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As the tagline promises, I’ve created this blog as a repository for ideas related to writing, Scouting, and writing on Scouting. I talk about the books I sell at EagleBook.com, my other Scouting-related writing projects, and other items of interest. I hope you find the blog of interest. If you have ideas to share, just post a comment on the About page.

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What’s Your Pitch?

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In the business world, people often talk about the elevator pitch, that introduction to a product, service, person, or idea that can be delivered before an elevator reaches its destination. According to the Harvard Business School, the average elevator pitch runs 231 words and takes 56 seconds. (That’s seems like some pretty fast talking to me; public speakers typically talk at a rate of more like 125 to 150 words per minute.)

You may not have thought about an elevator pitch for your troop, but you probably should before the next Webelos den or prospective Scout drops by a troop meeting. While you might be tempted to give a long speech about how great your troop is and about all the great trips you’ve taken and about how many great leaders you have, what they really want to hear–at least at the outset–is your elevator pitch. What are your troop’s key strengths? What makes your troop unique (your unique selling proposition in sales-speak)? Why should they choose your troop over any other?

If you don’t have such a pitch, now’s a good time to start working on it. And once you’ve developed it, emblazon it on your website, print it in your recruiting handouts, and make sure all your key leaders know it and can repeat it in their own words.

You can find lots of information online about pitches, including in this article from Punched Clock. And to give you a little incentive, I’m running a contest. Post your pitch in the comments section on the blog, and you could win a free copy of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook. Deadline to enter is March 5, 2018.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Reconsidering the Eagle Scout Congratulatory Letter List

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I recently talked with a NESA committee chair for an upcoming Eagles’ Call article. One of his committee’s biggest efforts has been to re-imagine the council’s Eagle Scout recognition dinner, and the first thing he did was start recruiting speakers who would be relevant to young Eagle Scouts instead of interesting to their parents and grandparents.

I thought about that conversation this week when I participated in an online discussion of the best congratulatory letters to request for new Eagle Scouts. One person suggested TV personality Mike Rowe. I think he’s a great choice, and the letter he provides is pretty cool. However, I wonder how relevant he is to today’s Scouts. After all, “Dirty Jobs” end its run six years ago, when today’s Eagle Scouts were first pulling on their khaki shirts.

Yes, I know Rowe has done other interesting work since “DIrty Jobs,” but I don’t that he has the street cred of PewDiePie, DanTDM, or the guys from Dude Perfect. Who, you ask? Those are some of YouTube’s biggest stars, people who may well be more popular than traditional celebrities (and certainly more popular than the politicians and business types who dominate many congratulatory-letter lists). According to one study, 70 percent of teen YouTube subscribers prefer YouTube stars over their old-school counterparts.

I’m not saying you should reach out to YouTube stars for congratulatory letters, even if they would send them. I AM saying that you should look at your letter list through 17-year-old eyes before hitting the mail-merge button. You might save yourself some stamps and your new Eagle Scout some yawns.


For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

 

Serendipity and Scouting

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I was thrilled recently to have the chance to write a profile of the late Green Bar Bill Hillcourt for Scouting magazine. I thought about him a lot as I worked on the current edition of the Boy Scout Handbook since his 9th edition version of the handbook is what got me re-energized when my interested in Scouting was waning. (I also had the chance to meet him twice, once at the 1981 National Scout Jamboree and once at a 1988 Wood Badge reunion.)

In working on the Scouting article, I came across an essay Hillcourt wrote called “The Life of a Serendipist,” which you can read at the website of Troop 1, Mendham, N.J. In it, he talks about serendipity, which he defines as “a gift for finding valuable things not sought for.”

To me, that’s where Scouting is at its best–not in carefully planned programs (although our programs should be carefully planned!) but in happenstance occurrences. One Scout discovers a lifelong hobby because he happens to take a certain merit badge, another Scout chooses his career because his Scoutmaster happens to work in that field, a third Scout forges lifelong friendships because he happens to be in a great patrol.

I thought about the role of serendipity this week when I read about Distinguished Eagle Scout Larry Bacow, who was just named president of Harvard University. Bacow is Jewish, but he happened to join a troop that met at a church. And that interfaith experience, he told a Scouting audience several years ago, taught him how to work with all sorts of people–a skill that’s pretty important for a university president.

You can’t create serendipity, of course, but I think you can work to make sure your Scouts are exposed to as many different kinds of people and as many different kinds of activities as possible. And you can use Scoutmaster minutes and Scoutmaster conferences as opportunities to help Scouts recognize the life lessons that just happen to occur every time they show up for a meeting or outing.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

A New Way to Fund Eagle Projects

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As Eagle Scout projects have become more elaborate and impactful in recent years, they’ve also become more expensive, and that means Scouts are having to raise money beyond what their families and their beneficiary organizations can provide. Sometimes that means bake sales and car washes; sometimes it means Kickstarter and Go Fund Me appeals.

Those online funding vehicles can be great, but they come with strings attached. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing policy–if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get any money. Go Fund Me charges a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents per donation. (That means a $10 donation would net $9.41.)

Now Eagle Scout candidates have a new option. The National Eagle Scout Association has partnered with RedBasket.org to offer totally free online fundraising. According to a press release, the partnership began in 2015 with a pilot program in Virginia and North Carolina. Since then Scouts have raised nearly $10,000–and saved several hundred dollars in credit-card fees.

The new arrangement offers a couple of benefits. First, fundraisers for Eagle Scout projects are pre-verified, meaning they don’t require extra vetting. Second, every new fundraising campaign receives an initial $50 donation from the Good Start Fund to help kick start donations.

For more information, check out the RedBasket.org website.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Have Eagle, Will Travel

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At the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, the star of the National Eagle Scout Association exhibit was an American bald eagle from the nearby Three Rivers Avian Center. There’s just something about America’s national bird—and the namesake of the Eagle Scout Award—that captures the attention of people of all ages.

Nature centers and wildlife-rehabilitation groups around the country care for bald eagles that have been injured and can’t live on their own. Many of them are happy to take their eagles on the road in return for modest donations. The visits help them pay the bills while fulfilling their educational missions.

Including a live bald eagle in an Eagle court of honor is a great way to make the court of honor a signature event. While you probably shouldn’t include the bird in the ceremony itself—eagles can be unpredictable and crowds can disturb them—you could make the bird available for visits and photos before the ceremony (to encourage people to arrive early) or during the reception (to give people something to do after they’ve scarfed down their cake).

What have you done to make a court of honor a signature event? Post your story in the comments section below.


For more ideas, see my post on sending invitations for multi-Scout courts of honor. And for a slew of other ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download.

Scouting Awards: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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In my church youth group, I work with a lot of high-achieving high-schoolers, young people who are taking multiple Advanced Placement classes, competing on traveling sports teams, participating in all sorts of other extracurricular activities, and otherwise padding their already impressive resumes. I’ve often thought some of them were going overboard in their relentless pursuit of perfection (to borrow a phrase from Lexus). Now, I may have found proof.

A college counselor friend recently shared the results of a study that compared academic achievement in high school with success in college. Here’s the part that caught my attention:

The study found a strong correlation between students taking up to five college-level courses in high school and their first-year grade point average. More college-level courses–up to five–yielded higher academic performance in college. For students taking six or more college-level courses, gains in first-year GPA were marginal or even negative.

In other words, more is better–but only to a certain point. Students whose lives revolve around AP courses often don’t do as well as those who live more balanced lives during high school. Perhaps it’s because they’re burned out on learning; perhaps it’s because they missed out on more important life lessons in high school than those taught in AP Chemistry.

So what does that all have to do with Scouting? Too often, young people bring their all-AP-all-the-time attitudes to our troops. They spend so much time earning dozens of merit badges and other awards that they miss out on more important life lessons than those taught in Chemistry merit badge. (No offense to the chemists in the audience!)

We can’t stop Scouts from pursuing lots of awards–nor should we slow-walk their requests for merit badge counselors. But we can counsel overachievers at Scoutmaster conferences. And we can ensure our patrol leaders’ councils are planning some activities that lead to more than just badges. And we can praise Scouts for their community service and leadership as loudly as we praise them for earning a boatload of badges.

Studies have shown that Scouts who’ve earned at least 21 merit badges and become Eagle Scouts succeed in life better than non-Scouts. I’m not sure that’s necessarily true of those who’ve earned 71 or 101–especially if that’s all they’ve focused on in Scouting.

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Why YOU Shouldn’t Decide When to Cancel Troop Meetings

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Here in Kentucky, a winter storm warning is in place and local schools are closed. That means countless other organizations have automatically closed their doors or cancelled their meetings.

Mirroring the schools’ decision is an easy call, but it’s not always the right one. We’ve all seen instances when schools close out of an overabundance of caution or when roads that were snow covered at 6:30 a.m. are clear and dry by 6:30 p.m. What’s more, the factors that lead to school closings–especially bus safety–don’t always apply in other situations.

In my opinion, Scout troops should make their go/no go decisions independently of local schools. That’s not just because of changing weather conditions during the day, however. It’s because making this decision is good practice for your patrol leaders’ council.

And that’s really important. If our mission is to help young people make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law (and it is), we need to take every opportunity we can to let them make important decisions. Now, obviously we aren’t going to let them make those decisions without guidance, but we still need to let them make the call.

Case in point: My Eagle Scout project was to plan a winter blood drive. Because I lived in a small town, that meant bringing in a blood-services crew from three hours away. It started snowing as they were setting up that morning, so I asked the leader of the crew whether she was going to cancel. Her reply was the highlight of my project. “You’re in charge,” she said. “You decide.” (I ended up canceling and rescheduling, by the way.)

As Scout leaders, we need to say those words to our Scouts every chance we get–including when snow threatens a troop meeting.


Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.