ORLANDO – If I’d known how proud I’d feel to be an Eagle Scout, I’d have packed my uniform and Mic-O-Say claws.
More than 1,400 Boy Scout professionals descended this week on the Marriott Grande Lakes Convention Center here. The annual meeting, themed “Building the Brand,” seeks to keep the movement exciting in an era of competing activities and social networking, which make it easy for kids to opt out of Scouting for other things – or nothing at all.
I came to help professionals from the world’s 300-plus councils sharpen their fundraising skills. And while I’m confident those I’ve met will raise more money, I’m leaving with a larger lesson.
Those who know me are aware of my passion for Scouting. It molded my young life and is having the same impact on Joe, our Scouting-aged son.
I’ve been fortunate to walk several Scouting paths over the years. Early in my career, I worked as a district executive in Kansas City’s Heart of America Council. More recently, I’ve held volunteer jobs in pack and troop 228 and the council’s Blue Elk District.
So unlike some Scouters, who mutter under their breath about professionals, I’ve always valued their leadership. This week, though, my respect stepped up a notch.
Diego Aviles is assistant scout executive of the Hudson Valley Council in Salisbury Mills, NY. Although the region north of Manhattan has been hit by the slumping financial services industry, Diego’s faith in people’s willingness to support his council’s $8.5 million campaign remains strong.
“The campaign isn’t about asking people to give up their hard-earned money, which is a tougher sell now than it’s ever been,” he said. “It’s about asking them to invest in the future of Scouting in the Hudson Valley so we can continue shaping lives the next time our economy turns down.”
“We never would have been able to look our volunteers in the eyes and talk about a campaign when I started here,” he said. “Even though we’re still in the planning phase, they’ve bought into the idea as a way to make important improvements and engage new volunteers.”
Roger Hoyt, who grew up in Independence and began his professional Scouting career in the Heart of America Council, is the Greater Cleveland Council’s director of support service. His council has contemplated a campaign for camp improvements, but the idea’s been slow to catch on.
“I understand why there‘s concern right now about a campaign,” he said. “My job is to keep the idea alive.”
Robert Swanson, a Hartsook Companies colleague, regularly reminds our consulting team to have courage for its clients. “You understand the ups and downs of campaigns and can see opportunities they don’t,” he says.
I’m grateful to Diego, Eric and Roger – and the more than 1,400 other professional Scouters here – for having courage for me.
As Joe and Tom work to become third-generation Eagle Scouts, I have more confidence than ever in the future of Scouting and philanthropy’s power to sustain it.
Matt Beem is president of Hartsook Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.