I love running email round tables. I think those who participate get a lot out of them. Usually a round table will create a list of ideas that would take a number of summer seasons to get through. Unfortunatley, there is a dark side to everything.

Each time I run an email round table I get multiple people asking me for the list without submitting an idea. In fact, I received a total of 17 of these requests for the current “Best Crafts” round table. Now, to be fair, I understand we are short on time and sometimes we are short on ideas, especially if the theme of the round table is not in our wheelhouse. Not everyone does crafts, or has been a part of a pirate theme, etc. However, a round table won’t work if people don’t share.

So instead of constantly responding to these emails to apologize and explain why I won’t send them the final round table list of ideas, I wanted to post my reasons here as a reference.

Here is a perfect example. This is the first of these requests I received about a year ago…

Hi Moose,

I love the idea of an email roundtable. This summer we are having a pirate theme week. It says in your email that only those who submit ideas will get the final list of ideas. I don’t understand this. Actually I think its ridiculous! The reason some of us need ideas is because we have never done a pirate theme before so we don’t have any ideas to submit. Obviously this type of compilation is most needed by those of us who don’t have ideas to submit. Please send me all the information that others send in so I can create a great week for some deserving kids. It is about the kids afterall. Please keep that in mind.

Thank You,

I get emails that are nicer, and also nastier, then this one all the time. This person was not pleased when I respectively said, “No”.

But some part of me agreed with her that it’s the people without ideas and creativity that really need these lists. So I decided I would try a round table where you could submit an idea or not, and the list would be available to everyone regardless. Those of you who have been on my list for that long may remember this.

The results – I got a total of 6 submissions. Nobody wanted to take the time to contribute but everyone wanted the list of ideas.

Now here’s the kicker, everyone was upset. The same people who emailed that I should allow them to have round table lists without contributing emailed me again saying that I was holding back ideas or that they were not pleased with the lack of ideas they received. On top of that, the people who had actually contributed complained that it wasn’t fair that they submitted ideas but everyone, including those who didn’t participate, received them. It was a no win situation for me and I considered not doing anymore round tables.

I understand that not everyone has a pirate idea, an international activity idea, a craft idea or an idea for whatever else the email round table is about. I also understand that everyone’s time is valuable, especially the closer we get to summer. The thing is that I don’t feel it takes much effort to search for a neat or unique craft online (from a laptop or business center if traveling), or from one of the many craft books that nearly all youth organizations have, and submitting that.

I usually get 50-150 submissions which creates a lot of work for me. Between gathering the ideas to going through each email, formatting the submissions, putting it all together and sending the list out I spend on average a full week or two of all my free time, including all day Saturday and Sunday. And I do this all for FREE. I also direct a camp, have other “day-job” responsibilities as well as at-home responsibilities that take up most of my time during the week.  All I ask is that people “pay” by submitting an idea, even if it takes an hour or two to research a neat craft, game or activity and submit it.

The great thing is that the community recreation and the summer camping industries are full of the best people in the world. I truly believe that. Usually when I explan why I run the email round tables the way I do people are very understanding. I hope you are, too.

Thanks to all of you who have participated in past email round tables and I welcome all of you to participate in future ones.