By Melany Gardner
Apr 23, 2016

Stake and Ward Leaders Speak, We are Listening

Two years ago, the Utah National Parks Council and RED Research: Emotion: Design, embarked on a journey of self-discovery by surveying our most influential customers—stake presidents and bishops. The result was a powerful message on why Scouting matters, a.k.a. the Six Pillars of Being Prepared. Since then, the truths in this document have influenced a positive change of focus in many different areas of the Council including camping, training and communications.

This March and April, another survey was sent to these and other influential customers. The preliminary findings were shared at the April 9, 2016 Executive Board Annual Business Meeting and we wish to share them with you here.

NOTE: This information comes from a preliminary sorting of the survey responses and is not the conclusive final version. We will share more information as the data is coded.

Why does the Utah National Parks Council do research?

  • To give an avenue for all key volunteers to give their thoughts and opinions and to be heard.
  • To gather key customer feeling about the how BSA can improve and get suggestions and ideas.
  • To develop a priority to the problems, feelings, suggestions and solutions.
  • To give BSA a better direction on what is most important to our customers and what they are looking for from the BSA.
  • To better unite the council with our customers.

Scouting Roles Represented

Scouting Roles Represented

With this overwhelming response from those who were sent the survey, we are able to get an even better view of what opinions are really out there. Bishops were our best-represented population, with 33% of all bishops in the Utah National Parks Council responding to the survey.

Who is our customer?

scouting customerResearch aside, we know who the real beneficiary and ultimate customer of Scouting is—the youth! Parents and Scout leaders are instrumental in getting the program to the boy, and so are a customer as well, but we have to always keep in mind that the whole reason the Boy Scouts of America exists is to lead our youth to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes. We must start with this fundamental knowledge before we can move further in our research.

We also know that while the youth are our most important customer, we do not and cannot reach this customer directly; stake president customerthere are simply not enough resources to make that a reality. So, we can turn to the next best source—the influencer. In the Utah National Parks Council, the most influential people are the local LDS Church leaders, like stake presidents and bishops. These leaders hold the keys to whether Scouting is a focus and is encouraged among local youth. They also hold the keys to who is called to serve the youth, and oversee the allotted budget for activities or camping. They also happen to be a much smaller group with which we can communicate more directly.

Volunteer vs. Church Calling

volunteer vs church calling

From our research, we know there are some differences between LDS Scouting and Scouting as a whole. One of the most recognizable difference is between someone who is a volunteer and someone who is called by their church leaders to a position. While there are both of these types within LDS Scouting and the Utah National Parks Council, it is important to understand their differences because they could determine how we communicate, encourage, or train each of these individuals in Scouting. It is also important to understand the similarities of these two types of Scouting customers; for example, they both love the youth they serve. One may be easier to interact with in Scouting than the other, but both are essential to delivering the Scouting program to the youth and thus need to be served equally.

Similarities between both types of volunteers:

Have in common

Perception vs. Reality

lion in the mirrorOne more thing we had to keep in mind while coding this research is that perception is what matters.

One comment from a bishop read that Utah National Parks Council must stop paying the big salaries of the executive board. The reality is that the executive board are all volunteers and do not get a cent, and often give large amounts to the Friends of Scouting campaign every year. Even in the Key 3 (council president, council commissioner and Scout executive), only the Scout executive is an paid employee of the BSA.

Another perception came from several comments that wished the Council would publish their financials and be more transparent. The reality is that those invited to attend the board meeting (that includes all bishops, CORs and stake presidents) are given a document every quarter with the financials of the council for their review.

So while these bishops had inaccurate information, the fact that they had misconceptions and believed them is what matters. Truth does not count—the perception is what matters. Without this mindset, we could not improve or know what must be communicated to help dispel the falsehoods.

Survey Questions

Survey questions were qualitative, not quantitative, so in coding comments from the key Scouting volunteers we can get general feelings from our customers and importance rankings. With this data, we will then be able to filter down the right questions to get more quantitative research with solid numbers and percentages.

Participants were asked to rank and explain the following priorities:

  • Clear Communications & Training*
  • Maintaining Financial Sustainability While Reducing Cost of Scouting to the Families*
  • Charter Partner & Customer Relationships
  • Technology and Other Resources for Enhanced Public Relations
  • Camping Properties’ Use and Physical Facilities

Participants answered the following questions:

What would you see as the top three things we could do to strengthen Scouting?*

If you were President of the UNPC, what would you do today to help Scouting Move Forward?*

How do we improve meetings?

*included in the preliminary report

Ranking of Scouting Issues

Below is a graph of how each study participant ranked the five statements. In red is their top pick, blue is their second pick. For example, we know that for bishops, reducing costs to families was a hot topic, but for stake presidents and most others, clear communication was their biggest concern. These rankings help us understand at each level of Scouting not only what leaders’ concerns are, but also how well we communicate with them.

importance rating top 5 statements

Example Comments from Bishops

Below are some of the comments from bishops. The number next to the code is the number of comments made on that topic. Coding this way gives us a way of determining what under each topic is most important and most talked about. Take a look, the comments are worth a read.

clear comm and training

clear communication

financial stability

strengthen scouting

president of UNPC>


We have found enlightening and helpful information just in this preliminary research. Once we finish coding all the comments we can then begin developing solutions. We’re listening. We are committed to working together to help our boys become outstanding men, serve faithful missions, and become honorable husbands, fathers and bearers of the priesthood.

Was this research helpful for you? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

Melany Gardner2


Author: Melany Gardner | Editor, The Boy Scout, Utah National Parks Council

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3 thoughts on “Stake and Ward Leaders Speak, We are Listening

  1. AvatarAnonymous

    You should expand your surveys to the front line Scout leaders: unit committees, unit leaders. It seems to be a critical audience missing from your current list of represented roles. Stake presidents, bishops, and CORs may not have visibility to all the pain points that unit committees and leaders may face on a regular basis. I would think these leaders are more influential and more “key” than Stake Presidents and Bishops as they are closer to the young men and boys. Not all units have full and proper support from their COR, Bishop, or Stake leaders.

  2. AvatarKathryn

    This research is an impressive step for the council. I am a 20+ year scouter. I think the comment that resonated the most for me was about scouting being “required” but very expensive. While I agree that scouting is expensive, I also know that the money my family has spent on scouting has come back four-fold. With 5 boys, 1 Venturing girl, and 2 parent-scouters we have probably purchased close to 25 full uniforms (the kids all went to jamborees with 2 uniforms). We were poor as church mice when we bought our first uniforms, but we did it out of a sense of doing our duty to God in our callings. (I tell people “I don’t wear this uniform because I look good in it.) Over the years I’ve noticed a lot of poor families making the sacrifice to be in full uniform. Perhaps the breakdown comes in individual perceptions of the importance of scouting in the church/gospel. I see wearing a full uniform as important as paying my tithing. (I just wish I could find a better fitting pair of pants, with just a tad more current style.) Also, I feel your pain when someone makes a comment based on completely false information. I get that a lot in my work.

  3. AvatarDOUG DRURY

    After scanning through the comments and reflections from various leaders and scouters I would like to echo some of the sediments in those observations. First of all I have been an active scouter for over 40 years in all parts of the US and Alaska. I’ve been everything from Assistant Scoutmaster to Unit Commissioner and Committee Chairman more times than I can count. I’ve had the opportunity of working with both LDS and non LDS units and there is a marked difference between the two. As stated in many comments, the LDS unit leadership is primarily a calling that the leader may or may not perform to the best of his or her ability or commitment. This factor lies directly with the bishop as the chartered organization’s head who makes that call with or without really understanding the scope of scouting and its relationship to the church. I’ve found that most bishops haven’t even read the church’s handbook on scouting and fail to understand such basic principles as not sustaining the leader until the required BSA background check and clearance has been completed. Secondly, there has to be a clear understanding of both the personal commitment and a finite term of the calling to accomplish the best possible outcome and performance due to the required and the necessary training new inexperienced leaders must have to effectively be a scout leader. Making a calling just to fulfill an empty slot with a mother who is 8 months pregnant or an adult who is leaving for a 6 month work assignment in another state in 2 months does not stabilize the unit or provide cohesiveness amongst the unit. Rapid turnover of leaders only destabilizes the smooth flow within the unit, especially cub scout packs. Fortunately our unit has a strong chairman with years of experience and holds the unit together but also unfortunately does most of the work because of a real lack of commitment from the leaders and is becoming burnt out. I once had a Scoutmaster for my unit that was called by a very supportive scouting bishop and told upfront that he was going to be the scoutmaster for the next five years and was given the charge to build a well functioning unit and commit to that challenge. He did and together we built a great unit that was very successful. The question and debate from last year on the direction BSA took under pressure from a minority of nay sayers has been hashed and beaten to death so lets go forward from here standing firm on the LDS position and not waver. There probably will be a division between national and religious units in the future, we’ll just have to wait and see. Costs and funding also was given some light. I’ve always had heartburn over this issue for 40 years and voiced concerns to no avail. I think BSA needs to re-evaluate and explore in our current economy a better expenditure for supplies, awards, books, uniforms, etc other than overseas manufacturers. We serve 83,000 boys in this council and you can’t convince me if every boy had a uniform shirt (I believe they all do) we couldn’t find a US supplier that would make the council patches for a better price than being paid now and still make a profit to help fund the council? Finally, training. I’ve done a lot of training over the years having just recently completed the doctorate level of the Commissioner College. There have been a few times the training has left something to desire and I can see how a new leader getting that type of training would be discouraged so its imperative that the trainers are well trained. For the most part scout leader training is great and a new leader can really learn a lot about scouting from that training. However as has been observed, its hard with the busy LDS schedule and other meetings and functions to squeeze in another meeting for training but scout leaders have to realize scouting is a whole different ball game than teaching a sunday school class because the stuff that is taught in scouting has a whole new context. It would be like teaching a sunday school class and never had read the bible or heard bible stories growing up. You just have to bite the bullet and do the training. Most of the basic stuff is online anyway to get you started. Our technology today opens up a whole can of possibilities. My unit thinks I am a genius when it comes to ideas. I’m not, I just know how to use the internet and look at what hundreds of other units have done for their Blue and Gold or Pinewood, copy it or make small modifications to fit us. I’m glad the survey was done but also applauded the suggestion to ask for feedback from the frontline troops as they are closer to the problem such as I’ve outlined here but that’s why we have the opportunity to submit these thoughts for more input from the field. Scouting is the finest boys organization there is and our history proves it. “In these pages and throughout our organization we have made it obligatory upon our scouts that they cultivate courage, loyalty, patriotism, brotherliness, self control, courtesy, kindness to animals, usefulness, cheerfulness, cleanliness, thrift, purity and honor. No one can doubt that with such training added to his native gifts, the American boy will in the near future, as a man, be an efficient leader in the paths of civilization and peace.” Handbook for Boys, Boy Scouts of America, June 1911


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