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Scouts vs. United Way: troops get more money despite furor. (Federated Campaigns).

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) had the constitutional right to determine for itself whether "avowed homosexuals" could serve as leaders of its troops, scouting found itself caught in the midst of a philosophical and financial maelstrom that continues to spin today.

Following the Supreme Court decision that ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts of America in its case against former scout leader James Dale, Boy Scout groups have felt the pressure that led to upward of 50 local United Ways putting anti-discrimination policies in place for member agencies.

Despite the furor, BSA officials estimate the organization actually received 12 percent more in funds through United Ways. And, local Boy Scouts councils have started to evaluate ways of getting their message across to more of the communities served.

Mike Bernhard, the director of field service for the Central Florida Council (CFC), based in Apopka, Fla., just outside Orlando, said that council actually saw a 33.5 percent increase in how much it received through the Heart of Florida United Way -- despite being pulled from the general allocation pool. CFC received nearly $450,000 through the UW, a boost of almost $113,000. "The reason, we think, is that there's a lot of people making a statement," Bernhard said, "that they like the value of scouting."

Whether that commitment and emphasis will remain as the Dale decision and the removal from the UW campaign fall deeper into the past, however, is not guaranteed. "This year it might not be as much, the year after that it might be less," Bernhard acknowledged.

Though the council continues to relay the values of its programs through its newsletter to donors, "keeping them aware that we're good stewards of their money," and keep thanking them for their support, it also decided to put the lion's share of this year's windfall to work immediately.

"We needed funds to expand our Scoutreach program," Bernhard said. "We're using those funds to add a Scoutreach executive," as well as for the uniforms and other equipment the at-risk youths served through the program earn. "People gave us that money to spend to help kids, so that's where we spent it," he said, "simple as that."

Bernhard said that despite the level of coverage the issue got in the Orlando area when the Heart of Florida United Way chose to designate the scouts as its only "contract agency" -- similar to donor designation, in a UW that doesn't offer donors that option.

A decidedly different experience befell the Great Sauk Trail Council of BSA, which covers six counties in and around Ann Arbor, Mich. It lost approximately $100,000 toward its $2.4 million budget. "Only two of 10 United Ways were affected," said Bob Poole, scout executive for the Great Sauk Trail Council. "One was about $7,000, the other was about $94,000."

The Washtenaw (County) United Way in Ann Arbor, the largest UW in the area, fell $300,000 short of its campaign goal in last year's campaign. In addition to the impact of the recession and September 11, the organization's supportive stance toward the Boy Scouts was a major reason for the decline, according to Charlotte Luttrell, marketing director for the organization. "We did lose certain key accounts," she said, noting the Ann Arbor municipal employees account and the public schools.

The organization decided earlier this year to remove the scouts from its campaign. The decision occurred soon after a fire later deemed to be arson destroyed its building. Though an arrest has not yet been made in the case, the February fire is not believed to have been set by someone angry with the Washtenaw UW or the scouts.

The United Ways felt and responded to pressures put on them from workplace campaigns. Poole said he understood the difficulty inherent in the UWs' position, but he questioned the objectives of the employees and groups that pushed the issue. "I don't see them actively involved to serve kids," he said. "They don't seem to care how it hurts kids."

Program growth

BSA programs have grown, with net participation in scouting up 1.7 percent in 2001. "The membership and the participation numbers are up, which is significant given that the enrollment in schools generally is not," said Gregg Shields, BSA's national spokesperson. "We now serve more than 5 million. It's the first time that we've done that."

Scout groups are traditionally funded locally, with the boys paying an annual membership fee that goes to the national to produce the programs, and the local car washes and other fundraisers supporting the troops and packs. "The local council relies on friends of scouting, and that can vary from an annual dinner to a golf outing," Shields said. "It depends greatly on the local economy."

And despite the criticisms it has faced since the 2000 Supreme Court decision, BSA doesn't appear to have any significant policy changes in the offing. Earlier this year, BSA's board announced it had received three resolutions that suggested changes in leadership standards, which would have allowed "avowed homosexuals" to serve as scout leaders.

"The BSA reaffirmed its view that an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that these values cannot be subject to local option choices," the organization stated. "In affirming its existing standards of leadership, the board also agreed that duty to God is not a mere ideal for those choosing to associate with the Boy Scouts of America; it is an obligation, which has defined good character throughout" the organization's history.

Many local governments and corporations declined to allow troops to meet in their buildings. As a result of the dried-up funding stream, scout councils have redirected energies to other traditional fundraising.

Some of the lessons other councils have learned emerged from an early battleground on the scout funding issue. The San Francisco Bay Area Council of the Boy Scouts has not been part of the local UW's campaign for upwards of a decade, though it does still receive donor-designated gifts.

Michael Dybeck, director of field service for the council, said it increased its community campaigns to weather the revenue loss. "We made ourselves more active in the community, working with individuals and foundations to spread the message about what the San Francisco council does."

He said it has been able to grow significantly in spite of the loss of UW campaign allocations. "I think the lesson a council needs to learn from losing United Way funding and any source of significant revenue ... is to be able to adapt to their community and be aware of what they're doing and benefiting their community through youth service programs."

Dybeck noted that UW funding for Boy Scouts -- and other groups -- has changed significantly and often since the early 1990s. He said the council has been able to garner corporate and foundation support by emphasizing that the leadership skills youth learn through the program will help the community as they enter the workforce years in the future.

"We were the first (United Way) in the nation to cease funding (to the Boy Scouts)," said Christine Boyle, spokesperson for the UW of the Bay Area in San Francisco. "We shy away from people who discriminate."

Boyle said the UW has very little contact with the local scout groups, and she's surprised how many people from around the country voice their support and anger for its long-standing position. "We still on a daily basis get barraged with emails, phone calls," Boyle said.

The Boston Minuteman Council also saw a change in its relationship with United Way, but it initiated the change. Carmen Fields, spokesperson for the UW of Massachusetts Bay (UWMB) in Boston, said the local Scout council approached the UW about dropping them from the campaign. "It was in reaction to their request that our funding arrangement change," she said, "recognizing that they were incongruent with our standards of affiliation."

While respecting all donor designations, UWMB now directs funding toward the Learning For Life (LFL) program. When it was defunded, the local council lost the $240,000 that it had been receiving from the UWMB. With the LFL program now the focus of UW allocations, it will receive $168,000 for the coming fiscal year. "But (LEL) were never funded to the same extent the scouts were," Fields said.

For its part, the Boston council, which includes 27 towns adjacent to the city, is focusing its attention elsewhere, looking to expand its endowment, which currently stands at approximately $4.5 million, and other capital projects. "We just employed a new development director to focus on expanding the endowment," said Brock Bigsby, council spokesperson. "We're in the process of putting together a comprehensive plan for that" and it's in the midst of a feasibility study.

The council is already in the quiet phase of a capital campaign for camp enhancements, said Bigsby, who expects the public launch in the fall.

When it comes to the council's annual revenues, he said it is sticking to traditional approaches. "We're just trying to be more effective at what we've traditionally done," he said.
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Article Details
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Author:Sinclair, Matthew
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 15, 2002
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