The Boy Scouts of America have written a little used piece into the requirements for the Journey to Excellence Award, the Unit Budget requirement. They define a Unit Budget as the following: “The Unit has a written budget that is reviewed at all committee meetings, and the unit follows BSA policies relating to fundraising and fiscal management as found on the Unit Money-Earning Application form, the unit treasurer’s book, and any other publication that the council has developed for fundraising and fiscal management.” In addition, if the Unit Budget is complete by the beginning of the program year, the Unit gets the full allotment of points for this requirement.
However, why is the Unit Budget so important? Below are the five reasons it is important to have a Unit Budget.
1. Build the “Why” of Scouting
It is amazing what people will do if there is a big enough “Why” in front of them. My daughter is a prime example. When she turned 16, she wanted to get a car. I made a deal with her. If she wanted her own car, she would have to pay for half of it. It was amazing how her attitude about money changed. Here was the big carrot (“Why”) dangled in front of her. She started to budget on where she spent her money. She stopped spending money on make-up, jewelry, and fast food. Every dollar she earned, she put in her bank account. She also made changed her expectations on the type of car she could afford and when she could buy this car. The whole change was because there was a reward at the end.
Scouting is the same way. The annual plan and budget help build the “Why” of Scouting. For example, if your unit plans on going to Philmont, Florida Sea Base or other Big Event, the Scouts and parents know “Why” they are raising money. It is also easier to raise money when the “Why” is communicated to the customer. Learn how Troop 214 in Anchorage, AK turned a potential fundraising mistake into a huge “Why” for their unit.
2. Build Transparency
Do you have everyone in your unit participate in your fundraiser? The first thing you should ask is if everyone knows how money is being spent. If everyone knows where the money they raise is going, they are far more likely to participate in the fundraiser. People are more likely to make an educated decision if they have all the information in front of them. Transparency also reduces deception. People know how much money they need and where the funds are going. If something large is purchased outside the unit budget, it is reasonable to question how it was purchased and who approved the transaction. Units can establish guidelines or by-laws to handle these transactions.
3. Keep Scouting Affordable
The average family nationwide spends $230/year on the Cub Scout Program per Scout. This is without including the cost of uniforms. This includes items such as Registration, Boy’s Life Magazine, Day Camp, Pinewood Derby, Awards, Training, and other Den/Pack Materials. For a Boy Scout that number shoots up to $580/year per Scout. Many of these items are just the basics. It would not include items such as a new Pinewood Derby track or new Patrol Box. With all of that said, Scouting is the best bargain out there. I recently thought about getting my son into Little League Arena Football. Then I heard the cost was $500 for 8 weeks and I had to participate in selling concessions 3 times.
I use the Popcorn Fundraiser to teach my son the value of money. He has used popcorn to raise money to go to camp, whether Day Camp or Summer Camp) for the last five years. This is by far the largest expense to the Scouting year. He knows if he wants to participate in the best parts of Scouting, he has to earn his own way.
4. Set the Expectations
When I was a Cubmaster, I used the Popcorn Sale as my number one recruiting tool. When we had recruitment nights for the Pack, we started by telling them all of the fun activities (“Why”) we were going to do that year. Then I would state, “We are going to do all of these activities and I do not want any money to come out of your pocket for them.” That seemed to get their attention. I would state, “All I want you to do is bring back this Popcorn Form full. This is the way we pay for it.” We would talk about uniforms, but give them a Day Camp Shirt from the previous year to start. I would then tell them about the different ways to fill their Popcorn Order Form. I will tell you more on how to fill a form in a later blog.
By setting the expectations up front, parents thought that was ‘just the way things were done’. It set the tone not only for fundraising, but for how much participation is needed for Scouting. Money should never be the reason why a youth cannot join Scouts.
Parents need to know what the financial and time commitments are up front. They want to know how their commitments contribute to the overall health and support of the group.