I have a brand new troop, less than 4 years old now. We just paid off our fees for summer camp. Each boy is expected to pay $50 so he has skin in the game for the event. Camp costs about $260 for the week. We now have about $300 in the unit's bank account. When we get back from camp, we have fundraisers planned to cover the cost of the fall camporee. Popcorn sales promotion starts next month as well.
Yes, one can run a unit on "just enough to get by". If something disastrous happens to our equipment, we'll scrounge around for more hand-me-downs or do a fundraiser. Right now we have tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks for every boy in the troop, 4 propane stoves, too. They are all hand-me-downs from other troops that upgraded their equipment.
When the boys realize that duct tape patching of tents doesn't always hold out water, either they are going to be excited about fundraising new tents or bring one from home. Either way works.
When they are boy led, they are all in the know about the financial situation we face with no extra funds to fall back on. They take very good care of the equipment they have and are the ones to initiate the discussion on equipment and program needs. Last year one of my boys won a big screen TV from the council for being the top salesman for the popcorn sales. He basically paid enough out of those funds to insure all the boys in the patrol made it to summer camp this year. He's the PL and he takes care of his boys.
The unit is located in a depressed area of town and there's not much when it comes to having money in the families to pay for scouting, but the neighborhood is very good about understanding this and our fundraisers tend to be very successful.
Right now, how many scouts in your unit know exactly how much money is in the unit's bank account? In my troop they all do. They also know how many boys are in the troop. How many are going to summer camp and how much money they will need to raise to make it happen. Just this last meeting, we were discussing the last minute details for summer camp. One of the boys asked how many vehicles we will need and whether the adults were expecting to get paid for gas money. Both the ASM and I said we were planning on donating the fuel costs to the trip because the camp provides for 2 adults to come at no cost for the week. I was impressed with the question the boy asked because it showed the sensitivity they all possess on the financial issues in the troop and it wasn't restricted to just the boys.
It was funny at the spring camporee, one of the tent's zipper wasn't working and the boys couldn't get it zipped shut. They were worried about bugs. It was a Civil War theme for the event and I was sleeping on the ground in a pup tent with no ends and no screening. They brought this issue to my attention while I was sitting in front of my tent. I looked back over my shoulder at my tent, then at them, smiled and said, "Figure it out or suck it up, cupcake." They both laughed and that was the last I heard about the tent with the broken zipper.
NEVER underestimate what a scout can handle once they realize they need to be as responsible for everyone in the patrol/troop as the adults are. It what makes them adults as well. If something happens to all the scout gear, they will be the ones that are going to deal with it, it's their troop and they know it.