Tips for running a Boy Scout Christmas tree lot

Oh, Christmas tree. How lovely are your branches. And how lovely, too, is your ability to raise money to fund Scouting adventures.

While that last sentence lacks the lyricism of the original carol, its words are no less accurate.

Many Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews find a fundraising fortune in selling Christmas trees. While families get a quality live tree for their living rooms, Scout units get valuable funds to pay for their Scouting year.

How do you maximize both funds and fun when selling trees? I asked Scouting magazine’s Facebook family for some tips.

1. Make it youth-run.

Dave M. made the Scouts “co-owners” of the lot, meaning they help with the marketing plan, promotions and tracking the sales.

“We have found that getting the Scouts, and families, involved in the business side of the sales, be it trees, popcorn, or whatever really helps sales involvement and makes it much more fun,” he writes.

2. Check off some merit badge requirements.

Dave M.’s troop completed requirements for the Salesmanship and Entrepreneurship merit badges while working at the Christmas tree lot.

3. Accept credit cards.

Be Prepared for cashless customers with an electronic card reader like those offered by Square or PayPal. Earl B. recommends springing for one that can read chip cards or handle contactless transactions like Apple Pay.

“Yes, Square takes a small percentage fee,” Earl writes, “but the ability to take a credit card is a big factor.”

4. Prevent tree theft.

It’s sad but true. I had to write a whole post on the subject of theft at Christmas tree lots.

Stop these real-life Grinches by locking your trees, securing the lot with fencing, installing motion detectors, hiring security or setting up surveillance cameras.

If that fails, follow the trail of pine needles.

5. Prioritize service.

Troop 127 in Lake Oswego, Ore., has run a lot since 1947. Their secret, says Allan C., is service.

“On our lot, the Scouts help families pick out the right size noble fir and carry it off the rack to the lopping and fresh-cut stands,” he writes. “Adults then use the chainsaws to make it just right for each family. Scouts take over again and safely tie each tree to the family’s car.”

6. Make your goals clear to customers.

Whether your lot is in its first year of operation or its 41st, make sure the community knows why you’re there.

Convey to them, through signage and conversations with customers, that they aren’t just buying a tree. They’re supporting Scouting.

After 69 years in operation, Troop 127 has built up a lot of good will in the Lake Oswego area.

“The community knows what to expect and how the funds are used,” Allan C. says. “Our troop turns 90 in January, and the tree lot has funded hundreds of Scouts over the years. We get multigenerational customers that come back each year from communities all around us.”

7. Remember the little details.

Allan C.’s troop sells trees, but they don’t forget the details.

When a customer arrives at the trailer to pay for his or her tree, hot drinks, cookies and candy canes await.

8. Create a calendar of shifts.

Use an online scheduler so Scouts and parents can sign up to volunteer their time.

Schedule two- or three-hour shifts — or longer shifts with breaks — so everyone gets a turn and nobody feels too big of a burden.

9. Think outside the holidays.

Tanya H.’s Scout group in the United Kingdom hosts its Christmas tree fundraiser after the holidays.

They make money collecting trees beginning on Dec. 26, or Boxing Day. The Scouts collect and recycle the trees from houses and flats.

“We have an online website, and the customer books their date and pays the fee,” she writes.

About Bryan Wendell 2801 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.