Over the past several weeks my messages have focused on the support structure put in place to help you in your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood role. In this message I wish to discuss how to fund your efforts.
Scouting can be very expensive. One disincentive to conducting your Scouting program as designed by the Boy Scouts of America is the significant cost of running a quality program. It requires a sizeable revenue source to fund participation at council-sponsored summer camps, hold monthly outdoor activities, purchase equipment and supplies, or to help boys acquire merit badges and rank advancement. It is much easier and cheaper to neglect Scouting-type activities all together and merely entertain your boys with fun activities closer to home.
According to Church policy, “Funding for Aaronic Priesthood activities, including Scouting activities where they are authorized by the Church, should come from the ward budget” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 8.13.7). “Fund-raising activities are not usually approved because expenses for stake and ward activities are paid with budget funds. As an exception, a stake president or bishop may authorize one group fund-raising activity each year. Such an activity may be held to raise funds for the following purposes only: 1) To help pay the cost of one annual camp or similar activity, and 2) To help purchase equipment that the unit needs for annual camps” (Handbook 2, 13.6.8, emphasis added). “If the ward budget does not have sufficient funds to pay for an annual extended Scout camp or similar activity for young men, leaders may ask participants to pay for part or all of it” (Handbook 2, 8.13.7, emphasis added).
I often hear LDS Scouting leaders complain that the Church policy for funding activities does not provide enough money to fund a quality Scouting program. Far too many adult Scouting leaders, including myself, have spent a significant amount of their personal money supplementing the small budget of their Scouting units. Church leaders frown upon this. Let me tell you why.
The Lord has commanded members of the Church to stay out of debt, to be frugal, and to manage wisely one’s financial stewardship. He wants us to limit our needs and wants and to stay focused on the things that matter most, rather than seeking the material things of the world. When conducting Scouting and priesthood activities the Lord wants us to obey the part of the Scout Law directing us to be Thrifty.
What this means is Young Men leaders should not expect their Scouting unit to be like a community unit, where every boy is dressed in full uniform, they have a Scouting trailer full of matching tents and quality camping gear, and they attend exotic summer camps at distant high adventure bases. A Church unit that abides by the policies stated above could never afford such luxuries. Nor should they want to.
The Lord wants His Scouting units to model Zion, where the people are of one heart and one mind, and there is no poor among them (see Moses 7:18). When the Church changed the ward budgeting process in the 1980s, I’m sure leaders in some wards were upset because it reduced their ward budget. But I was ecstatic. At that time I was serving in the branch presidency of a Cambodian branch in Florida. Because of the impoverished nature of our members, our ward budget was extremely small under the old budget policy. Our funds were so limited we couldn’t do much for our members. Yet we met in the same building with an affluent ward. Our members could not help but compare themselves—and our activities—with what was going on in the other ward. Our members felt separated from the other ward by a financial barrier that existed not just because of the economic conditions of the members, but also because of a discriminating Church financial policy. I’m sure this might be one reason why Church leaders changed the policy.
This is why the Church wants you to use the ward budget first for your Scouting activities. If Church leaders reach into their own pockets to pay for more extravagant Scouting activities—such as super summer camps, elaborate pioneer treks, or multi-day hiking treks in far off mountain ranges—because the leaders can afford to do so, they may establish traditions that cannot be sustained if less affluent leaders are called in the future. Boys can easily feel entitled when generous leaders provide them with Scouting experiences that far exceed what a ward budget can provide. Additionally, if Young Men leaders pay for activities without turning in receipts, the bishop of the ward cannot get an accurate feel for the expenses of the Young Men program.
The second source for funding Scouting activities ought to be the young men themselves. Scouting is designed to teach a boy to be self-reliant. A boy needs to learn how to pay his own way in life. If the Scouting unit has an annual calendar, the unit should know where it will be going to summer camp a year in advance. The parents and boys should know exactly what it will cost. This gives each boy plenty of time to develop a savings plan that will fund his Scouting activities. Adults in a ward could be encouraged to pray about jobs they might provide to the boys to help them earn money for Scouting. With the Lord’s help, I’m sure there are plenty of jobs within a ward to help a boy obtain the funds he needs. Most important, during this year of labor the young man will learn to work hard, to be responsible, and to pay an honest tithe.
The final method for funding your Church Scouting unit is through a fund-raising activity. This activity should be one that provides “a meaningful value or service” and offers “a positive experience that builds unity” (Handbook 2, 13.6.8). Many LDS Scouting units put up flags on national holidays; some hold spaghetti dinners and auctions; others build fences for state or national parks; some units usher at sporting or community events; while others sponsor swap meets to fund their programs. LDS Scouting units may also “participate in Scouting shows, camporees, and other BSA activities involving the sale of tickets by boys or young men, as long as all other budget allowance guidelines are met” (Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States, 8.15). Also note that “Commercially produced or packaged goods or services should not be sold” (8.15). Popcorn is considered to be a commercial product and thus the sale of popcorn is not approved as an LDS Scouting unit fundraiser. Individual young men can sign up to sell popcorn under their BSA local council as a means of paying their own way to summer camp.
Finally, may I respectfully suggest you allow your boys to do the fund raising. If you put up flags, let the boys contact people and collect the funds. If you have a spaghetti dinner, let the boys do the work. If you have an auction, let the boys gather the goods and conduct the auction. In my many years of Scouting, I have seen so many fund-raising situations where adults do all the work. The Relief Society sisters bake goods for the auction. The men cook the spaghetti dinner. The Scouting leaders collect the funds for the flags. In such situations those donating funds to the Scouting program have little interaction with actual Scouts.
May I suggest that, like most things in the gospel, your Scout funding effort should be conducted in fervent prayer. Perhaps because of the temporal nature of raising funds, some leaders may neglect to petition the Lord to guide their funding efforts. I know from experience that a loving Lord will direct you to do the right things, to reach out to the right people, and to find the right resources to support your Scouting program. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good” (Alma 37:37).
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Are your Scouting activities planned to minimize expenses?
- Do you encourage your boys to pay their own way to summer camp?
- Does your one authorized annual fund-raising event generate the greatest possible income to fund your Scouting activities?
- Do your boys wear their Scouting uniforms during fund-raising events?
- Do your boys do the actual fund-raising, rather than the adults?
- Have you asked the Lord to guide your fund-raising effort?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Being thrifty is good for our financial well-being. Wastefulness and indulgence are not of God. They are negative influences and have serious consequences on us by and by. When we are thrifty we are self-reliant, able to be free to assist those in need. Scouting instructs us to be wise with our resources” (Vaughn J. Featherstone, “On My Honor,” Ensign, February 2006).
-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.