Precedents and Eagle Courts of Honor


The other day, I heard from a reader of The Eagle Court of Honor Book who was getting ready for her son’s court of honor. She asked my thoughts on having a dinner after his court of honor, which I think can be a good idea, as I’ve discussed previously.

She also mentioned that her son’s court of honor would be the troop’s first, which led me to offer some unsolicited advice that I thought I’d share here:

Since this will be the troop’s first Eagle court of honor, everything you do is going to set a precedent. You don’t need to overthink this, but it might be helpful to talk about what the family is responsible for planning and paying for and what the troop is responsible for planning and paying for. When I was Scoutmaster, for example, our troop planned and paid for the ceremony and a basic cake-and-punch reception; if the family wanted to do a dinner or make the reception fancier, for example, they knew that was their responsibility. A system like that ensures that every Scout gets at least the basic “package”; at the same time, it allows families who want to do more to do so without forcing families who don’t have the resources (time and/or money) to do more than they’re capable of.

Whenever I think about precedents, I’m reminded of George Washington, who was keenly aware that everything he did as president would set a precedent. He insisted on being called “Mr. President”–not “His Elective Majesty,” “His Mightiness,” or even “His Highness, the President of the United States of America and the Protector of their Liberties,” as Vice President John Adams suggested–and that title is still used today. His decision to step down after two terms set a precedent that lasted all the way until Franklin Roosevelt, America’s 32nd president ran for a third (and then a fourth) term.

Now, you probably don’t need to worry about setting a precedent that will last 144 years. But you should think about how what you do at your next court of honor will affect the ones your troop holds next year.

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and

What’s Your Pitch?


In the business world, people often talk about the elevator pitch, that introduction to a product, service, person, or idea that can be delivered before an elevator reaches its destination. According to the Harvard Business School, the average elevator pitch runs 231 words and takes 56 seconds. (That’s seems like some pretty fast talking to me; public speakers typically talk at a rate of more like 125 to 150 words per minute.)

You may not have thought about an elevator pitch for your troop, but you probably should before the next Webelos den or prospective Scout drops by a troop meeting. While you might be tempted to give a long speech about how great your troop is and about all the great trips you’ve taken and about how many great leaders you have, what they really want to hear–at least at the outset–is your elevator pitch. What are your troop’s key strengths? What makes your troop unique (your unique selling proposition in sales-speak)? Why should they choose your troop over any other?

If you don’t have such a pitch, now’s a good time to start working on it. And once you’ve developed it, emblazon it on your website, print it in your recruiting handouts, and make sure all your key leaders know it and can repeat it in their own words.

You can find lots of information online about pitches, including in this article from Punched Clock. And to give you a little incentive, I’m running a contest. Post your pitch in the comments section on the blog, and you could win a free copy of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook. Deadline to enter is March 5, 2018.

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

Reconsidering the Eagle Scout Congratulatory Letter List


I recently talked with a NESA committee chair for an upcoming Eagles’ Call article. One of his committee’s biggest efforts has been to re-imagine the council’s Eagle Scout recognition dinner, and the first thing he did was start recruiting speakers who would be relevant to young Eagle Scouts instead of interesting to their parents and grandparents.

I thought about that conversation this week when I participated in an online discussion of the best congratulatory letters to request for new Eagle Scouts. One person suggested TV personality Mike Rowe. I think he’s a great choice, and the letter he provides is pretty cool. However, I wonder how relevant he is to today’s Scouts. After all, “Dirty Jobs” end its run six years ago, when today’s Eagle Scouts were first pulling on their khaki shirts.

Yes, I know Rowe has done other interesting work since “DIrty Jobs,” but I don’t that he has the street cred of PewDiePie, DanTDM, or the guys from Dude Perfect. Who, you ask? Those are some of YouTube’s biggest stars, people who may well be more popular than traditional celebrities (and certainly more popular than the politicians and business types who dominate many congratulatory-letter lists). According to one study, 70 percent of teen YouTube subscribers prefer YouTube stars over their old-school counterparts.

I’m not saying you should reach out to YouTube stars for congratulatory letters, even if they would send them. I AM saying that you should look at your letter list through 17-year-old eyes before hitting the mail-merge button. You might save yourself some stamps and your new Eagle Scout some yawns.

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and


Serendipity and Scouting


I was thrilled recently to have the chance to write a profile of the late Green Bar Bill Hillcourt for Scouting magazine. I thought about him a lot as I worked on the current edition of the Boy Scout Handbook since his 9th edition version of the handbook is what got me re-energized when my interested in Scouting was waning. (I also had the chance to meet him twice, once at the 1981 National Scout Jamboree and once at a 1988 Wood Badge reunion.)

In working on the Scouting article, I came across an essay Hillcourt wrote called “The Life of a Serendipist,” which you can read at the website of Troop 1, Mendham, N.J. In it, he talks about serendipity, which he defines as “a gift for finding valuable things not sought for.”

To me, that’s where Scouting is at its best–not in carefully planned programs (although our programs should be carefully planned!) but in happenstance occurrences. One Scout discovers a lifelong hobby because he happens to take a certain merit badge, another Scout chooses his career because his Scoutmaster happens to work in that field, a third Scout forges lifelong friendships because he happens to be in a great patrol.

I thought about the role of serendipity this week when I read about Distinguished Eagle Scout Larry Bacow, who was just named president of Harvard University. Bacow is Jewish, but he happened to join a troop that met at a church. And that interfaith experience, he told a Scouting audience several years ago, taught him how to work with all sorts of people–a skill that’s pretty important for a university president.

You can’t create serendipity, of course, but I think you can work to make sure your Scouts are exposed to as many different kinds of people and as many different kinds of activities as possible. And you can use Scoutmaster minutes and Scoutmaster conferences as opportunities to help Scouts recognize the life lessons that just happen to occur every time they show up for a meeting or outing.

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

A New Way to Fund Eagle Projects


As Eagle Scout projects have become more elaborate and impactful in recent years, they’ve also become more expensive, and that means Scouts are having to raise money beyond what their families and their beneficiary organizations can provide. Sometimes that means bake sales and car washes; sometimes it means Kickstarter and Go Fund Me appeals.

Those online funding vehicles can be great, but they come with strings attached. Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing policy–if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get any money. Go Fund Me charges a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents per donation. (That means a $10 donation would net $9.41.)

Now Eagle Scout candidates have a new option. The National Eagle Scout Association has partnered with to offer totally free online fundraising. According to a press release, the partnership began in 2015 with a pilot program in Virginia and North Carolina. Since then Scouts have raised nearly $10,000–and saved several hundred dollars in credit-card fees.

The new arrangement offers a couple of benefits. First, fundraisers for Eagle Scout projects are pre-verified, meaning they don’t require extra vetting. Second, every new fundraising campaign receives an initial $50 donation from the Good Start Fund to help kick start donations.

For more information, check out the website.

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