How to ensure payment in money-earning projects

What do you do when a Scout sells popcorn, but his parents don’t turn in the money? Scouter D.S. is facing this sticky situation and asked for advice. Our readers weigh in, below.

We emphasize and repeat the following during the entire popcorn sale: “Any popcorn ordered is the responsibility of the Scout and his family to purchase once the order is placed. This includes popcorn that is purchased where a bounced check is received from the purchaser. To help your Scout, we recommend collecting all monies at the time of the order. Therefore, any and all popcorn checks will have cleared prior to popcorn distribution.”

If a popcorn check bounces, our pack will try to help the Scout by selling that popcorn at a pack site sale. However, we don’t usually advertise this to keep the amount of unsold popcorn to a minimum.

Pack Advancement Chair C.H.
Carlisle, Pa.

We turn the names into our Scout Council office, and its attorneys take care of it.

District Popcorn Chairman P.S.
Fort Pierre, S.D.

We’ve had this happen a few times. We have the popcorn chairperson contact the family directly and find out the reason. Sometimes, it’s as easy as setting up a meeting point. In rare circumstances, we’ve had to make other arrangements. Once, a dad took off and left a mother and son with no money. We made arrangements for her to pay it back over time. We never involve the Scout in those meetings. They’re handled as a business transaction.

Cubmaster J.W.
LaPorte, Ind.

In four years as popcorn chairperson, I’d never encountered this until last year. A family would not return e-mails or phone calls. We knew that the family had financial problems, and we were more than willing to eat the costs. But they wouldn’t talk to us. We finally came to a decision as a committee that the Scouts could no longer participate with the pack until the debt was paid. Unfortunately, they never paid, and their Scouts missed out on advancement.

Cubmaster T.H.
Springfield, Ill.

Do not deliver their popcorn. Sell it to other units or clear it through show-and-sells. You cannot damage the unit’s finances because of a few families who are using your product to float themselves a loan. The non-delivery is between the family in question and their customers.

The challenge is that it’s too late at this point. We require that all funds be submitted at the time order sheets are turned in, which allows us to post the deposits and clear them before ordering. We also require only one check per Scout. This means that customers pay the Scout, who pays the pack.

Pack Treasurer D.E.
Roswell, Ga.

We have had this problem twice in the past five years—once with a positive outcome and once with a not-so-positive outcome. In both cases, the boys were from single parents who needed the money to pay their personal bills. Multiple phone calls and e-mails were made offering to let them pay back the pack in installments. The first family was able to pay the pack back by recharter. With the second, we weren’t able to recover the funds. The parent would not return phone calls or e-mails. As a pack committee, we decided not to recharter the boy.

Cubmaster M.G.
Brighton, Colo.


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  1. I’ve been in scouting for 30 plus yrs. and am appaulled to see and hear that parents do this; however when it happens its time to get the law enforcement agency involved. They have not only stolen from the customer, but the scouting unit as well.

  2. I know that some people might have financial difficulties especially now but that’s still no reason for a parent to steal from their kids fund raiser event, I mean really, that is just wrong on so many levels.

  3. What is BSA’s stance on this or do they leave it up to individual Councils to come up with a policy? Packs and Troops should not eat up the loss because of some bad apples, but there is no clear guidance as to what to do or how to prevent this from happening? Can we legally require parents to write a deposit for the amount of popcorn given to them?

  4. cash only up front before order is placed. checks can be written to scouts and cashed by scouts parents.just like girls scouts and cookies.

  5. We encourage Scouts to recieve checks written out to the Troop, not to the Scout’s parents. This avoids the potential for parents recieving funds to misuse the funds. Payment is turned in before popcorn is delivered, so orders not paid (or bounced) do not get delivered.

  6. We have our scouts collect / pre-pay all door-to-door sales as well as have all checks made out to the unit. This helps but we have also had the problem of a scouts family eating all of the product. The solution to this was to have the scouts hand out small cards stating when the popcorn will be delivered and a contact number for the customer to call if the order is late. This way the unit knows early on if there is potential for a problem. My best suggestion is to hold unit show and sells; it make everything easier for everyone.

    Scoutmaster S.T.
    Duluth, MN

  7. I can completely understand the question posed here, it’s good to get ideas on how to handle it. However, I have to say that reading some of these suggestions makes me want to never participate in a fundraiser again, with all the talk of “turn them into the police”, “let the scout office attorneys take care of it”, and the supposedly generous offer to let the mother whose husband had just left her with no money pay it back over time. I think your options in something like this are to require payment upfront, and worse case scenario, the boy doesn’t get to continue participating. It’s popcorn, for heavens sake.

  8. Our pack has had this happen three years in a row. The popcorn chair has always said it was not worth the effort to collect the money owed. It is considered conversion if you take the product and never return it or the money. This year our committee decided to file a police report. The Police will give the parent the choice to pay the money or face a criminal charge of theft.

  9. Our pack had that problem a few years ago check from parents $200.00 bounced. Told Dad Son would not receive arrow of light award til paid. Took a year sad part saw Dad in drive thru at McDonald’s He did pay a week before Blue and Gold.

  10. There are ways to PREVENT this from happening such as ensuring the funds are in the unit’s hands before placing orders or having the Unit fundraising chair along for “show and sells” but I’m stunned with the callous suggestions so far. This is a Scouting program to help the youth pay their way. Lets not lose sight of the other victims here: the innocent children of the parents that through desperation or simple criminality, have lowered themselves to the level of robbing scouts including their own sons. Whatever the cure, lets not forget the kid who will wear that shame for the rest of his childhood. I have seen other parents generously pay from my own pocket to cover the loss caused by this kind of thing to save some other child from embarrassment and shame and keep him in the scouting program. That’s the point of fundraising after all! You may not be able to choose your family but maybe we can all help that kid to rise above.

  11. For the parents that think that it is wrong to go after parents that steal money from the Pack have never been responsible for the fundraiser in the first place. Yes the Pack might sell a lot of popcorn but the Pack doesn’t make a lot of money on it. If one parent steals the money then they pretty much take all the profit that the Pack made. So they steal pretty much all the money from all the Scouts in the group. I don’t think that is fair. When I took over the Pack the popcorn kennel had took all of the Packs profit from the popcorn fundraiser. My Pack had zero money and we still had to pay the council. So don’t tell me about how Scouts need to take care of other Scout parents. Just because there is a Wolf rank don’t mean we need to be sheep for those parents. Cub Master in North Dakota

  12. We had a case where we got a phone call from someone saying they had ordered and paid. The scout never turned in the order and money they had collected. When we dug in there were several hundred dollars worth of orders we didn’t know about. Our council has not provisions for this, and we wound up having to go to the police. Unfortunately since the order never came to us, the individuals who had been ‘robbed’ had to press charges. We had to do some damage control as we live in a small town, and rumors we weren’t delivering our orders.

  13. Pre-payment clearly is preferred way to go. Cash those checks soon! If someone stole $600 from your purse or wallet, would you consider it theft? Sure, people have financial hardships but not turning in money is still theft.

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