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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.

The Appification of Fundraising

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Few new technologies in the past decade have been more disruptive than the smartphone. Just think of the many products you can do without: a watch, a calculator, a compass, a GPS receiver, a camera, a pedometer, an MP3 player, and even a radio. Smartphones have revolutionized how we read the news, get weather forecasts, do research, and maintain calendars and address books. (Rolodex cards and Daytimers, anyone?)

I think smartphones have the potential to disrupt Scouting fundraisers, too–not because there’s an app for that (although there probably is), but because smartphones have taught people that the best things in life are free or cost just 99 cents.

I thought about this recently when the president of Country Meats sent me some samples. His family-owned company sells 16 flavors of beef sticks, which retail for just $1 (and earn troops a 45-percent profit). I’m not a huge fan of beef sticks, but I found these pretty tasty–certainly as good as the impulse items you can find at the grocery store. And it’s that impulse-item feel that’s important. People who might not shell out $10, $20, or $30 for whatever your troop is selling might be willing to fork over a buck for a beef stick or for some other low-cost fundraising item.

(One of the popular items in the exhibit hall at last week’s BSA National Annual Meeting was the Butterflyer, a $2.50 wind-up gizmo that flies like a butterfly. Lots of people were willing to hand over a few bucks for a momentary thrill.)

I read the other day that the makers of the mobile game Candy Crush Saga took in an estimated $2 billion in 2013, much of it from people spending 99 cents at a time for in-game purchases. Your troop won’t earn nearly that many zeroes, but you may well find that “Brother, can you spare a buck?” is the ticket to fundraising success.

To Whom It May (or May Not) Concern

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Several years ago, I received an email from the executive assistant to a Fortune 500 CEO. She was asking that her boss be removed from any and all lists of dignitaries from whom Scouters request congratulatory letters for new Eagle Scouts. I don’t maintain such a list, but I was happy to pass her request on to people who do—including, perhaps, many of you.

After I posted the request on the Scouts-L email list, someone else described her son’s lack of interest in the piles of letters he received from assorted politicians and other dignitaries. When a bystander pointed out how impressed his grandchildren would be to see all those letters, he said, “I hope they’ll think enough of me without form letters.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

The fact is, most new Eagle Scouts would appreciate a personal letter from a grandparent, teacher, pastor, or other “real” person more than a form letter sent by a CEO’s executive assistant. That’s not to say you shouldn’t solicit letters or cards from selected dignitaries. You should just keep things in perspective. After all, your Scouts already do.

Answers to the Ultimate Questions

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In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, science-fiction humorist Douglas Adams had his characters look for the answer to “the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.”

But, of course, that’s not the ultimate question–at least if you’re a Boy Scout leader. For us, the ultimate question is “What does ‘active participation’ mean?” … or “Must the Scoutmaster conference be the last step before a board of review?” … or “Is there a time limit for completing merit badges?” … or “Can a Scout be denied a board of review?” … or something entirely different but still advancement related.

Fortunately, those questions–and many more–are answered in the Guide to Advancement, now out in a new 2015 edition. This free, 100-page publication will tell you everything you need to know to administer advancement in your troop–and to correct your district or council advancement committee when they need it.

There’s lot of great information in the guide, which I find remarkably well organized and easy to understand. But the best information may be the list of frequently asked questions that begins on page 8. There you will find answers to the questions above and many more. If you’ve used the guide before, you’ll also want to flip to page 7 for a list of significant changes since the last edition.

So where can you get the new Guide to Advancement? If you want to read it online, go to http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/guidetoadvancement.aspx. If you want to download it as a PDF document, go to http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf. (By the way, with a little extra effort, you can easily access that PDF on your smartphone or tablet. Click here to learn more.)

While the new Guide to Advancement won’t give you the answer to life, the universe, and everything, it will give you enough information that you’ll be able to follow some important advice from Hitchhiker’s Guide: Don’t panic.

Spit and Polish and Eagle Courts of Honor

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You’ve heard the old aphorism that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. At an Eagle court of honor, the first impression guests have is usually formed by the color guard’s presentation of the colors.

A tip subscriber named Larry Beck found an effective way to make a great first impression at his son’s court of honor. A friend who was in the Air National Guard recruited members of the 939th Refueling Wing to present the colors. They were glad to participate and started the ceremony off on the right note.

As you begin planning your next court of honor, check in with local Guard and Reserve units—as well as VFW posts, Junior ROTC programs, and other patriotic organizations—to see if they can provide a color guard for the ceremony.

Knowing and Using the Resources of the Group

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When I took Wood Badge 30 years ago this spring–wow!–the syllabus was much different than Wood Badge for the 21st Century. In fact, it taught a completely different set of leadership skills, among which was Knowing and Using the Resources of the Group.

I’ve always thought this was one of the most important skills for Scout leaders to learn. After all, our troops don’t have the budgets to hire the experts or to buy the physical resources we need. Instead, we must rely on the generosity of people and organizations to get our work done. We use the dad with a pickup truck to haul our troop trailer, we use the mom who’s a CPA to serve as our troop treasurer, and we rely on our chartered organization to put a roof over our head and provide us space to store our gear.

But chartered organizations are good for much more than that. This spring, I’ve been helping plan a week of local service projects for high-schoolers in my church, and we recently hit on the idea of connecting with adult church members who are already serving in our community. The list we’ve come up with is impressive, from volunteers who take meals into strip clubs to volunteers who provide tutoring and personal care kits to grooms and hot walkers at Churchill Downs. Connecting with these folks will give us easier access to places we want to serve and will strengthen ties within the congregation.

Your troop could enjoy similar benefits by connecting with projects that your chartered organization supports. How cool would it be to work side by side with Rotarians on their community cleanup day? And how valuable would that experience be the next time the Rotary Club is considering whether to renew its Scouting charter?

Your chartered organization is probably full of resources that could make your troop stronger. All you need to do is figure out what they are and then put them to use.

The Scout Oath in Four-part Harmony

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This week, the Scouting magazine blog featured a video of three Scouts singing the National Anthem at an Eagle court of honor. It was a great reminder of the power of music—and of the hidden (or not-so-hidden) talent in every troop.

It also remind me of “On My Honor,” a musical setting of the Scout Oath. Here are the lyrics:

On my honor, I’ll do my best to do my duty to God.
On my honor, I’ll do my best to serve my country as I may.
On my honor, I’ll do my best to do my good turn each day,
To keep my body strengthened and keep my mind awakened.
To follow paths of righteousness.
On my honor, I’ll do my best.

Several years ago, I coordinated an Eagle court of honor for six members of my troop, and we ended the ceremony with the honorees singing this song in four-part harmony. It was a beautiful ending to a great event.

You can find the “On My Honor” sheet music on my website at http://eaglebook.com/pdf/onmyhonor.pdf. To hear a recording by Burl Ives of a different arrangement, visit http://scoutsongs.com/lyrics/onmyhonor.html.

Be Prepared for Trailer Theft

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The Scouting magazine blog recently ran a great story about a troop whose trailer had been stolen. Spoiler alert: Donors replaced what had been stolen–and then some–so the troop shared its bounty with other troops in need.

It was a heartwarming story–and an important reminder about trailer security. If your troop has a trailer, you should take steps now to make sure it’s secure from thieves, who would love to sell it for a few hundred bucks or use it as a mobile meth lab. (They’re probably not interested in your battered cooking stoves, rusty Dutch ovens, or well-seasoned water jugs.)

The best way to secure a trailer is to keep it inside a locked building or fenced compound. Check with your chartered organization or troop families for possibilities. You might even find a local mini-storage business or police department that would be happy to help.

Beyond that, invest in a hitch lock, which prevents the trailer from being attached to a truck, or a wheel lock, which prevents the trailer from rolling. (The latter will be familiar to you if you’ve ever found your car booted by the police–not that that would ever happen to a Scouter!) Other possibilities include alarms and GPS trackers.

A wheel lock can cost less than $100, although low-end models can be defeated if they don’t prevent a thief from removing the wheel. But even the best security is better than nothing. Your odds of keeping your trailer are higher if your security measures slow a thief down or make him choose an easier target.

For more ideas, check out these resources: