If you’ve been in Scouting very long, you know that some Scouts (and their parents) think that becoming an Eagle Scout equals graduation from Scouting. That may not seem like a big deal when a new Eagle Scout is turning 18 and will soon go off to college or the military, but it’s a huge deal if he’s 14 or 15. Someone who “Eagles out”–a term I despise–at that age deprives his troop of his leadership and experience and deprives himself of the fun of being in Scouting without the pressure to advance. (I became an Eagle Scout at age 16, and I know enjoyed the next couple of years a lot more than the previous five.)
Unfortunately, many Scouters seem to think that “Eagling out” is a given. Some even try to tap the brakes on advancement so Scouts don’t reach the rank of Eagle until they’re about to turn 18.
You can’t control what a young man does after he becomes an Eagle Scout, of course, but you can do things to encourage his continued involvement in Scouting. For one thing, his court of honor should make it very clear that his Eagle trail is just beginning. A good place to make the point is in the Eagle Scout charge; see the examples in The Eagle Court of Honor Book for some ideas.
But keep in mind that actions speak louder than words. Imagine what might happen, for example, if you installed your new Eagle Scout as an assistant Scoutmaster or junior assistant Scoutmaster (depending on his age) at his court of honor. Or gave him a new camp chair instead of a plaque or neckerchief. Or recruited him to lead next summer’s high-adventure trip during his Scoutmaster conference. Or used troop funds to enroll him in the National Eagle Scout Association.
Actions like these might go a long way toward encouraging him to stay involved in the months and years to come. Perhaps instead of “Eagling out,” he would “Eagle up.”
Naturalist and writer Ernest Thompson Seton, who drafted the first American Boy Scout handbook, wanted to name Scouting’s highest rank after the wolf. In fact, the proof edition of the handbook describes the Silver Wolf, an award to be given to any Scout who earned all 14 “badges of merit” that Seton envisioned.
I mention the Silver Wolf because I was recently reminded of an interesting little poem of sorts called “The Oyster and the Eagle.” In describing the differences between these two creatures, the piece does a good job of invoking some of the majesty of eagles—and of Eagle Scouts.
You might find “The Oyster and the Eagle” a fitting addition to your next court of honor. Here’s the text:
When God made the oyster, he guaranteed him social security.
He built the oyster a house … a shell to protect him from his enemies.
When hungry, the oyster simply opens his shell and the food rushes in.
But when God made the eagle, He said, “The blue sky is the limit. Go and build your own house.”
And the eagle went and built his house upon the highest mountain peak, where storms threatened him every day. For food, he must fly through miles of rain and snow and wind.
The eagle then—not the oyster—is the symbol of the United States of America, and Scouting’s highest award.
Pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners have been popular Scouting fundraisers for generations. If you have a captive audience or are able to establish a tradition, your troop can make a lot of money with just a few hours’ effort.
But another form of food-based fundraising can offer similar results with less risk–and a number of side benefits. Restaurants across the country, both chains and independent outlets, are happy to host fundraising nights where a portion of the proceeds benefit a nonprofit group.
Here’s how such programs usually work: The group distributes flyers to its supporters. Those supporters dine at the restaurant on a designated night (typically a low-volume time like Thursday night). The restaurant returns a percentage of sales to the group. At Panera Bread, for example, groups can earn the following percentages based on the number of flyers diners turn in:
- 1-19 flyers = 0%
- 20-30 flyers = 10%
- 31-49 flyers = 15%
- 50+ flyers = 20%
Some restaurants offer additional benefits. For example, your troop might be able to set up a display or put tip jars by the registers. That’s what The Saxton Group, which owns a number of McAlister’s Deli locations, allows. (The company also donates 10% of all sales during fundraisers, not just sales generated by diners bearing flyers.)
Unless your troop is getting a cut of the take at a high-end steakhouse or Michelin-rated bistro, a restaurant fundraiser may not generate a ton of cash. However, it can offer other benefits:
- It can be a great “friend raiser,” allowing you to tell the Scouting story to people beyond your troop.
- It can bring troop families together. Parents that usually only see each other at courts of honor or when they’re dropping their kids off can get to know each other over a meal–and you can use the opportunity for a little low-key networking and adult recruiting.
- It can connect you to your chartered organization. By promoting the fundraiser in the organization’s newsletter, you can reach members who may not be aware that your unit even exists. And if they come to the restaurant, you can have deeper conversations than are possible when people are simply buying popcorn or other products from you.
- It can serve as a launching pad for other activities. For example, you could hold your troop committee meeting in the restaurant’s party room after dinner.
Has your troop done effective restaurant fundraisers? Post your story in the comments section.
Displaying your new Eagle Scout’s memorabilia on a table in the reception area is a great way to personalize an Eagle court of honor. Nothing shows how much a Scout has grown better than his first, impossibly small uniform shirt!
Putting together such a display can be time consuming, however, and it’s always hard to figure out how to display small, loose items like patches and pins. You certainly don’t want everything to blow away when someone opens a door.
A great solution is to use a tri-fold display board like those that crop up at science fairs. These come in both cardboard and foam versions and range in price from $8 to $16. I recommend the foam version if you plan to use pins or staples to attach patches; otherwise, the items may fall off.
Another option is to use the sort of polystyrene boards you see on houses under construction. (Insulfoam is one brand name.) These tend to be bright pink for some reason, but you could easily cover them with cloth in a more subdued color. They cost about the same as foam tri-fold boards but give you more room to work–4 feet by 8 feet instead of 3 feet by 4 feet.
In the next month or two, this year’s class of second-year Webelos Scouts will graduate from Cub Scouting. If you’ve done a good job with Webelos-to-Scout transition–if you made a good first impression when they visited a troop meeting this winter–some of them will end up in your troop, providing a fresh infusion of youthful enthusiasm and adult leadership.
Don’t think, however, that the Webelos-to-Scout transition process is over. What you do in the next couple of months will determine whether those new families are still involved in Scouting a year from now.
There are many things you can do to effectively welcome new Scouts and parents, but two things stand out for me. First, current Scouts and leaders need to welcome the newcomers warmly. Post greeters at the doors, put name tags on everyone, and make sure the newcomers are involved in troop activities from the moment they arrive.
Second, make sure your intake process flows smoothly. Have on hand a stack of youth and adult applications, medical forms, parent guides, or whatever other materials you need. Clearly communicate what forms need to be turned in, how they need to be turned in to, and where newcomers can go with questions. Make it clear that you’re ready and eager to integrate the new Scouts into your troop.
Remember: You never get a second chance to make a good first–or second–impression!
I’ve been to more than one Eagle court of honor I thought would never end. In one case, that wasn’t a bad thing.
A Scouter I know puts on some great Eagle courts of honor. But they last forever. Literally. You see, he has taken to heart the idea that the court of honor should mark the beginning of a Scout’s life of service—not celebrate his graduation from Scouting. So his courts of honor never end.
Instead of having a formal closing, he has his emcee say something like this to the honoree: “Johnny, we have now come to the end of this court of honor—and to the beginning of your life as an Eagle Scout. And so, we will leave this place tonight, not having closed this court of honor, but having left it open to judge, to recognize, and to honor the contributions you will make in the future as an Eagle Scout. Good night.”
Do you like this tip? If so, you can find dozens more just like it in Showtime! 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book. This new e-book costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from https://www.eaglebook.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=11.
For years, I’ve said that Boy Scout leaders could learn a thing or two from their counterparts in sports. For example, a Scoutmaster who doesn’t trust his senior patrol leader to lead might walk right up to him in the middle of a meeting and interrupt, but a football coach would never do the same thing to his quarterback (or if he did, his team would get penalized).
The problem with that Scoutmaster/coach analogy–aside from the disparity in pay!–is that coaches are far from hands off during games. Unless the quarterback is Peyton Manning, there’s no doubt who’s really calling the shots. That’s why broadcasters interview coaches as they head into the locker room at halftime and show their sideline reactions to great or boneheaded on-field actions.
In a recent Associated Press story, I found a new Scoutmaster role model: the opera prompter. This is a person who typically sits in a small box at the back of the orchestra pit, invisible to the audience, and keeps the performers on track and on pitch. Here’s a description of the role from the Opera Idols blog: “Opera is a live event, so things go wrong all the time. Most of the time, however, the audience is not even aware something went wrong. The audience is not even aware that there is a person in the prompter’s box, because even if they sometimes yell out certain words, this does not carry towards the audience.”
Other than the yelling part, that description applies to effective Scoutmasters as well. Things go wrong all the time in troop meetings and on troop outings, but a great Scoutmaster helps his youth leaders get back on track without anyone knowing that something went wrong–or that an adult had to intervene. He anticipates problems and finds subtle ways to nudge his youth leaders in the right direction without pushing them out of the spotlight.
The great Luciano Pavarotti once said of Metropolitan Opera prompter Jane Klaviter, “I could trust her implicitly. Her presence gave me the security I needed to give the best performance possible.”
Can your youth leaders say that about you?
As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, technology has made it easier than ever to request congratulatory letters for new Eagle Scouts. You can find contact information for dignitaries online, of course, and request letters without mastering mail merge and buying a bunch of stamps. Even better, you can download a number of letters and certificates yourself without even making a request. (This is especially helpful if you’re a court-of-honor procrastinator!)
The Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society, offers two such letters on its website. One is from the national chief and national vice chief, currently Hunter Jones and Tyler Inberg; the other is from the national chairman, currently Ray Capp. (All three signers are Eagle Scouts, making these letters especially appropriate.) The letters are in fillable-PDF format, meaning that you can simply type in the recipient’s name and court of honor date and hit print.
Although the letters come from the Order of the Arrow, they aren’t intended only for Arrowmen. So whether your next honoree is in the Order or not, you should add these letters to his stack of congratulatory messages.
To download the OA letters, visit http://www.oa-bsa.org/pages/content/2016-oa-eagle-congratulatory-letter or http://www.oa-bsa.org/pages/category/category/ucls.