What is Friends of Scouting?

Scouting-101-logoIt’s that time of the year when you’ll start hearing the phrase “Friends of Scouting” at unit meetings and district roundtables.

What is Friends of Scouting? What does it mean to be a Friend of Scouting? And why should you consider becoming one?

First, the basics: Friends of Scouting is your council’s annual giving campaign. In most councils, Friends of Scouting (or FOS) represents the council’s largest source of income.

In most councils, the Friends of Scouting campaign begins in November and ends in March. During the campaign, a volunteer will visit your pack meeting or troop court of honor to explain the campaign and make an appeal for your support. You’ll be asked to make a tax-deductible pledge to your local council.

The natural next question is: Why should I give money to my local council? Many councils answer this with what’s called “The Iceberg Analogy.”

The Iceberg Analogy

The thinking here is that Scouts and volunteers see only 20 percent of what councils provide to members. There’s a whole lot more beneath the surface.

I know this well. When I first became a Boy Scout, I had no idea that there were council professionals working behind the scenes to make the Scouting magic happen. I just assumed those silver-looped Scouters were other volunteers.

As I’ve met many of these wonderful professionals, I’ve grown to understand their role. They support you, the volunteer, so you have more time to enjoy the life-changing fun of Scouting.


What do councils provide? In other words: What’s beneath the surface?

  • Volunteer and staff training
  • Insurance coverage to protect volunteers, chartered organizations, staff members and properties
  • Support staff for registration, publications and other program support
  • Camp promotion for Cub Scout day camps, Boy Scout summer camps, high-adventure bases and more
  • Camp rangers to keep the council camps up-to-date and ready for Scouts and families
  • Camp equipment, like tents, cooking equipment, camp vehicles, building repairs, canoes, equipment replacement and repair, and general upkeep of council camps
  • Recognitions for leaders who complete training, volunteer for special projects and help in many Scouting roles
  • Professional staff to work with volunteers to organize new units, manage fundraising programs, conduct training, assist membership recruitment, provide counsel and direct support for district, camps and programs
  • Administrative needs, including postage, computers and links to the National BSA computer system, copy machines, folding machines and a printing shop
  • Service centers to provide additional support to volunteers
  • Audio-visual supplies used in training, at camps and in volunteer meetings
  • Postage to mail materials to leaders, parents and youth members
  • A council website to keep you informed
  • Reference publications and resources, including program planning kits and to camping cookbooks
  • Camp scholarships, uniforms and registration fees for disadvantaged young people

As you can see, there’s more happening at your council than the average volunteer sees. And it can’t happen without the support of volunteers like you.

Employee match programs

Some companies, possibly including the one for which you work, will match their employees’ charitable contributions. Be sure to see whether your workplace has such a program. If so, you’ll double your impact.

Support Friends of Scouting

Watch your council newsletter, website or Facebook page to learn more about your council’s Friends of Scouting campaign. A fellow volunteer should be visiting you soon with more info.

Thanks for making a difference.

Photo by W. Garth Dowling/BSA


  1. A few years ago I was asked to fill in for an FOS presention with one unit where the scheduled presenter couldn’t make it. Somehow I made it on the presenter list the following year. (Funny how that happens! )

    Anyway, I googled around and found a PowerPoint presentation that someone else had put together that used Michael Menninger’s Scouting Triangle presentation. We all know the Fire Triangle (fuel/oxygen/heat) — if any one of these is missing, you can’t have a fire. The Scouting Triangle consists of youth, program and trained adults. Same thing – if a side goes missing, the program falls apart.

    I took the FOS/Scouting Triangle PPT presentation I found and made it my own for my Council (additional slides were added from what MM had to start), and have been using it ever since to good effect. I’ve used it in both electronic form, and printed out 11×17 sheets that I can hold up if I can’t use a projector for whatever reason.

    The Scouting Triangle was featured here back in February 2014.

    Michael’s PPT presentation is available here:

    And the Bobwhite Blather features multiple Scouting Triangles that we can all reference as well.

    I can’t find a link right now to the FOS / Fire Triangle PPT I built mine from (or I’d credit them), but I can share if someone wants to take what I have and make it their own.

    • Does any of the contributions for friends of scouting go to anyones salary? How does a disadvantage scout get help with uniforms?

  2. Friends of Scouting is a fine way for adults to support Scouting locally, but councils need to explore and implement other fund-raising programs as well. After all, parents already pay for their sons’ activities, uniforms, equipment, and dues. In the past, the BSA has been slow in catching on to other popular fund-raising programs, such as vehicle donations — to its own detriment. Some years ago, I donated a vehicle to a veterans organization simply because the BSA didn’t have its own such program. Another avenue councils need to explore — that is, if they want to maximize revenue from donations — is simply picking up the phone and calling potential donors. I can’t tell you how many letters I have gotten from one nonprofit asking for money. It’s easy for that group to send them out, and it’s just as easy for people to toss them in the trash. It’s harder to turn someone down whom you’re talking with on the phone — or face to face. One time I wrote a polite reply to a solicitation letter as to why I wouldn’t be giving that year; not only didn’t I not get a followup phone call (I know they have my number), I didn’t even get a mailed reply acknowledging receipt of my letter. Seems foolish on that group’s part, but I guess they didn’t need the money that bad.

    • Each of the councils that I have lived within had many fundraising activities. Each are directed at different stakeholders and use different approaches:
      1. Friends of Scouting is directed at the families getting direct benefits from the program.
      2. Popcorn sales is an outreach to the general public, providing a good product and a positive view of Scouting to the general public.
      3. Scout Cards and Camp Cards are another way a Scout can earn his or her own way to camp.
      4. Eagle Lunches attract leaders from the local business community who are interested in the benefits of Scouting in society and in developing their future workforce.
      5. Golf Tournaments attract a different population.
      6. Fish Camp (where local camp properties highlight fishing or “hunting” with a camera) attracts outdoors enthusiasts.
      7. Direct mail and direct solicitation for Major Gifts is aimed at higher level giving of individuals and businesses.
      8. Proposals to foundations are frequently made to solicit development of innovative programs that address certain needs: Scout-Reach, STEM-Scouts, Career Exploration, etc.
      9. Capital campaigns look to individuals, foundations, and businesses interested in supporting Scouting through having great camps, offices, communications facilities, etc.
      10. Participation in United Way and Combined Federal Campaign, if available in the local community.
      11. Cold-calling potential or former contributors often happens, but the yield is often not large. Volunteer and professional time may be better spent on other projects. Each council and district decides how much to try this.

      And the list goes on….

      I am a contributor and a fund raiser. Both of those activities are great for Scouting. Become a FOS Presenter and help others see the bigger picture and why it’s important to them and us all.

      • Thanks for the list, Richard. Your council appears to have a well-planned, comprehensive fund-raising plan, which I applaud. You mentioned popcorn … a good Scouting friend has suggested that the BSA sell Halloween candy. He and I are unaware that any other group has harpooned that market. Troops where I live sell pumpkins, but not candy. Not everyone buys pumpkins, but they tend to buy candy.

  3. i think parents are already doing enough and paying enough. Councils need to seek external monies from foundations, corporations, etc or find a retail angle to fund the program. you keep coming to the well and asking for more water but the well is dry.

    • There are rich people and “poorer” people.
      The rich parents might be looking for other ways to support the program their child is in and have no problems with $25, $500 or $10,000 donations via FoS or other fundraisers.

      “Poorer” families should in no way feel obligated to give beyond their means. But even then, some would like to donate so I think the opportunity should be given.

      As long as the FoS presenter is not pushy, condescending, or laying a guilt trip on those who don’t donate, I don’t mind this once-a-year request to be a “friend” of Scouting.

      But once asked, don’t keep going back over and over again saying the Council or unit didn’t meet their goal. Work with what is donated and/or find other revenues.

  4. Not a big fan of FoS. Last year we had about a dozen scouts in our troop, and the “goal” our troop was supposed to meet was well over $1,000. We can barely get parents to pay membership dues, let alone ask for a check for $100+.

    • Silver loops can be either voluteer or professional. I wear silver as a volunteer member – at – large of the District committee. The District Executive, a professional, also wears silver. Silver, I believe, designates a District level of involvement, not paid or unpaid involvement. Gold designates any level above District, again both paid and unpaid involvement. The permanent patrol leader of my Wood Badge patrol (go Antelope) wears gold as a member of the Council committee. The Council executive wears gold. All the employees at the Scout Shop in the Center for Scouting, a National store, wear gold.

      • Nope Don:

        SILVER shoulder loops denote a Scouter serving at the LOCAL COUNCIL or District/Division level.

        GOLD shoulder loops denote a Scouter serving at the NATIONAL COUNCIL, Regional, or Regional Area level.

        VOLUNTEERS, PROFESSIONALS and EMPLOYEES wear the appropriate shoulder loop color denoting their current status in the movement. For instance, those volunteers and professionals on staff at the upcoming National Scout Jamboree will be wearing GOLD shoulder loops because they are serving on staff during a national event. Those volunteers and professionals working at your Council camp wear SILVER shoulder loops denoting their employment or service as part of your Council’s camp. Same goes for volunteer training.

        You will encounter, as I have, some professionals who are employed at the National level but are serving within your Council. For instance a Council may have an interim Scout Executive who is actually the Area Director or Associate Area Director (and therefore he or she would be wearing gold shoulder loops. When I attend some Council events, depending on my role, I will wear gold shoulder loops (corresponding to my Regional or National Committee role) or I will wear silver shoulder loops (corresponding to my Council role as Executive Board member or a part of the Council’s Commissioner team).

        It has been that way for some time — at least since 1997.

  5. My opinion is that in scouting like, sports, or other activities, the child’s family should be paying dues. If in scouting the actual dollar to support scouts is $250.00 a year, (or whatever the number) the parents should commit to that, and at registration like in FOS they pay that fee over a 12 month period. I spent some time presenting the FOS story and watched as eyes rolled and hearing..”There they go again”… always looking for money. Most could care less about the story. Not to say that some did.. My kids were in scouts and sports and had music lessons and we paid the way so that the programs could be successful. Families that have boys in scouts should pay the way. All the families must pay a fee that goes to “national”, with no regards to what if any money directed to the local councils. The excuse that this would be a hardship on the families, doesn’t work for me. It’s also without a buy in, just like most other things that are free there is no skin the game. Our troop always assisted those with financial hardships, so no one was left behind. How can you run a business, such as the council, by relying on contributions only. It will never work. Look at all the hours spent by volunteers to raise money for the council, instead of those hours spent on raising great young men. I think FOS should not be done away with, as I think on the corporate level it would enhance the programs, but as least those participating in scouts pay there fair share.

  6. My council increased the registration fee by $26 per Scout/Scouter for 2016, supposedly in place of the FoS campaign which they say was poorly supported. Meanwhile my troop has exceeded our FoS goal for the last 10 years straight. Maybe I’m just too jadedl, but I’m expecting that we will still be asked for a donation from council. Hopefully, they will have the decency to at least change the name of the solicitation.

    • The BSA registration fee was increased to $26 very recently. If someone told you that was to replace FoS, I’m pretty sure they made that up. Unless, your council was confused…

  7. A big difference is that FoS is tax deductible. Dues, camp fees, gear and uniform purchases are not. If Bechtel gives BSA a campground, that is good PR for Bechtel and a nice write off.
    If a Council sees itself in financial difficulty , real or artificially created, very often only two possibilities are considered: Merge Councils or sell campgrounds. We volunteers have seen the real results of these actions. Another story, another time…

  8. Professional Staff is #8 on the list but #1 on where the money goes. Jus’ sayin’

    That’s why FoS $$ have gone down since “the change”.

  9. Wow! Parents pay less than $3 per month for membership, a great monthly magazine, and the opportunity to participate. 100% of those funds are collected and sent from the local non-profit council to national office for a multitude of services and support. Camp costs are redicuously low compared to church and other camp fees that often do not offer equivalent programs.

    Many families struggle to even find the $36 a year, but some suggest that families should pay that plus all normal activity and camp fees plus kick in $200 to eliminate $fos presentations.

    In every non-profit, the highest expense is staff salaries. They have to eat and pay a mortgage don’t they?

    Every dollar in a council is accounted for and an executive board approves budgets, hires a ceo/ scout executive and commissioned professionals work pretty hard.

    Councils merge and sell camps because they are going bankrupt.

    A local council is funded is very similar to a church with an administrative staff, pastor, etc. it is not a for profit business that charges maximum fees for maximum profits to provide a return to shareholders. Scoutings shareholders are families, communities, employers, our nation, and the world.

    It is often astounding to me the dollars raised by a school, church, community etc for some disease research, a foriegn land mission, band or sports team, etc. ?….yet Scouting struggles to communicate that this old merit badge program should be funded by a local United Way, the community, it’s participants, and it’s 200 million alumni.

    Some people give a lot of time to scouting and have very little treasure to share, some have more treasure than they do time. Most people share a little time and they share some treasure for the movement.

    Take a council’s current membership, divide the councils overall budget by the number of youth served and you have a cost per youth served. Is it worth the cost invested per youth?

  10. BSA doesn’t need FOS donations from families with a boy enrolled. Councils and National need to learn to follow the principles of the Scout Law and be thrifty. Perhaps work on the personal finance merit badge and learn to make a budget and adhere to it.

    Friends of Scouting is shameful and should be done away with. To turn courts of honor and pack meetings that should be about the youth and for the youth into a telethon for a council budget deficit coverage is disgusting.

  11. I was an FOS presenter for several years and was given insight to how some of this works. I saw less and less from United Way but the Board (along with the executive staff) continue to increase the FOS revenue on the budget. Then they would assign FOS presenters a specific list of units that WE volunteers HAD to present at or the pressure was turned up for that volunteer.

    While I felt bad presenting at some units, but others units I had no trouble asking for donations to help the council out. I did not ever use high pressure tactics. I only asked if they could assist, it would be appreciated.

    I usually exceeded my goals assigned by 5% – 10%. But when they raised my goal to 225% of my previous years’ goal with the same units, while other FOS presenters did not. I told them that this goal was not reasonable for the demographics of those units, they would call me on every unit that was below “the goal” and wanted me to do a second presentation to get addition “donations”. I felt this was unreasonable for a volunteer and if they wanted it done a second time, it should be done by the professional staff. This is how you burn out a volunteer, give them unreasonable/unbalanced tasks and belittle them afterwards.

    The only volunteers that should be made to feel the weight of the council finances should be the board and the council Key 3.

    FOS can help but it should not deter from the primary focus of scouting: the youth.

  12. “Every Scout pays his own way”. That’s a standard. Scouts pay dues to their unit; Scouts and parents pay for uniforms, books, gadgets, and fees for summer camp, the Jamboree, Philmont and just about anything else their Scout or Venturer wants to go and participate in.

    Unfortunately, not every Scout or his family does this or have the financial means to do this. This is where Friends of Scouting (FOS, what used to be called “Sustaining Membership Enrollment (SME)) comes into play. FOS helps offset the actual costs of Scouting — plain and simple. It is only a PART of how your Council gets funded.

    It used to be that a Council would get funding from five main sources — like the fingers extending from your hands (looking at your right hand):

    – Gifts to Scouting. Every week people give to the “Boy Scouts”. They had a family member who passed and who was an active member of Scouting in some sort of fashion. The family has a large amount of his or her “Scouting stuff” that they want to give to someone but there’s no Scouting around where they are today. Like your pinky finger, it’s small but it’s important.

    – Endowments to Scouting. Working the same way — people simply fall into some money and are looking at tax benefits in donating a part or all of it instead of keeping it for themselves and incurring a large tax liability. They give to the BSA, and in most cases to local Councils. The Council will add this to their pot of “emergency funding” and will invest that pot to help specific programs or specific goals.

    – Direct Funding (profits). Your Council camp(s), your programs at the Council level, sales of Scouting items at the Council trading post (and a percentage of what is made at from the BSA’s owned Scout Shops(tm) ) and any other significant event (popcorn and wreath sales, Patch sales, bowl-a-thons and like events) make some sort of profit. This profit is returned to the Council’s budget to fund other aspects of the Council’s operating picture. Some of your Council’s “heavy hitters” also contribute personal funds for “project sales” like Eagle Scout presentation kit purchases or specific building at camp.

    – United Ways/Community Chest/Combined Federal Campaigns. We used to be able to depend upon annual “slices” of the local “Community Chest” type appeal programs to businesses. This funding supports a large number of organizations and groups and in many cases are the sole funding of those groups and organizations. Within the military and governmental services those funds are grouped together under something called the Combined Federal Campaign (or CFC) which operates similarly to the United Way. When you are giving to United Way, your local Council gets a slice (if they have an agreement with UW…over the past 20 years, UW funding has dried up but has NOT gone away!!) of the funding they raise.

    – Friends of Scouting provided for the BSA about 40 to 55 percent of a local Council’s budget. This is as others explained, a unit-by-unit and business-by-business appeal which is typically conducted in time periods which United Way or Community Chest type appeals are NOT conducted — generally starting in February, Scouting Anniversary Month and running for two months.

    Together, those five funding sources make up your Council’s annual budget and that’s how they spend the money. As I indicated, a lot of those funding sources have been reduced or eliminated — not by the BSA but by the plain fact that people are just not “giving” like we used to or understand the justification for doing so.

    Note that NOWHERE did I mention dues or registration fees. They don’t go to your Council but instead fund the National program. Same goes with the actual Jamboree, Philmont, Summit, NOAC or other High Adventure fees (not the fees your Council tacks on to get Scouts and Scouters to and from those events).

  13. As a District Volunteer, Finance Chairperson, I am involved with FoS. I agree with many that the program has some problems. Upon taking this position, I learned some new information which this post completely skips. I also think it’s important for everyone to think about. The FoS campaign has two parts, one is Family Contributions and the other is Community Contributions. When we think of FoS, we are usually thinking of Family contributions. I agree that we should not be expecting so much from the families. Yes, some families would like to give more, let’s give them the opportunity and hold the FoS presentations. However, what needs to change is the expectation that the majority of FoS contributions should come from these presentations to packs, troops and crews. Instead, let’s focus on the Community contributions. Get out there and get funding from the community. Raise awareness of the program, what it does for boys (and girls), what it can do for a community and what it can do for the future of humankind. Help others become FRIENDS of Scouting. Let the contributions from the FAMILIES of Scouting be icing on the cake. It is my goal to make this change in my district.

  14. I do think a lot of the problem is families do not realize that many of the Council programs, such as camps, are not profit centers. When our Troop charges $150 dues for the year, of which only $24 is a BSA registration fee, parents have already given out a lot of money for the program. It is difficult for a Council/District volunteer to come in each year and ask for donations. Even many unit leaders do not realize their is no local registration fee.

  15. Stop telling people that it pays for training. It’s misleading. Volunteers pay their own way to training, and staff/professionals getting trained is part of the cost of running the business. It’s a part of the overall for the council to stay in business, and shouldn’t be listed as a separate thing FoS pays for.

    • Where do you think that the training materials come from, Geoff? Where do you think that the instructors and the facilities to train the trainers come from? Volunteers pay to attend training but all of the things which allow the trainers to teach the courses come from a sliver of the Friends of Scouting part of the Council’s budget. Training our professional managers also is a part of that training sliver and that’s why Friends of Scouting is important. So yeah, Friends of Scouting does pay for training of volunteers and professionals in your Council.

  16. My son was challenged by his DE to raise $200. Little did our DE know my Webelos Scout decided on his own to up his efforts and raised $1,000. Why? Because after learning FOS helps cover camps and staff he heard at a council meeting I attended with him that FOS donations raised were below projections. He didn’t want his council “friends” to ever “go away” if they lost their jobs so he raised the funds from February to September. I’m so proud of my son.

  17. The iceberg analogy does not help your case, Bryan. The 20 percent that is visible is already ready expensive enough, yet directly benefits unit-level scouts, scouters, and parents. The 80 percent that isn’t seen is administrative overhead, but mostly professional salaries. The balance seems a bit off. If professional scouters need to raise that much cash each year, they should hustle donations themselves from businesses and private donors outside of scouting. Pan-handling from scouting families to support 80 percent of an organization’s overhead is poor form.

    • Jimbo, that 80 percent you speak of only partially pays for professional salaries. Try about half of that…the other 40 percent goes toward upkeep and maintenance, insurance, postage (yeah, our local Councils still mail things out to people who refuse or don’t have access to all of the great tech stuff), and camp stuff. Professional Scouters like volunteer Scouters go to businesses and private donors (see my longish posting above about the breakout). When it comes down to it, your so-called “pan handling” only raises about a good 40 percent of the overall Council budget in a typical local Council. In better ones, it may be as much as 46 percent but it’s not “half” nor “80 percent” as you think.

      • Mike, even 40 percent represents too much funding for professional salaries and vague admin overhead costs (tangibles like council camps excepted). Particularly if the money is expected to come from volunteers’ and parents’ pockets–the very people that already spend a great deal of time and money to support scouting.

        • Many front line professional Scouters have an embarrassingly low salary. There is no gold-plating here, especially since they work way over 40 hours per week like you and I do.
          The overhead costs are very tangible. If you don’t pay the electric bill, the result will be obvious. If you don’t pay for maintenance, you will soon have unusable facilities.
          Scouts, families, and volunteers want help when they need it. They won’t get that if the phones are shut off and the camp kitchen is unusable.

  18. I’ve read all your comments. Here’s my take: I was a regular FoS contributer for over 20 years. I couldn’t take an IRS deduction because I didn’t have enough deductions to itemize, so throw that incentive aside. I gave on average, $300 per year because I respect Scouting and what it can do to help young boys grow up to become men of good character, good citizens, and achieve mental and physical fitness. That was until 2 years ago when our CE did me wrong. As a result, I will not give another dime to FoS until that person leaves our council. In the meantime, my money goes to support my unit. Sorry to feel this way, but I cannot support someone that tells you one thing then betrays you 3 months later…..

  19. I wonder why we don’t ask for all of the money a family has to give or will be asked to give up front, at the beginning of the Scouting year. I saw the FoS presentations last year, which was my first year back in Scouting after the classic “20 year break” between being a Scout myself and my son coming in as a Tiger Cub (now a Wolf), and I wondered why they fell on deaf ears at my unit. I think a lot of it came from a lack of understanding of why we paid dues, then participated in a national fundraiser (popcorn), then pack-level fundraisers, only to be asked to give more money to our council. As volunteers, we supported each fundraiser by building excitement for it, taking care to give recognition generously and often, and of course, giving ourselves to help push the amounts raised over the goal. It would have been a lot easier to ask one time, get everyone motivated and moving one time, and collect one time instead of stretching it out and making everyone feel nickel-and-dimed. The FoS presentation was logical and the appeal for funds was polished, but it chafed already raw territory by soliciting a group of people who already felt like we answered the call for funds four times (dues, popcorn, local fundraisers x2).

    Our community is not struggling financially, but we definitely have issues at the unit level trying to make funding work, let alone having to separately implement and account for raising funds at each higher level of the BSA, making dues and requests for money a difficult subject. This year, for instance, we eliminated popcorn and raised dues after a group discussion that most of the popcorn sales the Scouts made were to our pack’s families – money they could have given to the pack outright and seen more at the pack level (which we have done this year). Yes, this cuts out the slice of popcorn sales that district, council and national get, but we are cutting program to live within our budget as it is without asking people to buy popcorn they don’t normally buy and have some of the revenues go to the popcorn manufacturer.

    Maybe some of the experienced Scouters here can help explain why we don’t ask parents for the required money (dues) and the optional money (popcorn / national fundraiser, council fundraiser / FoS, district fundraiser, and local fundraiser / camp cards / etc,) all at once when they re-register for the next Scouting year? I know we will still have local fundraisers at restaurants and date-based ones (like selling Christmas trees … or collecting them), but why not consolidate the ones where parents would be asked to give into one? I can imagine a couple possibilities – perhaps because it would require national, council, district, and local staffs to coordinate and they are not doing it, or perhaps it is with the hope that parents will give more if asked more times over the year vs. one time at the beginning of the year, but I don’t know any of these to really be true.

  20. I don’t think it should be called friends of scouting when most of the target audience are Scouts. I am a paying member already but you expect me to donate and also be called a friend? At least call the presentation to units something else and use the term FOS for those who have no connection to scouting.

  21. My uneasiness comes with the amount of the request. The fist year my son was in scouts, I made a gift of $500. The rep contacted me and said that for $519, “swag” was included for my scout. I took the check back and wrote another.

    Last year, I was asked outright for $536. I gave $500 – to another charity. That’s my level of giving; they were apparently not interested in that amount and lost my gift.

    I love scouts, love giving to charity, and understand that salaries are vital to the annual budget, but it’s so weird how scouts raise money at our council.

  22. Why not do fundraisers….. We’re selling the country meat sticks and the world’s finest chocolate bars with a donation jar. We also put together gift baskets and silent auction them at our blue and gold banquet. Why not help out BSA?

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