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Membership Increase For 2020?

I’m hearing that National sent out a letter stating there will be a hike in membership fees but indicated that the dollar amount is unknown.

If this is true it would be nice to know because we were about to start pushing renewal.

Has anyone seen this?

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The following originated with the Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Mike Surbaugh is the senior-most professional Scouter and co-leads the National Team in their delivery of the Scouting program to America’s families and youth.


"As we evaluate the growing cost of delivering the Scouting program, a vision team of volunteers and staff from across the country is considering the best way forward that will likely require us to implement a national membership fee increase for youth members and adult leaders as of January 1, 2020. This prospective change is being driven by the significant cost increase of the liability insurance we must carry to cover all official Scouting activities.

We do not know the amount of the increase at this time since this requires National Executive Committee input and approval.

Please know that we are only considering this change out of necessity, and we are committed to ensuring that all youth can experience the character-building benefits of Scouting regardless of their financial situation. That is why, in anticipation of a likely increase, we are working to establish a donor-funded BSA Registration Assistance Fund to provide financial support to those who need it. This fund will be in addition to the many existing council and unit membership assistance funds.

We recognize the timing of this likely fee increase creates challenges as units have already begun collecting fees for their 2020 registration renewal process. We sincerely apologize and hope you understand that we would not be pursuing this path were it not absolutely necessary to ensure the BSA can continue carrying out its mission to serve youth. We are committed to supporting you through this process and are making necessary adjustments to the online rechartering system to ensure units can carry out the normal yearly process with as few issues as possible.

We recognize this is neither easy information to hear, nor to convey, but we want to be transparent as we have information to share so you can prepare your units appropriately. We commit to providing the new registration fee no later than October 23, 2019, which would take effect on January 1, 2020. The rechartering system will still open on October 1st to allow units to do their roster work.

Yours in Scouting,

Michael B. Surbaugh
Chief Scout Executive"


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Thank you for the details. The only thing missing is the date of the announcement. Do you happen to know when this was made public?

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From michiganscouting.org:

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Jacob: Thank you for posting the message from the BSA CSE.

This year, my council increased what they charge per scout from $1 to $11 because of increased insurance costs. Now National is claiming the same thing? Isn’t that double dipping? How much insurance is required for each scout above & beyond what the parent & charter organization already provides? Is the “vision team” also looking at ways to lower program costs?

As I stated in a similar thread on the Cub Scout forums, what hurts is not knowing. Units are expected to be planning their budget for the year during the summer. They can’t do it effectively if an unknown recharter fee increase is thrown in after the plan is put in place. Add to that, the fundraising cycle for many units ends by October and it makes it that much harder for the families who truly need the benefits of scouting to continue to participate.

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I think that the key issue is what insurance is being discussed. Hypothetically, if someone alleges that they were harmed, and on that basis sues various entities, they might allege that harm derived from misconduct on the part of:

  • one or more individuals
  • the unit and/or its chartering organization
  • the local council
  • the national BSA organization

Each of those entities has potential for liability, and may want to obtain liability insurance in case something happens. Whether or not any given entity is ultimately found to have liability based on legal proceedings, that entity likely incurred costs to defend against those allegations. The entity may even have decided that it was likely less costly to offer a settlement instead of fighting the allegations, even if the entity believes that the allegations of its own misconduct are incorrect.

I’m 100% with you regarding the uncertainty. It’s driving many of us in my unit nuts checking the Magic 8 BallTM to see what the answer will be. I’m neither an attorney nor an insurer, but I believe the guess made by a leader on another thread (25% decrease in membership → 33% increase in cost) is likely a really lowball number. I suspect a significant portion of the increased insurance cost is actually coming from the greatly increased liability exposure the BSA is seeing from changes in the way that abuse allegations are being handled in various states. That’s not to express an opinion on whether or not the changes are good or bad, just an observation that it’s likely the bigger contributor than simple increases in cost due to a reduction in the number of scouts and leaders paying into the pot.

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It’s a bit more complicated than that. On one hand, decreased membership does reduce some expenses. Less background checks and less insurance exposure (pretty sure they are charged per registered scout and leader). But the cost of insurance per exposure is greatly increased. On top of that, I’d bet donations are down. The $33 fee is only one revenue source. So, how that all rolls up is anyone’s guess.

I’m an insurance actuary by day. So, I know a thing or two about how insurance costs work but have no specific knowledge of the BSA insurance.

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I suspect

  • in some states local councils may have an unexpected increase in costs related to youth protection management that might be due to recent changes in state laws.
  • some councils may have increased costs due to storm, wild fire and other disaster damage, that might not be covered fully by insurance.

Disaster damage is not limited to councils, but also affects chartered organizations, Scouting units and individual families.

My understanding is that the national membership fee goes to the national organization and programs, and local council costs are covered by fund raising and local council fees. Every council has different revenue challenges and ways of meeting them.

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I have been a Cubmaster for 5 years, and this isn’t the first time that a decision has been made after the Cubs start their program (which fo us coincides with the school year). Last time our Pack “ate” the costs, as we had already collected money from many families and advertised our dues. I think that it is short sited for the Cub Program which often follows a school calendar year. I find it quite ironic that the National Organization does not believe in the Scout Motto of “Be Prepared”. I don’t have a problem with fee increases with advanced notice, but there seems to be lack of planning on the National Level that causes a lot of issues on the local level.

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@BrendonHoch, in this case, no they are not double dipping. They are 2 very different types of insurance, at least in my council.

The insurance fee that my council changes each paid Scout and Adult annual is to defray the cost of the accident insurance the Council carries. This type of insurance covers members both at unit and district/council events. In the case of my council, this provides assistance for any medical bills beyond what the family’s insurance covers. It is not liability insurance.

The reason BSA has indicated they are raising our annual membership fee is to defray the increasing costs of its Liability insurance. This is the insurance that covers the BSA, you and your chartering organization if you are sued over something that happened.

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This is incredibly frustrating. The last time this happened (two years ago?) our pack had to spend a lot of money because we didn’t feel that we could ask families to pay more when we had just completed recruitment and registration. And that happened in mid-September. This time, after popcorn sales have ended, after our registration is 100% finalized… we can’t afford to eat the cost again. I am hearing that it could be a HUGE increase. All rate increases should be required to be finalized and announced prior to June 1, so that units have this information when they are doing their budgeting and recruitment. I have to say, telling families who have already paid that they need to pay more feels like I am breaking the Scout Law of being trustworthy. And courteous. I am not looking forward to dealing with the anger I am sure to get, and I hope I don’t lose too many families.

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ErinBrown, I agree. We just had to eat the cost a few years ago and we cannot and will not do it again. I have heard similar sentiment from many packs around here, so BSA stands to loose hundreds if not thousands of members if they push a last minute rate increase again. Packs can be forgiving once, but more than once is not acceptable and the increase will be ineffective anyway if it causes a huge drop in membership. That would be a net loss fiscally, not to mention another huge blow to the organization as a whole.

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I recognize that this increase isn’t a “council” problem, per se, but I would encourage leaders to get your feedback to your respective councils’ professional scouters, so that they can get that back to nationals. I would be shocked if anyone from nationals is monitoring these discussions, and I suspect that the professional scouters are more able to direct the feedback to the proper channels so it actually gets to the people making the decisions.

Many of us at our last district committee meeting talked to our DE about this, and he conveyed to all of us that our council was just as blindsided by this as the units. As of when we spoke, they hadn’t even gotten a date on which council would know what the increase will be. The various leaders there asked him to carry our complaints back to council, and ask that they go up the chain to nationals.

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I don’t think anyone official has said anything along those lines.

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If memory serves, I believe we were told by our local council the increase amount will be announced by October 23rd. I am not 100% sure, as I did not dedicate my full attention as this should not impact our unit much if at all.

I also am not hearing of any “Huge Amount”, most I have heard is $50, but I am guessing in the $30 to $40 range, just based on average of the rumor I have seen. See, the sky is not falling.

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I think that’s a matter of perspective. We have some families for whom the current cost of registration is a tough row to hoe. National registration is already ~ $34, so a $30 increase would be roughly double, and a $50 increase would be roughly triple. Is it going to impact me? Not really, I’m a well-paid engineer. Even if it was a stretch, I’m reasonably confident I’d find a way to make it work because of how I value Scouting. When I was growing up, though, it would have been the end of my participation. My parents couldn’t afford to cover any extracurriculars (including scouts), so I mowed lawns, trimmed trees, babysat, scrounged and repaired gear, and whatever else I had to do to cover all of my own costs. I couldn’t have taken on any more jobs to cover doubling my registration fees. I would have had to reduce my participation even more just to offset the cost increase.

For folks with more than one kid in scouting, doubling (or more) the cost is more than just Chicken Little territory. It’s eliminating that new uniform blouse their scout needs because kids grow. I’m not saying it’s not a necessary cost from Nationals’ perspective, but I think we need to be sensitive to the fact that not every Scouting family has a reliable source of disposable income. Many of the families whose kids would most benefit from the various skills, leadership training and connections that Scouting offers are the ones who will be most impacted by cost increases.

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You’re absolutely correct; I’ve already been talking to a few of our key supporters about scholarship money to help some of our families that might see the rising dues as a big barrier to participation.

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Our council exec has told us the new fee could be up to $100 per cub AND adult. For my family, on the high end, that would be $400 just for registration to National. That’s not including the $129/cub that our council expects, pack program costs (insignia, etc.), family uniform costs, etc. That’s also NOT including camp (another $200-300 per cub).

I’m praying for a modest increase. And, yep, it bothers me a great deal that the rest of us are punished for the liability infractions of a few dirty leaders in past decades…as well as the sudden loss of LDS units. These are the only two things I can imagine driving group rates up this suddenly.

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Take a deep breath and please don’t fan the flames with rumors. Your council exec is waiting for official word from National in two weeks, just like everyone else.

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I submit, then, that he should have done the same thing himself. His formal letter to all key 3 leaders has caused quite a storm among our local units. Of course, in part, because a portion of the letter spent time outlining how cheap scouting was relative to other youth activities. Those numbers being $100 for scouts and much higher for other things. According to my calculations, when taking into account everything we fundraise for (which, ultimately, is the /cub cost), the annual cost for a cub to fully participate in camp, etc., is about $700+.

Anyway, when the news comes in an official letter on letterhead, I don’t define that as a rumor. It’s public. Perhaps, I’m not helping by posting these comments. I’ll grant that this is possible. However, communication from the top down then needs to be reimagined.

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