Organization of the Boy Scouts of America

This is my understanding of how the BSA is organized. I have created this page because of the number of questions Scouters have left on Usenet news groups. If I have made any errors, please let me know. If you would like to know for sure if any of this information is accurate, please go to your local council and ask for the official BSA literature on this subject. I hope you find the information on this page useful.

- Bill Nelson

Except for necessary professional and administrative personnel, Boy Scouting from top to bottom is conducted by adult volunteers. They receive no compensation or material reward of any kind.

Boy Scouting is actually owned by the National Councilof the Boy Scouts of America. It was incorporated on February 8, 1910, and chartered by Congress in 1916 . In the Report of The House Committee on the Judiciary in support of the Act, Congress stated:

"The Boy Scout movement is ... intended to supplement and enlarge established modern educational facilities in activities in the great and healthful out of doors where may be the better developed physical strength and endurance, self-reliance, and the powers of initiative and resourcefulness, all for the purpose of establishing through the boys of today the very highest type of American citizenship. It tends to conserve the moral, intellectual, and physical life of the coming generation, and in its immediate results does much to reduce the problem of juvenile delinquency in the cities...The importance and magnitude of its work is such as to entitle it to recognition and its work and insignia to protection by Federal incorporation. The Scout scheme is based upon the methods involved in educating the boy. It is a scheme of placing the boy on honor. In addition to requiring him to live up to a standard or code of laws which insure development of character along proper lines, it requires him to study in order to pass certain tests of qualification. The passing of these various tests ~ is recognized by the award of appropriate badges or medals and insignia."

Boy Scouting was modeled after the Scouting movement founded by Lord Robert S. S. Baden-Powell in England in 1908.

The National Council is led by a volunteer board of directors, the National Executive Board. The administration is performed by a staff of professional Scouters.

Among its major functions, the National Council develops program; sets and maintains quality standards in training, leadership selection, uniforming, registration records, literature development, and advancement requirements; and publishes Boys' Life and Scouting magazines.

BSA Org Chart

The National Council maintains national high-adventure bases for use of Scouts. The bases are in Minnesota, Florida, and New Mexico. It also organizes a national Scout Jamboree every 4 years.

The National Council is funded from membership dues, corporate sponsors, and special events.

It is a not-for-profit private corporation.

The National Council is comprised of the following members:

  • All members of its Executive Board
  • Members of the Regional Executive Committee
  • Local Council Representatives (president and council commissioner plus an additional member for every 5,000 youth members)
  • Members at large elected by the National Council for 1 year terms
  • Honorary (non-voting) members as elected by the National Council for 1 year terms.

It meets annually at the call of its Executive Board for the reception of reports of various officers and committees and to elect members both at large and honorary as well as to transact such business as presented by the Executive Board.

Its officers include a President, Executive Vice-President, one or more Vice Presidents, Treasurer and Assistant Treasurers, the National Commissioner (who is the chief morale officer and who represents BSA in national affairs); the International Commissioner (who represents BSA in international affairs) and the Chief Scout Executive who is designated as "the chief executive officer of the Corporation and shall have general direction of the administrative work of the corporation". He is required to prepare an annual report of BSA to transmit it to Congress and to present it to the annual meeting of the National Council.

The Executive Board is the governing body of BSA. Members (not to exceed 64) are elected for 1 year terms at the annual meeting of the National Council. Regional presidents are ex officio members of the Board. The chairman of the Advisory Council (to the Executive Board) and chairman of the Board of Regents of the National Eagle Scout Association, are likewise ex-officio members. Up to five registered Youth Members from around the nation may be appointed by the President with approval of the Board to a one year term. Regular meetings of the Board occur three times each year.

The Executive Committee of the Board consists of the President of the Board, the executive vice president, the vice presidents, Regional presidents, the international commissioner, the national commissioner, the treasurer, the assistant treasurers, the Chairman of the support committee of the Executive Board, Chairman of the Advisory Council, the Chief Scout Executive and the immediate past-President.

It meets at the call of the President and may exercise all the powers of the Executive Board during the intervals between Board meetings.

Various Standing Committees of the Board are provided for, to wit: Support, Nominating, Audit, Finance and Contract Review.

An Advisory Council to the Board also exists. It is large in number consisting of the National Council together with "United States citizens who, because of experience, have a particular expertise that would benefit the national movement." Those members have no specified term. They are elected by the Board. The chairman of the Advisory Council is appointed by the President of the Board and serves a term of 1 year. One annual meeting of the Advisory Council is mandatory. It advises "on matters of major national concern."

All are volunteers except for the National Commissioner, International Commissioner and Chief Scout Executive.

For ease in administration the Executive Board divides up the United States into various regions. Each region is subject to governance of the Regional Committee (composed of members of the National Council residing in the region plus youth members as appointed by the regional president). Each region must implement national BSA policy and program. The Regional Committee must meet once a year.

A Regional Board exercises the authority and responsibility of the Regional Committee whenever the Regional Committee is not in session. Its membership consists of the Regional Executive Committee, the regional vice-presidents plus not more than 50-members at large elected annually by the Regional Committee. The-Regional Board may also have up to five youth members with one year terms appointed by the regional president. The Board must meet annually to plan events and activities for the region and to train members of the various standing committees. All of its members are volunteers.

The Regional Executive Committee conducts the affairs of Scouting in the region on a day to day basis in conformity with regional committee and board policy. It consists of the regional president and vice-president, area presidents, chairmen of the regional standing committees and the regional director. The last 'named person serves as secretary of the Regional Committee, the Regional Board, the executive committee of the Board and the Standing Committees.

The various regions are then geographically subdivided into areas governed by an Area Committee. Each area committee includes its executive committee (composed of the president, area vice-president(s) and various committee chairmen of standing committees), the regional council president and National Council members residing in the area. They, too, are all

The National Council does not attempt to administer directly the more than 150,000 registered Boy Scout units (troops, packs, venturing crews, etc.). To achieve this, each year, the National Council issues a charter to an autonomous organization called a local council. The United States and its territories is divided into local councils. Local councils are usually not-for-profit private corporations registered within the State in which they are headquartered.

Since they are autonomous corporations they may administer any program they wish. Local councils petition the National Council and are issued a charter each year to administer the BSA program in their area. To qualify for a charter they must adhere to certain program, financial and accounting standards. Local councils are privately funded and are not financially linked to the National Council or local units. Funding comes from donations, corporate sponsors, and special events.

Each council has a headquarters city from which it administers the Scouting program within its geographical boundaries. Like the National Council, the local council is led by volunteers, with administration performed by a staff of professional Scouters. The Council President is the top volunteer; the Scout Executive is the top professional.

The local council's responsibilities include:

  • Promoting the Scouting program
  • Registration of units and council personnel
  • Providing facilities and leadership for a year-round outdoor program, including summer camp.
  • To insure that each Local Unit (i.e. a Boy Scout Troop or Cub Pack) within its territorial area carries out the general principles of advancement in Scouting
  • To insure the integrity of the merit badge requirements for advancement in scouting
  • To make Scout training available to the Local Units and community groups using the Scouting program
  • To provide adequate leadership and leadership training for the Local Units
  • To insure that standards in Scout policies, badges-and insignia are protected
  • To insure that adequate financing exists for the support of the Local Units.

Local Councils report to Regional Councils on finances, scouting membership, numbers of scouts attending camps and on their review of charter renewal applications for the Troops and Packs. The Regional Council in turn reports to the National Council, BSA.

Membership of the Local Council (minimum age 21) is made up of one representative from each of the chartered local units within its jurisdiction, together with representatives at large from various business, civil, educational, labor, social and religious interests in the community. A minimum membership of 100 adults is required. Each year the members elect 25 to 50 of their number to serve as the local council executive board which is the governing body responsible for the council's operations and assets. Officers consist of a president, one or more vice-presidents and a treasurer. The executive board may also (and usually does) elect a President (volunteer) and a Council Executive (a paid employee).

A Scouting district is an optional geographical area within the local council, as determined by the council executive board. District leaders mobilize resources to ensure the growth and success of Scouting units within the district's territory.

Members of the district committee are volunteers. The district trains adult volunteers, provides district programs for units such as camporees, and Scouting shows, assists in the formation of new units, and helps coordinate the annual giving campaign.

The district committee also provides the unit with a unit commissioner. The unit commissioner gives direct coaching and consultation to the unit committee and other adult leaders.

The volunteers on the district committee can be a helpful resource to the unit committee. Call upon their guidance when needed.

The Scouting professional who provides district service is the district executive. He can be very helpful in showing the unit committee how to accomplish the unit's program goals.

The unit is owned and run by a sponsoring group called a chartered organization. The chartered organization receives a national charter yearly to use the Scouting program as a part of its youth work. The local council helps the chartered organization understand the program, however it is the chartered organization's program and is part of the chartered organizations youth work. These groups, which have goals compatible with those of the Boy Scouts of America, include religious, educational, community groups, fraternal, business, labor, and professional associations.

Each chartered organization using the Scouting program provides a meeting place, selects a Scoutmaster, approves the unit adult leadership, appoints a unit committee of at least three adults, and chooses a chartered organization representative.

The leadership structure and makeup of each unit are spelled out in the BSA Rules and Regulations. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Varsity Teams are for boys. Venturing is for young men and young women. A volunteer adult member (e.g., Scoutmaster) heads the Troop (Pack, etc.). They are assisted by other volunteer adult members (e.g. Assistant Scoutmasters) who attend, guide and instruct at the meetings of the Patrols (Dens, Teams).

A Local Unit is directly chartered to the sponsoring group by the Executive Board of the BSA based on a favorable recommendation from the Local Council. Once a Charter is granted, it is subject to revocation by the Executive Board in the exercise of its sole judgment. In most instances, charters are issued to existing organizations (church, civic, etc.). In some instances a charter may issue to a unit of interested and qualified citizens formed specifically for that purpose. In either case (existing organization or community unit) the applicant is obliged "to provide adequate facilities, supervision and leadership for a period of at least one year and to make an effort to provide youth members with an opportunity for a quality program experience as set forth in the official literature of the BSA.

Active adult leadership is required for each pack, troop, varsity scout team and venturing crew. Using the Scout Troop as an example (the requirements are similar for each) the leadership consists of the three members of the unit committee plus a Scoutmaster and the assistant Scoutmaster(s). Collectively they are known as the unit Scouters. All must be recommended by the Local Council and then approved, commissioned and registered as adult members by BSA. Commissions of Scoutmasters and assistant scoutmasters are issued on an annual basis.

The chartered organization representative is the liaison with the unit's sponsor. As a member of the chartered organization, that person will know the most effective ways to get the organization's assistance and maintain a mutually satisfactory working relationship with the chartered organization.

The chartered organization representative:

  • Is a member of the charter organization
  • Serves as head of the "Scouting department" in the organization
  • Secures a unit committee chairman and encourages training
  • Maintains a close liaison with the unit committee chairman
  • Helps recruit other adult leaders
  • Serves as liaison between the unit and the chartered organization
  • Assists with unit rechartering
  • Encourages service to the organization
  • Is an active and involved member of the district committee and the local council

Each local unit must be under the supervision of a unit committee consisting of three or more qualified adults (at least 21 years old) selected by the chartered organization. For each Pack, Troop, Varsity Scout team or Venturing Crew there must be one adult who registers and serves as the unit leader. That person must be approved by and registered with the Local Council.

The unit committee's primary responsibilities are supporting the Unit Leader (Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, etc.) in delivering a quality unit program, and helping unit administration. As the unit committee works on behalf of the chartered organization, the unit must be operated within the organization's policies.

In the chartered organization relationship, the Boy Scouts of America provides the program and support services, and the chartered organization provides the adult leadership and uses the program to accomplish its goals for youth. A review of the Chartered Organization Fast Start video and the viewer's guide will prove helpful in understanding this relationship.

Ref: Troop Committee Guidebook, BSA; Cub Scout Leader Book; The Chartered Organization Representative; Chartered Organization Fast Start Video and Viewer's Guide.

See also: Official BSA on-line Web Site, BSA Description and History and the Federal Charter

Unit Organization

Page updated on: May 02, 2013

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