Planning for the Future in the Dan Beard Council

Dollars and Sense

Armed with a clear vision of the future and plenty of financial savvy, volunteers are building a tomorrow for the youth of Cincinnati.

Financial contributions from the United Way are on the increase in the Dan Beard Council, thanks to programs like Challenge Camp and highly successful Scouting for Food and Clothing campaigns.

Council Chairman William G. Moll still remembers the standing ovation following the vote for the $14.5 million camp capital campaign at the board meeting in 1997.

"I called for the vote and all hands went up, all voices said 'Aye' and then there was instantaneous applause," Moll recalls. "Here was a group of men and women who had just committed $14.5 million and they were all standing, applauding themselves for it."

Volunteers like Moll, Craig F. Maier, Ron Yocum, and many others say it was one of the proudest moments in their affiliation with Scouting.

For the Dan Beard Council in Cincinnati, the vote symbolized more than a commitment to a project. In essence, it marked the end of a very difficult financial period and the beginning of a new era of progress and financial stability in the council.

But back in 1993 there were no standing ovations. Times were tough. The council labored under significant debt, membership was flat, and fund-raising was in a slump.

As then-Scout Executive David Larkin puts it, "There were plenty of opportunities."

To turn the situation around, Dennis Sullivan, former council chairman, and members of the council's executive board organized what they called a "vision conference" at the Charles L. Sommers High Adventure Base in Ely, Minnesota. Against the rugged backdrop of the canoe base, 18 members of the staff and executive board spent three days poring over every aspect of council operations and discussing the future.

"We had developed an agenda that included a lot of time for play," recalls former council President and Chairman Ron Yocum, "but people got so caught up in the strategic planning that, with the exception of one afternoon, all play was canceled."

The group returned to Cincinnati with a plan for what Moll calls "a balanced assault on the future" with initiatives that included restructuring districts, developing a Boy Scout camp, and overhauling of council finances.

Scout Executive John C. Young, left. Jerry C. Kohlhepp, Peter S. Strange, John C. Young, and Larry Southern are laying a new foundation for Scouting in Cincinnati.

Scout Executive John C. Young, who joined the council in 1997, says much of the success the council has experienced since then has been made possible through proactive financial management and aggressive fund-raising efforts.

According to Finance Director Thomas McDermott, the council has been very fortunate in selecting Friends of Scouting chairs who operate with the philosophy that if you get the right people involved and make the right contacts, you can raise more money in less time. The fact that Friends of Scouting gifts more than doubled in three years - from $560,000 to more than $1.2 million in 1998 - signifies just how important selecting the right volunteers can be.

The accelerated Friends of Scouting giving campaigns have also allowed the council to make great strides in building its endowments. The strategy is simple: The council uses FOS funds to defray costs typically covered by endowment income, then plows that investment income back into its $7.1 million professionally managed portfolio. Young points out that even though the council is using a portion of its endowment revenue for operations, the council still realized a 20 percent return on its investments during 1998.

By selecting a camp location near downtown Cincinnati, the council hopes to energize Scouting in the inner city. "If you're in Scouts to make a difference, you have to address the inner city," says council President Craig F. Maier.

Just as aggressive is the attention the council is paying to cultivating new gifts. Like 33 other councils across the country, the Dan Beard Council has hired a full-time development director to help communicate the benefits of planned giving.

"People are going to give to endowments because they believe in the mission of the Boy Scouts and they want to see it grow," says Development Director Andrew Sparrow. "My role is to educate the public about the opportunities in planned giving."

The council also uses events such as the BSA's traveling exhibit of Scouting art as occasions to recognize contributors and build awareness of programs such as the 1910 Society and James E. West Fellowship. The council received in excess of $250,000 in gifts associated with the last art show.

Financial contributions from the United Way are also on the increase thanks to council programs like Challenge Camp and the highly successful Scouting for Food and Clothing campaigns. The Dan Beard Council has seen three consecutive years of funding increases from the United Way - the largest percentage increase of any of the 128 United Way agencies in Cincinnati. The United Way will provide $1.2 million to the Dan Beard Council in 1999.

Craig F. Maier, Philip S. Present, Peter S. Strange, William G. Moll, and John C. Young examine plans for a new camp that promises to benefit Scouting and the entire Cincinnati area for decades.

Controlling expenditures is critical in maintaining the long-term financial health of any organization. Pat Brown, director of council operations, credits board President Craig Maier with establishing and maintaining financial controls in the council.

"Craig has insisted on very strong control on what is going on financially. He helped sculpt a rock-solid track record in terms of expenditure," says Brown.

Currently, spending guidelines are established during the budgeting process, but the leadership at Dan Beard recognizes the need for even tighter controls. In Maier's view, there is no excuse for any council to be operating at a loss.

"The one thing that this council has taught me is that 'nonprofit' doesn't mean run at a loss. To not be financially sound is a waste of community resources and ultimately a failure to provide the service to the boys," says Maier. "We owe it to those kids to be financially sound."