Financial Development

William Flippin, sitting, and Hawk Mountain Council Scout Executive Richard Bennett, right, talk with Scouts in the studio where the council produces its monthly community television program, "Scouting Perspective." Flippin is publisher of the Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle.

"A well-oiled machine that's fun to be a part of" is how Vice President of Finance Ray Melcher describes the Hawk Mountain Council of Reading, Pennsylvania. Keeping its processes running smoothly and making volunteer involvement enjoyable has paid off: the council has increased revenue annually in every area of financial support. This success comes from remarkable commitment to a recent capital campaign, time-proven Friends of Scouting (FOS) fund-raising methods, and innovative ways the council reaches out to the community.

A Quality Council for 12 consecutive years, the council recently completed over $1 million in capital improvements to Hawk Mountain Scout Reservation. Outstanding volunteer resolve was a significant contributor to this achievement. Co-chairs of the capital campaign, Jim Burton and Brian Rich, covered all expenses, and the executive board donated more than 50 percent of the overall goal. This kind of dedication is not uncommon. According to Melcher, "the council has established a strong heritage, which has led to incredible stability of staff and volunteer leadership."

In July 2002, the Hawk Mountain Council dedicated the Paul R. Roedel Science and Technology Center at Hawk Mountain Scout Reservation as part of its overall capital campaign. The center features a planetarium, a 150-capacity grand hall, a 20-computer communications center, and an energy room for work on the Computers, Electricity, Energy, and Atomic Energy merit badges. Accommodating as many as 45 Scouts, the planetarium is used by both the Cub Scout day camp and Boy Scout camp for astronomy instruction. The center was named for former council President and Carpenter Technology Chief Executive Officer Roedel. It was made possible by funding from the Wyomissing Foundation, plus others who sponsored the center's four rooms. Other fruits of the council's successful capital campaign include a new swimming pool, chapel, and central wastewater treatment plant at the reservation.

Since 35 percent of its budget is met with project sales and FOS donations, the council has put practices in place to ensure the FOS campaign's success. One method is the "Rule of Five," by which volunteers are assigned no more than five individuals to solicit for participation and funds. Another proven process is to recruit chairpeople three to five years in advance to guarantee optimal fund-raising dinners and other related campaigns.

Three annual major dinners anchor the council's FOS fund-raising. In 2002, its Leadership Dinner had 800 attendees and raised over $250,000, an amount consistently brought in by this event for the past eight years. Although new attendees are invited each year, according to past council President Andy Maier II, "People get into the habit of coming to the dinners. We have repeaters who have been coming for over 20 years."

Maier credits much of the community interest in the dinners to the variety of featured speakers. Legendary coach Don Shula was the 2002 Leadership Dinner's keynote speaker, and the 2002 Good Scout Dinner featured Medal of Honor recipient James Burt. Additionally, highlights of the Scouting-related presentation are statements from an Eagle Scout and a female Venturer. "Sometimes predictable, sometimes unpredictable, the speakers are always inspiring and riveting," Maier remarks.

The council promotes fund-raising through other innovative outlets, including its monthly community television program, "Scouting Perspective." Broadcast on three cable channels, the live call-in show is hosted and produced by Scout Executive Richard Bennett. The council's marketing committee helps develop program messaging, and Scouts and leaders discuss topics such as camping, high adventure, urban Scouting, and history of the organization. According to Bennett, "The show helps promote fund-raisers and sells Scouting to the community."

Chief Juvenile Officer Chad Campbell, Scout Executive Fred Meijering, and Judge P. K. Robb, left to right.

A major 2002 financial achievement for the Pony Express Council involved the launch of its innovative Juvenile Diversion Program. A joint effort of the council, 5th Judicial Circuit Court, and the Buchanan County Juvenile Office, the program offers a positive alternative to courts for first-time misdemeanor offenders. The six-month program involves youth in community service and meetings addressing topics such as self-image, conflict resolution, and goal setting. When Scout Executive Fred Meijering proposed the program, the court not only accepted his proposal but also chose to fully fund the program. According to Chief Juvenile Officer Chad Campbell, "The court opted to do so because there isn't a better partner than the Scouts for taking a strength-based approach with juvenile offenders. The program also allows for input on the juvenile system from a different array of people, which makes for a better community."

In its financial development success, Melcher says "the council is a model for how a nonprofit should run its business. Part of this is because the council never rests on its laurels—our zest and zeal never let up, and we work harder each year."

Hard work has also resulted in financial development success for the Pony Express Council of St. Joseph, Missouri. The council recently concluded phase one of its most aggressive capital campaign ever, as well as making significant financial achievements in its FOS campaign and United Way relationship.

Bill McMurray, capital campaign chair, states that several factors contributed to making the council's 2002 campaign its most successful in terms of the amount raised within a short time. "Excellent volunteers with a lot of fund-raising experience, a board of directors who led by example and donated an amount in the six figures, loyalty to Camp Geiger, and the state of Missouri made it happen."

The Vision Adventure Capital Campaign's purpose is to make improvements to Camp Geiger, which was founded in 1935 and where Project COPE began. McMurray discovered that loyalty to the camp and the Tribe of Mic-O-Say (the council's equivalent of the Order of the Arrow) translated into financial support. "Many Scouts who attend camp are led by adults who went to Camp Geiger or are Mic-O-Say tribesmen. One tribesman who's on the campaign cabinet is even from outside the council."

Another factor that helped the council raise substantial funds was Missouri's Neighborhood Assistance Program Tax Credits. After meeting the state's stringent requirements and submitting a proposal, the council received the award for the 2002?2003 fiscal year from Governor Bob Holden. The state's Department of Economic Development encourages assistance with worthy causes by promoting tax credits for contributing companies. With the program, contributors can use 50 percent of their donation as credit against any taxes owed to the state. The contribution also receives full federal tax consideration. Partially as a result of this incentive, the council has raised close to $1 million in less than one year.

Scout Alex Bartlett, left, reviews the intricacies of climbing gear with Pony Express Council FOS Chair Clark Hampton, center, and capital campaign Chair Bill McMurray.

The council's financial development success is also evident in its FOS efforts. By removing "dead spaces" in the campaign calendar, the council has compressed the campaign to five months from 12 months in duration. FOS Chair Clark Hampton reports that "everybody's happy with the shorter campaign. We also try not to have too many meetings; some people drive as many as 80 miles for them." Additionally, the council places emphasis on verifying prospect pledge cards and ensuring that the "right person calls the right person." Hampton stresses that familiarity and mutual respect between caller and potential donor promote giving.

The council's steady relationship with the United Way has also contributed to its financial strength. The United Way has increased annual funding by an average of 3 percent each year, with its most recent contribution being $132,000. Collaboration and shared leadership take the council's relationship with the United Way well beyond the financial arena. According to local United Way Director Barbara Wurtzler, "To be a real community, people must look beyond their own organization and share resources and ideas. We see our relationship with the council as part of our responsibility to work with partner agencies to help kids succeed."