January marks the start of Friends of Scouting season, the time when Councils offer Scouting adults the opportunity to contribute financially to their local Council. In watching a presentation this year it reminded me of an instance when I was a Friends of Scouting presenter last year.
I have been doing Friends of Scouting presentations for Councils off and on for the last 18 years. I do this because I have a unique perspective when it comes to the value of Friends of Scouting. As a youth, I earned my Eagle Scout award in 1984 and Vigil Honor in 1989. During my late teenage years, my father served in the US Navy aboard the USS Carl Vinson. While he was gone during the ages of 13-16, my Scoutmaster and other adults in my Troop were my male role models. I do not know what would have happened to me if it were not for my Scout Troop. I believe in Scouting so much when I finally graduated college in 1995, I submitted my paperwork to work for the Boy Scouts of America. In 1996, I was hired by the Ventura County Council in Camarillo, CA as a District Executive making $26,000 a year. I was recently married and had a child on the way. At that time, Friends of Scouting was the major method of funding for the Ventura County Council. I knew those dollars paid my salary. I normally share this story during Friends of Scouting presentations to help put a face to the dollars people contribute.
Last year I had a unique experience during a presentation. I shared the story above and shared all the expenses a Council occurs which help the average Scouting family. This includes having awards available at the Scout office, providing a year-round Ranger at Scout Camp to maintain the facilities they use and supporting all of the office staff which process their paperwork. I went to hand out the pledge cards and a person stood up and stated, “Our Unit sold over $10,000 in popcorn last year. Shouldn’t that be enough money from our Unit?”
Before I state my response to this question, let’s look at where the money collected from popcorn sales go. Generally speaking, for most Councils the sales of popcorn are broken down this way:
30% Cost of Popcorn
33% Commission to Units
3% Expenses including printed materials, shipping and promotion
30% Profit to Council
When you see 70% Return to Scouting on packaging, it is the sum of all items excluding the cost of product. Now there are some Councils that give more to Units and some that give less. For exact numbers, contact your local Council office. If you think about it, almost all of the 70% goes back to Scouting either directly or indirectly. The Council gets their profit which goes into the General Operating Fund. Indirectly, most Unit commissions goes to pay for items such as camp, awards, uniforms, and other supplies through the Council Office.
To answer the person’s question at the Friends of Scouting presentation, I explained the Council receives as much as the Unit or less from the Popcorn Sale. In my Council, the profit to the Council is closer to 26%. I stated out of the $10,000 sold by the Unit, the Council received only $2600. The average cost of one Scout in my Council is $175. The popcorn proceeds would have only paid for 15 of the 50 Scouts they have in the Unit. I then stated, “Just like most Units have more than one fundraiser to pay for everything, the Council has multiple income streams to support itself like Popcorn, Auction, Camp Revenue and most importantly Friends of Scouting. In most Councils, Friends of Scouting provide at least half or more of the total revenue for the Council. Popcorn Sales, on the other hand, can range from 5% to 30% of the income for a Council.
Popcorn Sales is important to the Council as well as Units for providing funding to support their activities. Just as important to your Council is everyone’s participation in Friends of Scouting. Remember, if the Council receives a greater portion of their revenue from Friends of Scouting, the less they need from the profit of the popcorn sale and the more your Unit can earn.