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smaster101

Donation question

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We have a person in our town that approached our committee chair about donating 20 acres of land to our troop. The value could easily be $20-30K. I'm telling our committee that it's not that easy, and that we'd have to set up the troop as some type of non-profit corporation in order to own this type of asset. Our CO won't be much help because they're just a small group of American Legion Vets. I really think we need to consult a lawyer about this. There may also be council restrictions about troops having these types of assets.

 

Anyone have any experience or advice in this area that they can share?

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As much as the lawyering profession gets it loads of abuse (some quite deservedly I may add), this is one case where I would say fly to the cloesst attorney. (Oh, and try to be sure he will do this pro bono, or "for free")

 

A local troop in a similar situation a few years back set up a private, not for profit corporation that owns a fairly good sized campground that was left to them. The organizaiton that owns the land is not boy scout related in any way. The Campground is open to any youth group that wants to use it as well as boy scout troops, troops and other youth groups pay the same rate.

 

Because it is a not for profit organization, many improvements to the area are Eagle projects that could not have been such if the area was Boy Scout owned, just a thought...(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)(This message has been edited by OldGreyEagle)

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So as not to be seen as shilling for my own profession, I will just second OldGreyEagle's advice that you see a lawyer. There may be one or more who are members of your CO, or parents of boys in your troop, or if you have a lawyer he/she might be willing to discuss the matter briefly without charge.

 

You have all kinds of potential issues here, depending on your state and local laws. If it were in New Jersey (which I strongly suspect it is not if the land value is only $1,000-$1,500 per acre) you would have all kinds of zoning laws and environmental regulations to deal with. For example, would you be cutting trees to clear campsites? Building a cabin or lean-tos (or any permanent structure)? What about, um, waste disposal? All of these might involve government permitting or regulation. And you also have to think about property taxes -- perhaps you could get an exemption if the ownership is structured properly, but if not, you do not want to inherit a financial liability.

 

Perhaps even before a lawyer, I would talk to your council and probably to a professional. (No offense to commissioner-types.) If they can give you help, great, and if there any problems, you might as well know about them now.

 

Ownership is very definitely an issue. I would be very hesitant to have the land deeded to your existing CO. This becomes an especially sensitive issue if your troop is going to do work on the property, i.e. clearing sites, hiking paths, lean to's, etc. The boys and adults would be putting in a lot of labor and would want to keep control over the result. A non-profit corporation could own the land, and in most states such a corporation is not very difficult to set up and maintain, but you would have to follow at least the minimum formalities which a lawyer would explain to you. I believe that in order to qualify as a non-profit under IRS rules, you would have to make provisions for what happens to the property if the corporation is eventually dissolved, and you only have a limited range of choices. The best approach might be that the corporation's property would be transferred to your council if the corporation is dissovled.

 

We recently had a discussion in the forum about a "dummy front" organization to hold troop assets instead of the CO. I don't think this would fall into that category. Your fund-raising proceeds and dues would still go to the troop treasury, but the non-profit would own the land. If the non-profit incurs expenses (permit fees, professional to cut down big trees, whatever), then the non-profit can charge the troop a nominal fee for use of the land -- that should be perfectly legitimate, and it probably would be nowhere near what my pack pays our council for use of a campsite ($6.50 per person per day, no meal service plus the showers are turned off.) If invoices come due before camping fees come in, one or more parents of boys in the troop could loan funds to the non-profit, get paid back when the fees come in, and donate the interest back to the non-profit (in other words, waive interest.)

 

You also want to make sure, however, that the non-profit remains in synch with the troop and its needs. Maybe the members of the troop committee could automatically be trustees (or directors) of the non-profit. Again, compliance with your particular state's laws is critical. Maybe the non-profit could become co-Chartered Organization, as "Friends of Troop Whatever."

 

There is a lot more to consider but those are some things to start thinking about.

 

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Definately talk to your council lawyers.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong gang but aren't our units non-profit organizations? Why create a new organization if you already have one.

 

Personally, that seems like a huge liability. It would be very cool to have your own camp but I'm not sure I would want the extra work.

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Not to spoil the party, but it's always been my understanding that a Boy Scout Troop is not a legal entity, and therefore can not "own" property...which is why all camping equipment, et cetera, "used" by the troop, and made available to the troop, even if purchased with funds raised by the troop, technically is "owned" by the Chartering Organization. This also explains why troops can not "own" vehicles or obtain vehicle insurance. Land or structures would count in this fashion, too.

 

Just a couple of thoughts...

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jmcquillan is absolutely right. A troop is not a legal entity and therefore can own nothing. In some areas parents have set up non profit foundations and corporations to meet a variety of local needs and there is, in principle, no reason why something similar cannot be done here as suggested above. Every time I have heard of a unit that "owned" a piece of real estate, be it a camp or a scout shack, it turned out that there was some kind of separate legal entity that actually did the owning.

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I would also echo jmcquillan's thoughts. Both of the troops I know that have "private camps" (one of about fifteen acres, the other about two hundred) actually have the property "owned" by the CO. There's some stipulation in the deed or some agreement, however, that states that the camp cannot be sold as long as there is a boy scout troop attached to the CO.

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