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Monday, November 19, 2012

My Back Pages* and non-profit organizations

I'm going to use this title when I'm in "cranky old man" (Dana Carvey, SNL, 1990's) mode.  Here's part one:

I participated in a canned food collection drive this weekend called "Scouting for Food".  I'm not here to besmirch Scouting nor am I here to denigrate collecting food for those who don't have enough to eat. They're both fine, worthwhile activities, and have been so for years. What I'm going to say is no doubt going to anger some people, but it needs to be said.  If you're involved with a non-profit of any kind, you may recognize these behaviors because they happen at your events, too.

1) Donated food vs. trash collection:  Last year at the same event, our oldest can was from 2003.  This year, the oldest can was from 1999! Thirteen years old! People, please:  if you wouldn't serve expired food to a family member, don't palm it off on the food banks (who have to pay to dispose of it instead of you). I personally have handled leaking cans, broken boxes, and Jell-o packages that were rock hard (which means that moisture has seeped through).  I don't care what the manufacturers said, or what you heard from your friend's mother's third cousin's stepsister about "how good the stuff is"--if it's expired, toss it out yourself.

2) Baby food is great--but the same rules apply.  No expired stuff.  The stores can't sell it and they'll get in BIG trouble if they try.  No leaks, no partial packages, please.

3) Give the pet food to the SPCA or some other pet-friendly charity--and while we're on the subject of pets:

4) Safety and liability:  Recent reports notwithstanding, Scouting is all about child safety.  These days, adult leaders have ample opportunity to be well trained and are probably vetted as well as we can be in a national non-profit.  That being said, it doesn't necessarily keep us from doing questionable things. One of the leaders of the Cub Pack assisting with the food drive brought his boxer along, and it proved to be quite a distraction for the Cubs (mostly 2nd and 3rd graders), and frankly it was a nuisance when it was being walked among the people filling boxes.  The  young boy who was walking it (I'm presuming it was the dog's owner's son) also brought it over to the snack table, where the dog was clearly straining at the leash to investigate the hot dogs.

The dog may have been the sweetest, nicest dog on God's green earth, but one bite, or one run into the street getting hit,  and the owner has more to deal with than an injured person and/or a injured/dead dog.  Who's liable?  The dog owner? The Scouts? The Scout's chartering organization (in this case a local congregation of the United Church of Christ)? The Scouts' council or national organization? Think before you put so many people at risk just because you want some convenience or companionship.

5) Keep all workers on task, even when it's your job to do so.  With few exceptions, the laissez-faire approach to Scout leadership doesn't work. The boys need to be led by the leaders showing them how, not by a few random adults standing around bellowing orders.

6) Have clear procedures and rules for the day; modify only if necessary.  Nothing worse for an organization's event than asking a question and getting three very different  responses.  If a 30-second meeting is necessary, get the responsible parties together, hash it out, and move on.  If it takes longer than that, make a decision but be sure to discuss it at the next meeting.  If there's more than one group involved, the leaders of both groups need to sit down and determine the plan.

I have more to say on this topic (and I will) but my Management final awaits.  Onward and upward.

*--Bob Dylan, Another Side of Bob Dylan, 1964.

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