Welcome! This forum has a treasure trove of great info – Scouters helping Scouters! Just a heads up, though - all content, information, and opinions shared on this forum are those of the author, not the BSA.
BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

Scouting Forums

Are we pricing the program away from families?

In recent years the National fee has increased significantly, local councils have tacked on their own ‘service & insurance’ fees(locally our council charges $46), a $25 ‘new member fee’ has been added, the cost of a ‘basic’ uniform without pants but with insignia and a handbook can hit $100 and we have not even added the local unit expenses or activity/program fees. The first year cost for one child can easily exceed $400, multiple children and/or a parent volunteering can bring the expenses to $800 or more annually for a family in Cub Scouts. Young families and especially single parent households (roughly 1 in 3 children is in a single parent household) generally have the fewest discretionary dollars. Unit fundraising only goes so far and is often too late and too little to address the high cost of just joining. How do we counter this?

6 Likes

It makes it hard for me to recruit those who are on the fence. I feel like “ok! Great! You’ll join! Ok, now it will be $150 for registration, dues, and fees, plus $25, plus a handbook, and really you can get by at first with just a $45 shirt, and $15 (?) in patches, and a hat, and neckerchief”. I just feel like I stuck them with a bill. I can “sell” the program, but the cost is hard for me to sell.

6 Likes

I advise families not to buy a uniform right away. I tell them that when their child definitely wants to do this, s/he will ask for a uniform, and then it is time to buy one. At least it breaks up the expense. I also tell them that they do not need to immediately buy the complete uniform. They can eat the elephant on bite at a time.

3 Likes

Same here. We also have a supply of outgrown uniforms that has been donated by other Scouts. Anyone in the Troop can help themselves to it.

3 Likes

My son’s troop provides the handbook and a troop-logo neckerchief upon joining. My daughter’s troop (different unit and charter org) does not provide the book and only provides the neckerchief once a youth reaches 1st Class. However they do cover cost of Score-O attendance and a few other events their leadership deems important.

I like both approaches. I think the handbook is critical to the program for not just the Scout but the Troop as whole to flourish, and it seems reasonable to amortize that expense across the troop through annual dues. Score-O is a huge learning opportunity and promotion for high attendance is also beneficial for both Scout and Unit.

As leaders we should be willing to pick one or two “critical” expenses that the whole Committee should be on-board with providing and happily do so to ensure the health of the unit.

I think it also helps the parents see what their first check goes towards and also that the Unit is willing to meet them somewhere in the middle of the expense-abyss.

Our Council merged with two others. In the pre merger council, there was no Council fee. With the super Council they are matching National’s fee. That is $132 per scout unless they are a new scout. They pay an additional $25.

Our unit of about 50 youth AGRESSIVELY fund raises (or so I have been told by parents comparing their experience with kids in multiple units). This helps… a LOT. $6,134 net in 2020. We no longer do popcorn as it just is too hard; PM me for details if you want.

However, here is a biggie: Our unit is VERY engaged in the community and we make it well known through service projects, periodic newspaper articles, community Facebook posts, etc. This in turn has garnered individual and organizational donations… for 2020 (about to wrap), not counting our sponsor’s substantial funding, we received $1,583 in donations. Here is an example: After making them, we put up this Christmas display at our Adopt-a-Spot. Unsolicited, we received over $200 in donations… including one individual who walked up to us as we installed the decorations, shoved a $100 bill into my hands and INSISTED that we take it.

Admittedly I’m a senior citizen and my wife and I devote a LOT of time to our unit because we can, and it does take a lot of time to keep this ball moving. Also, I knowing an older crowd of friends, which has allowed me to personally ‘tap’ some of them for contributions… Don’t overlook senior citizens… there are many senior citizens who want to help kids.

All of this allows us to charge only $25/year for returning Scouts, just the national registration fees for new Scouts, and give out generous ‘financial aid’ when needed.

8 Likes

Even though there is a lot of Packs in our town, my pack, 30 Cub Scouts, still is able to help with registration with fund raising and donation from sponsors. This year it cost each scout $38.00 to reregister. I do agree that the cost of registering is becoming to expensive for most families. Another area of concern is when the packs recharter. My pack’s date is Dec 31. During Christmas families with 2 or more may have a difficult time coming up with funds. I know there is specific assistance available, but the point is they would not need it if they didn’t have to fund both Christmas and Scouting during the same month.

2 Likes

Recharter should really take place in October at the start of the school year or by Nov. 1 at the latest. Also, from a volunteer standpoint, the worst time in the world to be asking volunteers to track down applications, etc., is over the holiday season (for most). Along with looking for ways to become more economical BSA also needs to be more attuned to streamlining its volunteer requirements.

2 Likes

Northern Star Council is moving recharter to Sept 1, 2021 to align with the School/Scouting year. It is up to each Council to determine when they want to handle recharter.

2 Likes

@edavignon - By no means am I suggesting September 1, is a bad date to recharter, but it does result in families needing to take the full plunge to register their Scout right from the start.

With all the negatives associated with using calendar years for charters, one positive is that Scouts who sign up in September only need to pay for four months of national registration fees and council activity fees. With the sharp increase in these, famlies at least have the opporunity to get aboard with less money up front. Of course, the other side of that coin is that a few weeks pass by, and the unit needs to ask them for more money.

The other advantage is that when you get started in the fall, all your Scouts from last year are still registered. If they drifted away in April and May, you can contact them and encourage them to return while letting them know they are still paid up through the end of the year. I haven’t had it happen, but I know some units see drops in active participation when spring sports seasons begin.

If I had to deal with an August 31 charter-year end, my biggest worry would be getting in touch with people over the summer. So, I think I’d want to have everyone committed and paid in June. That’s a lot of lead time. Right now, we ask families to be paid up for next year by the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

Some councils would have a more difficult time with an August 31 charter year than others, Here in Delaware, school starts and ends a bit later than in many other parts of the country. Our school district’s last day of class this year was June 17, pushed back from June 12, by COVID-19. The originally scheduled first day of school was August 31, pushed back to September 16. Councils in places like that are still running camps in mid-August and may not have the bandwidth to deal with rechartering at the same time. But September 30 might work for them, except you’d probably have your new recruits pay for 13 months up front.

All Girl Scouts of the USA youth and adult memberships expire on September 30, each year. Each member can renew individually online. There is no such thing as a chartered partner, and each troop is really just an extension of the local council. So, if the troop has girls on October 1, it continues to exist. There’s nothing the troop has to submit and no fee payable by the troop. If troops want to, they can pay their girls’ or adults fees out of fundraising profits or dues (which most Girl Scout troops do not have).

Northern Star now has each member register individually online. The Key 3 receive a report every Friday with everyone registered and those that registered in the last week. Leaders do not have to track down individual families for fees since they are collected by the council when the family registers.

This was the first year I had to deal first hand with recharter and it went fairly smoothly.

2 Likes

I think what is needed is a streamlined, simplified, online self sign up. It ought to be geared to the beginning of the school year. Sept 30/Oct 1 would work in most places.

1 Like

To me, the hardest thing is that most new recruits miss out on Fall fundraisers such as popcorn, as they’re not committed yet. There are a lot of good other ideas already here, so I’m going to rapid-fire some:

  1. Multiple fundraisers: we typically do 3 in the fall, and we’ve started a spring fundraiser as well. The middle 50% of our scouts that fundraised earned $132 - $288 from our fall fundraisers (most was $832, from a single-mom with 1 scout). The opportunities are there, it’s just getting people involved in them.
  2. Our scout shop has used uniforms, for about $5 each.
  3. I’m helping relaunch a pack, and they’re opting to just get Pack T-shirts in Year 1, because they’re in a very economically depressed area. So uniform costs go down about $75.
  4. We asked and our charter org gave us $2,000 to award scholarships for needy families. We started doing this on our own as a pack even before we got this money. We just ask that the family contribute to the fundraising efforts, and then we eat their dues and registration fees.
2 Likes

I heard through the grapevine that some councils are considering moving their unit recharter dates to the early Fall… I suspect this will be a bit like deja vu for those who remember when councils moved AWAY from Fall recharters so to not screw up the influx of new applications…

As they say, “everything old is new again…” :slight_smile:

A few years back I “learned” that the formal ‘Class A’ uniforms can be a “turn off” for many families for multiple reasons. (Look like the police in some repressive central American countries where the police are not the most honest, costly, look like military uniforms, etc.) Our solution is we build the cost of a pack T-shirt into the fees for new members and give them a shirt when they join. This solves several problems, and helps them feel like a part of the ‘family’ because they look like all the other kids.

1 Like

These are my thoughts. I’m a single mom and my only income is Social Security disability. We are a multi-generational Scout family and my daughter was over the moon when she could join as a lion after watching all the fun my son was having. But it is a real struggle to justify the program. Every spare penny we have goes to Scout activities and camp. I want to get my kids through Cub Scouts, but it is really hard at times because I really can’t say that we’re getting the value from the program that we pay in. We recently switched to Lone Scouting because of our pack folding and our family situation, and we are 100% committed to the program and we are having a lot of fun doing it. However, I feel like we could be doing everything other than Summer camp on our own anyway with no fees. Part of me wishes they would either open the camp on the weekends year round for families to use to work on requirements and to camp as a family on a family friendly property. If that were available, I could much more justify the cost. Our last two packs prior to their folding were doing the bare minimum to meet requirements, so we got used to doing all of the electives and novas on our own or at camps and other events anyway. Scouting would probably be more sustainable in the future if the den/pack system went away and it became family scouting with more active use of the Scout properties for family scouting access.

4 Likes

I’m sorry you haven’t had a good scouting experience so far. For what it’s worth, I’m not a big fan of the Lions program, and I can definitely understand you not feeling like you’re getting your money’s worth. Last year, my pack lowered the dues for Lions specifically because they don’t tend to do as much, and I waited for my daughter to be in 1st grade before having her join.

I hope you can find a better pack that will meet your needs. There are good ones out there. A pack that might be a better fit for you would be a large one that is still active, and they would be very up front about your commitments to volunteering and fundraising. Those packs also tend to pick up almost all the cost of scouting in exchange for that participation.

We got something like 102 kids to come to recruiting in 2019. 60 signed up, bringing us up to 85. 56 dropped by recharter. only 4 wanted to sell popcorn to pay for the dues $90 ( $30 awards) and (recharter $60) in 2019. My local school is Title 1 - welfare area. most could not pay. most are not willing to work either. It’s a shame - Scouting could break that cycle of poverty. The costs keep going up - and those kids that need it the most can’t participate.

2020 we lost 8 to crossover and 10 who didn’t come back due to covid. with only 4 active - we didn’t recharter for 2020. Pack shut down. I am prosperous enough i moved my kid to another unit - it’s not on BSA to deal with covid… but $66 for a “virtual” program is laughable and not sellable.

3 Likes

Our council put out the 2020 year end numbers.
A 33% decline.

Ours is $130 just for registration
Our dues this year was $60
That was down over last year at the unit level.

Families don’t want to fundraise at that amount. Why spend $100 on popcorn and get $30-35 when you can just pay that $100
Fundraising is doable when you can cover shared costs and then have money left over for the next year.

In 2018 I had a family where their grandfather was a Scoutmaster want to join. They were our Top popcorn seller and they quit with recharter. Couldn’t raise enough selling hundreds of dollars worth of popcorn.

We’re in the poorest zip code in the school district, with literal million dollar homes skewing the numbers up.
We have zero members from the million dollar homes neighborhood.
We have some from the lower end but we’re firmly middle class professional families

And I should be clear, our school is roughly half minority and our pack was in 2019 too. I made an effort to put on a program for anyone and we did reach that.

Coed is harder, the Girl Scout program is too good near us.

Another unit merged with us for 2020, they were down to three 5th graders

We’re a small pack at 15 on the books but we have a largely solid group. Last meeting ten came. The group of three meets separately.

So how do we make the program more affordable? At the last meeting only five scouts were in uniform, zero scouts have their own book, we have one each for a few ages where the den leader wants one. We don’t force all of those things.

We’re very particular about not crossing meal time. This means people don’t need to bring lunch with them. We focus on free outdoors and rather than fee based indoor activities.

We don’t have meeting supplies required to bring, dues covers everything but families sometimes choose to bring items in.

We do a pack campout, we have our own tents and sleeping bags to make it more affordable. We do fishing, we have fishing supplies.

Even when they do wear a uniform I expressely say that the shorts, belt, scarf and hat are optional. They add up quickly in cost.

Changes needed to make it more affordable-

  1. One book like the older Scout program. It’s easy to handle buying something for multiple years. I would love to see a single common elective program where you have escalating requirements based on age. Give me 100 electives that I pick and choose from with 10-15 requirement options. Some requirements or activities could be age limited but most shouldn’t be.

  2. Scrap the lion shirt after they run out, put that age in a blue shirt. It’s completely unnecessary when a blue shirt should last two years… first one K-1, a second 2-3 and a third 4-5.

  3. One scarf, one slide for all ages.

  4. Less belt loops, less pins.

The fourth item is a huge cost saver and ties to item 1. We spend $30-40 per youth per year just on awards. I was in the program when you earned arrow points and not belt loops.

I would move back to something like this where you can buy a 20 cent pin or patch for each elective activity. The BSA just has to create millions of the same item this way, cutting their cost.

So when I do a common elective I hand out another elective pin I keep in bulk. I would even like to see all ages be pins. With five required item per year, a $2 pin for these few will be worn on the uniform on a patch. Have a yearly patch with spaces for the required pins like the old Webelos compass patch and the electives go anywhere on it.

A patch for $1.50, five required pins at $2 and 8 elective pins at 20 cents = $13.1
vs 13 loops at $1.50 and a belt at $15 = $34.5

The current program is 2x the cost it needs to be. This is why no one wears the belt loops.

Also, and I’m thinking about youth protection, to see what a scout has earned today, you have to stare at their lower back or have them take a belt off, neither of which is a good look. Belt loops are an idea it’s time to retire.

1 Like