scouts-l Mail Archive for June of 2000: Re: Volunteers vs. Professionals (longish)
Neil Lupton (NeilLup@AOL.COM
Sun Jun 25 2000 - 07:39:54 CDT
In a message dated 6/23/00 12:25:37 PM, bcorwin@COIN.ORG writes:
<< In the council I am in it seems there is alot of problems between the
"paid" and the "volunteers", maybe I'm a bit slow, and have only been a
leader for about 3 1/2 years, but what is the deal. >>
You haven't really said what the problems are, so I don't feel totally able
to respond. However, as a volunteer with about 30+ years of service at
unit, district and council level positions, maybe here are a few thoughts.
The professional's job is largely to do things that the volunteers won't or
can't do. A lot of list members will now say ''Yeah, yeah, raising money"
but that's not the primary area that I am thinking of. Rather, it is
starting new units and strengthening very weak ones. And that is an area
where very few volunteers are involved or want to be involved.
I learned early in training and experience that units can, by and large, be
put into three categories: about 1/3 are excellent, exceedingly strong
units; about 1/3 are doing OK but could be better; and about 1/3 are in
trouble. Exactly which units are which varies with time. An exceedingly
strong unit can be in trouble in 3 years and vice versa.
Let's face it, most Scouts-L list members are with exceedingly strong units.
I know you may not think so, but in weak units, people don't even know that
things like Scouts-L exist. And exceedingly strong units may not need much
from a professional and the pro may not even be able to do much. We have
several units in my council with 20 + year Scoutmasters. It's tough for a
DE to go into one of those units and be expected to be a woodcraft expert and
know more than the SM. (It's tough to be a Commissioner for one of those
units too.) Those units and SMs know a great deal and while the DE can and
will bring them up to speed on district and council activities, the DE may
have to make a choice. Do I spend my time with the units which are in great
shape and just show the flag or do I spend my time starting new units or
helping very weak ones? The DE has a dilemma here. The very strong units
are the ones with the money and the ones with people who can help. The
units that need the help are the ones that can't provide the money for the DE
and can't supply district leaders. So does the DE go where he or she are
really needed or do they go where the money and people are. Tough choice.
Sometimes, it is even worse than that. We had one Pack in my council with
80 members and a long waiting list. They were the only Pack in their
community. So the DE tried to start another Pack so that more boys could be
in Cub Scouting. The big pack said "What are you doing that for? We LIKE
being the only Pack in town! We LIKE having a long waiting list and being
able to tell parents 'If you don't sign up to help along with your son, he
won't get Cub Scouting.' You are messing up things for us, so we are going
to refuse to participate in Friends of Scouting and in the popcorn sale. If
you want to do things, come and help us. We don't want competition and
another Pack." So here, the DE was punished and penalized by the big Pack
for trying to provide Cub Scouting for more boys.
This can be part of the problem. The DE serves Scouting and communities and
sponsors and tries to provide good quality Scouting for as many boys as
reasonably possible. Individual units have their own concerns and very
often are far more concerned with their own needs than with the overall needs
The other side was another excellent Scoutmaster in my council was noting
that his Troop was about 70 boys and was the only Troop in his town. He
told me "We used to have 4 Troops in town and now, ours is the only one.
That's not healthy. Boys should have a choice. I'm unhappy that the
council hasn't tried to start another Troop."
We sometimes hear (or say) it's all just a numbers game. Yet, aren't we
trying to provide great Scouting for as many boys as we can. And I do mean
real Scouting, not just registered members. One way to know how we are
doing is to measure membership and participation and compare it with previous
years. Are we growing or shrinking? Are we providing true Scouting to
more or fewer youth?
There's another thing I have noticed. Take a training course, for example.
The volunteers run the course, do the teaching and get plenty of ego
stroking in front of the group. But who likely brought the equipment, was
there early to set it up, made the coffee, taught the session that nobody
wanted to teach (maybe on fund raising), stayed late, did the clean-up and
then took away the equipment. Likely the DE. And then, he or she likely
had to go to an Eagle Court of Honor or Blue and Gold Dinner. The pros
frequently stay in the background letting us volunteers do the things that
Sometimes not. Sometimes, pros have to make tough decisions or do tough
things. And pros do make mistakes. They are human just like all of us,
and each pro can have hundreds of volunteers watching them looking for those
One final factor. Scout Executives do OK for pay, but District Executives
aren't well paid at all. So that DE who is in the office from 8AM to 6PM,
then at a meeting or Court of Honor, plus at a district Camporee on the
weekend may well be worrying about making ends meet.
John Marmet has given some wonderful counsel on getting to know your pro,
being friends with them and helping them understand what you want and vice
versa. Some of my best, longest lasting friendships have been with
professional Scouters and I have found some to be the finest, most wonderful
people I have known. Some haven't been. But the professional exists to
serve Scouting in your community and in your area. Not necessarily to serve
your unit in the way that you would like as much as you would like, but to
serve Scouting. And that is what essentially every pro that I have known
really wants to do and do well.