Good, Better, Best

How your Unit can move from “Good” to “Best”!

For the past 106 years, the Boy Scouts of America have been knocking the program side of Scouting out of the park.  We have a great outdoor program, we encourage adventure, we take kids on week long adventures through our Summer Camping program and Unit High Adventure. We encourage Scouts to try their hand at white water rafting, rock climbing, rappelling, stand-up paddle boarding, SCUBA diving, and just about any other high adventure activity we can think of.

Truly, when you ask a young person about their memories of Scouting, they will regale you with tales of hikes, camp outs, times they tempted death, their advancement path, what they did for their Eagle Project or Silver Award Project, and their experience at Summer Camp, Jamboree, or other high adventure base.

What they don’t regale you with are tales of the administrative side of Scouting.  The youth won’t tell you about their adventures in filing tour permits, filling out advancement reports, tracking the membership growth of the unit, logging the unit’s service hours, making their summer camp plans, putting together the payment schedule for camp, figuring out who will be hauling the youth to camp, planning and executing the unit fundraiser, and the list keeps going and going.

The administrative side of Scouting isn’t very glamorous, but it is vitally important to the success of a unit.

Good units tend to have the bare minimum of committee members. What usually happens with a “Good” unit, is that the bulk of the administrative responsibilities fall to the unit leader.  They get super frustrated with everything, stress out, and eventually get burned out and quit.

Better units will have 3 or 4 committee members, but those committee members won’t have the slightest idea of what to do or how to serve the unit. They will show up to committee meeting, they might ask how they can help, but the Committee Chair might not understand their role and will not know how to delegate responsibility.  Some units will eventually figure out a few thing, they will make a few assignments, and the unit will limp along. Usually, this unit will last a few years; but eventually the unit volunteers will get burned out, frustrated with the lack of help and support, and will usually leave after their son or daughter achieves their advancement goal.

The Best units figure out the Unit Key 3 concept, they define specific roles, they set goals for the unit, they hold each other accountable, and they work as a team so that the youth will succeed.

There is a pattern that exists in the BSA that flows through every level of the movement. You see it at the top National level, all the way down to our council, district and finally your unit.  The Key 3 concept is how the BSA operates and how it is governed.

With only 1 exception, the Key 3 is ALWAYS a 2:1 ratio.  There is always 2 volunteers to 1 paid professional.  That is done on purpose, because the Scouting movement belongs first to the youth and second to the volunteers who run it.  The professional Scouter is always out numbered by volunteers, because it is the volunteer that we work for and serve

At the National level, our National Key 3, is made up of the National President (Randell Stevens, a volunteer), the National Commissioner (Charles Dahlquist, a Volunteer), and the Chief Scout Executive (Mike Surbaugh, the paid professional).  Each of these men has a specific function and are responsible for one of the 3 sides of Scouting. The National President is in charge of the Administrative side, the National Commissioner is over the unit quality, or program, side of Scouting, and our Chief Scout Executive is charged with the day-to-day operations of the Scouting movement.

You see this repeated at all the other subsequent levels of Scouting, from the Region, the Area, the Great Salt Lake Council, each district of the council, and finally at your unit.

The Unit Key 3 is the one exception. Here, the ratio is 3:0 or 3 volunteers and 0 paid professionals. The unit Key 3 is composed of the Charter Organization Representative, the Unit Committee Chair, and the Unit Leader (Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, and Venturing Crew Adviser).  Each position has a specific role and function, with the Committee Chair taking on the Administrative side of Scouting, and the Unit Leader taking responsibility of the Program side of the unit.

First, the program side or FUN of Scouting. The Unit Leader is the head of the Program team. Under them are all the assistant leaders or Den Leaders that deal directly with the youth.  They plan and execute the program and deal directly with the youth.  They shouldn’t, nor is there a real reason to, attend the unit committee meeting, because they should be meeting monthly,as a program team, to plan the program and make arrangements for what supplies will be needed for that month. It is also where the unit leaders would make specific plans for any program related issues during that month’s outing.

Now, the Administrative side of the unit, is where we have some room for improvement.  As the head of the Admin team, the committee chair will need a minimum of 5 committee members. This is where the “Best” units have found success. These 5 committee members take on specific roles as membership chair, advancement chair, training chair, camp promotion chair, and service hours chair. These committee members have specific tasks that they perform, as a part of their position; each which will help the unit move forward and will take pressure off of the unit leader.

Unit leaders that are complimented by a functioning committee almost always last longer, provide better quality program, and the boys have MORE FUN!

Ultimately, that is what everything is about; making things more fun for the youth that we serve. Using the Unit Key 3 model will help your unit move from a “Good” or “Better” unit to one of the “BEST” units around.

I will cover more on the Unit Key 3 model as I write more posts, diving specifically into the role and function of each committee member. But until then, I hope this is helpful.

Happy Scoutin!


Author: theprofessionalscouter

I am a professional Scouter, having worked for the BSA for 12 years. I started my career in 2006 as a District Executive with the Nevada Area Council headquartered in Reno, Nevada. In 2009, I moved to the Chief Seattle Council, in Seattle, Washington to serve as a Senior District Executive and then as a District Director. In January of 2016, I transferred to the Great Salt Lake Council to serve as a District Director.

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