When tragedies strike — be it a major accident, natural disaster, or act of violence — Scouts quickly answer the call to respond. It’s in our DNA.
That often manifests itself in drives for clothing, blood, and/or supplies. Nobody questions the value of these drives, but Scouters often wonder whether they’re acceptable as Eagle Scout service projects.
Take this email received yesterday from a Scouter who will remain anonymous:
A council has long-held that “drives” in general and blood drives in particular are verboten as Eagle service projects. The usual argument supporting this ban is that “other people do most of the work, including the leadership” and/or “there’s no way the Scout can ‘guarantee’ a particular outcome (e.g., a specific number of books collected, clothing collected, etc.).” Does the BSA have a written position on drives and their appropriateness as service projects for Eagle rank?
Great question. As usual, we turn to Advancement Team Leader Christopher Hunt for the official response. Chris says:
The Guide to Advancement [link opens PDF] directly addresses this in topic 188.8.131.52 beginning on page 52. The following is at the top of page 53:
It is important not to categorically reject projects that, on the surface, may not seem to require enough planning and development. Consider, for example, a blood drive. Often rejected out of hand, this project, if done properly, could be acceptable. Few would question the beneficiary. Blood banks save lives—thousands of them: maybe yours, maybe that of a loved one. If the candidate proposes to use a set of “canned” instructions from the bank, implemented with no further planning, the planning effort would not meet the test. On the other hand, there are councils in which Scouts and advancement committees have met with blood bank officials and worked out approaches that can comply.
Typically these involve developing marketing plans and considering logistics. People successful in business know how important these skills are. Some blood banks will also set a minimum for blood collected as a measure of a successful plan. To provide another valuable lesson, they may require the candidate to keep at it until he’s met this goal.
A good test of any project is to evaluate its complexity. In the case of a blood drive, for example, elements of challenge and complexity can be added so there is a clear demonstration of planning, development, and leadership.
So the by-the-book, official answer is that no council should reject all drives sight unseen. The goal, as with any Eagle project, is for a Scout to use skills in planning, leadership, and execution to make a difference in his community.
Here’s more on the topic from Chris. I’ve added bold for emphasis:
This question often comes up. Every project should be reviewed individually. Categorically excluding drives is not appropriate. There are thousands of impactful Eagle Scout service projects out there, but blood drives save lives. How many other projects do that? And what about drives for the people effected by the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, or the recent storm damage in the northeast? Would we pass on them too? The key is to work with the Scout and help him figure out a way to bring up the level of complexity somewhat so there is sufficient planning and leadership.
Experience tells us that trying to bring all Eagle Scout projects to a standard level for all Scouts is unproductive. Different Scouts have different needs and capabilities, and Eagles soar at different heights. The project is not a master’s thesis or an Eagle Scout final exam. It’s just one requirement of 80-plus requirements on the trail to Eagle, which all combined, have tremendous effect on character, personal fitness, and citizenship. We need to keep the focus on those stated aims and keep the service project in perspective.
Well said. Thanks to Chris for the response and to our anonymous Scouter for the question. Keep these “Ask the Expert” questions coming to email@example.com, and I’ll select a few to send to Chris and post here.