The sixth in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works, and how to get the most out of the experience. For past articles, see back issues of The Guide. Written by Paul Shrode, Bay-Lakes Council Family Friends of Scouting Chair, Member of the Board of Directors and Gathering Waters District Chair. Contact Paul at

Most of us enroll our children in Scouting for the experience, fun, fellowship, skill development and the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. We probably don’t fully appreciate the leadership development, environmental education or career development experiences that Scouting can provide at first. And most of us do not consider the cost of Scouting or the way it is funded, much less think of ourselves as investors and stakeholders. Yet in a real sense, we are all stakeholders in the success of Scouting and investors in a movement that has stood the test of time and will likely be with us for generations to come.

Scouting operates on three levels; the unit level including our Packs, Troops, Crews and Ships, the Council level with its several districts, and on the national level. Units are self-funded and depend upon the membership and activity fees, product sales and other sources of funding that make possible the programs, meetings and activities of the unit. Units benefit from participation in Council product sales including the annual popcorn sale and the nut sale going on this spring. Each unit receives a percentage of the proceeds from each item sold. Some units sell other things including candy bars, food items, wreaths or hold concession sales. In some cases, the Charter Organizations that sponsor each unit may also contribute to the cost of operation. As investors, unit families see a direct benefit from those resources they provide or help to create.

The Bay-Lakes Council, one of 272 local Councils throughout the United States, is an independently organized non-profit organization chartered through the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Our Council is funded through direct and indirect support and revenue from a variety of sources. Direct support includes the annual Friends of Scouting campaign, special events, contributions through legacies, bequests, foundation grants and trusts and other direct contributions. Indirect support includes contributions from the United Way in some areas of the Council. Revenue sources include camping revenue, fees for some activities, investment income, and product sales including the popcorn sale. Operating expenses provide for staff support, maintenance of our Service Center and camp properties, insurance for all Scouting activities, programs and services, and annual charter fees to the National Council, BSA. The Council maintains an annual operating budget, a capital improvement budget, and investments in both endowed and designated reserves. Scout families benefit from council and district programs, summer camp programming and camp facilities, advancement workshops, organization of service projects and product sales, and leadership training. Adult leaders receive support from professional staff and both district and council volunteers.

The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America is funded largely through annual membership fees paid by new and continuing Scouts and adult leaders at the time of charter renewal, local council service fees, investment income, magazine and uniform sales, and individual contributions. It is important to note that none of the fees paid by individual members in the Bay Lakes Council support the Council, but are turned over entirely to the National Council. While most councils across the nation add local council fees to the annual charter renewal fee structure, the Bay Lakes Council has not assessed annual membership fees. The National Council provides a central clearinghouse for record keeping, develops training programs and materials for both adult and youth programs, performs background checks on all adult leaders, develops rank and advancement requirements, and maintains several national high adventure bases including Philmont, the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Seabase, Northern Tier, and others. The National Council works to assure a consistent and high-quality scouting experience throughout the nation.

Scouting requires resources; our time and talent, participation, and our treasure. But Scouting is not simply a commodity. It represents an investment in the future, in our youth and their development. As stakeholders, we should all seek to better understand Scouting and strive to take full advantage of the opportunities it affords. As prudent investors, we should also help assure its success. There is ample opportunity to volunteer and get involved at the unit, district and council level, to help shape the program and guide the Council into the future. If you are interested in becoming involved on a deeper level, talk with your unit leaders or contact your district. Scouting will be better for your contributions and you may get more out of the experience for your Scout and yourself.