Boy Scouts of America – Earning their Survivor Badge

Frank Hayes                                                          PADM4226-R52

Throughout time some of the most popular books, television shows, and movies have been about being able to survive on a desert island by living off the land. Shows like Survivor, books like Robinson Crusoe and movies like Castaway. One can easily see how the Boy Scouts of America have always been a popular activity of young men to participate in. That is until recently.

Like most boys my age, I participated in a couple years of scouting. Like others who joined, I wanted the adventure of scouting. Things like hiking, camping in the woods or learning to tie really cool knots. My parents wanted me to join for the values they would teach and the self-esteem and confidence it would instill in me. These are all of the same reasons I enrolled my son to participate in Cub Scouts. In my current position as a food sales representative, I work with a variety of accounts, and one of those is the Boys Scouts of Middle Tennessee. Over the past few years, I have learned more about this organization and some of the problems they are currently facing.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was modeled after Britain’s Boy Scout Association. In February of 1908 W.D. Boyce, Edward S Stewart, and Stanley Willis applied for a congressional charter. The BSA grow rapidly, quickly, becoming the largest youth organization. But with growth comes growing pains. Some of the early problems where racial issues and “younger boy” and “older boy” issues. Inclusion of African Americans was an issue from the beginning, but the board took a quick stance not to discriminate on the base of color, but that local communities follow the same policies of their local school system. The forming of the Cub Scouts solved the other issue of the age range problems. The core age of scouting was 12-18, but the scouts wanted to have activities and training for boy’s ages 6-12 years old, hence the birth of the cub scouts.

The mission of the BSA is “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law”. (http://www.scouting.org). Over the past 107 years, over 114 million young men have been involved with the BSA.  But sadly, the number of young men involved with scouting has declined dramatically over the last ten years. In 2013 alone Cub Scout membership dropped 7.3%, the Boy Scouts 2.4% and leaders and volunteers 3.7%. (http://www.scouting.org). You can’t have Boy Scouts without boys! This is a major problem facing the BSA today- keeping boys (and their parents) interested in scouting. BSA has come under a lot of fire lately on the issue of discrimination against atheists and homosexuals.  This social change issue has caused great concern for the BSA. “Nonprofits have often identified and given visibility to emerging issues and problems that ultimately become the focus of national attention and action (Worth, 2014, p 365)”.

When a nonprofits mission (like the BSA) is based around ethical issues controversy is bound to brew. Much like the issue with race back in the beginning, discrimination as found its way into undermining the good work the BSA does on a daily bases.

Social issues often follow a life cycle. In the beginning there may be inattention to the problem, although it exists. Some event cause the problem to be discovered by individuals and the news media (Worth, 2014, p 365-366)”. Such is the case for the BSA. BSA had policies which prohibited atheist and homosexuals from participating in scouts. In January 2014, BSA lifted their ban on having homosexual youth participate in scouting. It was not until July 27, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board voted to lift the organization’s blanket ban on openly gay leaders and employees. The BSA still takes a similar prohibitive stance toward both children and adults who are atheist citing its “Duty to God” principle (https://en.wikipedia.org).

According to the textbook there are eight stages in the life cycle of a social change issue and BSA finds itself in between the last  three  very critical stages of choosing a course of action, launching initial interventions, and reassessing and redirecting efforts.

As with most nonprofits, funding is the major obstacle nonprofits face and the BSA is no different. Approximately 40% of their operating budget comes from dues, fundraising, corporate sponsors and annual popcorn sales. The other 6o% comes from endowments. In 2008, Boy Scouts of America had $226 million in endowment funds (Worth, 2014, p 351)”. “A healthy endowment is critical for providing a steady source of funding for a variety of purposes, including day-to-day operating expenses, hiring additional staff, and financing improvements to camp facilities. Endowment can also serve as a rainy-day fund to help a council weather tough economic times without having to cut back on services to youth (http://www.scouting.org)”. In wake of all this controversy BSA has lost not only corporate funding but individual funding as well.

“Non Profit management is unique because nonprofit organizations are different from businesses and governmental entities- often reliant on the support of donors and the work of volunteers, pursuing missions derived from values and principals about which there may be disagreement, and engendering a sense of ownership and a desire for influence among multiple constituencies both inside and outside the walls of the organization itself (Worth, 2014, p 6)”. It would appear that the Boys Scouts have a lot of work ahead of them to move from this social issue and back to doing what they do best, encouraging and training boys of today to be the leaders of tomorrow.

 

References:

Boy Scouts of America, 2015.  http://www.scouting.org/

Boy Scouts of America Membership Controversies. 2015 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_membership_controversies

Worth, Michael J (2014).  Nonprofit Management: Principles and Practice 3rd ed.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

 

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