The local Boy Scouts are bringing their fundraising into the 21st century, and if the new method works it could become the 100-year old organization's nationwide model.
The new program, Buy Local with the Boy Scouts, is similar to Groupon but with a twist: 70 percent of collected fees go to the Scouts. If successful, its creators hope to benefit not only local troops and packs, but residents and businesses with deals and exposure.
Breckenridge Troop 187 assistant scoutmaster Chris John calls the model a "triple win."
John, an entrepreneur, says his passion is "leadership development and finding solutions for problems." He knew the old method just wasn't working. So, he and a friend thought up the initiative and brought it to the troop's district executive.
They got the go-ahead to bring a three-month pilot program to four communities: Breckenridge, Steamboat, Eagle and Glenwood Springs. The experiment starts Nov.1, with results being reported to national headquarters afterwards.
"If this thing grows it could go national, which could mean a lot to the Boy Scouts," Wayne Nelson, the group's district chairman said. "It could mean a lot to those units that are struggling."
"Scouting traditionally has raised money through something called a Friends of Scouting campaign. It's essentially asking for donations," said.
While the can-rattling was successful in the past, in a flat economy, "it hasn't worked very well," especially in Summit County.
"We're a small business community, but in a down economy, that's really exacerbated," he said. "Local troops in Colorado have struggled to find enough money for programs."
Breckenridge's Scouts are part of a larger "council," which stretches from the Utah border to the Continental Divide. Its total annual budget is $450,000.
"The only way to balance their budget is by not giving raises and by laying people off. It's hard. They're essentially suffering from 1,000 little cuts," John said.
By contrast, Denver has its own Boy Scout council with a budget of $8.5 million.
Here's how it works: 10 local businesses buy into an email each week, two can buy a text message. Companies choose to advertise whatever deals they want, and locals sign up to receive the notifications. Every week, subscribers receive one email and two texts.
The fees a business pays depend on the number of subscribers, but John says they're fairly inexpensive. If there are 600 subscribers, it's $12 for the email and $60 for the text. But because 70 percent of the fees go to the Scouts, $8.40 of the cost for that particular email and $42 of the text would be going to things like programming, equipment and badges.
But there are some restrictions: All ads must conform to Boy Scout standards. That means no alcohol, no cigarettes and no marijuana.
While the John is looking for both businesses and local subscribers to sign up, one of the biggest things he wants is feedback.
"We want to know if we're meeting our objectives: Are we helping businesses, are we helping families? We're trying to apply business principals to the nonprofit," he said. Anytime you start a new enterprise, you really want strong customer feedback as to what works and what doesn't."
The program is an opportunity for the Scouts to give back to the businesses and residents who have always supported them; "give them something for their money," Nelson said.
"The potential behind this to help the Boy Scouts is enormous," John added.
To help the program succeed, the Boy Scouts need subscribers. To sign up, go to www.reachpeople.com/scoutsofbreckenridge. For more information about business advertising, contact John at (512) 657-0981, or Nelson at (970) 376-5848.