I am going to tread lightly on this subject as I have some unpopular opinions when it comes to money and Scouting, but bare with me as I make an attempt to articulate my thoughts on this.
When we talk about money and Scouting there are always a couple of concerns. First, the cost of Scouting. It can seem overwhelming when a new parent is hit up with the initial cost of Scouting. The uniform, the handbook, and the gear all seem to drain a family in the pocket-book. Then there are dues, summer camp, and in some units the nickel and dimeing that is part of the annual program. Yeah, that can seem a bit too much, unless your unit is aware of this and makes an effort to either reduce the cost or have programs in place to assist a new young man stepping off on his journey in Scouting.
Let me say at the outset that there is absolutely NO REASON at all that every young man in America can not be a Scout. Money IS NOT an issue and at least in our unit will not become one. If a Scout has financial needs, we will accommodate, but no young man will be left out.
How do you do that? Well, let me share with you how our unit does it. Your mileage may vary on this and I am certainly not saying that we do it best or there are no other ways to do this.. I know what we do works and it removes the excuses about money in Scouting.
I challenge any parent, no matter what your economic status to argue that your son can not be a Scout because of money.
So having said that…
Get a good plan and with that plan, a budget.
Just like in your home, you budget to maintain your financial health. Your unit is no different. Our Troop committee has made it a practice to never say no to the PLC. If they plan it, the committee will figure out a way to support it. Now, before you think that we are stepping away from Youth led.. no, we are not. The Troop committee is responsible for the budget. They figure out how much the program is going to cost for the year and pass that on to the Scouts. They figure out seat belts, rentals, and fees and provide the Council level fund-raising opportunities for the Scouts to participate in. Once that is provided, it is up to the Scout to participate.
Announce the dues for the year and promise not to ask for another penny (save FOS).
This is key. Once the program cost is set we divide it among the members of the unit and that becomes the dues for the year. We never ask for another dime.
That number is typically around $200. The parents are given a complete budget break down of everything that the money is for. The Scout then has an option to make 3 payments to pay his dues. Note that I said the Scout has that option. The Scout is responsible for paying his way.
Offer the Council level fundraising opportunities. Pop corn, candy sales, etc. Our Troop also offers a Christmas Wreath sale opportunity. It is up to the Scout to participate and the unit does not do mass fundraising. It is up to the Scout to pay his own way.
A Scout is thrifty. He pays his own way. If the Scout chooses not to participate in the fundraisers, it is up to him to earn the money to pay for his year in Scouting.
Here is where the eye brows are raised and I catch flack from those not in our unit.
There are plenty of money earning opportunities out there. Mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, walking dogs, baby sitting, house sitting, painting fences, odd jobs will certainly earn a Scouts way for the year, and then some. I am not expecting our Scouts to get a job in a spoon factory, I am just suggesting that they need to get off their butts and work for their year in Scouting. If that is payment for their chores at home or hitting their neighborhood and mowing lawns, the Scout needs to earn his keep.
I can not tell you how many parents I have talked to that disagree with that. As with most things in life, that which you earn you value. So we ask that our Scouts earn their way.
If a Scout fails to pay his dues, he is given notice that he can not participate. If there are circumstances which preclude the Scout from money earning we will talk. If a Scout participates in the Council fundraising opportunities, he is given the benefit of the doubt and given more time or opportunity. If the Scout has not made an attempt at money earning he will not. It is that simple. There are just to many opportunities out there not to at least cover basics.
Summer camp can seem to burden a family. We again ask the Scout to pay his way. If that does not happen, we find ways of funding the Summer camp experience.
Big money in Scouting.
I have heard many Scouters talk about not giving to FOS for one reason or another. And I am not going to go to deep into that. Lets just say those people for the most part are misinformed as to what that money does to have a direct impact on Scouts and Scouting. So give to FOS.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of representing our Council at the National Meetings of the Boy Scouts of America. I got to go to some work shops and meet a lot of the “heavy hitters” in Scouting. At the big Banquet dinner on Saturday night, my wife and I sat as they presented the Silver Buffalo awards. Someone at our table made the comment that those people purchased the Silver Buffalo and therefore it meant nothing. I disagree.
The fact that 10 people who that year each had made contributions in the millions to Scouting, most going directly to Scout camps, facilities, and scholarships impressed me. Scouting could not function without those dollars. The fact that they pay so the rest of us can essentially afford great programs impressed me. And I applaud them.
I am a member of the James E. West fellowship, and proudly wear my $1000 knot. Yeah, folks joke about that too, but at the end of the day, it is paying for Scouting. The James E. West fellowship endowment money is legacy money and will have lasting impacts on our Council. I can not give the millions, but what I can give ensures that Scouts can go to camp and have a camp to go to. So that too I would ask that you consider.
I am not going to debate how one Council or another manages their money, that is not my concern. My concern is delivering the promise of Scouting… and that takes money.
So Scouts can pay their way and we adults can support their effort and their program.
Money and Scouting can work. Have reasonable expectations, goals, and hold the Scouts accountable for being Thrifty.
Have a Great Scouting Day!