Cupcakes in the Parking Lot

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I did an interview this week for an upcoming Eagles’ Call profile and heard an interesting story. The man I was interviewing was home-schooled, started taking community classes at age 15, and had his Eagle board of review the night before he moved away to attend a four-year college. When he emerged from his board of review (held out of town at the council service center), his three best friends from Scouting were there with cupcakes, and they held an impromptu Eagle court of honor.

Now, many Scouters would say that was the wrong thing to do: his paperwork hadn’t been submitted to the national office, his parents and Scout leaders weren’t involved, and there was none of the pomp and circumstance that most Eagle courts of honor feature. (And those Scouts certainly didn’t buy a copy of my book, The Eagle Court of Honor Book!)

But this new Eagle Scout got just the sort of ceremony he wanted. He was not interested in being in the spotlight, and besides he had already shifted to college mode. A good alternative might have been to do a ceremony when he was home for the holidays (something like the College and Career ceremony in The Eagle Court of Honor Book), but that’s not what happened.

My point here is not that you should do the same sort of thing with your next Eagle Scout. My point is that you should think about his unique situation, personality, and preferences before you set a date and write a script. Make the ceremony fit the Scout–whatever that ends up looking like–and he’ll still be talking fondly about it 14 years later like the man I interviewed this week.


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.

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One Thing Every Fundraising Project Must Avoid

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Scrolling through my Facebook feed recently, I spotted the graphic shown above. It made the rounds on social media a couple of years ago and even earned mentions on the websites of the Today Show and Parenting magazine.

As you can see, the apparently legitimate form gives parents alternative fundraising options at various levels, such as:

  • $15: “I do not want to bake, so here is the money I would have spent on those cupcakes.”
  • $50: “I do not want to walk, swim or run in any activity that has the word ‘thon’ in it. Here is the money I would have spent on my child’s ‘free’ t-shirt.”
  • $100: “I really wouldn’t have helped anyway, so here is $100 to forget my name.” (My favorite!)

The point of the form, of course, is that many parents are tired of endless school fundraisers where most of the funds come directly from their pockets or from the pockets of friends, family, and co-workers. They’re also smart enough to know it’s better to make a $10 donation than to spend $20 on a fundraising item that nets the PTA $10 or less.

Good troop fundraising projects don’t work like that. While parents may be customers, they shouldn’t comprise the bulk of the customer base. Instead, most of the money should come from people outside the troop family, including members of the chartered organization and the general public. And those customers should receive a decent value for their money. As the BSA’s Guide to Unit Money-earning Projects says, “All commercial products must sell on their own merits, not the benefit received by the Boy Scouts.The principle of value received is critical in choosing what to sell.”

If your fundraisers are robbing Peter to pay Paul’s camp fees, it’s time to rethink how you earn money. Otherwise, your troop families might start using that PTA’s alternate fundraising form–or stop supporting your fundraisers at all.


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.

Seven Thoughts on Girls in Scouting

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As you doubtless know by now, the BSA decided on October 11, 2017 to welcome girls at the Cub Scout and Boy Scout levels over the next two years. My take? I support the decision, but I’d like to take more than the length of a couple of tweets to explain why. Here are seven reasons:

  1. We’re already co-ed. And I don’t just mean in Venturing, Sea Scouting, and Exploring. The day the news came out, I happened to be interviewing a pair of married Scouters for an upcoming project. They told me that their now-adult daughter was an active participant in their son’s troop for years. She couldn’t register as a Boy Scout, of course, so she registered and completed advancement as a Juliette, the Girl Scout equivalent of Lone Scouts. And I’ve spoken with other leaders over the years whose Boy Scout troops just happened to meet at the same time and place as Girl Scout troops. Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh talked about cases like that in a national office town hall meeting.the day after the announcement. (The video is well worth watching, by the way.)
  2. The experts aren’t worried. It’s been interesting (and often disheartening) to read reaction to the decision on social media. According to my very unscientific tally, those who have had experience with co-ed Scouting activities (mostly Venturing leaders and Philmont staff members) generally support the decision. Many of those most strongly opposed, including some of my fellow Eagle Scouts, aren’t even involved in Scouting right now.
  3. People on both sides are dissatisfied. It’s a truism that a good compromise is one that leaves both parties dissatisfied, which is the case here. If your troop doesn’t want to go co-ed, it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can’t. Girls will be in separate units.
  4. We aren’t living in the 1950s any more. One former Scout posted on Facebook last week that back in his day his Scoutmaster was a former special forces soldier who made his Scouts into manly men who could stand up to campsite pranks (which I took to mean things like initiations) and “take a whiz off the side of a cliff.” News alert: That’s not the way Scouting or polite society works these days. And that’s not just because we have female adult leaders and soon will have more female youth members. But, again, boys and girls will be separate at the Boy Scout level. (While we’re at it, if the good old days were so good, why don’t we still have separate camps for African American troops?)
  5. We’ve already figured out facilities. Some argue that bathrooms and showers are a barrier. I would argue that we’ve already largely solved that problem. For example, when the Philmont Training Center rebuilt its showerhouses a few years ago, it opted for single-user unisex facilities, which I’ve also seen in other camps. Of course, Philmont’s backcountry latrines often have no walls at all, but that hasn’t stopped co-ed crews (or all-male crews with female Rangers) from enjoying the backcountry for years. And camps across the country have made accommodations for female leaders and Cub Scout family members.
  6. Good people made this decision. Many critics have claimed that this decision was made by “suits” at the national office who are either out of touch or are only trying to pad membership numbers or feather their own nests. The truth, of course, is that the decision, which was unanimous, was made by the National Executive Board. I reviewed the board roster this week in the BSA’s 2016 Annual Report (click the second red link at the bottom of the page) and found the names of several Scouters I either know personally or by reputation. Those people would not make a rash decision or one they felt went against the best interests of Scouting. And it’s important to remember that many of the “suits” people like to disparage are Eagle Scouts, Scouting parents, and/or current or former Scouting volunteers.
  7. Our young men need to learn the right way to treat women. There have been plenty of headlines recently about shocking treatment of women, most recently by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. (Speaking of not living in the 1950s any more!) Where will our Scouts learn better attitudes? Here’s what a female Venturing Advisor told me several years ago in an interview: “The boys were in their tent and were talking. It’s amazing how they think that one micron of nylon can prevent you from hearing. They were talking about girls in a way that we don’t often get to hear them talking. For me as a woman, it was pretty hair-raising—this sexual objectification of women I was hearing. I thought, ‘They need an experience with girls where girls are their friends and their comrades, where they can work alongside each other and learn about each other as people. What I’ve observed is that that’s actually what happened. [Venturing] promotes friendship as opposed to dating. It’s hard to be romantic about someone you’ve hiked 20 miles with and is covered with dirt. They really isn’t a whole lot of intra-crew dating and romance. I won’t say there’s never been any, but it’s far, far less than you might imagine.”

So those are my top seven reasons for supporting the BSA’s recent decision. I’m sure I’ll think of a few more as soon as I hit publish. I’m also sure some of you can think of reasons to oppose it. Feel free to post your comments below. Just remember that a Scout is courteous.


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.

Girls in Scouting–Please Read the Fine Print

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Unless you’ve been in the backwoods this week, you have probably heard that the BSA’s National Executive Board voted unanimously this week to admit girls into Cub Scouting (effective in fall 2018) and into a new program that will parallel Boy Scouting (tentatively effective in 2019). At some point, I’ll take the time to share the reasons why I think this is a good idea, but right now I have a different message: READ THE FINE PRINT!

Maybe it’s because we live in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” or maybe it’s because people don’t want to read more than headlines and tweets, but I’ve been amazed at the amount of misinformation I’ve read online about the decision. One Scouter said we have 2 1/2 months to adjust. (The earliest change will come next fall–and then only at the Cub Scout level.) Another Scouter predicted that the BSA will be sued when a female member gets pregnant because guys and girls are sharing tents. (Such tenting arrangements are already against the BSA’s Youth Protection policies, and at the Boy Scout level, the programs will be separate.) And lots and lots of people have speculated about what the board’s real reason for the decision was. (I happen to know several of the board members personally and know several more by reputation. They are all men and women who want only the best for the Scouting movement.)

Before you decide how you feel about this issue, I hope you’ll take the time to read the material on the Family Scouting webpage. And for more background on the research that led up to the decision, watch Mike Surbaugh’s video, which was shown in councils across the country this summer (and which I blogged about in August). That video runs nearly 30 minutes, but it’s well worth your time if you want to have all your facts straight before you start posting on social media!


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.

Units Helping Units After Hurricanes

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The hurricanes of this summer and fall don’t often appear in the headlines anymore, but people in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still working to recover from wind and flood damage. And of course, Scouts have been deeply involved in recovery efforts. Councils located not far from the disaster areas have organized crews to remove drywall and soggy carpet. Philmont Scout Ranch has sent workers to Sea Base to help restore facilities. And Scouters around the country have opened their wallets to support groups like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

So what you can your troop do? Assuming you’re in Peoria, Pittsburgh, or Portland, it might look like there’s not much you can do that would make a difference.

Fortunately, the BSA has come up with a couple of good options. The first is to donate to the BSA Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps rebuild Scouting in affected communities. The other is to connect directly with a unit in need and to help them replace lost equipment, flags, uniforms, and books. For more on both of these options, visit the BSA’s Disaster Relief web page.

I’m especially intrigued by the idea of units helping units. I think tangible projects like that are more meaningful to Scouts than simply giving money, and I could easily see two troops becoming long-distance brother troops as a result. That said, money is very much needed, and it would be neat for a troop to earmark a portion of popcorn profits, for example, to support the Emergency Assistance Fund.

For all the damage they cause, natural disasters offer us in Scouting the chance to teach what it means to help other people at all times. How are you doing that this season?


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.

Sister (and Brother) Acts at Eagle Courts of Honor

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A reader of The Eagle Court of Honor Book asked me this week how to involve her honoree’s Cub Scout brother in his ceremony. I suggested he could serve as the Scout equivalent of a ring-bearer, as I discussed in an earlier post.

Her email sent me back to my tip archive (which dates to 1999) for other ideas about including, or at least recognizing, siblings. One great idea came from a reader who was worried that her son’s little sister would be jealous of all the attention he was getting on his big day.

She told me her son solved this problem by presenting his little sister with a small rose corsage, similar to the ones often worn by Eagle moms. As that mom explained, the cost was minimal (under $5), but “the look of delight on our daughter’s face when her big brother presented this corsage to her before the ceremony was priceless. She knew that even though this was his big day, he was thinking about her.”

Rose corsages wouldn’t work for little brothers, but with a little imagination, you can come up with something to present to them. A Scout lapel pin backed with a small piece of red, white, and blue ribbon would be appropriate, for example, or the new Eagle might present his nine-year-old brother with his very own Boy Scout handbook.

How do you recognize siblings at Eagle courts of honors? Post your thoughts in the comments section on the blog.


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.