Read this list of do’s and don’ts before your next unit fundraiser

Where will your next Scouting adventure take you? You’re limited only by your imagination — and, yes, your budget.

Fundraisers conducted through your local Scout council, such as Scout popcorn sales, are a no-brainer. They’ve already been reviewed, meaning they follow all BSA rules and regulations.

But some Scout units like to earn additional funds for Scouting by supplementing those projects with their own. That’s fine, provided you follow this list of fundraising do’s and don’ts. It comes from Russ McNamer, the BSA’s associate general counsel for all things taxes.

Fundraising do’s

  1. Do file a unit money-earning project application for approval by both the local council and the chartering organization. Submit this application to your council service center at
    least two weeks in advance of the proposed date of your project.
  2. Do check local laws regarding solicitation rules and permits.
  3. Do select money-earning projects that are suited to the ages and abilities of youth participants.
  4. Do select money-earning projects that teach youth members to earn their own way.
  5. Do follow safe practices listed in the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Fundraising don’ts

  1. Don’t solicit funds in the name of Scouting; only local councils have the authority to solicit funds.
  2. Don’t conduct unit money-earning projects without adequate adult supervision.
  3. Don’t forget to use the buddy system, and don’t go into unsafe or unfamiliar areas.
  4. Don’t conduct unit money-earning projects after dark or in unsafe pedestrian areas.
  5. Don’t sell fireworks as a unit money-earning project. That’s an unauthorized activity.

Even more guidance

Pay attention to the second page the unit money-earning project application. There you’ll find a guide to unit money-earning projects with eight questions and answers about fundraisers. I’ve pasted it below for your convenience:

A unit’s money-earning methods should reflect Scouting’s basic values. Whenever your unit is planning a money-earning project, this checklist can serve as your guide. If your answer is “Yes” to all the questions that follow, it is likely the project conforms to Scouting’s standards and will be approved.

1. Do you really need a fundraising project?

There should be a real need for raising money based on your unit’s program. Units should not engage in money-earning projects merely because someone has offered an attractive plan. Remember that individual youth members are expected to earn their own way. The need should be beyond normal budget items covered by dues.

2. If any contracts are to be signed, will they be signed by an individual, without reference to the Boy Scouts of America and without binding the local council, the Boy Scouts of America, or the chartered organization?

Before any person in your unit signs a contract, he must make sure the venture is legitimate and worthy. If a contract is signed, he is personally responsible. He may not sign on behalf of the local council or the Boy Scouts of America, nor may he bind the chartered organization without its written authorization. If you are not sure, check with your district executive for help.

3. Will your fundraiser prevent promoters from trading on the name and goodwill of the Boy Scouts of America?

Because of Scouting’s good reputation, customers rarely question the quality or price of a product. The nationwide network of Scouting units must not become a beehive of commercial interest.

4. Will the fundraising activity uphold the good name of the BSA? Does it avoid games of chance, gambling, etc.?

Selling raffle tickets or other games of chance is a direct violation of the BSA Rules and Regulations, which forbid gambling. The product must not detract from the ideals and principles of the BSA.

5. If a commercial product is to be sold, will it be sold on its own merits and without reference to the needs of Scouting?

All commercial products must sell on their own merits, not the benefit received by the Boy Scouts. The principle of value received is critical in choosing what to sell.

6. If a commercial product is to be sold, will the fundraising activity comply with BSA policy on wearing the uniform?

The official uniform is intended to be worn primarily for use in connection with Scouting activities. However, council executive boards may approve use of the uniform for any fundraising activity. Typically, council popcorn sales or Scout show ticket sales are approved uniform fundraisers.

7. Will the fundraising 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.” For example: Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts and leaders should not identify themselves as Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts or as a troop/pack participate in The Salvation Army’s Christmas Bell Ringing program. This would be raising money for another organization. At no time are units permitted to solicit contributions for unit programs.

8. Does the fundraising activity avoid competition with other units, your chartered organization, your local council, and the United Way?

Check with your chartered organization representative and your district executive to make certain that your chartered organization and the council agree on the dates and type of fundraiser.


  1. I am the committee chairperson for our troop and am new to the position. I have a small group of parents who are determined to hold a fund raiser for a high adventure camp this coming summer. I am struggling with several issues – 1st the parent is insisting on holding the fundraiser without approval of the troop committee and without completing the Unit Money Earning Application form and submitting it to council (when I have informed her that this must be done, she emailed the parents and told them I am confused about the process); 2nd she wants to limit the fundraiser to only scouts attending the high adventure camp (leaving out one scout who will be attending Jamboree and others who will be attending boy scout camp) and my understanding is that a fund raiser should benefit the entire troop and not individual scouts and 3rd item is she wants scout leaders to fund raise alongside scouts and receive money to attend the camp. I have tried to reach out to our council to get policy guidelines with little success. Any advice that I can receive is helpful and so very much appreciated!

  2. Clearly the application needs to be used in this situation. However, beyond completing the form and using the funds for scouting (another Bryan blog post), I do not think there are rules that establish who benefits from the fundraiser. That flexibility is so troops can establish their own rules (some troops give the scouts 100% of the profits, while others may take a percentage to fund troop operations like buying patches for courts of honor or trailer insurance).

    This sounds like it is not going to end with everyone happy regardless of what is done. If the committee (including your treasurer) is on board with you, I suggest the following:

    1) The committee meets and establishes the rules for the fundraiser, including requiring that the application be completed and how the proceeds should be divided. The chair of the high adventure group should be a part of this discussion so their concerns are heard.

    2) Present the rules to the high adventure parents. If they disagree, explain to them, a) if you proceed, you do this at your own risk, b) The funds will not be deposited in the troop account, nor will the troop provide funds to pay for upfront costs – they will have to collect, track, and distribute money on their own, c) none of the troop’s resources (charter organization meeting place, equipment etc.) will be used, and d) no other scout, adults or leaders will participate, as this is a non-troop activity.

    It would be sad for it to come to item 2, but there is a liability here for the parents and the charter organization. All you are trying to do is protect against that and create fairness. This is what makes fundraisers tricky – for example, if you have a car wash, should all scouts get a cut of the proceeds, or just those who attend? But that is why it is important to lay the rules out first, so there are no hard feelings or misunderstandings later on.

    • That is a great situation to get your unit commissioner involved in. It takes personalities out of the equation and makes sure that everyone is rowing in the same direction

  3. While I can see the benefits, I’ve never seen anyone enforce the use of the paperwork. This is one of those bureaucratic areas of Scouting where I’d bet the staff at the council service center won’t even know what to do with the paperwork.

    • Just a comment about that flexibility. BSA may want to allow it but the IRS does not. There was a post on this topic a while back. Troops that put individual fundraising results into individual “Scout Accounts” can get themselves (and their chartering organization) into trouble with the tax man.

      It’s not that it can’t be done but the rules are fuzzy and more than a little counter-intuitive (why would you expect anything else from the tax code) and it can get ugly if the IRS decides that you did it wrong.

      • I attended a session at a training session dealt with this exact situation. According to his research, which I don’t have, Scout accounts receiving 3% was OK, 85% was not. I don’t want to be the test case. The wording is “de minimis”, basically not enough to worry about, which according to the IRS, could be exceedingly small.

  4. Thank you for your input. What about scout masters being given money from the fund raiser towards the cost of camp? Is this done by other troops?

    • In our troop, all of the adults pay their way to summer camp, including the scoutmaster. We have been to camps were the scoutmaster is free – in that case we took the savings and applied it to all of the adults attending, charging a reduced rate to all (including the scoutmaster). Being a scoutmaster, I certainly agree that we do a lot of work, but I would rather cut the rest of the adults a break on cost than go free and see them pay.

  5. You can certainly have a fundraiser for a specific event and if a boy is not participating in the said event, why would he participate or benefit. If he is attending an alternate event, he could still benefit or those kids have a different one to benefit that event. Yes, if the fundraiser gains enough money to cover adults and gas, even better. All that needs to be is said, what the fundraiser is and what it will be intended for. A large scale fundraiser must certainly have paperwork with council. We do not have individual account, but be give scouts credit for work to go towards things they do and need.

  6. Some items for discussion/your consideration.

    Camp Wilderness, Northern Lights Council, waives the fees for the first two (two deep leadership, dontcha know) adults, and charges for meals for the other adults. I haven’t looked at the leaders’ guide for 2017 summer camp to find the current charge. This way we can have a parent/other adult visit for a day or two and only pay for the meals they eat.

    Can the Council take a cut of the proceeds from your fund raiser? Sometimes this would seem to be counterproductive on the Council’s end as there would be minimal reporting of fund raisers. Comes down to conflicts between certain points of the Scout law.

  7. So, if I read this correctly then car washes are right out unless a Unit charges a flat rate for the service instead of just allowing for donations?

    • Not above the law, but national has the personnel and expertise to properly choose endorsed products. Individual units do not. Each unit is part of the Boy Scouts of America and only the corporation has the right to officially endorse – and absorb the liability of endorsement – any retail product.

  8. Hello, I would like to thank you for the link to the unit money-earning project application, as this was unknown to our unit.

    I would like to point out what appears to be a conflict to me between that document and the BSA rules and regulations 2016. Item #5 of the money earning app. states: 5. If a commercial product is to be sold, will it be sold on its own merits and without reference to the needs of Scouting? All commercial products must sell on their own merits, not the benefit received by the Boy Scouts. The principle of value received is critical in choosing what to sell.

    Then in the BSA rules and regulations (2016) it states on page 2/3 Under II policies Local Council and Unit Fundraising Subject to the Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, policies, and guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America, chartered organizations and units may engage in projects to earn money to participate in Scouting, provided that all approved procedures for doing so are followed, including prior approval by the local council. *****Chartered organizations and units must not allow money earning projects to be promoted or advertised in a manner that does not clearly indicate the project is for the direct and sole benefit of the Scouting unit****** Fundraising projects involving games of chance, lotteries, sale of raffle tickets, or bingo, or which could be construed as a gambling activity and those in the nature of pyramid sales or multilevel marketing are prohibited.

    To me the sentence that I’ve put **** on both sides of, is in conflict to #5 of the money-earning project application. So are/aren’t we to reference that the sale of the product is for the benefit of our unit? Am I reading this incorrectly?

    Thanks Scott

  9. Looking for a bit of a survey for you all, as it relates to #8 of the unit money-earning project application. As it read: 8. Does the fund-raising activity avoid competition with other units, your chartered organization, your local council, and the United Way?

    We are looking at selling popcorn, but a different brand. it has great reviews from a very well know business investor and a very popular tv cook and this product has better profit margins for our unit. (of course we can’t return unsold product, so a sell out is kinda needed).

    Now one could say that just selling popcorn would be competition, and normally I would agree, But we would be selling on a weekend that occurs after the other units in our community have finished selling. So in fact they will have 1st dibs on getting there product in front of the customer 1st.

    I know it does not conflict with the united way or our chartered organization.

    The reason behind our unit even looking at this, is that our district has changed the commission structure as we are being capped at 37% where last year we were able to decline the prizes and ended up with a 42% commission rate on our sales. Now we have to take the prizes and for most of our scouts, the prizes offered just don’t do it for our guys, next our district has decided to increase the amount of sales a scout must have to get the 2 ticket bonus prize to attended our local Major league baseball team. In 2015 and 2016 it required $600.00 in sales and now for 2017 it requires $1000.00 in sales.

    Next our district despite concerns by citizens and other units in our community, has allowed unit(s) from other area’s to sell in-front of our grocery stores. (we only have 2 in our community approved by our our district to sell in front of), So despite in the BSA own unit money earning projects guide #8 Does the fund-raising activity avoid competition with other units? This is happening again this year. We don’t send kids that do fundraising for our community (school and church groups) into theirs, and I have not seen their other groups in our community so why with scouts. Hey were all into being Courteous, but be Courteous to our scouts and give them the 1st opportunity to sell in their community, then you can come in later.

    I apologize for giving you more information (venting) than you wanted.

    So back to the question, do you think our unit selling another companies fundraising popcorn product after the other units in our community have sold the BSA traditional popcorn product is a conflict or not?


  10. Am I the only leader that thinks that a $16 bag of popcorn fails the question #5 standard. (All commercial products must sell on their own merits, not the benefit received by the Boy Scouts. The principle of value received is critical in choosing what to sell.) I’ve been told time and again to sell the benefit to the scouts when attempting to explain why a $2 bag of popcorn cost $16. I personally feel that the BSA should re-look the pop-corn sales, thrifty people don’t spend that much on popcorn and we shouldn’t ask them to. It’s embarrassing for both the boys and the potential customers. I’m sure I’m not the only leader who has seen shoppers avoid our stands like the plague.

  11. A local troop is chartered by a church, but lately it is afiliating with a fraternal group. This fraternal group is not the chartering organization, but the troop displays the fraternity logo at troop fundraisers. At our county fair scouts were in class A uniform working at the fraternity’s food stand. What is BSA policy about wearing uniforms while participating in a fundraiser for an organization other the unit’s chartering organization?

  12. I’d like to know the answer to Jeremy’s question about car washes since our troop is considering this.

    “So, if I read this correctly then car washes are right out unless a Unit charges a flat rate for the service instead of just allowing for donations?”

  13. Car washes would be ok becauae you are providing a service for the donation. However if you are good around asking for donation only, that is not allowed

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