Need a boost to your Friends of Scouting campaign? Look no further than your Scouts.
Friends of Scouting, the council-level annual giving campaign, attracts the funds that help your council provide vital programs and services to Scouts and Venturers. It’s often a council’s largest source of income — money that goes toward life-changing experiences for young men and young women.
Minnesota Troop 283 of the Northern Star Council has a unique approach to its Friends of Scouting campaign that resulted in a 37.5 percent increase in giving this year.
What’s their secret? As with everything in Scouting, it starts with the Scouts.
Here’s the detailed story, as told to me by Troop 283 committee chairman Mike Lawrance.
Each year, Troop 283 presents the same Friends of Scouting info at its winter court of honor. Unfortunately, not all of the parents are there to hear the presentation.
“Some years we are lucky to have it be 50 percent” of adults in attendance, Lawrance says. “We then spend the better part of two months tracking down parents and asking for their donation. This consumed a lot of time on the part of our FOS chair and also delayed the funds getting back to the council.”
With more than 90 Scouts in the troop, gathering 100-plus parents for a formal Friends of Scouting presentation was a fool’s errand.
So “we thought why not let the boys take this to their parents?” Lawrance says.
As you’d hope in a boy-led troop, Lawrance and his fellow Scouters presented the plan to the senior patrol leader and the patrol leaders’ council. The guys agreed to give it a try.
“We then gained approval from our district executive and the council to try this approach,” Lawrance adds.
The game show
Now there’s another problem: Educating the Scouts about Friends of Scouting and council camps. Understandably, the boys are often left out of this process.
To keep the info from being too dry, Lawrance and his fellow Scouters created a version of Jeopardy! tailored to their troop and council. (Play it for yourself here.)
The troop’s district executive hosted the game show, and the boys worked as patrols to answer the questions. The winning team got some nice prizes from the council. And all the boys left with a better understanding of where Friends of Scouting contributions go.
Each boy took home a plastic bag containing a pledge card, a letter explaining what was happening and a self-addressed stamped envelope for returning the pledge cards.
The council printed the letters and envelopes, while the troop provided the stamps. Scouts who didn’t attend the Jeopardy! meeting got the packet by mail.
“It was now up to the Scouts to educate their parents and collect the pledges or at least get a ‘not at this time’ response,” Lawrance says.
Each patrol that received 100 percent of its pledge cards returned within 30 days got a pizza party at its next patrol meeting. The patrol leaders were in charge of making sure their patrol got the cards in.
“So now we had shared the info and we had nothing else to do but wait and see what would happen,” Lawrance says. “We sent out a couple of reminders to the patrol leaders to check in and get the cards turned in. We sent out two updates showing the progress as the month went along, and we hoped we would at least make our goal” of $8,000 raised.
On March 2, the troop tallied the results.
This time, a whopping 78 percent of families turned in a pledge card. Five out of 10 patrols achieved 100 percent participation (and got that pizza party!). The troop raised more than $11,000 for its council through Friends of Scouting — that’s $3,000 more than its goal.
This happened “all within a month, all with minimal adult effort and nowhere near the effort expended in previous years,” Lawrance says. “This is another great example of boys succeeding when properly trained and educated. ‘Never do for a boy what he can do for himself!'”
What’s your Friends of Scouting strategy?
Lawrance asked me to share this on my blog to encourage other units to reconsider their approach to FOS.
If you have other ideas for boosting FOS donations, please share them in the comments.