Scouts may be thrifty, but some leaders are well paid

Many professional Scouters earn 6-figure salaries across the U.S.

Published: Sunday, Nov. 11 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

The councils in Orem, Salt Lake City and Ogden rank No. 1, 2 and 4 respectively nationally in how many youths are enrolled in traditional Cubs, Boy Scouts, Varsity and Venturing programs. (However, other councils rank higher in total youths served because of in-school programs that have relatively little following in Utah.)

Another big difference is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has chosen to make Scouting its activity arm for young males. So virtually every congregation sponsors Scout groups. The church also "calls" or appoints leaders, who tend to rotate every two years or so, creating more need for training here than elsewhere, officials say.

Dave Ricks, volunteer president of the Trapper Trails Council, said that in other places nationally, once Scout leaders are trained they tend to stay in Scouting for life. But in Utah, where LDS callings change regularly, "training is constant," putting a heavy load on executives here.

Paid well

Not just the top officials at Utah's Scout councils are paid well. Many others at those councils are, too.

The Great Salt Lake Council, for example, ranks No. 2 nationally for how many of its executives earn more than $50,000 a year. It lists 23. Only the Greater New York City Council has more, 40, and the National Capitol Area Council around Washington, D.C., ties with the Salt Lake council.

The council in Orem ties for 10th in the nation, with 14 employees making more than $50,000 a year, and the council in Ogden ties for 68th with five, according to 2005 data (although Barnes says it now has 13 who make more than $50,000).

Moore says so many are well paid in his council because many have long tenure. The starting salary nationally for new, entry-level Scout executives is $36,700, and the post requires a bachelor's degree. Moore says considering that starting point, "you see that anybody who has been with the organization 10 years or so are going to be up there."

He adds, "We have people of long tenure. And our typical district executive serves 200 to 300 units, and 3,000 to 5,000 youth members in our program. The national numbers for that are about 1,500 youths and 100 or fewer units."

He said a smaller staff that is more experienced and highly compensated accomplishes as much as a bigger group with more entry-level people.

Scott Baird, volunteer president of the Utah National Parks Council in Orem, said, "I wish that we had more that we were paying above $50,000 because it would reflect greater maturity and experience" and would help prevent them from leaving to other more lucrative Scout jobs elsewhere.

He said in local board meetings where salaries are discussed, "I've never had a single person in all of those budget meetings ... say, 'Are we paying our professionals too much?' We had several

who said, 'Are we paying our professionals well enough to attract good people and to keep them?'

"That's an indicator to me that not only are we paying fair compensation, but it is the desire of our constituency to do so," he said.

Baird adds, "We do some bad things to our professionals. ... We kill them; we overwork them. Nationwide, an average unit-serving executive would serve on the high side maybe 50 to 60 units. In the Utah National Parks Council, it is 200-plus units."

Of note, councils nationally of sizes similar to those in Utah (according to BSA rankings) average 12 employees making more than $50,000 a year. The average among all 293 councils for whom Forms 990 could be located was just two employees earning more than that amount.

By comparison

Professional Scouting appears to be one of the better-paying occupations in Utah.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reports that the highest average salary for any occupation it surveys is $193,960 annually for obstetricians/gynecologists. Moore's 2005 compensation (salary and benefits) was higher at $201,000 (and is currently $214,000).

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