if
you insisted on paying me to do it, I'd gladly do it for minimum wage. If I
had to do the job of a professional, you couldn't pay me enough. I'd love to
be a professional, if all I had to do was support volunteers and disseminate
The breakdown in communications happens when volunteers expect professionals
to know everything. They're human just like we are. They don't know
everything, but they usually know where to get the information we want.
Unfortunately, volunteers asking for information tend to be impatient.
Volunteers rarely see what a professional does from minute to minute, day to
day. They certainly don't sit at their desks waiting for volunteers to call
asking questions. So, when volunteers do call, and demand immediate
satisfaction, the professional usually has to put aside whatever it was he
was doing to handle the volunteers request. He may have been making phone
calls to potential FOS contributors looking for cash so the council's camp
can replace summer camp equipment they didn't expect to replace. He could be
developing a plan to get a foothold in a part of the community that is
severely underserved. He could be discussing membership trends with his
Field Supervisor, trying to figure out what's happening to all the Webelos,
or why his district's retention rate is so low.
My point is this: it's true that everyone involved in Scouting should be
looking after the welfare of the organization. That means there should be
budgetary oversight. There are, however, volunteers in every council who
have that responsibility. That's why every council has an Executive Board.
If I as a Scoutmaster try to make it my business, that usually means I'm
neglecting some other responsibility. If you don't trust the volunteers at
the council level, perhaps it's time to do something about that.
What really concerns me is how quickly we accept the assumption that every
professional in Scouting is in it only for the money. The principles of the
organization are clearly outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. Trustworthyness
is an important part of that. There's nothing wrong with "Trust, but verify"
but just remember which word comes first.
In my troop, $70 to $80 per new uniform is a chilling inhibition, to say the
least. (Please, save your insight about "uniform banks" and uniform
recycling programs. If the price was in line with other pricing for youth
shirts, pants, caps, belts, socks, etc. there would not be the intensity of
need that there seems to be for those types of programs.)
I submit that no matter what the price of a uniform, someone somewhere will
complain it's too high. Uniform recycling programs aren't a bad thing, they
make it possible for boys who cannot afford a uniform to have one. Sure, the
price is steep. As I noted in another post, the "profits" everyone is
complaining about go back into the program of the BSA.
A. J. Mako, Scoutmaster, email@example.com
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council