23 bizarre but true fundraising ideas from Scouting’s past

Popcorn’s all the rage these days, but Scout fundraisers haven’t always been so mainstream. Throughout history Scouts have sold a variety of less-conventional products to raise money for their pack and troop. I’m talking candles and fire extinguishers, road atlases and safety flares, candy and oranges — if you could slap a price tag on it, chances are Scouts sold it.

Not that fundraising creativity is a bad thing, of course. Fundraisers are a necessary part of any Scout unit, always done in the name of filling a unit’s coffers so it can offer more and better Scouting outings. But some of the items I came across when searching through Scouting magazine’s digital archives made me do a double-take.

But hey, whatever works, right?

After the jump find 23 bizarre fundraising ideas from Scouting’s past, all presented as they appeared in Scouting magazine. And those of you who have been in Scouting a while, tell me: Did you sell any of these items? Or better yet: What was the craziest Scouting fundraiser you ever took part in?

1950s: Vanilla


1960s: Fire Extinguisher

1966-Fire Extinguisher

1970s: Fruitcake


1970s: Safety Flares

1970-Safety Flares

1970s: Sponges


1970s: Trash Bags

1970-Trash Bags

1970s: Animal Candles

1975-Animal Candles

1970s: Auto Trouble Lites

1975-Auto Trouble Lites

1970s: More Animal Candles

1975-More Animal Candles

1970s: Spill Stopper

1975-Spill Stopper

1970s: Spot Stain Remover

1975-Spot Stain Remover

1970s: Munchie Mix

1979-Munchie Mix

1970s: Road Atlas

1979-Road Atlas

1970s: Smoke Detector

1979-Smoke Detectors

1980s: Disney Candy

1980-Disney Candy

1980s: Oranges


1980s: Stuffed Animals

1980-Stuffed Animals

1980s: Superhero Pens

1980-Superhero Pens

1980s: Safety Cone

1982-Safety Cone

1980s: Daily Planners

1989-Daily Planners

1990s: Dishcloths


1990s: Light Bulbs

1992-Light Bulbs

1990s: Oreos


62 thoughts on “23 bizarre but true fundraising ideas from Scouting’s past

    • I’ve said for years that we should purchase a franchising agreement and sell them at the six-month interval after the local GSUSA council does its sale. That’s about when I run out of Do-Si-Dos, and I’d love the opportunity to restock while supporting my troop and council.

    • The only problem with that is the GS cookies, while awesome, have very little margin for the local Scouts. The popcorn is not that good (not as good as the Thin Mints, anyway) and is very expensive, though we don’t seem to have a hard time selling it as this is a Scout-friendly area. I would like to see selling something like first aid kits or preparedness equipment/food, having our “Be Prepared” reiterated to the community.

  1. We need girl scout cookies the scouts could probably afford a trip to the Summit or Philmont on cookies alone.

  2. “Rent-A-Scout” where scouts were rented out for a couple bucks an hour (with agreed-upon restrictions in terms of work load, duration, weather, etc.) — usually things like raking and bagging leaves in the fall (New York area). Used the funds for winter camp (individuals) and for troop purchases for the Quartermaster.

  3. My unit sold light bulbs back in the 1960’s.

    BTW, the fact that we let units choose their own fundraisers, versus simply focusing on a single internal product like the Girl Scouts’ cookies, is why we get all that advertising revenue in Scouting Magazine. 😉

  4. I remember selling the fruitcake as a Scout. I think it sold pretty well and it was better than the Tom-Watt stuff.

  5. Our band made a mint on those oranges in the 70’s. And none are stranger than the high school bands now that are holding mattress sales and clearing plenty without doing much more than advertising….

  6. I remember trying to sell light bubs in the greater NY Council in the fall of 79 or 80. a bunch of newbie Boy scouts fill of scout spirit and covered in poison Ivy going door to door to sell light bulbs. Needless to say we didn’t make much but our chartered Org St Benedict Joseph Labre never did run out of 60 Watt incandescent bulbs nor did any scout family for years afterwards.

  7. Anyone remember the Tom Watts salesman kits? (Late 70’s) Had to lug around those big cardboard suitcases full of trinkets to sell. It seemed to work, though, we seemed to make enough money to go camping.

  8. My Explorer Post did the Candy sticks,we also did fire extinguishers and Auto emergency/1st aid kit’s-end of 70’s begining 80’s.

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