Founded in 1910 as part of an international movement, the Boy Scouts of America enrolled 2.4 million youth members in 2014, reached another 422,000 children receiving character education from the organization, and enjoyed nearly a million adult volunteers—making it one of the largest nonprofits in the U.S. The group’s mission is to train boys in responsible citizenship, character development, self-reliance, and individual hardiness.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, prominent Americans were concerned that the migration of our population from farms to cities was reducing the physical activity, communal identity, religious development, and social health of children. Some leaders worried that independence and patriotism were not being reinforced among the young. Former President Theodore Roosevelt complained about a decline in American manhood. Partly to address concerns like these, the Boy Scouts were founded with strong support from observers across the political and social spectrum. The BSA became one of just a small number of charitable organizations to be granted a Congressional charter.
The organization is supported by fees and donor pledges. In 2014, contributions and bequests totaled $59 million, and the organization’s endowment from previous gifts generated additional earnings of $35 million. The Boy Scouts partner with churches, fraternal clubs, PTAs, and other organizations that donate meeting space and basic oversight. The BSA provides leader training, activities, camping programs, insurance, and various forms of professional support.
Since the group’s birth, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the Boy Scouts. Two years after the organization’s creation a counterpart with similar aims for girls was founded. Girls Scouts of the USA currently enrolls 2 million girls and 800,000 adult volunteers.