When the Boy Scouts of America — originally known as the Boy Scouts of America — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, it was easy to overlook the impact of the move on the organization itself.
Though one of the world’s most prestigious scouting programs, it is headquartered in Irving, Texas, and continues to operate with volunteerism from millions of its members and volunteers around the country. After all, the Scouts were nothing less than a throwback to a time before men began paying for their own uniforms.
But if the bankruptcy proceeding proceeds as it must, there’s every reason to believe this century-old institution will have to reconsider its future.
For the Boy Scouts, bankruptcy could do several things:
Give the organization time to consider its future
For a group like the Boy Scouts, bankruptcy is a means to organize and restructure its organization, as opposed to liquidating. It’s a way for this 99-year-old, predominantly volunteer-run group to revisit its future, so that it can make the best decisions for itself and for future generations. Already, Boy Scouts of America officials have asked what might come next for the organization and whether it might stay in Texas — it maintains a complex, sprawling complex in Irving — or perhaps relocate.
For the adult organization, most of the issues it faces aren’t financial, but governance-related. Boy Scouts of America still has to choose its leaders — the national organization, rather than the local troops — so that it can approve programs, and provide leadership development, to the children it serves. It also still has to elect an executive board to advise the national organization, determine financial policies and more. It also must balance the interests of its various organizations, such as its religious members who have had to choose whether to remain.
For the kids themselves, there’s some worry about the sort of services they may receive from an organization that’s entangled in litigation. In 2010, a group of scouting organizations in Colorado and Utah sued the Boy Scouts of America for allowing former adult leaders to serve in scout organizations. The group said it was deprived of its right to maintain a scout organization, which is a contractual right. The Scouts turned to the courts, and the case is ongoing.
In other words, the bottom line for the Boy Scouts of America is that the time is right for them to sort out their future.