In early November, Rolland Pfund, Committee Chair of a troop in the Patriots’ Path Council, NJ, asked: “My troop committee is considering possibly establishing a scholarship to camp program for our troop, to enable Scouts from less well-off families to go to summer camp. We’d welcome any suggestions how to best implement such a program.”
I promptly asked readers of this column to send me suggestions on how Rolland’s troop might develop this idea. Your response was wonderful and immensely gratifying, and I sent your suggestions along to Rolland (who was equally appreciative). Here’s what you had to say…
Our council has a campership program; however, my troop’s and pack’s chartered organization (sponsor) has gone a step further in recognizing that we have families that may not be financially well-to-do. Therefore, we do what it takes to put a boy into summer camp if his family can’t afford to. So far, what we’ve done is solicit funds from the chartered organization’s members. Although this has worked out in the past, we’re considering adding some specific fundraisers to help add to this funding.
The biggest reason why our sponsor is so in-tune with this need is because our Chartered Organization Representative (COR) is very active with both units. I also feel that the biggest reason why other chartered organizations don’t have an active COR is that this person is also the head of the organization, and just doesn’t have the time to get involved. Sponsors can pick anyone to be the COR—It doesn’t have to be the minister, president of the club, or the head of the organization! As a matter of fact, I feel it should actually be someone else besides the head of the organization—Ideally who enjoys camping, teaching the youth, fellowship, and ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING in the units’ programs, both indoor and out-of-doors.
The other key leadership position we have is a Troop Chaplain. This person can be a valued voice to the sponsor’s members and help keep the boys actively involved in Scouting by easing any concerns about the cost that is involved.
Last, the thing we need to be mindful of is “A Scout is thrifty.” Thrifty has many meanings, from not wasting natural resources to being able to pay our own way to camp, etc. So when your council has their Popcorn Sales in the fall, make sure your unit participates and EVERY Scout in your unit is participating. Every little bit counts and it adds up fast! (Tim Gelvin, Susquehanna Council, Williamsport, PA)
Our troop is in a small town with many active organizations like the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Rotary, Lions, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Loyal Order of Moose, etc. All have a history of giving to their local Scouting units as well as to our council’s annual Friends of Scouting (FOS) campaign. I made certain that each organization understood the importance of an FOS contribution, and suggested that locally we have youth in the program who could benefit from financial assistance. We offered to help any of these organizations at any event of theirs: speak at a luncheon, police grounds for litter and trash, wait tables at picnic for military veterans, organize parade line-ups, etc. Almost always, the organization gives a donation to our troop after the event. Sometimes it’s $50; sometimes $1,000! These donations go 100% into a pool that’s distributed equally amongst those Scouts who gave service, in accordance with the extent of their service (usually hours). We have sign-ups in advance to cover the requests, and offer opportunities to those in most need first. All of the Scouts who choose to participate find that at least half if not all of the year’s worth of camping earned. (Robin J. Pletsch, Rainbow Council, Morris, IL)
Our Cub Scout pack bases a lot of things on popcorn sales. If a Cub sells $400 worth of popcorn, his dues are paid for the year. If he sells $500, he gets his camp paid for. It doesn’t matter if his dad is the mayor or a migrant farm worker.
I’ve seen another pack combine popcorn sales and camp fees together in a different way. When a Cub sells popcorn, a certain percentage of his sales goes into his “camp fund”—This can be used for day camps, Webelos campouts, or council events. The fund carries over every year until the Cub graduates from the pack, then it goes back into general funds.
I also want to mention that, in our pack, if a Cub or Webelos is an active participant and asks for help, he gets it! Last summer, for instance, we had three Cubs ask for help paying for camp. Two came to den and pack meetings regularly; one made it to the Halloween party and just one other pack meeting. The ones who showed participation (and advancement) got their wish. (Jen Haubrich)
Our troop doesn’t have a formal campership program, but we try to make it possible for every Scout to get to camp, even if his family is struggling. We do this through a combination of council camperships and troop support. One of the things I like about not having a formal program or process is that it’s less intimidating or embarrassing to the Scout and his family, which makes it more likely to be used. My ASMs and I (I’m Scoutmaster) watch the Scouts and their participation. If we hear of any problems, or see a Scout skipping an outing they wouldn’t normally miss, we talk with him to find out what’s happening…Is there a problem? Then we go about solving it.
I make sure that every parent knows we’ll do whatever we can to help his or her son stay active. Parents are encouraged to talk to me or our Committee Chair if there’s a money problem. Then, together with the treasurer, we work something out so that the Scout can keep participating. Since there’s no formal application, no large committee, etc., parents who are having financial difficulties are more likely to seek us out. (It’s much easier to keep private information private when fewer people are involved.)
I have heard of one nearby troop that has a tradition of using former Scoutmasters as a resource for camperships. When the current Scoutmaster is aware of a Scout that needs assistance, he calls on his predecessors who make things happen.
I guess my biggest suggestion for the troop starting up a program is to find a way to help the families participate without embarrassment. Have the program run by those not involved in the day to day operations of the troop. Establish a process using a sub-committee of sorts, with the application made to, and the decision made, by people who won’t be in a position to cause harm with that knowledge. Use the chartered organization, members of the district, or other troops in the district, former Scoutmasters, etc. Ultimately, you don’t want other Scouts to know who’s attending camp “for free”, that their Patrol Leader’s family is broke, and so forth. You also don’t want to put parents in a position where they could or could be accused of using that information for ill. (Bob Solorio, SM, Calumet Council, IL)
Our troop has formally adopted a year-round campership program because “Scouting is Outing;” not just for summer camp. Here are the simple guidelines in our troop by-laws that are provided to every new family:
– Financial need should not prevent a family from participating in Scouting. Requests for assistance will be directed to the Scoutmaster or Committee Chair for review and authorization. All aid requests will be managed in a confidential manner.
– The troop committee may provide aid covering the cost of registration or participation for any Scout, for any organized activity. The committee may also reduce or waive a Scout’s annual dues. The Scout who receives assistance, and his family, will be expected to participate to the best of their ability in organized troop fundraising activities.
We did this because we found some Scouts who stopped coming to regular troop meetings and outings without apparent reason. This assistance has kept these families in the program. We fund this program out of proceeds from routine product sales. (Keith Larson, ASM, Flint River Council, GA)
We live in a low income area and were faced with six Scouts not having the funds to go to camp. We as a troop had not done enough fund raisers to help these Scouts. Luckily, we solved the problem through a generous donation and by selling a troop trailer we no longer used. What we normally do is simple… When we do fund-raisers, a portion of the excess revenue goes into the individual Scout’s “personal troop account.” The Scouts can use the funds they accrue to pay for troop dues, campouts, camporee costs, summer camp, or even as reimbursements for Scouting gear purchased at our local Scout Shop. This is a way for Scouts to pay their own way and feel good about the experience.
When we were operating on the Cub level, our chartered organization set up a scholarship program for the pack. Then, we leaders would submit the name of a Cub who we felt needed some help, or the parents would ask for the help. The chartered organization then paid for the Scouting experience, and all we asked in return was that, when we did a fund-raiser, the Cub participate in it to help the pack. It worked out really well and made it easier on us, the pack’s leaders.
I think that, if you do fund-raisers, setting aside a portion of the proceeds for camp scholarships would be great. That way, if you get in a new boy who hasn’t had the opportunity to participate in any fund-raising, he still has a chance to experience camp. You could have the fund pay for a portion or for the whole fee, depending on the need.
This year, we asked what the parents could pay, and then the troop (through the donation and trailer sale) paid for the rest. This way, the parents also felt like they were contributing—Even if it was only $25 or so, they were still contributing. We’re doing better planning this year, and doing a lot of different fund-raisers.
Our council also has a scholarship program; however, it’s only good for council camps. There’s usually a very early deadline on submission for those, so check with your council and get the forms in early. (Mindy Clark, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)
Our take on campership programs is this: ALL of our Scouts may participate in ANY Troop activity, regardless of their ability to pay (up to and including summer camp and our annual trip to Canada, which cost $650!) We emphasize to our families that Scouting should never be a financial decision (or burden).
Scouts qualify for financial support by requesting it, period. There’s no vetting, no application, no nothing—The Scout or his family asks, and we pay. The treasurer does whatever it is that treasurers do to sort it all out; in fact, most of the time only the treasurer knows who’s getting aid. Although we lend financial support to several Scouts each year, our bank account never seems to diminish.
You’d think that we’d be taken advantage of, but we haven’tbeen… not once in 25 years! And even if a dishonest parent did try to take advantage, we’d have lost nothing because it’s the boy and the troop who benefit!
I recommend this to everyone. If you try to draw up a set of rules and procedures to qualify Scouts for aid, you’ll have some uncomfortable meetings and probably some embarrassed Scouts (or families). (Clarke Green, SM, Chester County Council, PA)
Since you help me every once in a while, it’s nice to get one that I can help with!
My troop recently “absorbed” several Scouts from a ScoutReach troop in our district that folded, and we also considered starting a campership program. Here are a few of the things we did…
Obviously, there are always the straight-out fund-raisers (yard sales, car washes, bake sales, and the like), but over the past few years we’ve established a huge chicken barbeque at our council camp, and it’s turned into a large event drawing both community and council-wide support (and lots of money!).
I don’t know whether this is applicable to all councils, but our council lets a troop opt-out of receiving the popcorn sale prizes to increase the excess revenue margin. That chunk of extra money can go right into a campership.
Also, a unit’s chartered organization usually occupies a building that has a large parking lot, and sometimes it’s next to other large organizations that hold large events and need extra parking. Ask the COR to sell the spots to that other group of people for a few bucks to park for a day, and put that money in a campership.
I hope this helps! (Thomas Howard, Heart of Virginia Council)
Yes, ALL of this helps… and probably more than just a single troop in a single council. Thanks to Tim, Robin, Jen, Bob, Keith, Mindy, Clarke, and Thomas for reading, and then taking the time to write! YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OUR NATION’S YOUTH—EVERY DAY!
Have a question? Idea? Suggestion? Thought? Something that works? Just write to me at AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com. (Please include your COUNCIL or your TOWN & STATE)
(December 20, 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)