In 2004, the Okefenokee Area Council took 12 months to raise $149,000. In 2007, the Georgia council had raised $267,000 by May 1.
The secret? A fresh approach to fund-raising built around a series of community-oriented Golden Eagle dinners. The council held three such dinners in 2005, added a fourth the following year, and will add two more in 2008. “I call them community celebrations of Scouting,” said Scout Executive Michael Hartigan. “Local people come to a local event chaired by a local person with name recognition.”
Each Golden Eagle dinner showcases Scouting in the community. When guests arrive, they encounter Boy Scouts scaling a portable climbing wall. During dinner, Cub Scouts visit each table, thanking guests for their support. The master of ceremonies, a young Eagle Scout, tells the story of Scouting and solicits pledges.
“You can’t help the cuteness factor,” said Council Commissioner Charles Laurens. “People are going to get out their checkbooks when they see these Cub Scouts.”
Raising more money has let the council improve unit service by filling a long-vacant district executive position and creating a satellite Scout shop. Raising that money faster has let volunteers and professionals focus on other priorities during the rest of the year. “The fact that we aren’t spending the whole year fund-raising has freed up a significant amount of time for us to concentrate on programming and recruiting and all the other things that make the program good,” Laurens said. A good Scouting program has prompted Ed Arnold to be a regular contributor to the operating, capital, and endowment campaigns of the Pennsylvania Dutch Council. So when Arnold announced that he and his wife, Jeanne, wanted to make a new endowment gift, Paul Ware wasn’t surprised.
But the size of the new gift—$11 million—definitely surprised Ware, the council’s endowment chair. “I didn’t originally know they were thinking of something at quite that level,” he said.
The Arnolds wanted income from their gift to support three local councils where their children live. To structure the gift, Ware and Scout Executive Ed Rasmuson relied on support from the BSA National Foundation. “Anything a charity can do to help donors simplify their own planning is a good thing to do,” Ware said.
Focusing on donors’ needs is a hallmark of the council’s fund-raising program, according to Vice President for Development Craig Roda.
For example, the council’s annual Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner offers businesses several sponsorship opportunities. “We’ve created different sponsorship levels to tap into where businesses would like to spend their money so they can get the most out of it,” Roda said.
The dinner includes a unique connection to planned giving. Each year’s dinner committee solicits endowment gifts from individuals who want to pay special tribute to the honoree. At the end of 2007, those gifts totaled $64,250.
The tradition started in 1998 when two donors made endowment gifts in tribute to Cardinal William Keeler, an Eagle Scout from the council and that year’s honoree. One of those donors, not surprisingly, was Ed Arnold.