Fitting the Eagle Court of Honor to the Scout



One mark of a great Eagle Scout court of honor is that the ceremony fits the honoree like a glove or a favorite jacket. Through the script, the decorations, and the choice of presenters, his unique story and personality shine through. Several years back, an Eagle mom named Debbie Borden told me about her son Tim’s court of honor—a great example of fitting the ceremony to the Scout.

Tim’s grandfather had been active in their troop for more than 50 years and was an important part of Tim’s Scouting years. Sadly, he passed away before he could see Tim become an Eagle Scout, but his presence was felt at Tim’s court of honor.

Tim often wore his grandfather’s red patch jacket to Scout functions. At his court of honor, Tim hung the jacket next to the chair where he sat. As he received his Eagle Scout badge from his brother Brian (himself an Eagle Scout), Tim held the sleeve of his grandfather’s jacket—a simple, poignant tribute to the tangible and intangible gifts his grandfather had left him.

Debbie told me, “As a mother, watching my son accept his brother as an Eagle Scout was the proudest day of my life. I could have not been prouder of my two Eagle Scouts on that day.”

Tim’s story is unique, but so is your Scout’s. What can you do to make his court of honor as unique and special as he is? Post your ideas in the comments section below.

The Appification of Fundraising



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



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



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 If you want to download it as a PDF document, go to (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



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



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.