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Learning for Life--The Cash Cow That Keeps Giving...and Giving: L4L Accounts for Half of the Income of the Boy Scouts of America

February 10, 2006

I have briefly researched the Learning for Life (L4L) program of the BSA. The results are summarized below. The absolute bottom line is L4L accounts for at least half of the income for the BSA. In terms of numbers, L4L participants account for 35% of all youth that participate in programs sponsored by the BSA.

Introduction to the Learning for Life Program

The BSA first introduced the L4L program in 1991 as a means of reaching primarily inner-city youth who were not likely to be involved in traditional Scouting. The program is primarily a classroom-based program for kindergarten through high school aged youth. It uses age-appropriate, grade-specific lesson plans that are intended to supplement the traditional curriculum. The program deals with nine areas of development: respect, honesty, caring, perseverance, self-discipline, courage, citizenship, life skills and responsibility.

One Organization--Two Divisions (and Two Membership Policies)

Today's national BSA consists of two divisions:
Traditional Scouting (Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venture Scouts)
Learning for Life/Exploring (a wholly-owned subsidiary)
All fees paid to either division actually go to the national BSA organization. In other words, there are two divisions, but only one pocket. L4L operates out of "300 local offices" across the U.S. These are in fact local Council Offices of the 300 councils across the country. These facts were reported by Lambda Legal on their Web site.

According to the policies of the BSA, gays and atheists cannot be members of the Traditional Scouting program. According to the official Learning for Life Web site ( L4L is open to all youth without regard for race, creed, religion or sexual preference. The latter represents a change in policy from a couple of years ago.

Implications of the "New" L4L Student Enrollment Policy for Fund Raising and Sales

As you can imagine, this change in enrollment policy has had a profound impact on the attractiveness of the L4L program on both fund raising and on program sales. From a fund raising perspective, the BSA can now "advertise" that it offers programs that benefit disadvantaged youth and that are completely free from discrimination. This appears to be the pitch that the BSA is feeding to local United Way chapters. According to, the BSAnowapproaches UnitedWay chapters with the claim that they arenot seeking funds for Traditional Scouting. In stead they are looking for support for "other programs" thatdeal with at-risk youth with special needs. That's the very definition of L4L. Supposedly, about half of the United Way chapters that dumped the BSA after the Dale vs. BSA case have returned to support L4L programs.

This is all very convenient.United Way cannot givedirect support to local school districts. According to the United Way Charter ( members (sometimes called partners or partner agencies) must be chartered, non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations. School districts are government agencies and not 501(c)(3) organizations.The United Way can give money to the BSA in support of its "other programs." The BSA can turn around and givelocalschoolsaccess toL4L "free of charge," withall fees and materials paid for via the United Way grant. Keep in mind that the BSA has only "one pocket." Funds given in support of L4L actually support theBSA...and can be used in whatever way it deems appropriate. To get a better handle onhow the BSA makes money on L4L, see thesection on "Learning for Life Income and Participation" below.

This change of policy also makes it easier for the BSA to approach local and national businesses to seek support. Again, they can use the pitch that they are seeking funds to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth in the community. Theycan even state (quite correctly) that these programs do not discriminate in any way.

From the sales perspective, the change in enrollment policy is equally profound. Many school districts could not use L4L because of its discrimination against homosexuals. As government agencies, they cannot practice such policies. What a win-win situation for the BSA. They have a very successful program that has a proven track record, is available to all schools without reservation, and which has a built-in source of fiscal support via both United Way and local business connections.

Learning for Life Income and Participation

According to the BSA makes money from L4L in three ways. First, it charges a license fee of $250 per class to use the program. Second, it charges an enrollment fee of $10 per student (same as in the Traditional Scouting program). Finally, the BSA sells all material used in the program. According to the L4L Web site, the BSA offers 97 different pieces of literature (including student workbooks and teacher lesson plans), 37 differentsorts of "promotional materials," and a variety of recognition items.

According to the L4L Web site, there were 20,000 schools using the program in 2004. If we assume that each school offers 8 L4L classes, the licensingincome to the BSA is $40,000,000 per year. Again according to the L4L Web site, there were 1,680,522 students enrolled in L4L classes in 2004. At $10/student, that's $16,805,220 from enrollment fees. If we further assume that each student consumesL4L materialspurchased from the BSA generating a net income of $10/student for the BSA, that's another $16,805,220 of net income for the BSA. Add all that up, andyou get income of $73,610,440 forthe BSA from the L4L program in 2004. The total income reported by the BSA in 2003 was $144,942,663. If we assume the same total income in 2004, the L4L program accounts for more than half of that income...not chump change for an inner-city youth program.

Membership in the Traditional Scouting programin 2004 was 3,145,331. As noted above, participation in the L4L program in 2004 was 1,680,522. Thus L4L students represent about 35% of the youth participating inprograms sponsored by the BSA.

Overview of the Learning for Life Program

The L4L program was prepared for theBSA by one or more consulting firms. It was released in 1991 and represented the BSA's first attempt to reach inner-city youth who were not taking part intheTraditional Program. The program was not an instant success, but showed significant growth year after year. It has been extensively revised over time. Current materials bear a 2003 copyright date. As noted above, there are now 1,680,522 students enrolled in L4L programs in20,000 schools. In 2004 alonethere was an 8% growth in L4L enrollment. I found little criticism for the program. In fact, there is a generalsentiment that the L4L program is the most successful programof its type available in the U.S. In 2002, New York City had a number of programs in place to reach inner-city youth. The biggest, according to the Village Voice, was L4L. The BSA had a $1.6M contract with the city. I don't know if this just covered licensing fees or if it included enrollment fees and materials also. The only group of individuals that appears displeased with L4L is the sponsors of career-related Explorer Posts. In the past, they only paidthe $10 annual registration fee. They are now saddled withthe annual $250 license fee as well.

The L4Lprogram features 7grade-specificsegments:
Seekers (Kindergarten- Second Grade)
Discoverers (Third and Fourth Grades)
Challengers (Fifth and Sixth Grades)
Builders (Seventh and Eighth Grades)
Navigators (Ninth through Twelfth Grades)
Champions (Special Needs Students)
Exploring (Examinescareer opportunities in 12 specialized areas, offers awards and several college scholarships)

The first four segments feature asequence of 61 lesson plans for each grade that are to be integrated into existing curriculum. Discoverers, Challengers and Builders also utilize interactive CD-ROM programs. The high school program uses two text books that are accompanied by CD-ROM programs. If you are interested in a more thoroughreview of the segments, visit 

There you have the L4L program, a highly successful and highly lucrative BSA creation. With only a measure of hypocrisy, it fits well with the Traditional Program, and helps to pay the bills as well. Let me know if you have any questions.

Scouting for All Researcher




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