Boy Scout Finances

Discuss questions around local unit policies for budgeting, reconciling, etc. This forum should not contain specific financial or membership information.
Ivan-p40
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Boy Scout Finances

Postby Ivan-p40 » Sun Jul 06, 2008 11:28 pm

I'm new to this forum - appears to be a great resource. I was recently called to serve as stake clerk. Previously I have been Scoutmaster for about 5 years. I know I've been "toeing" a line, but I'd love to get feedback from others on the issue of scout finances and church financial system.

We live in a very blue collar town. The boy scouts in our area (and our troop does invite/include nonmembers) often have difficulty buying camping gear, paying for summer camp, etc. So, we try to help them out as much as possible. We do one big dinner/auction where we collect donations from local businesses, then auction them off to our dinner participants (usually all ward members). This money is usually earmarked for the troop's general operating expenses (i.e. misc. camping fees, troop equipment, awards, program fees, 1/2 of summer camp fees for each boy, etc.)

We also have a local paperbox, which we give to specific & willing boys who need the money, to bundle and deliver to the mill - only about $500-700/yr total. This money is deposited into the church's financial system, but we keep a second set of books (Troopledger) to maintain "passbook" accounts for each boy. These funds are then used primarily towards summer camp and personal gear purchases. I even had a non-member boy who deposited his own funds into the church account, to be kept in his passbook account.

The church instructions are that there should not be any separate bank accounts, so while I was Scoutmaster, the two sets of books seemed to be the only solution. There has always been some concern expressed by the ward and stake leaders however. They seem to get excited when they see that the scout fund has $2000 dollars in it - and I have to explain to them that $1000 of that is specifically the boys - they can't touch that.

Now I've been called as stake clerk. I still serve as troop committee treasurer. And our Bishopric is now requesting that the boy specific funds are removed from the church financial system. The urgency has been bumped up. How do other units deal with this? I would sure appreciate a discussion on this.

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:33 am

Ivan wrote:We live in a very blue collar town. The boy scouts in our area (and our troop does invite/include nonmembers) often have difficulty buying camping gear, paying for summer camp, etc. So, we try to help them out as much as possible. We do one big dinner/auction where we collect donations from local businesses, then auction them off to our dinner participants (usually all ward members). This money is usually earmarked for the troop's general operating expenses (i.e. misc. camping fees, troop equipment, awards, program fees, 1/2 of summer camp fees for each boy, etc.)

We also have a local paperbox, which we give to specific & willing boys who need the money, to bundle and deliver to the mill - only about $500-700/yr total. This money is deposited into the church's financial system, but we keep a second set of books (Troopledger) to maintain "passbook" accounts for each boy. These funds are then used primarily towards summer camp and personal gear purchases. I even had a non-member boy who deposited his own funds into the church account, to be kept in his passbook account.


Well, there are several issues involved here. First, I would say that as stake clerk, you have a responsibility to be very familiar with exactly what the Church Handbook of Instructions says on these topics, and to counsel with your priesthood leaders. Ultimately, the decision is theirs, but I know that in my stake, my stake president is very appreciative when I research an issue in the Handbook and share with him what I learned so that he can make a better informed decision.

I know it can be expensive to run a Scouting program. As with all Church activities, Scouting is funded through the Budget Allowance. That is the basic principle stated on page 160 of the Handbook. However, there is a specific exception listed. The only allowable situation where funds can be used that are not from the Budget Allowance involves one annual camp. Specifically:

  • If stake/budget funds are insufficient, participants may pay for all or part of this one annual camp by earning their own money;
  • If funds from participants are insufficient, the bishop or stake president may authorize group fund-raising activities;
  • The fund-raising activities must comply with the guidelines on page 161.
In addition to the participant cost of the camp, group fund-raising may be used to purchase group equipment; however the Handbook explicitly says that fund-raising activities "may not be used to purchase equipment or uniforms for individuals. Nor may they be used to fund other activities."

In your situation, I would recommend that you review how raised funds are used. Remember, Fund-raising may only be used for one annual camp and group equipment for that camp, yet you said that you use raised funds for "summer camp" and "troop equipment", which is fine, but you also mention "general operating expenses," "misc. camping fees, awards, program fees" and "personal gear purchases," which would not be within policy.

In our stake, we try very hard to stay within policy. One thing that helps scout troops is to make sure that they use money from group fund-raising to pay for everything they can, meaning all of the annual scout camp, and making sure that any group equipment needed is purchased for that camp (it can then be used for other camps). That helps preserve Budget funds to be used for all those other scouting activities that cannot be funded through fund-raising.

Ivan wrote:The church instructions are that there should not be any separate bank accounts, so while I was Scoutmaster, the two sets of books seemed to be the only solution. There has always been some concern expressed by the ward and stake leaders however. They seem to get excited when they see that the scout fund has $2000 dollars in it - and I have to explain to them that $1000 of that is specifically the boys - they can't touch that.


You are certainly correct that policy does not allow separate bank accounts, and so you did well in making sure that there was only one bank account. I see nothing in the policy that would prohibit keeping track of how individual boys raised separate funds.

Ivan wrote: Now I've been called as stake clerk. I still serve as troop committee treasurer. And our Bishopric is now requesting that the boy specific funds are removed from the church financial system. The urgency has been bumped up. How do other units deal with this? I would sure appreciate a discussion on this.


I'm not sure what the leaders are hoping to do with those funds. The Church policy is very clear that funds deposited into the Other account are to be deposited for a specific purpose and then used for that specific purpose. If the funds cannot be used for that specific purpose, there are only two options: return the funds to the participants (where they paid the money specifically; this would not apply to group fund-raising, in my opinion), or send the surplus funds in to the Church. There is no approved way to use that money for any other purpose. So I don't see why local leaders would "get excited when they see that the scout fund has $2000," since all they could do with it is to send it in to CHQ.

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Postby jdlessley » Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:25 am

Alan_Brown has provided some good counsel. As a Scoutmaster for 4.5 years in the recent past and now as an assistant stake clerk and financial auditor I can see two sides of the financial issue. Trying to operate a troop in the Church with non-members can be a challenge in many areas. Finance is usually the biggest issue. Church troops must follow the Church's guidelines for finances to ensure fairness to all and to maintain tax exempt status.

The first thing I look for in a financial audit regarding 'Other' accounts is the termination date and the reason for their existence. While the termination date may not be determinable to a specific date it should be identifiable with an event or event termination. When funds are carried over from one year to the next, it is a good indicator that there is an issue with the termination date. In most cases it is because the account is being used for general financing as you described. This is not the purpose of the 'Other' accounts. There are some exceptions. If the termination date is determined by a specific fund level being reached, say for a specific purchase, then it may take more than 12 months to reach the goal. This is fine. The termination date is determined by the financial goal being reached.

There is no problem in collecting funds for the boys for specific purposes. You can use one 'Other' sub-account or as many as you find necessary. You can use any method you wish to track those funds. You need to be able to explain the purpose for the funds and the termination date. If ,as in your example, there is $1,000 dollars not tied to a specific purpose and without a termination date then there is a problem.

Money not used for a specific purpose must be returned to an individual. If you cannot identify the individual then it must be sent to Church headquarters. Small amounts of money that would not be practical to return can be disposed in accordance with the contributor's desires. For example, the boys are due fifty cents following the payment of funds for summer camp. It is not worth writing a number of checks for fifty cents so you ask the boys what they would like done with the money. They can either donate it, to say the general missionary fund, or ask to have it applied to next year's summer camp fees. Holding it for general troop operating expenses is not appropriate.

The area where some units have difficulty is in fund raising. Alan gave a good snapshot of the Church Handbook of Instructions guidance. Having fund raisers for the general operating expenses of the troop are not in accordance with HOI guidelines. It is a common practice in the BSA outside the Church to use fund raisers to meet financial goals. We cannot, and it sometimes causes difficulty with non-members who have experience in traditional BSA troops.

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Postby jbh001 » Mon Jul 07, 2008 7:29 pm

Ivan wrote:This money is deposited into the church's financial system, but we keep a second set of books (Troopledger) to maintain "passbook" accounts for each boy. . . .

And our Bishopric is now requesting that the boy specific funds are removed from the church financial system.
It sounds like you are depositing these "funds" into the "Other" account. Additionally, It sounds like you have set up a subcategory within the "Other" account for each boy in scouts. That means your "Other" account might look something like this:

Other
Other:Cubscouts
Other:GirlsCamp
Other:BoyScouts
Other:BoyScouts:JohnDoe
Other:BoyScouts:JimDoe
Other:BoyScouts:JakeDoe
etc.

While there is nothing wrong with that system per se, and I can see why it might have been set up that way, I can also see why the bishop wants it simplified.

If this really is the way you have it set up, then yet one more issue is the fact that all "Other" funds are supposed to be zeroed out by the end of each (calendar?) year so that there is no balance carried forward from December 31st to January 1st in any "Other" account or subaccount. This is because ALL funds in the 'Other" category are considered "pass-thru" funds. The sole purpose of these pass-thru funds is to simplify payment of camp fees. This is specifically so that the troop can send one check to the scout office instead of sending a dozen or more personal checks, some of which might bounce thus jeopardizing the registration of the other scouts.

In addition to reviewing page 160 and 161 of the handbook, I also recommend reviewing the MLS help system and online clerk training, specifically regarding what they instruct about the "Other" account. I think that after doing that, how you ought to proceed will be easier to sort out. (You might also better understand why your ward and stake leaders got anxious when there was $2000 in ANY "Other" account.)

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Postby jdlessley » Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:32 pm

jbh001 wrote:If this really is the way you have it set up, then yet one more issue is the fact that all "Other" funds are supposed to be zeroed out by the end of each (calendar?) year so that there is no balance carried forward from December 31st to January 1st in any "Other" account or subaccount.
Careful here. The 'Other' account and sub-accounts do not have to be zeroed at the end of the year. Case in point - scout camp is over in June or July and all funds expended or returned. Then the boys begin contributing to next year's scout camp in August. These funds will obviously be there at year's end and will not zero out.

Do not confuse reconciling the 'Other' account with zeroing the account(s). When an account is reconciled the differences between the monthly financial report and the account balance should be zero. This reconciling is done monthly.

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Postby Ivan-p40 » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:57 pm

I appreciate the responses. I've definitely looked at this issue from one side of the coin as a scout leader, being somewhat aware of the other concerns. Three of us in our ward, helped develop our scout troop into easily the strongest unit in our "non-Utah" community. The three of us became fully trained, went to Woodbadge. I went to Powderhorn last year for the Venturing program. Most other units we associate with are non-LDS. In fact, I might dare say, that the other LDS units in our stake inconsistently support District and Council events, at best. It does take a lot of money to run a quality program. Currently, our ward does not budget anything for the scouting program - period (yes, there is a little in the YM category, but that gets used up in things like combined activities, not scouting). We have also had a number of non-LDS boys join our troop - they agree to our standards, and they learn a lot about our church during our campout firesides and discussions. Should the church pay for all their scouting related expenses (registration, awards, activities, misc. camp registrations, etc)? Ahhh, I'm just venting my frustrations on LDS scout unit financing......

To speak more specifically to some points made on this thread...

No, we don't have subcategories. We have one "other" account for Scouting were all the funds are lumped together. We then maintain a separate set of books using TroopLedger (you might be familiar with their company, Troopmaster).

So fundraising can only be used to raise funds for one annual camp and group gear needed for that camp. We usually attend a council camp where there are no real needs for us to bring any group gear. How, then are we to obtain, maintain and periodically replace troop gear, such as tents, axes, lanterns, ropes, and I might add some bigger possible items such as climbing equipment, canoes, a trailer, etc. etc.

I'll have to post later with some actual financial figures on what it costs to operate our scouting unit, but I can guarantee that it would very easily overwhelm the ward budget. Between camp registrations for activites like Klondike and Camporee, awards, supplies, gas money, gear, etc, etc. this gets expensive - not to mention the cost to the families to outfit a boy. Some of our families have been very grateful to have the newspaper box as a family project to help earn money.

I am seeing more clearly where we've not adhered to policy, however, my unresolved concern is how to more effectively finance the scouting program while adhering to policy........

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Postby aebrown » Tue Jul 08, 2008 5:50 am

Ivan wrote:It does take a lot of money to run a quality program. Currently, our ward does not budget anything for the scouting program - period (yes, there is a little in the YM category, but that gets used up in things like combined activities, not scouting).


It's unfortunate that your ward has not allocated budget funds to Scouting. Since the advent of the Budget Allowance program, it has been made clear that Scouting is to be funded from the Budget allowance, with the one specific exception. Then in a letter dated 6 April 2004, stakes were given more funds for activities. That letter specifically said:

The increase in the local unit budget allowance is intended to fund activities more effectively and to relieve the financial burden on families. With this increase fund-raising activities should be substantially reduced or eliminated.


Stake presidents should be sensitive to the financial needs of wards and ensure that they have adequate funds to support a broad scope of youth activities such as:
  • ...
  • Summer camps
  • Boy Scout awards
  • ...


The list was by no means intended to be comprehensive, but between the Handbook instructions and this letter, it is obvious that there should be "adequate funds" for scouting. It sounds like you have a challenge on your hands as you counsel with priesthood leaders who are faced with the difficult task of allocating funds according to policy when a very expensive set of activities (scouting) has been funded in the past using extra funds that really shouldn't be used that way.

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Postby scion-p40 » Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:02 am

It seems to me that finances, as in other areas of Boy Scouting, differ for LDS troops and non-LDS troops. If the information for these differences is burried in the Church Handbook of Instructions, how do female single parent families figure out what is going on? I am presently in an awesome ward, but spent several miserable scouting years in a ward where the leaders apparently did not read any handbooks--LDS or scouting-- and the scouting program and other ward functions were in a shambles. It was so frustrating that I finally found a non-LDS troop to take my son to. This totally turned around his attitude toward scouting and the men in his life.

Is there some sort of comparison table that women & boy scouts can read that identifies the differences between LDS and non-LDS scouting? I haven't found it. Before someone tackles me, I think it would be invaluable to include on the LDS.org website so everyone (members and non-members interested in LDS scouting) has access to it.

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Postby The_Earl » Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:50 am

Ivan wrote:We also have a local paperbox, which we give to specific & willing boys who need the money, to bundle and deliver to the mill - only about $500-700/yr total. This money is deposited into the church's financial system, but we keep a second set of books (Troopledger) to maintain "passbook" accounts for each boy. These funds are then used primarily towards summer camp and personal gear purchases.


I personally think the paperbox is a great idea. My opinion is that it is fine for the boys and their families to pay for their personal expenses by 'working' the paperbox. I think putting that money into church accounts is where you run afoul of policy.

Ivan wrote: I even had a non-member boy who deposited his own funds into the church account, to be kept in his passbook account.


This is bad. The church doesn't want to look like a tax shelter or a bank :).

I think if you 'privatize' the paperbox, you can continue to use it to help your boys pay for their personal expenses. The money would need to stay outside of the troop funds. Depending on you, and your priesthood leaders interpretation of 'fundraising', the box may need to be completely separate from the troop, ie, no "Support Troop 48812" sign on it.

So I think you can keep your paperbox to help the boys. I hope you can work out the general troop funding.

I know my bishop would give his eyeteeth for a dedicated leader like you that can fight for a working troop!

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Postby aebrown » Tue Jul 08, 2008 7:45 am

Ivan wrote: We have also had a number of non-LDS boys join our troop - they agree to our standards, and they learn a lot about our church during our campout firesides and discussions. Should the church pay for all their scouting related expenses (registration, awards, activities, misc. camp registrations, etc)?


The issue of funding a troop when non-LDS scouts are members of a Church-sponsored troop is one that is not addressed in any policy statements I am familiar with. It certainly raises some good questions.

The base budget allowance is based on sacrament meeting attendance, and the extra activity budget allowance is based on the number of young men attending Sunday meetings as reported on the Quarterly Report. Clearly non-LDS scouts will not be included in either of these numbers, so there is no budget allowance given to the stake on their behalf, yet there are obviously expenses to the troop caused by their presence in the troop. It is just as clear that it is a good thing to include non-LDS young men in the scout troop.

With no particular Handbook guidance on this topic, I think it is up to local leaders. In my opinion, what The Earl said about providing fund-raising opportunities for individuals is helpful advice. In particular, I would think that non-LDS troop members could operate on a different set of rules, more like non-Church scout troops would operate. It is very important that funds in Church accounts are handled according to policy, but that doesn't mean that troop leaders can't find ways to provide opportunities for scouts -- particularly the non-LDS scouts -- to earn their own money.


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