Money-earning projects are all around us. The pages of Scouting magazine feature scads of ads from fundraising companies, district executives tout popcorn as a surefire money-maker, and the troop down the street is already making plans to set up its Christmas tree stand in a vacant lot.
And Scouts aren’t the only ones hustling for a buck. Even as I write these words, school kids are bringing home shiny new textbooks and fundraising forms. And Girl Scout cookie sales kick off in just a few months.
In other words, there are lots of ways to raise funds for Scouting and other worthwhile programs. You can sell products or offer services. You can take pre-orders or have show-and-sell days at the local grocery store. You can host pancake breakfasts or hold auctions. All of those techniques have the potential to be effective.
But there’s one fundraising technique that’s guaranteed to be ineffective–or at least inefficient: selling to your troop families. If troop parents are the ones buying most of the popcorn or chocolate bars or Christmas trees, you’re wasting your time and not making as much money as you would if you simply asked them to pay a little more for troop activities. Fundraising expenses–the cost of products and the profit that goes to the fundraising vendor–are acceptable when you’re raising money from outside the troop. But if you’re robbing Peter to pay Peter Jr., you’re probably going about your fundraising the wrong way.
A few months ago I published a post entitled “This Ain’t Graduation.” The idea was to emphasize that an Eagle court of honor is not the same thing as a graduation ceremony. Whether the honoree has just turned 13 or just turned 18, becoming an Eagle Scout shouldn’t be the last thing he does in Scouting. And the court of honor should help point him toward what his next thing in Scouting is.
But that’s not the only area of confusion I often hear about. Many Scouters and parents inadvertently turn courts of honor into coronations, placing honorees on so high a pedestal that they’re likely to get nosebleeds. While it’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of new Eagle Scouts–after all, only five percent of Scouts make it this far–the ceremony should be more of a commissioning than a coronation, pointing as much toward the future as it does toward the past.
Besides sending the wrong message, “coronations of honor” can be off-putting to many honorees. A Scout who’s naturally introverted or who has bought into the concept of servant leadership may feel quite uncomfortable being the center of attention–even to the point of not wanting to have a court of honor at all.
So celebrate your Scout’s accomplishments and give him lots of accolades. Just don’t give him a crown.
A good Scout is trustworthy, but a good Scouter is not above stealing–stealing ideas, that is. No, your BSA membership card is not a get-out-of-jail-free card! But as the Bible says (in Ecclesiastes 1:9), “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.“
One of the best places to steal ideas is your district roundtable, where you can learn about innovative meeting ideas and great outing destinations in your area. Online forums and Scouting magazine articles can help you learn from Scouters from across the country and around the world. And if you’re looking for creative service project ideas, look no farther than the winners of the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award. (Follow the link to find thumbnail descriptions of six years’ worth of winners.)
But your stealing shouldn’t stop in Scouting. Groups from schools to Sunday schools to sports leagues have great ideas for engaging young people and their families, ideas that you could easily adapt in your troop. For example, at this time of year many private and parochial schools post signs on the lawns of their new students, welcoming them to the school family. It’s a simple gesture, but it shows that the school cared enough to send a volunteer out on the first day of school. Imagine if your troop did the same thing each time a Scout joined … or if a veteran parent invited each new parent out for coffee and a chat about the value of Scouting … or if you created Scout trading cards like the baseball cards Little League teams produce at the start of each season … or if you replicated that killer fundraiser that your sister’s church’s youth group has been doing for years.
Remember: You’re only as successful as the ideas you steal!
The most powerful Eagle courts of honor are more about the future than the past. Yes, they celebrate what their honorees have accomplished, but they also point the way to how those young men will continue to serve in the future.
They also encouraged younger Scouts to move ahead on the trail to Eagle. As I explain in The Eagle Court of Honor Book, after an effective court of honor, every Scout will go home and check his handbook to see what he needs to do to earn his next rank.
One troop I heard of had a great idea for motivating its younger Scouts. This troop lists all its Eagle Scouts on its troop trailer, but there’s always one more entry than there are Eagle Scouts. The last entry? “Your Name Here.” A leader from that troop told me those three words are a powerful motivator. “You can’t count how many Scouts in our troop constantly now say, ‘It’s going to be ME’ with pride!” he said.
Whether you list your Eagles on a plaque, your trailer, or the back of the court of honor program, consider making room for “Your Name Here.”
Ninety-four million dollars and change. That’s how much money the leading presidential candidates and their supporters had spent on advertising in battleground states through early August 2016. (Of course, if you live in one of those battleground states, you might think that total applies to your state alone!)
Political campaigns do a lot of advertising, but it’s probably necessary to convince people to choose a candidate and actually show up at the polls. The same is true of advertising for cars, clothing, cable TV, and Caribbean vacations. People have to hear the same message again and again and again before they take action.
The Boy Scouts of America doesn’t have a big advertising budget, and I’m guessing your troop doesn’t either. That means we have to be more creative, using social media, earned media (free press coverage), and other outlets to tell people about Scouting.
It also helps if, like major advertisers, we keep our messages simple. Let’s say you’re trying to convince potential troop parents of the value of Scouting vs. other youth activities. Here are three great resources you could share:
That last resource is especially valuable right now since we’re in the middle of the Olympics, but all of them tell an important story, one that we need to tell over and over and over again.
How are you telling Scouting’s story in your troop? Share your ideas in the comments section below.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had a couple of conversations about bad timing and the Eagle Scout Award. The first was with an adult Eagle Scout (for an upcoming Eagles’ Call profile) whose father passed away unexpectedly before the Scout could complete his last requirements. He still feels guilty that he procrastinated, mistakenly thinking he had all the time in the world to finish. The second conversation was with a friend whose troop had long insisted that Scouts wait in line to have their Eagle courts of honor. Since this troop only held courts of honor twice a year and only gave out one Eagle badge at each, that meant some Scouts were will into their college careers before they received their badges.(Fortunately, this Scouter changed that tradition when he became Scoutmaster.)
A wiser person than me once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” That mystery part is right, which is one reason why we owe it to our Scouts to recognize them promptly when they become Eagle Scouts–not long after the fact.
In The Eagle Court of Honor Book, I recommended scheduling a court of honor about eight weeks after the board of review. While there are sometimes good reasons for taking longer–planning travel for out-of-town family, for example–convenience and tradition don’t cut it.
In case you’ve missed it, the United States is in the midst of a presidential campaign. Whether you love him or hate him, President Obama’s time in office will end next January 20, thanks to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which limits any president to two four-year terms.
Things aren’t spelled out that clearly in Scouting, but maybe they should be.
Think about it. When you became Scoutmaster (or whatever position you hold), how many months, years, or decades did you agree to serve? Or did your contract include a “till death do we part” clause? Other than dying, is your only way out to recruit your own replacement? What will happen to the troop if both the Scoutmaster and the committee chair step down at the same time?
It’s important that you consider questions like these if you care about your troop’s long-term health—and your own. Unlike Cub Scouting, where leaders tend to sign on for a year at a time and move up to Boy Scouting with their sons, Boy Scout leaders often serve open-ended terms. As a result, we often stay in a position long after we stop being effective or stop having fun.
Some troops address this issue with strict term limits. For example, the Scoutmaster and committee chair would serve three years at a time (with their terms staggered so they don’t leave at the same time). Other troops have official terms of just a year—typically ending during the summer—but allow a leader to stay in a position if he or she wishes to and the troop committee agrees.
There’s no right answer to handling terms of office, but there is one wrong answer: not dealing with the issue at all.
Aside from the badge presentation itself, the highlight of many courts of honor is the reception. And nothing makes for a better reception that great-looking and great-tasting food–often starting with that calorie-laden sheet cake in the middle of the table.
Now, BSA licensee YouCake is making it easy to create a custom cake topper that features BSA logos (like the Eagle Scout badge), text, and even a photo of your honoree. At the YouCake website, you can point and click your way to edible cake toppers that you can apply to a sheet cake, a cookie cake, even cupcakes. The toppers come in a sealed package and will stay fresh for 6-7 weeks.When you’re ready to decorate your cake, you simply peel away the waxed-paper backing and put the topper in place.
The toppers aren’t cheap–a 15″ by 10″ topper runs $25–but you can offset the cost by baking the cake yourself. For more information and how-to videos, visit the website.
For more great ideas, check out my new 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.
Last week I had a great time facilitating the Smarter, Strategic, and Sustainable Boy Scout Troops conference at the Philmont Training Center. (As an aside, you really owe it to yourself, your family, and the young people you serve to consider a trip to PTC next summer.)
Throughout our week together, we kept returning to the topic of the Scout-led troop, which of course should be the goal across Boy Scouting. Our discussions really crystallized when we visited camping headquarters for a behind-the-scenes tour of how Philmont’s backcountry program works. A third-year staffer who was working as a training ranger gave us a great explanation about how she and the eight rangers she supervises get crews started on their backcountry adventures. We then visited the radio room, where a staffer I assume was 18 or 19 years old handled all the radio traffic from Philmont’s 30-plus backcountry camps while an adult staffer talked with us about logistics.
After the tour, one of our participants pointed out that we had seen young adults providing real leadership while older adults mostly handled jobs related to health and safety. And that’s true across the ranch, from the PTC children’s programs to the backcountry camps to the dining halls.
So who’s the boss in your troop? Do the adults make the key decisions, like who will be senior patrol leader and where the troop will go camping? Or do they let the Scouts lead their own troop?
Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell once said, “To get first-class results from this system [the patrol method] you have to give the leader a real free-handed responsibility; if you only give partial responsibility you will only get partial results.”
What kind of results are you getting in your troop?