Hurricane Maria: An update on BSA members in Puerto Rico. Ways you can help.

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Bryan on Scouting has just posted this article on how to help after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

To my view, the most important part of this article is that the councils and units affected have been slow to report their needs. This creates a risk of their needs being forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the BSA.

This slow response to state needs makes a lot of sense. First, the BSA is built on a diffused organizational system. National Council needs information from local councils. Local councils need information from districts. Districts need information from units. Units need information from unit leaders. Unit leaders are busy caring for their families, work or businesses, and places of worship.

Now the information trickle is beginning. The BSA has created several central clearinghouses of information. Units can make direct appeals for help. The BSA has created a central fundraising website. Now we know where to look for what is needed.

So the next question seems to be, “What can our unit do?”

What you can do is still limited by BSA regulations. Let’s take a quick look so that these are all fresh in mind.

First, units are prohibited from asking for cash to support its activities. As we know from Friends of Scouting campaigns, council capital campaigns, and other council foundation fund raising, councils have no such limitations. Why? Council is a a registered non-profit. It set up to handle the legal compliance, financial reporting, auditing, and bookkeeping required of cash fundraising.

Second, scouts are learning to be “thrifty,” that is they are learning to make an effort to earn their own way. The philosophy of selling goods or services for fundraising rather than direct appeals for cash is that the scout learns to earn his way in life, not to just ask mommy and daddy for cash to pay for wants or desires.

Third, exceptions are made for Eagle projects because the money is being raised in service and benefit to persons other than the Eagle candidate. Fundraising for unrleated, third parties is charitable. Fundraising for personal benefit is not charitable.

So what do we learn about fundraising in scouting? It is important to the cause of scouting, but it must be handled carefully.

If you or your scouts is struggling with how to be of service to units, councils, or scout reservations harmed by these hurricaines, here are a few thoughts.

  1. Make money raising efforts in popcorn sales (e.g., “20% of our proceeds from sales will go to . . . “) on behalf of the
    • National Council’s efforts;
    • local councils’ efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands (see their websites or contact information to research); or
    • specific unit needs listed on the national website (make direct contact with those units using the information provided);
  2. Make in-kind donations to the units requesting assistance (call ahead to verify current need);
  3. Make in-kind purchases from Amazon or other online retailer on behalf of the units requesting assistance (call ahead to verify need before purchase);
  4. Plan a scout unit trip or encourage individual scouts to do a “mission trip” to a scout reservation in need of clean-up workers and coordinate with the local scout reservation for any needs in advance;
  5. Contact our local council development office and encourage them to set up a fund to provide assistance to those in need, thereby making local fundraising easier to account;
  6. Arrange for your chartered organization (especially churches and similar non-profits) to raise money for these needs and send the funds to the local councils or chartered organizations. For example, a United Methodist Church raising money to support a Cub Pack or Scout Troop at a United Methodist Church in Houston.
  7. Donate gently used uniforms and camp equipment to the units in need (verify need before sending).

I am looking forward to reports from any units that follow through on some of these ideas. Let me know what aditional ideas you have so that we can demonstrate that “A [CAC-North Star] Scout is . . . helpful.”

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