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BSA membership drops by over 400,000 in 2005

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Looks like losing public schools hurt as much as I predicted it would; a loss of over 400,000 in one year:





cubscouts boyscouts venturing all scouting L4L total

2004 1,878,752 988,995 280,584 3,145,331 1,680,522 4,825,853

2005 1,640,685 894,333 238,469 2,773,487 1,628,169 4,401,656

-238,067 -94,662 -42,115 -371,844 -52,353 -424,197

-12.67% -9.57% -15.01% -11.82% -3.12% -8.79%


The actual losses will probably be higher, as it appears a number of BSA units didn't recharter away from public schools until at (or after) the end of 2005, and so would still be counted under 2005, even if they ceased to exist soon after that. Also, it seems some STILL haven't rechartered, so they'll get a rude awakening when the BSA is forced to cut them off.


The BSA has lost nearly 1/4 of their cub scout membership since the late 1990s, when the right-wingers in charge made it clear to the public that the BSA was a discriminatory organization.

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You can if you like; the vast majority of those units existed only due to unlawful government support of religious discrimination, but the execs at the BSA weren't honest enough to move them all to private sponsors, even though they've had years to do so. If you want to reward incompetence, shortsightedness, and just not "being prepared", keep the same people running the BSA. This result was completely predictable years off.

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An interesting follow-on question would be whether the numbers will eventually stabilize, once the chartering organizations are reduced to the set that are in alignment with the positions of the BSA. At least, that's one possible future.


Also, it seems a little bit hard to tell if it's all public school related, or if some of the drop is due to increased attention to accuracy of the numbers, given some of the scandals. Do you have any data that helps sort that out?


Oak Tree

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This is not good news. A 10 percent decline in membership should send off alarms at National that something is very very wrong. Those at the top should be losing sleep about losing their jobs. A complete and open investigation on the problem should be forthcoming. Lets see how they react.

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I know that around here it has been a terrible year in recruiting for cub scouts. I won't post specific numbers for my district but it is a major topic of conversation at every scout meeting these days and nobody seems to have been spared. Thing is, around here the relationships with the schools have not changed very much in the last five years, with a couple of exceptions. Most packs are chartered either through PTOs or through churches, but most schools in the area do allow packs to send home flyers, post promo posters and displays, hold events at the school, participate in open house, etc.. So it isn't that we've been closed out of the schools.


What little bit of anecdotal commentary I've gotten from parents is that they are a) a lot more people are short on money (lousy economy around here - our state has the highest unemployment in the country) so they just aren't doing anything "extra" and b) a lot more military families that used to be big in scouting are stretched to the limit by deployments and can't commit the time, and c) organized sport programs are successfully pushing into the lower elem. grades around here, to the detriment of our enrollment.


The one thing that has NOT come up in all my conversations with people around the district is politics and scouting. It may be a big factor in some areas but not around here.


Interestingly enough...our cross over numbers are very good this year. It is still early but so far it appears that we will lose far fewer boys in the webelos/scout transition phase than typical.



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Oak Tree writes:

Also, it seems a little bit hard to tell if it's all public school related, or if some of the drop is due to increased attention to accuracy of the numbers, given some of the scandals. Do you have any data that helps sort that out?


Not really; I should have better data in a couple of months in comparing number of units in 2004 vs. 2005. Membership stats by state or by council would also help, but I don't have that information.

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Take Lisa's words. Apply them to central Flyover Country.


The issue, when I talk to parents, is MONEY. You do not know how many 6th, 7th, and 8th grade parents I know who are banking on full ride athletic scholarships for their children. Scouting doesn't generate full-ride $$$. It falls below their cut-line in terms of perceived value added.


I think way too many of these parents are due for big disappointments. I further think they are short-sighted in parenting their children. The ratio of college athletic scholarships to graduating HS athletes most certainly is not 1:1. The "whole person" is socially, ethically, and academically, and last athletically well rounded.(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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Thanks Merlyn,


Now tell me again, if your source document states that the 2005 BSA membership numbers have not been released - how does it actually know know that membership has actually declined by 400,000+. It's a guess isn't it?


In fact, don't they make a request at the end of that section for someone to actually give them the actual membership documents because they are actually hypothesizing.


Just wondering.


David C. Scott

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At this time I don't have the 2005 membership numbers broken down by chartering organization.

So I can't prove how much losing public schools really hurt the membership or if it did?

I do know that in the Council that I serve numbers were down and we didn't have any units chartered by public schools. We did have 3 packs that are in public housing complexes and when the memo came out other organizations replaced HUD as the CO. The membership of these units went up.

Still it does seem whatever we are doing isn't working!!

While no one has as yet asked me, but it seems the more we try and be trendy or keep up with the times the more it bites us in the you know where.

When I did ask about the 15% loss of Venturers in the NE-Region? I was informed that most of the loss came from just six councils and was due to a "Correction". It seems these youth members ought to have been in LFL and not Venturering.

While I'm sure that there are parents who feel very strongly that the BSA is wrong and will never allow their kid to join because of various reasons. But I'm just as sure that there are a lot of parents who might never have thought about allowing their kid join, but see having him or her join as a way of showing their support.

It would be all to easy to blame the falling numbers on the ACLU or Fox TV?? However we have got to take the blame. We need to look at where we are losing the members and plug the hole. While once again I don't have hard numbers, I do think that we are doing a good job of recruiting youth members our big problem is retaining them.

I been play this game for a fair amount of time. I've heard the loss blamed on: TV, after school activities, video games, home-work, single parents,Gays, Girls, God,money, lack of money, rock music,uniforms,petrol, the cost of petrol,Band,soccer, track,sex,dogs, cats,spiders,advancement,warm weather, cold,and the list could become a Monty Python sketch.

Still I feel if we can deliver a program that offers adventure, fun and challenges all of our youth members with age appropriate activities we will keep the youth we recruit (Yes we need to work on marketing) Along the way we can help the youth members work on making moral and ethical choices and the membership will grow.


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Amen to what John-in-KC said. I recently talked to a parent that told me he was counting heavily on his son receiving an athletic scholarship for his sons college education. He is dreaming. I've seen the kid play (football). He's good, but not that good. I asked the Dad if he ever thought about the idea that every Div. 1 scholarship football player in the country was probably the best player (and probably athlete) in his conference let alone his team. At that level you are slicing your bread pretty thin. I told him that I knew far more students receiving scholarships for Scouting and 4-H than for athletics. Perhaps not full rides, but substantial aid. I am constantly amazed at what parents will pay to further the sports careers of their children. Equipment, special camps, traveling elite teams, etc. Scouting is a screaming bargain in comparison.

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Miki101 writes:

Now tell me again, if your source document states that the 2005 BSA membership numbers have not been released -


Where does it say that? The BSA "report to the nation" is right now, which is where they first publically announce their membership figures for the previous year. The footnote on the bsa-discrimination.org website talking about "estimates for 2005" is referring to US population estimates in the "total available youth" column.


how does it actually know know that membership has actually declined by 400,000+. It's a guess isn't it?


No, these numbers are quite close to figures posted by Mike Marks for October 2005:



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Where does it say that?


Right here!


"(1) The source of these numbers is the Population Estimates Program, Population Division, US Census Bureau. As the percentage of girls in Venturers is small, only males (age 5-17) are included in this column. As you can tell, there has been no decline in the overall number of boys available to join BSA from 1995-2002, and the declines in 2003-2004, do not correlate with BSA's declining numbers. The estimate for 2005 has yet to be released."


The estimates haven't been released let alone the actuals!


Once again Merlyn posting based on conjecture not real facts! Pay no attention to the numbers Meryln posted. They have no basis.


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10


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Lisabob's comment about the politics of scouting is basically correct except that it needs to put into perspective. The politics of scouting is only important for the perspective new family OR the "highly principled or activist" type of Boy Scout. Everyone else doesn't care, they either agree with the BSA policies, or think that they are ridiculous and choose to ignore them.


The politics of scouting does count when it come to fund raising. Much of the business and philanthropic community is very concerned about the perception of being aligned with BSA's politics. Consequently they avoid giving money to BSA at any level.


I do believe that the politics issue contributes in some way to lost membership. I also think that the larger issue is simply one of weak leadership at all levels. The religious based CO's have hijacked BSA, National has not mandated training or specific program models, and the constant emphasis on new units rather than fixing the broken ones. These things are all a part of the larger problem.



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