A reader asks:
I would really like to hear how various troops handle money. While I am certain there is no “one” right way to handle Scouting and money, I feel we can learn from sharing each other’s methods.
- How is the money collected, who collects it and when is it collected?
- How much is an average weekend camping trip, how are these fees determined, and does fundraising cover these expenses?
- Do Scouters pay the same as Scouts for camping trips?
- What about annual dues? How much are they, when are they paid, and how are they used?
- How are fundraiser proceeds allocated; to the troop, or to individual Scouts?
- What kind of fundraisers do you do?
Thanks in advance for your help!
Frank Maynard, author of the blog Bobwhite Blather and a veteran Scouter with extensive experience as a troop committee chairman, is joining me to answer these questions.
We both agree here may be as many different ways to handle Scouting and money as there are packs, troops and crews!
Policies and procedures specifically define many financial issues. It’s important you read and understand those policies as you make decisions about how money is administered in your troop. These resources contain a lot of useful information:
- Troop Committee Guidebook
- Unit Money Earning Application.
- Fiscal Policies And Procedures For BSA Units
Before we share specific methods concerning Scouting and money each of our troops employ let’s look at who is responsible for keeping track of the money, where the money comes from, and where the money goes.
Who is Responsible for Keeping Track of the Money?
The troop treasurer, (an adult member of the troop committee) manages the finances. The treasurer maintains bank accounts, financial records, receives funds, issues checks, and reports on finances at each committee meeting.
In keeping with the admonition “never do anything a boy can do”, the troop Scribe (a youth secretary/treasurer appointed by the senior patrol leader) works with the troop treasurer.
One indispensable tool is the annual budget set by the unit committee.
Here are some budgeting resources available to packs and troops:
- The Cub Scout Leader Book (PDF version) includes a lot of information in a section on Financing the Pack starting on page 101.
- The Troop Committee Guidebook has a brief overview of troop finance in chapter 6.
- Heart of America Council offers resources on their “Ideal Year of Scouting” page that promotes program and financial planning, incorporating the council product sale as a means of funding unit programs.
- The 2013 Journey to Excellence spreadsheets features a unit budgeting tool. This seems to be missing from the 2014 spreadsheets, but the 2013 version is still available.
- Both the The Pack Record Book, (33819), and the Troop/Team Record Book ( item 34508), have worksheets and ledgers for tracking unit financial and membership details.
- There are also Scout-specific commercial software solutions available that offer budgeting and financial tracking features. The best-known are Pack Ledger and Troop Ledger, published by Troopmaster.
Where does the Money Come From?
Troop income comes from:
Fundraising and donations.
We discuss types of fundraisers and specific methods a little later on. Remember any fundraiser needs to adhere to the policies on the reverse of the unit fundraising application, and units cannot solicit donations in cash or kind.
Direct payments from Scouts and their families.
Direct payments cover specific fees for camping trips, summer camp, annual rechartering, and, dues.
Where does the Money Go?
Most spending goes to four major line items:
Camping and Activity Fees
There are three basic approaches to this we’ll discuss a little further on.
Usually the biggest single check that gets written each year! Payments for summer camp are collected by the troop and transmitted to the local Scout Council.
Annual Rechartering, Advancement recognition
Annual rechartering involves collecting membership fees and remitting them to the local Scout Council when the charter is submitted. Advancement recognition covers the badges and associated items distributed to Scouts.
Troop equipment and program supplies.
These shared resources are financed in a number of different ways.
Now that we’ve laid out the basics we’ll take a shot at answering your specific questions and sharing how our troops get the job done:
How is the money collected, who collects it and when is it collected?
It’s important to note that in troops all the administrative functions of the troop committee support the patrol method (patrols are a group of six to eight Scouts, who elect a patrol leader who coordinates the patrol’s activities and represents them to the the patrol leaders’ council).
Youth participation in handling finances gives Scouts experience in essential life skills. Ideally the troop scribe collects payments for activities and reimburses Scouts for things like groceries and supplies through patrol scribes appointed by the patrol leader.
Payments may come in cash or check, a few troops have online payment systems, the important thing is that Scouts are involved in and aware of what is going on.
Troops usually have a payment deadline for camping trips, and payments are collected during troop and patrol meetings.
How much is an average weekend camping trip, how is that determined, does fundraising cover these expenses?
Troops use three common options to determine camping fees;
Individual fees are calculated from the actual camping and transportation costs.
A flat fee for each trip based on an annual budget to cover the total cost of camping fees for the year.
Finance campout fees through fundraisers
The troop finances all the expenses through fundraising proceeds rather than individual fees.
In both of our troops the standard operating procedure is patrols plan what they’ll do on the campout, develop the menu together according to the budget allocated for each Scout. The patrol leader designates a “grubmaster”, who buys the groceries and lines up the cooks for the weekend.
The troop provides general resources (transportation, and equipment for example) our annual budget determines how much each Scout is charged to cover the costs of these resources.
FRANK: We charge $25 for a weekend of tent camping. Cabin campouts are higher depending on the cost of the cabin (typically run $35-40) If the activity requires other expenses (canoe rental for example) that amount is added to the individual cost.
Patrols receive approximately $15 per Scout for groceries. Receipts for groceries are turned in to the treasurer, and the treasurer writes a check to reimburse them.
CLARKE: The practices we follow are about the same, $20.00 for a weekend tent camping trip, $10.00 per Scout for food.
Do Scouters pay the same as Scouts for camping trips?
FRANK: Our troop pays the basic camping fees for Scouters, but Scouters do pay individually for added activities (canoe rental and such).
CLARKE: Our Scouters pay the same amount charged to Scouts.
What about annual dues? How much are they, when are they paid, and how are they used?
FRANK: Our troop charges each Scout annual dues of $75. This money goes into our general fund to cover annual rechartering, Boys’ Life, advancement recognition supplies, troop equipment, program supplies, and miscellaneous administrative costs.
We collect annual dues a month or two prior to the annual recharter deadline.
Our registered adults pay only the actual BSA registration cost unless they are registered and paid in another unit.
CLARKE: About the same as Frank, but we charge $50.00 annually and have a sliding scale for families with more than one Scout.
How are fundraiser proceeds allocated; to the troop, or to individual Scouts?
It’s long been a basic premise of Scouting is that each Scout should learn to pay his own way.
For many years it was generally advocated that fundraising proceeds be allocated to individual “Scout accounts” according to the effort each extended in raising funds, and that the balance in these accounts would then be applied to individual expenses.
This practice is now officially prohibited (see this post and Fiscal Policies And Procedures For BSA Units ). Recent IRS rulings question the legality of raising money using a charitable organizations status that is then allocated to “individual benefit”.
FRANK: Our troop continues to allow Scouts to earn money to offset their expenditures through fundraising, although the troop committee has been engaged in discussing ways to move toward an all-troop fundraising model where proceeds go to reduce the cost to all participants. The obstacle to doing so is withdrawing the perceived incentive of earning money by participating which, if true, would cause fundraising efforts to wither unless made mandatory.
CLARKE: There’s a lot of debate around this issue. I think charitable fundraising is appropriate to offset expenses for Scouts whose families could not otherwise afford to participate, but most of our Scouting families can.
I have never liked the idea of any youth group raising money under a charitable organization’s cover for individual expenses. I think we should apply any money we earn under a charitable organization to helping families who cannot otherwise afford Scouting first, and then to the general fund of the troop to aid all Scouts equally.
The question of fundraising always comes up for big-ticket items like high adventure trips. I understand the expense is challenging, but it doesn’t seem like we ought to be collecting funds as charitable donations to offset that expense of individuals unless the families involved are truly needy.
What kind of fundraisers do you do?
We want to reiterate that it’s crucial to read and apply the policies on the Unit Money Earning Application. The common term is “fundraising” but the title of that publication; “unit money earning” emphasizes the nature of the activity, units may not solicit donations, but they may earn money.
Both of us will tell you there is no ideal, trouble-free, fundraiser; each has their drawbacks, and all require a tremendous amount of energy and time.
FRANK: Our troop’s primary fundraising activity is working at a large NASCAR track nearby. We camp there and clean several sections of grandstands following the two weekend races each summer, picking up trash and collecting returnable beverage containers which the track allows us to keep and redeem. The track makes a donation to the troop, which together with the bottle and can deposits covers the troop overhead and equipment maintenance, and credits a nominal amount to the accounts of Scouts who participate.
The troop expects every family with an active Scout to participate at least one of the two weekends, whether it be by the Scout or a family member. Otherwise, we ask for a contribution toward troop expenses of roughly $75 from those who do not participate.
The issues we have had with this activity which tend to drag down participation are the scheduling (one of the weekends is Father’s Day and the other coincides with many family vacations), travel distance to and from the track, some problems we have had while camping among other non-Scouting youth and civic groups, and the messy work itself.
Additionally, we participate in the council popcorn sale, though at a level below the Cub Scout packs which tend to use it as their primary fundraiser. We also sell scrip (gift cards) and receive a commission.
Last year we attempted to put on a dodge ball tournament for area troops as a fundraiser, but it failed to go forward because too few troops signed up. We have also taken the first steps toward replacing the NASCAR event with a spaghetti dinner as our main event, but would still do NASCAR as a voluntary activity for those who enjoy it.
CLARKE: Our troop holds two spaghetti dinners every year. Each family buys a minimum of five tickets for the fundraiser. It’s their option to sell them or to use them. We used to hand out tickets and wait for the money to be returned, we decided a year or so ago that this wasn’t working. We now require that we get payment for tickets before they are handed out, this puts the onus on the Scouts and their families to sell them if they want to be reimbursed, and greatly simplifies our bookkeeping.
We both hope this establishes the fundamentals and sheds some light on specifics. We’d like to hear from you about how your unit manages finances, and any questions you may have about what we’ve shared.
You can contact us here or leave a comment below.