Crowdfunding sites and Eagle project fundraising

These days, nearly everybody who wants funding for their gadget, movie or videogame considers the crowdfunding route.

With the help of sites like Kickstarter, crowdfunding is a painless — though not always successful —  way to get funds for a project.

The crowdfunding surge has led many Scouts to wonder whether their Eagle project could benefit from this source of money.

The short answer: Yes, boys working on their Eagle project are permitted to use these sites to raise funds for materials, equipment rental, professional services, etc.

The longer answer: An Eagle project doesn’t have to cost a lot to be meaningful. Eagle projects carried out with minimal, if any, expense are always preferred to those with high price tags. The BSA prefers there not be any fundraising at all for an Eagle project. That said, the BSA knows low-price projects aren’t always a realistic goal.

Read on for many more details about crowdfunding Eagle projects and Eagle project fundraising in general.

Crowdfunding options

Though Kickstarter gets a lot of headlines, there are hundreds of crowdfunding sites out there. (Wikipedia compares them here.)

The Boy Scouts of America won’t get into the potentially hazardous business of endorsing one over the other.

If you do choose the crowdfunding route, carefully read the fine print on any site you’re considering.

Among the questions prospective Eagle Scouts should consider:

  • What kind of financial cut will the site take?
  • Do you receive donations even if you don’t reach your stated monetary goal?
  • How long does it take to get your funds after the donating window closes?
  • Are you required to offer some sort of reward to backers? If so, what will the rewards be?
  • What will you do if you don’t reach your goal? (On Kickstarter, for example, 56 percent of projects never reach their goal.)

More specifics on Kickstarter

I spoked with Justin Kazmark, who works with Kickstarter’s communications team, about Scouts using Kickstarter for Eagle projects.

Nonprofits like Scouting can and do launch projects on Kickstarter, but only to fund a specific project, he told me.

Kickstarter would not be appropriate, for example, for the Boy Scouts of America to raise money for first-quarter expenses.

He took the example of a playground built for an Eagle project. The Kickstarter rules state:

  • Create something to share with others. Definitely fits.
  • Projects must be honest and clearly presented. “I expect anybody that’s an Eagle Scout would do that,.” he said.
  • Can’t raise money for charity. Again, that’s different from a nonprofit raising money for a project.

Here comes the catch. I asked him about how a Scout could use extra money raised beyond his goal. Traditionally, a Scout who raises more money than needed simply donates the excess funds to the project beneficiary. Kickstarter doesn’t allow that. The extra funds would need to be put back into the project.

For a playground, for example, a Scout could get more expensive see-saws.

To avoid this, a Scout could stop accepting donations once he reaches his goal.

The BSA prefers you don’t fundraise for Eagle projects

This from the BSA’s May 2012 Advancement Newsletter:

Minimizing Eagle Scout Service Project Fundraising

As part of planning, developing, and leading his project to a successful conclusion, the Eagle Scout candidate must develop the project proposal and the resources (financial, material, and labor) to accomplish it.

There are many worthy service projects that can be carried out at minimal, if any, expense. These are preferred to those with high price tags. To be clear, the BSA prefers there not be any fundraising at all; however, it is understood that this is not realistic. In those cases, all fundraising or requests for material donations should be done in a restrained manner similar to simple unit fundraising efforts. The BSA prefers little or no fundraising primarily because of legal issues relating to accounting and receipting for funds, custodial responsibilities, potential tax deduction issues, and so forth. When fundraising is kept to a minimum, similar to typical unit money-earning projects, there is less chance for problems to develop.

Large-scale fundraising efforts can add complexities in which minors should not be involved. This can be further complicated because funds are raised in the name of the beneficiary and not the BSA.

Fundraising options (if it’s necessary)

Again, from the BSA’s May 2012 Advancement Newsletter:

Once it has been determined that external fundraising may be necessary, it is up to the Scout to identify specific options to use.

Traditional approaches such as car washes, selling various products, or hosting an event such as a spaghetti dinner or a yard sale may be considered.

“Fundraising” also includes the solicitation of donations for cash or materials. (This is where crowdfunding fits in.)

Fundraising application is required

The BSA’s May 2012 Advancement Newsletter states:

Whatever is done, if it reaches beyond the Scout and his family, his unit, or the beneficiary, as described in the Guide to Advancement, an Eagle Scout Service Project Fundraising Application is required.

That application is conveniently located within the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook.

How may you use the funds raised?

Once again, the BSA’s May 2012 Advancement Newsletter:

The Guide to Advancement, topic 9.0.2.10, states: “Fundraising is permitted only for securing materials and otherwise facilitating a project.” This statement is intended to preclude projects that are primarily fundraisers, but it does not specify how funds are to be used to accomplish the project itself.

In fact, any funds collected can be used as allowed by the beneficiary for all necessary and reasonable expenses including such things as materials, equipment rental, professional services, and even food and water for volunteers as they assist with the project. An important factor here, though not required, is for the Scout to have a budget proposal that identifies all areas of expense that he has reviewed with the project beneficiary prior to beginning fundraising efforts.

Because fundraising efforts for an Eagle Scout service project are to be facilitative, and minimized insofar as practical, it is inappropriate to apply the language of the service project requirements to them. The requirements for planning, developing, and giving leadership must be met through the project itself, not through the fundraising element. For this reason, approaches such as online fundraising are acceptable.

General unit fundraising (not for projects)

Crowdfunding sites work well for project-based fundraising but aren’t the right approach for general fundraising.

Mark Moshier explains more in this post.

Kickstarter’s rules state that their projects shouldn’t be used for overall charity fundraising. You need to have a finite creative project to fund, not an ongoing organization or business.

So while it’s OK for Eagle projects, it shouldn’t be used to fill your unit’s coffers or as a substitute for selling popcorn, etc.


Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by reallyboring

33 Comments

  1. To be clear, the BSA prefers there not be any fundraising at all; however, it is understood that this is not realistic.

    The funny thing is, we are told the Eagle BORs expect to see fundraising activities if there are any costs, even if the costs could easily be covered by the parents or a single entity.

    Curious if this is the case around the country.

    • Our BoR’s want the boy to have a budget and be able to explain how the project was paid for, but they don’t prefer one income source over the other.

      For example, my son’s project had substantial costs; however, the community had received a state grant for the materials, they were just waiting for someone to coordinate the volunteers. In a sense the fundraising was done before the project was proposed. This very common among many beneficiaries in our area.

  2. Henry, don’t worry about the rest of the country. We (finally) have pretty clear direction from National. Take what you’ve read here and bring it back to your unit, district, and council. Everybody who reads this article should do the same.

  3. Our son wanted to build something that the community would use for years to come. A trail hardening boardwalk in a public park was the answer. The grade of the materials was very specific, expensive and was availble by special order. The park conversancy already had an arrangement with Causevox. They created a page with a rendering of the finished project and a description. Donors could leave their good wishes and received a thank you reply. About 600 of 800 dollars was raised this way. The organization controlled the money. The application to fundraise was approved by the SM and District advancemqnt chair. In the end the project went well and survived Super Storm Sandy.

  4. “the BSA prefers there not be any fundraising at all” Could you explain the reasoning of why the BSA prefers there not be any fundraising?

      • “spending a fortune” versus “no fundraising at all” are two ends of a spectrum.

        I think the BSA is doing a disservice here. Emphasizing “no fundraising at all” may put the burden on the youth to seek donations from family and friends, which is the opposite of how we try to teach scouts the lesson of earning money to pay their own way in scouting instead of relying on the bank accounts of mom and dad.

        I cringe every time a scout tells me that their parents are paying for their Eagle project rather than performing a fundraiser.

        • I thought the explanation (for better or worse) was listed above:

          “The BSA prefers little or no fundraising primarily because of legal issues relating to accounting and receipting for funds, custodial responsibilities, potential tax deduction issues, and so forth. ”

          Here’s some of my “so forths”. Remember there is a “contract” with these services that must be “signed” by an adult and the donations go to the beneficiary. Make sure they don’t have any internal restrictions on using these types of sites and if asked they will provide any tax donation receipts to the donors. The funds raised must also be held by the beneficiary or the unit and you need to factor in that your $100 donation only nets you $92.

  5. Another route seldom chosen: My own Eagle project used less then 10$ in materials. I funded it out of my own pocket.

  6. Just a comment on low-cost Eagle projects — one of our Scouts did his project for a local youth camp, the assignment was to clear small trees and brush from a hillside at the camp to create a sledding hill for the winter. No construction, no fancy additions, just a weekend of Scout labor. Final cost? Zilch!

  7. This gives me a new idea….I have a lot of boys who would like to go to the ‘Grand Slam’ of High Adventure, but the cost is prohibitive to go to even one. Travel is about as much as the cost of attending. So, would crowdfunding work for a specific trip to Philmont, Northern Tier or Seabase? Just curious, never thought of this before (though I believe I have thought of every OTHER fundraising method).

    • I recently saw a young lady from my area using a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of her trip to represent the US Team at the upcoming Archery World Championships in Croatia, so it definitely seems like it is possible to do something of that nature on a crowdfunding site.

    • Sorry, Scoutmaster Phil, but the Unit Money Earning Application is pretty specific about this one:
      “7. Will the fund-raising project avoid soliciting money or gifts?
      The BSA Rules and Regulations state, “Youth members shall not be permitted to serve as
      solicitors of money for their chartered organizations, for the local council, or in support of other organizations. Adult and youth members shall not be permitted to serve as solicitors of money in support of personal or unit participation in local, national, or international events.””

      I wish we could, as I think there are plenty of folks out there who would be willing to contribute to Scouts traveling to a Jamboree, High Adventure Base, etc. We just have to find other ways of accessing their contributions. 🙁

      • Without fundraising, which requires work, solicitation on their behalf to explain their work or project, and also time- how would any organization say to do these things, but you cannot raise funds. It is absolutely contradicting to me.

        I think it teaches them brainstorm ways they could produce funds, examine their willingness to go above and beyond what is readily available by Home Depot or Lowes for example- and then they realize how much this Eagle project and rank mean to them.

        It becomes a sense of urgency when their parents cannot just hand them a check- which in our son’s case, is true. He went to perspective beneficiaries three times before finally getting one to accept his project- all the while waiting 6 more months to do it. Seems crazy that a young man willing to do a project, cannot find a beneficiary or non profit to accept.

        He saw many do projects that have virtually gone unnoticeable in the community which is also sad. He wanted to do something meaningful and lasting. To do those things, take funds- regardless of this entire conversation- nothing is free.

        I have people that wanted to donate to him- but told him he had to do odd jobs for them. I cannot allow my son necessarily do that either. In fact, I think its absolutely ridiculous to even ask that of someone trying to do good in a community.

        The rules are contradictory in my opinion- I think a little variance needs to be given with the ability of technology these days. Show pictures of a dying dog on the internet and you receive $5000 in case from an animal lover- goto an organization that promotes good things of young men, and they won’t let them raise funds for the year 2016- but people would give if they know about it. The only way to get to people is their networking, cell phones, and internet.

        Fact- 71% of adults use Facebook now….. if a picture of an injured dog can raise thousands- Why can’t Eagle Scouts?

    • Thinking about this further and wondering if it might be possible to do this if you leave all BSA references out of the request. Just as Johnny Scout can’t sit in his uniform on a streetcorner soliciting donations to go to Scout camp, Johnny could sit on the corner in non-uniform attire and ask for contributions to attend summer camp. Could you carefully word a crowdfunding request for “members of a youth organization” to travel to/participate in “a major outdoor adventure experience”?

      Bryan/Mike Walton – feedback on if this would be within the guidelines, since it is in no way trading on the BSA name? Similar semantics to going to a civic or fraternal organization to talk about the unit’s upcoming trip to Philmont, etc. but not actually asking for funding?

      • That has definite possibilities. I know of one troop in our area that gets a donation from a civic group. The group has a fundraising event, a barbeque, and then the proceeds are donated to the troop. Could be done the same way….just seems a bit ‘sneaky’…

  8. …and there you have the solution to use crowd sourcing to fund a trip to Jamboree. Minimum $10 donation and the donor gets a tin of popcorn. As donors give larger amounts, they receive bigger amounts of popcorn.

  9. Ken – I like the idea of giving the popcorn tin to the donor; however, I don’t think that would work because first you you get a $10 donation then you have to send them the popcorn – cost of popcorn + shipping would be more than the $10 donation. Perhaps if the was a minimum of $50 then send a $10 tin of popcorn + shipping – you would still make about $35.

  10. The policy is not keeping up with the times. If they are so risk conservative, then setup a national system to manage the funds like a broker.
    BSA claims to be preparing boys for life, not life in the 1950’s. The program must adapt to the situation and support these great young men.

  11. One of our lessons learned is that fundraising can be difficult for projects that are not visible or provide a clear benefit for the larger community. If you want to do a project like this make sure the benefiting organization is ready to provide monetary support or work with the Scout on the scope of the project to adjust to what is reasonable.

  12. A Scout is Thrifty. He pays his way. Thru his service and Eagle project, he helps pay other people’s way. This is known as “charity” and “cheerful service”.
    1) A Scout may not solicit for a Scout purpose. He cannot ask folks for donations to “send me/my Patrol/my Crew to camp/Jamboree/Philmont.” He may ORGANIZE to solicit for another worthy cause (ie., the beneficiary of the Eagle project). How he solicits for that beneficiary is not limited except by “good taste”, and “legality”. Since the beneficiary of the project keeps the project and any left over materials and/or money, that is the goal met.
    A Scout is Trustworthy. His word can be trusted.
    2) If the Scout solicits (isn’t there another word for that purpose?) for the construction /accomplishing of his project, it should be clear to all for what the funds will be used. You make your check out to “the XYZ Foundation” not Johnny Scout, or Troop Umpteen.
    3) I ,too, grit my teeth when it becomes known that daddy’s checkbook was solely the source for the project funding. It needs to be a “publicly” funded thing, IMHO. This makes it easy to see the public good involved. When the Scout proposed a labyrinth for his small church, I willingly gave some bucks TO THE CHURCH (not of my faith) to pay for the stone and sand and signage. Presto! Lots of others saw this and they did too. Dad put his check book away. Two days of work, and the labyrinth walk was in place. A year later, it looks like it’s been there a hundred years, and is very popularly used.
    Scout worked in 4H, made proposal to the County Fair to renovate an animal barn (rabbits!) . The fair liked the idea, provided ALL the needed materials, 40 plus 4H, Fair and Scout folks got it done.

  13. Is there much of a difference between fundraising and donations of materials and food?
    There seems to be an aversion to asking for money from individuals but no problem going to merchants asking for materials.

  14. The Eagle Project in the photo is right here on the North Side of Chicago. I know it and the troop, and it has been there since about 2007. The rules were different then, and it has since taken on a life of its own in the community. It also didn’t take much fund raising at all, just a permit from the city and a LOT of work.

  15. Since Scouts are not allowed to raise funds to attend events such as jamboree what would you do if you found a Scout using a crowd funding site for this purpose? I ask this because in doing research on the topic of fundraising and Eagle Project fundraising as both an ASM and fundraising chair for our troop I have come across several Scouts who are currently using the crowd funding method specifically to raise money to attend a high adventure camp or jamboree for 2015. I wouldn’t want to see their lack of knowledge hurt them or prevent them from being able to go and since I don’t know these individuals personally I don’t want to make it seem like I am attacking them if I were to contact them. I believe they simply don’t know what the policy is.

    • Our son’s Eagle project in 2012 benefited a local park through their volunteer conservancy. The organization used Voxcause to raise money for their projects. They created a page for his Eagle Project. About $700 was raised for materials. There is a form that the BSA has that must be filled out and approved by the SM and the district for fundraising for projects. There are rules. The money collected must be held by the troop or the organization benefiting from the service. Each donor must receive an acknowledgement and thank you from the scout. The crowd funding site sent out the thank you note upon receiving the donation. I seem to recall that fundraising can’t benefit a particular scout but I am not sure.
      Our son was discouraged from fundraising for some reason. They preferred that he solicit gift cards from the big home supply stores. The catch was that they did not carry the species of wood that was required by existing published standards. So a specialty mill was used to supply the project.

  16. While we’re on the topic, how do the rules regarding Eagle Projects, fundraising and use of funds relate to travel to locations for completing Eagle Projects. The wording in the new Eagle Project Workbook has specifically stated that the world is considered the community and more and more scouts have compelling reasons to choose to do an Eagle Project in 3rd world countries or other areas of their own country. This sometimes involves actually going to that location. Several years ago we had a scout do an Eagle Project in Africa. While this may not be the norm, there are some cases where this occurs. Can money raised be used to transport the scout to the project location (airfare, travel to an international airport, etc.?), lodging in the area (not at the Ritz, but lodging nonetheless) and/or other travel expenses such as food/water? I read above that funds raised can be used for things like providing snacks/beverages to volunteers the scout is leading on the project work day. There are some people who might be more than happy to contribute to a scout’s travel to complete such a project. How can that be accomplished?

    Thank you so much for the clarification!

  17. I’m confused. My son is working on his project now. He wanted to go through the parks department, which would be funded, but was told “No” by his SM. They wanted something meaningful to him. He found a local veterans organization and is quite happy to help. His first project proposal (building a 40′ regulation horseshoe pit) he was told was not big enough. By the time the SM approved the final proposal, it is going to cost $2,000! So, now we have to fund raise all of that! Grandma wants to send a check. She wants to share it on facebook and have her friends send checks. Go Fund Me would be a simple way to do this. I don’t see the problem. The money would be tracked and spent on materials. Any extra would go to the beneficiary. How else is he supposed to go about this? Yes, a car wash is being planned, but what about people who want to help and donate? How do we handle that? And $2,000 was not his choice and is going to require more than a single car wash.

  18. I’m very surprised at the Scoutmaster rejecting the parks idea. It is certainly great to suggest considering something more personal, but I can’t imagine your council would have not approved the first idea. It would be nice if the beneficiary could assist

    • Well, each project has to be evaluated individually by the troop leadership.
      Building a trail in one location might be “light,” but in second location it might be fine, or in a third location it might not be feasible (safety concerns, excessive time, materials, etc.).
      This may be the reason the SM rejected the idea.
      Or, maybe the SM has old-school ideas about what an E-Project should be.
      There’s not enough information to know why s/he said that.
      The approval or rejection of a project is covered in Sec. 9.0.2.1 of the Guide to Advancement 2015. Another relevant section is 9.0.2.7.

  19. What are your thoughts on a 50/50 raffle? I have a scout who did not ask prior to doing this and now I would like to know how to approach this.

  20. Hi,
    The beneficiary of my sons project wrote the check to my son instead of the troop. It’s too
    late to change now. Will that be a problem?

  21. Recently saw a go fund me request for a troop treasurer embezzled about $95k from a troop. I know this really happened but question whether or not they really should be asking. My Troop recently had our trailer stolen and we didn’t try any crowd funding because that would be directly soliciting donations and units should not engage in direct solicitations.

  22. I realise this is an old post, but the topic of selling camp cards as an eagle fundraiser is being rejected by our district. I would have thought that selling camp cards to raise the approximately $100 one of my scouts needs to feed and water his team of volunteers is exactly the kind of activity the BSA had in mind with this:

    “To be clear, the BSA prefers there not be any fundraising at all; however, it is understood that this is not realistic. In those cases, all fundraising or requests for material donations should be done in a restrained manner similar to simple unit fundraising efforts.”

    Any other districts allowing/not allowing camp card sales to go to eagle projects?

    Glyn

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