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New Membership Fees Disclosed + New One-Time Joining Fee

The national rule is technically when the school year ends, not June 1, but that’s close enough.

So, at the core of it are two issues…

  1. Scouting isn’t a money-maker and never has been.
  2. People want more stuff, for less money.

Another increase IS an issue for many families. We already have families that struggle to pay the current fees, which in our area for national and council were increased to $108/year, and the troop covered half the increase for each of our scouts. Our troop already helps with part of the costs for our adult volunteers.

With the current increase in families loosing jobs (us included) our troop may end up with lots of families just not being able to pay those fees. It doesn’t matter what value scouting provides or the monthly cost, when the choice is paying bills, putting a roof over your head or buying food, then the extra $6 is a lot.

when we are paying for a scout and two adult volunteers, it is over $200 for our family, and when it is a choice between paying that or paying for my kid to take a couple AP exams and some college applications this fall, groceries, heat/water/trash/mortgage, then scouting is going to loose. We just can’t afford to do everything!


It seems crazy to do this right now. Both the units I’m involved in have canceled events and decreased the program opportunities available to scouts in response to the pandemic. It seems likely to me that there is going to be a lot of uncertainty is going to continue into the fall. While I understand that there are external forces driving the need for cost increases this doesn’t really seem like the right time to do it.

There’s never a good time for a price increase. Sometimes you have to do it anyway.


I think you hit it on the head here. The thing is that I don’t think the BSA has much choice right now. I am not a lawyer, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine how an organization can set it needs relief and protection from courts while not covering its costs.

The BSA is in a perilous position as membership has been declining for a VERY long time. Most of my life. It started facing a steep decline in donations and in the face of that is now facing expensive litigation.

Another hard reality is that many of our families are hit hard and the fees add up. I am now looking at over $200 in national fees for my family. We can deal with that because we are blessed. Other families may have to make hard choices on which memberships will continue. And we as leaders may have to deal with fewer registered adults.


This is why Northern Star Council has said they will not turn anyone away for inability to pay the fees. Right on their registration page (which will not be the national page) will be a way to apply for a scholarship to help pay the increased fees.

I believe that most (if not all) councils will have such a program in place. We don’t want to turn anyone away from the scouting experience.


Agreed but I have seen many posts saying the fee increase will force many Scouts to have to drop out. All leaders should be promoting programs that assist the family with the fees when necessary.

At present, I’m not aware of one in my council, and I’ve asked our DE specifically. Our DE was similarly unaware of any programs from national BSA.

It’s hard to promote something that doesn’t exist for our families. I see your argument that Northern Star has a program, but NSC also seems to charge drastically more as a council ($180 for everything except unit dues) than the combination of national BSA and council fees in our council. That alone is substantially more than the combination of unit, council and national fees for our unit

I’ve been told repeatedly that there is a National fund to assist those families in need. If our DE’s don’t know the answer, who at National can we ask?



Honestly, in added or DE to see if the council or district could set up some sort of fund to which families who can afford to help out could donate, and from which families who need help can get it. After our DE had no info on any other plan, I’m not really expecting the help to come from anywhere other than local bootstrapping.

Be the change you want to see, right?

Well here is what is going on:

  • total expense went from $283,604 million in 2017 to $306,962 million in 2018 to $460,456 million in 2019. An increase of 63%. These increase were in classifications of “net insurance ($32M)” and “All other expenses($100M)” and "World Jamboree ($59M). All other classifications were essentially unchanged.

  • Number of charter partners went from 99,814, in 2017 to 80,756 in 2019. A decrease of 20%.

  • Learning from life programs went from 664,063 enrollments in 2010 to 145,462 enrollments in 2019. A decrease of 78%.

  • Total participation has gone down every year since 2014. Enrollment losses average about 2%-5% per year.

  • Venturing went from 87,827 enrollments in 2017 to 42,571 enrollments in 2019. A decrease of 51%.

The loss of youth registration and units over the years cannot sustain the expenses with out registration fee increases. Here is where I see fiscal performance can be improved which will have impact on membership fees.

  1. Drop the Learning for Life and Exploring programs as they are not proving themselves being non-competitive with current culture (political clubs and movements sponsored by schools)and skill specific education available today (high school credits can be earned earned at Vocational tech centers) and is likely a burden on the cash flows.

  2. Promote new units especially charted by businesses with deep discounts of youth registration fees and chartering registration fees. New units is where youths and adults can be most easily recruited. New recruits reduce the share of expenses that must be born.

  3. Eliminate much of the bureaucracy and labor costs needed to implement. Much of the reporting during registration can be eliminated without any loss of fulfilling scouting’s purpose. I really question the cost effectiveness of scout book when a spreadsheet or paper ledger will do.

  4. Stick to the knitting (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts Venturing, and Sea Scouting) and eliminate other costs that are not related to the mission of the Boy Scouts. “The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods that were in common use by boy scouts on June 15, 1916.” http://usscouts.org/aboutbsa/bsacharter.asp

  5. Determine why 300,000 Cub Scouts in 2019 did not “cross over” to Boy Scouts and fix the problem.

  6. Venturing is youth-led and youth-inspired. Having experience with a crew I found that adult leadership (crew advisor) was unwilling to propose to the youth adventures that they could select and lead because the adult leadership did not have the skills needed to mentor the youth nor were they willing to find and work with mentors to support the youth nor physically fit enough to keep up with the crew. Crew advisors must be chosen that are capable to perform the adventures that the crew want to have.
    For example if the Crew wanted to make a totem pole then an adult mentor needs to found which knows how to operate a chain saw. The crew I was associated with did not use the Program Capability Inventory. I found that the activity Interest Survey is rather pointless as the youth do not know the adventure possibilities that they can choose from. The Venturing Advisor Position Specific training is completely silent on how adventures relate to advisor qualifications and experience. https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/training/pdf/511-904_WB.pdf



David Epps


I’d say pretty good analysis. Focus on the core, cut out the rest. Then grow from there!

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I loosely interpret two things from these data (yes, “data” is the plural of “datum”, and yes the English language stinks sometimes):

  1. BSA is operating with extra “capacity” - meaning we can handle a whole lot more youth members than we currently have
  2. Enough recruiting will pretty much solve every financial issue.

Of those two, I can impact only the second. I can recruit more members. I’m interested in what would be an approximate solution in recruiting. For example, if we doubled our membership, would that do it?

Looking at “CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF REVENUES, EXPENSES,AND OTHER CHANGES IN NET ASSETS” https://ar2019.scouting.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2019-Unaudited-Treasurers-Report-Final-5-13-201_2.pdf

Assuming BSA is operating with extra “capacity” The expenses remain the same
Total revenue was $209,914 million in 2018 so we double that for this analysis. We use 2018 because the world jamboree in 2019 caused a one time increase in revenue and expense for 2019.
Looking at “CONSOLIDATED STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL POSITION” https://ar2019.scouting.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2019-Unaudited-Treasurers-Report-Final-5-13-201_1.pdf

The total liabilities is $645,360 million
Adding additional revenue of $209,914 million
would reduce the total liabilities to $435,446 million.(Now every company usually borrows money in short term for cash flow needs. A non-profit should have zero long term borrowings because memberships are not as predictable as with consumer products. (Philmont Scout ranch is collateral for a loan the terms of which are unknown)

I would say doubling our membership would NOT do it in the first year but if membership remained through the 2nd and 3nd years then the BSA should be pretty much out of the hole especially if the National jamboree shows a net gain as did the world jamboree. But the following caveats may hold true:

  1. the china virus has reduced sales in 2020 and its effect on revenue is unknown
  2. The payments to plaintiffs in the law suits is unknown. (there is an insurance reserve of $234,845 million and its purpose is unknown)
  3. The effect of the recent political statement letter “BSA’s Commitment to Act Against Racial Injustice” on membership, Gifts annuities and donations is unknown. (my go up or may go down depending on which direction the political wind blows?)

Benchmark Ratios:

Current Ratio = Current Assets / Current Liabilities = $915,918 million / $645,360 million = 1.41 (A current ratio under 2.0 may indicate an inability to pay current financial obligations with a measure of safety.) https://www.cbiz.com/insights-resources/details/articleid/2541/nine-ratios-to-help-measure-your-not-for-profits-financial-health-article)

Operating reliance = program revenues / total expenses. = ($209,914 million + $67,565,000) / $306,962 million = 0.90 (A good outcome for this measure is 1 for a non-profit and, in the case of a non-profit with long term debt, more than 1. How much your not-for-profit is able to pay for total expenses solely from program revenues. https://www.eisneramper.com/essential-financial-benchmarks-not-for-profit-blog-0415


  1. Data is for 2018 and the 2018 program revenue was increased by the fee increase of $30 per in Dec of 2019. 2019 data is not considered because of the world jamboree. YTD data for 2020 is not available
  2. Short falls of revenue in 2020 due to the china virus may require more borrowing but the increase of fees beginning Aug of 2020 may make up for it.
  3. The current ratio did not include the Land, buildings, and equipment assets of $496,781 million against which $224,517 million has already been borrowed. Given typical 30% loan to values lending then only $123,229 million is available for future borrowing. A non-profit should not borrow on real property.
  4. The ratios calculated are my best estimates and they may be way off. An audit would provide more accurate results.


  1. The ratios are not good for a non-profit but fair for other businesses. Cash is going to be tight. More borrowing may be required especially if membership is not increased. It would be nice for membership to get back to the levels seen before the LDS departure from BSA (adding ~500,000 members would be nice)

  2. Given 80,756 charter partners in 2019 then each charter partner would need to recruit 500,000 / 80,756 = 6.19 new members without attrition. Sounds like an admirable goal.

  3. I want to attend the 2021 National Jamboree. It should be as awesome as the 2019 world jamboree https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKRJNem5jfM

David Epps

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@davidEPPS - perhaps some research into the cost of scouting in other countries. I know some leaders and parents have no idea that scouting even exists outside of the US.

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Thanks for the breakdown. Nicely done. You can’t avoid attrition. Boy Scouts are going to age out and move on or perhaps fallout for the usual reasons such as earning the Eagle Rank and stopping, sports, academics, dating, etc.

I think in an earlier posts you identified a real serious question as to why 300,000 scouts didn’t crossover. If you can get the boys into a Troop I think you have a good chance of retention. I’m not a statistician but through my own personal observations and experiences in last 8 years I think the parents not supporting the kids is a major issue. They had rather drop the kids off, sit in the corner on the smartphones or gossip with the other parents than be active participants. I think they get burned out from being “burdened” from having to do the things to get their Scout to meetings and events. It’s a little easier in the Boy Scouts because the parents don’t have to stay or go to the camping trips. While I understand the need of adding the “Lions” Den to increase the membership I have no doubt it will lead to burnout for many Scouts and Families.

The BSA needs to re-brand itself in a way to sell themselves to the parents instead of just reacting to the latest series of issues. I’ve seen a lot of stuff on Ambulance Chasers wanting to sue the BSA but I can’t recall a pro-BSA advertisement that really has teeth.

Play the 2019 world jamboree video at your recruitment event

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You are right on both points!

  1. the Boy Scouts of America you tube channel needs to hard sale the parents of the 14 to 20 year olds. This is a good video for parents. This is a good video for moms. The you tube views are just pitiful.

  2. Marketing, Marketing,Marketing is the ticket. Scouting BSA needs local and national advertisements on the TV media outlets. Offset the little bad press with all the good press that is scouting. A You tube merit badge must be developed then the scouts can market scouting.

  3. I just wrote an email to Mike Rowe an eagle scout and suggested he volunteer to be the ambassador of the 2021 national jamboree.