I have been a leader for 5 years and I'm a lifetime scout. For the first 3 or 4 years we charged $25 a year for 3 meetings a month - and had the parents chip in for expensive things like Camping.
This year we didn't charge dues at all since we've been accumulating some cookie money!
As for crafts - ask parents if they have supplies to share. Ask your child's school. Our school donates the use of the copier, laminator, and their Ellison paper press (a die cutter).
April 22 is Earth Day - work on some crafts using only recycled items.
Our troop is collecting plastic and metal bottle caps, milk jug caps, orange juice can and biscuit can lids to use for SWAPS. These things aren't traditionally recyclable in our area, so we're recycling as we're making crafts, too.
For years we collected shoe boxes and paper towel/TP tubes for one reason or another... We always to to look at what supplies we have on hand and develop crafts around them. Otherwise, the craft bin can overflow - not to mention the $$.
The Dollar store always has popsicle sticks. I usually wait for a good coupon at Jo-Ann's or Michaels and buy the biggest package of pom-poms, googly eyes, or pipe cleaners they have.
You could ask on Craig's list or Freecycle if you have those in your area. One time I asked for Yarn to make our sit-upons and got a grocery bag jammed with lots of colored yarn - for free! We're still using it up 4 years later.
Paper organizing is not easy for me. I keep a separate 3 ring binder with my Troop Roster, Health History Forms, and Permission slips. On Field Trips and outings I just take that small binder.
When the girls were little, we gave each a Girl Scouts folder to take/bring each week. This is how we sent home permission slips and got them back. Now that they're older, we keep folders at the meeting with our worksheets inside. If they took them home, they'd get lost, and we're working on longer-term projects as they get older.
Wifey to Dennis, together 14 years!
Eric, Doug, and Gillian 6/1/04