In a move that surprised New Birth of Freedom Council CEO and Scout Executive Ronald Gardner Jr., the United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County recently decided to drop the local Boy Scouts chapter as a partner agency.
The decision makes the organization ineligible for money from the United Way campaign fund starting this year, though area residents can still donate to the Boy Scouts through the local United Way by requesting their donation be sent to the organization.
According to Debbie Keyser, chair of the local United Way board, the decision stems from an agreement they have with each of their partner agencies.
“They did not comply with our partner agency program agreement,” she said.
Keyser said she would not disclose what was not in compliance, but Gardner ran down the list of reasons, some of which he said may mean the council is unlikely to become a partner agency again.
Gardner said there were several reasons identified as to why the Boy Scouts were found noncompliant with the agreement. Some ranged to small items like needing to send a printed copy of their board minutes instead of an online login while other issues were ones that Gardner felt were basically non-negotiable.
One of the reasons included the local United Way chapter not wanting any of its partner agencies doing any fundraising during a blackout period.
Gardner said that policy is difficult enough to follow since the New Birth of Freedom Council covers six counties and is funded by three United Way chapters, which are all autonomous and don’t all have the same policies.
The reason is particularly hard for the Boy Scouts because United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County’s blackout period happens to coincide with their annual Eagle Scout recognition dinner and fall popcorn sales, Gardner said.
“The Eagle Scout recognition dinner is also a large fundraiser, and it’s annually held the Tuesday before Thanksgiving,” he said. “This started in 1975, and we’ve been doing it ever since. They’ve known about it for years, and this is the first time anybody has ever said we can’t do it.”
Gardner said the popcorn sale, additionally, has been going on since the early ’90s and is annually held in the fall. Like the dinner, he said the popcorn sales have been well known to happen during that time period.
The New Birth of Freedom Council has previously attempted to satisfy arrangements with United Way chapters for black out periods, and Gardner noted he worked with Robert Woods, executive director of United Way of York County, to get a waiver to have the Eagle Scout dinner during that chapter’s blackout period — which the Boy Scouts did receive after waiting two years to do the fundraiser.
Gardner said he didn’t receive a warning about this, but shutting down the annual dinner or popcorn sales in Carlisle was also not an option.
“We try to deal with all of them (United Way chapters), but cutting out a popcorn sale in just Carlisle and Cumberland County is really hard to try to do,” he said. “Our popcorn sales are in excess of $1 million (regionally). The dinner is also a significant fundraiser for us.”
Another reason for United Way’s decision dealt with information the New Birth of Freedom Council annually gives to the United Way chapters, according to Gardner.
Gardner explained every year, the council sends out outcome information, specifically in regard to what the organization does with the funds given to them by the United Way.
“(United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County) wanted more information on the low-income people we serve,” he said.
Gardner said it’s been an ongoing point of discussion with the Carlisle chapter, but he said it’s not information they have.
“We don’t collect income data from our Boy Scouts,” he said. “We know what zip codes they’re from, and we do provide that. We don’t only serve low-income kids.”
Gardner said the council also gives information about how programs are funded, since the scouts themselves don’t directly receive funding from the agency.
He also noted that this problem only occurs with the Carlisle chapter — both the United Way of the Capital Region and the United Way of York County have taken no issue with the outcome reports.
“We’ve never gotten anything but positive feedback from the two United Ways,” he said.
The Carlisle chapter’s decision comes at a tough time for the New Birth of Freedom Council, which is already seeing threats of funding loss from other sources, including the two other United Way chapters.
The United Way of the Capital Region said in August it will not allocate funding from its capital campaign based on the Boy Scout’s policy on homosexuality, which the chapter said was noncompliant with the United Way’s non-discrimination policy. The national Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its position against homosexual troop leaders last year, which prompted the decision. Gardner said that the United Way of York County has likewise said if the policy doesn’t change in the next 2 1/2 years, the chapter will also stop allocating funds.
The national Boy Scouts organization threw out an idea in late January that would put the onus of the decision of inclusion on charter parties, also known as sponsors. However, the idea is not official, and Gardner said it only be until the Boy Scouts have a national meeting in May that a new policy would be discussed.
Even locally, Gardner knows it won’t be an easy issue to settle.
“There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue,” he said. “People tell me if you change it, they’ll pull their kid out of Scouts and won’t donate. On the opposite side, you have the exact same thing. It’s a very, very difficult decision for the Boy Scouts. It’s not as easy as people might think.”
Whatever the reasons the United Way chapters cite, the New Birth of Freedom Council stands to lose a lot of funds.
And compared to what could be lost from the United Way of the Capital Region and the United Way of York County, Gardner said changing the Boy Scouts’ activities for the United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County wouldn’t be worth it.
Gardner estimated the council receives roughly $90,000 from the United Way of the Capital Region, and almost $180,000 from the United Way of York County.
On the other end of the spectrum, for 2013, the council was allocated $4,300 from the United Way of Carlisle & Cumberland County.
That amount is something Gardner called a “steep decline” from previous years. In 2009, the council was allocated $28,372; in 2010, $24,667; in 2009, $19,600; and in 2012, $15,000. The 2013 amount won’t have much of an impact on the council’s budget, Gardner said.
“Our total ... is $3,415,000,” he said. “(What the local United Way offers) is about 1/10 of 1 percent of our budget. People might be surprised of how little is coming from Carlisle.”
Regardless of the amount, however, Gardner said he’s sad to see their relationship with the local chapter end.
“We’ve been part of that United Way for 70-some years,” he said. “Times are different now than they were 70 years ago. That’s just the situation we have, and I can’t see how we can satisfy that.”