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Donation? Or Fee?

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I find myself in a bit of a quandary when I start thinking of maybe replacing Family FOS donations with a fee that the Council would receive and use.



One problem I have is trying to work out what or how much the fee might be?

I don't know how things are in other Councils? But trying to get information from our Council about what the real cost of anything is can be a nightmare.

When you try and see how much is being spent on salaries? The Camp Staff pay roll is in the amount shown, when you try and see the real cost of camp you can't find pay roll because that number is in the staff salary amount.

Even the FOS numbers are hard to follow. While they do clearly show how much comes in, they fail to show what goes out. Patches used to entice donations seem to end up listed in the awards budget.

Life shouldn't be this hard.


The cost of running a Council should be easy to see and work out!

At the District level each and every activity is budgeted to break even or make a small profit. (Some Councils add a fee to cover the cost of things? What these might be? I'm not sure??)

Summer camp should make money. If it isn't making money? Something is wrong.

The fees charged to camp at Council facilities should cover the costs of operating them facilities.

This would to me seem to say that the Council needs to raise enough money to cover:

The costs of operating the Council Service Center. (Overhead costs like heat, light,insurance.)

Salaries of both the professional staff and the support staff, this would include the benefits that they receive.

Along with maybe a few other items.

On the other side of the page income shouldn't be that hard to work out or look at.

After a few years it would seem that a pattern would emerge that should give a fairly clear picture of what can be expected from:

Summer Camp.


Sales in the Council Scout Shop (If there is one.)

Big fund raising events. (High priced dinners, golf outings and the like.)

The Community FOS Campaign.

Income from grants and things like that. (A main job of an SE should be to always be working on bringing in more income like this.)

Income from investments that the Council has. (Many Councils receive income from the interest that the endowment might make.)

There will be years when the income that was hoped for might not meet expectations, but there will be years when there will be windfalls or things just seem to fall into place.

Again the job of a SE should be to be on top of this stuff.


I'm not happy with the way things are done at the moment.

The amount of time and effort that is put into the Family FOS Campaigns seem overwhelming.

Many SE's seem to live in a cuckoo land of stretch goals that if the truth be known they really never expect to reach. This might be done by the SE as a way to keep the Board happy and off his back?

It might just be a way of covering his tail, so that when the stretch goal isn't met he can blame the DE's the Volunteers or just about anyone he can think of.

We are spending way too much time and placing too many manpower hours into this Family Campaign.


If we (The volunteers) were given the real hard numbers of what the real cost of running the Council was. (Not some mythical number that looks like it might work.) Along with the real expected income.

We would be able to see the balance.

Armed with this knowledge. I think each Council could charge a fee per family for what is needed.

Of course if someone wanted to give more or make a donation they would be free to do so.

This would make things fair to everyone.

It would force Councils to take a long hard look at where the money is being spent and how it is being spent.

It might mean that some cuts do have to be made, but I'd rather see the cuts be made as they are needed, rather than waiting until things get so bad that camps and the like have to be sold off.

With DE's not spending so much time worrying or working on this they would be free to work in other areas or maybe the Council could save money by not having as many?


I haven't given much thought as to how much a fair fee might be?

Or as to where the money might come from? My guess is that most units would be able to add this fee to their unit budget and cover the cost with unit fund raising.


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Please! Dont  talk about fees!  Charging more fees will make more of our scouts vanish!

Yes, councils struggle for donations. If they made their expenditures more visable again they might get more. Our council used to post an annual report on their website but they have not done that in years. Why?

Instead, they print a flashy, glossy flyer that has no real info, just fluff. Some marketing firm must have gotten in and convinced them that fluff will do more than hard fact and info. Have you seen the New Leaders packet? Absolutely useless. No info to help them be a leader, just a bunch of fluff to recruit leaders. What a waste of money. If a lot of this wastefulness stops maybe they will have enough money to run things.

Another problem is our council website. I am not sure but I hears that they paid some company to upgrade it. It is almost useless as the info on the site is outdated many times. Yes, it is different. It is fames with no opt out (I hate frames!). They also forget most people in our area use dial-up. They load too slow.

Our council also spends way too much on mailing flyers we get at roundtable. If they fix the website and post those on there they could save a lot of money.

Start using common sense and stop wasting money!  


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Eamonn ... let's put it this way ... I have 9 expensive SHAC coffee mugs and 8 expensive SHAC baseball caps! ... and the kicker is that our troop in the past has not use any of our Council's facilities, which was the main selling point. Adding to my frustration, this year our troop was designated as a "pacesetter." In other words, Mr. SM and Mr. CC, you both collect the FOS moneys for us.


I, too, have been questioning the breakdown of the donations!

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I don't know for sure, but I highly suspect the average BSA Council's financial picture is about as clear as your average Wall Street Hedge Fund.


I agree, a bit more financial transparency might help with donations, depending on what was seen through the looking glass.



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I guess many of us have pet peeves about how or where money is spent.

Without wanting to come off as sounding rude.

This isn't about wasted or misspent money.

It's about finding a fairer or maybe a better way of raising the money in the first place.

I don't think I have heard too many people complain about having to pay their membership fee to National. In fact it seems to me that most people don't even question what it's for? Or how it's spent.

I'm very much for us the volunteers supporting our Councils, in fact I believe that we are the Council and we are supporting ourselves.

By bringing an openness to all of the finances, I would hope that a good deal of waste would be seen and done away with.


As I said, I don't know what a fair amount would be? I'm thinking of something like $50 -$100 per family.

Maybe less if every family was doing their part.


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Fees are mandatory. Donations are voluntary. There are many out there who would just drop out if you started increasing the costs in a mandatory fashion. With donations, those same people could still give a little if they can, which is more than if there was a mandatory $100 fee and they dropped out.


A fee on a per-family basis? Is it fair for a family with 1 kid in scouting to have to pay the same fee as a family with 3 kids involved? Either way it's just another subsidy, except the fee is mandatory. We may also need to consider the leagal and tax ramifications of having fees vs. donations. A good CPA might be able to provide an answer to that.


In our council, they say during the FOS presentations that it costs $192 per kid annually. I just assume that they are dividing their total expenses by the number of registered youth to get the number (more or less). I have no idea if it's accurate, but I know they aren't pulling that kind of money in on a per kid basis anyway.

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I'm thinking of something like $50 -$100 per family...    

What planet are you on???

Families around here can barily get uniforms or books! Now you want them to pay a fee to council?? My families cannot afford to do the cub camping at council and most of the boys in our troop can't afford summercamp except for our fundraiser (which have dropped due to familiies in our area lossing jobs).

If thy do fees it will truly become a rich kids program. Our area is high in hispanics, I thought the point now was to get them in, not keep them out with more fees!

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I don't know what the answer is. A while back in a different thread, I proposed charging "fee for service"...Tour permit-5 bucks. Advancement report-10 bucks. Eagle App-50 bucks. That type of thing. Of course, that would just lead to units not getting Tour Permits or filing advancement reports. That's a problem now when they're free! Having the books opened for all to see would be interesting. The IRS Form 990 for a council is public record, but only lists salaries >50K, which in my council is only two people. The other numbers are hard to decipher as to income and outgo. An annual report would be great, but I haven't seen one of those in 10 years. Even the local theater company lists its benefactors in the playbill. Is there waste in a council...sure...just like any other organization. The Executive Board is entrusted to keep a watch on that. But I have to wonder...are they doing their job, or are they just there for a feather in their resume?

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"What planet are you on???"


I like to think that I'm down to earth.

We might not like to hear it, but there really is no free lunch.

Running anything costs money, the money has to come from somewhere.

As things are now a lot of people who can afford to maybe donate or donate at a higher level are not.

Some are not giving anything.

Is this fair?

There are Scoutreach programs for units and Scouts who really couldn't afford a fee.

I really don't think that $2.00 a week is that far out of line.



Here on planet down to Earth.

It is understood that when Councils don't have enough cash services get cut, things get sold and Councils are forced to merge. All of which makes things harder for the volunteers and in some cases results in less members.





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You are on the manicured planet where $100 is no big deal, not in the dirt with the average laborer who struggles for weeks to months to squeeze that much money out of their paycheck to paycheck life. (Not a personal attck on you E. I value your opinion a lot. this is a real sour point for me)


Ok. So you charge families $100 to $500 to get their kids into scouts. You tell them this at your roundups.

How many do you think will sign up?

If you live in the rich, gated communities where the CEOs and such live, they might not even blink.

If the school is in one of the poor side of town where Mom and maybe a Dad (if they are lucky) work at barely above minimum wage and struggle from month to month to put food on the table, what reaction do you expect?

Some of our parents even flinch at the $10 app fee. We have to talk fast about the benefits of being in scouting to make them see the cost is not unreasonable. This usually happens twice as the supply costs also are burdens. Many of the cubs do not get their books for a few months after joining. I looked to council to help with this and just was asked when were we going to do FOS? We are a new pack, struggling to get started. No money to get some of the supplies for the boys. I have been paying out of pocket for many things myself (no I really cannot afford it but want the boys to have a chance)

Yes, I have a bad case of sour grapes about funding. Scouting is supposed to be for the boys but the ones that really need it cannot afford it. Then council hit these parents up for FOS? They cannot even affors to send their boys to cub camp at the discounted rate that council offers.

The bottom line is:     THESE PARENTS HAVE NO EXTRA CASH.  As much as they want to let their kids have the experiences, they cannot spend the money need for basics like electricity and food.

If council charges fees to be in scouting, most if not all units in our area will fold.  How will thst look to the big money donors?  75% of the council units suddenly vanish?  Oh, Mr big bucks, we now charge a fee for families to be in scouting to try to stop asking you for money. The drop in #s is just because they are not committed to scouting and your monies will now help more of the upper-middle class kids do more. Forget the poor kids, they are just gang members who are not worth saving.

Most of my families do  not want to ask for the help that is available now. They were used to paying their way and do not like what the economy has done to them.

By all means, institute your fees in place of donations and create your rich kids scouts (or try, as few rich adults around here spend the time volunteering time on the program).  

I, and many scouters I know will not be there. We also cannot afford it.


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I'm studying on our council's current FOS brochure which includes the usual financial info. 26% of our budget comes from fundraising. 15% of the expenses goes to fundraising expenses. Not very efficient, eh?


I just did a little math and figured out that in our council the cost per boy to eliminate the Family FOS would be $18.50. (There are a few assumptions in that number. I'm extrapolating from what I know about our district's goals.) We could eliminate FOS totally -- Family, Corporate, Patron, Community -- for $47.41.


I know there are folks out there living on the edge of absolute poverty, and I know there are whole units and communities in that situation. But $18.50? That's in the ballpark of the 25-cents per week dues we used to pay back in the early '70s.


If everyone paid a $20 local membership fee, let's think about what that would mean to the program. First of all, there's a supply/demand curve to everything, so I have no doubt there would be some folks drop due to it. I suspect most of the fall out would be from folks who object to the fee on principle rather that due to economic reasons.


But think about the amount of staff and volunteer time that goes into FOS. I would bet most DE spend a third to half their time on FOS. I know the standard is to keep fundraising below 15% but that's on average with all the program guys. At the DE level I bet I'm close to right. So what would your world look like if your DE had another 12 or 15 hours a week to spend on program? Or how much could our $18.50 be reduced if staffing level were adjusted down by that amount? Or if the pros could spend more time courting the $500 individual donors rather than chasing the smaller amounts? And I can't beging to calculate the value of the volunteer effort which goes into FOS.


I know the world doesn't work that way. Scouting is like any other bureaucracy. If they had a $20 fee they would still be going after the FOS contributions. The money would go somewhere.


What frustrates me why everyone doesn't DONATE the $18.50. I believe I am correct when I say that about 25% of Scouting families contribute to Scouting. That's probably about right for the units where I've done presentations. It's also probaly true that there are about as many $100+ contributions as there are contributions in the $20 range.


Firekat, I'm sure there are many folks who honestly can't afford $18.50. But the vast, vast majority of Scouting families can. I'll bet many folks who walk away from a FOS presentation with their unsigned pledge cards in their pockets spent that much at McDonald's on the way to the meeting.

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"You are on the manicured planet where $100 is no big deal, not in the dirt with the average laborer who struggles for weeks to months to squeeze that much money out of their paycheck to paycheck life."



I've never had a manicure in my life!! (HWMBO says it was my knees!!)

Please believe me I see inmates who earn as little as 25 cents an hour working in jail.

I talk to them on a daily basis about how things are at home, their wives and kids.

I do know and am very aware that some people do not have it as good as maybe I do or others might.

I'm 100% for us being more diverse and breaking away from the white middle class image we might have.

My view of what Scoutreach should be is that we do bring in everyone who wants to be in. (Scoutreach should not be a numbers game)

It would be a little silly for us to collect money from the families that you describe and then hand it back to them.


In order for a Council to reach and help these families the money has to be there in the first place.


The Scout District I live in has its foot in two counties.

Estimated median household income in 2007 was $31,344 in one and 46,057 in the other (Below the $48,576 for Pa.)

I don't know how a family can survive on less than $50,000?

Still many of these people are supporting the local Council.

My point is that it would seem more fair if everyone who could afford it paid their fair share.


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Perhaps we need to look at the breakdown of wear the FOS money actually comes from?


How much of it comes from people with children in the program? How much of it comes from individuals/families without children in the program? How much of it comes from business donations?


I don't have the answer, but it is relevent to the discussion.

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My sour point is trying to get kids into scouting from a poorer area where, for some unknown reason, has thought Boys Scouts no longer exist. Even at Tiger age we compete with gangs. Many have no real idea what scouting is about. If the parents truly understood scouting, they will then work on finding the money but as scouting had retreated into the shadows, they don't understand it. Boy Scouts are so rarely see in uniform, doing good things (like bell ringing). Something needs to be done to let average people know about scouting, then more money will come.

I wonder about y'all's cost/boy numbers. You are saying about $20 but councils' say about $150-200 a boy. Why such differences?

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Two different numbers.


In our council our total budget is about $3 million with about 16,000 scouts and thereby a total cost of about $185 per Scout.


Eamonn's original discussion was to eliminate Family FOS. Here' that's about $300,000 or 10% of the total budget. That's where I got the $18.50 number as being the cost per Scout to replace the Family FOS campaign. As I said, a few assumptions involved, but probably within shoutin' distance.


Noles -- I can't give you a break out of all the FOS sources. Here the Family campaign and Community campaign are run by the district; family being the unit presentations and community being solicitations of local businesses. The community campaign is a very small fraction of the family campaign. From my experience doing presentations and collecting pledge cards, I would say that a quarter to a third of families contribute to FOS. Others may have different observations.


Moving up the food chain we have the "Patron" level and the corporate campaign, both of which are handled at the council level (although Patron is really a combined effort.) Corporate is obviously the soliciting the large corporations and foundations in the area. The patron level is for individual contributors at the $500 level and up. But if you are giving through your unit in the $3-400 range, you'll probably get an invitation to the patron dinner with the hope that you will boost you contribution to $500.


All that is one of the reason's family FOS will never be eliminated, even with a local membership fee, voluntary or otherwise. It where the large contributors are identified to move up into the other levels of the program.


Of course this is just my point of view from the volunteer side. Maybe some of the ex-pros out there who have gone through the fundraising training will clarify.

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