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Ask the Expert: Are blood drives and other drives acceptable Eagle projects?

Ask the ExpertWhen 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 9.0.2.3 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.

More thoughts

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 scoutingmag@gmail.com, and I’ll select a few to send to Chris and post here.

See also: Related posts about Eagle Scout projects

Announcing my first-ever Golden Eagle Awards for best Eagle project videos

How to find a great idea for an Eagle Scout Service Project

33 Comments on Ask the Expert: Are blood drives and other drives acceptable Eagle projects?

  1. One of the best projects I’ve ever seen was a blood drive.

    • ScouterGirl // May 14, 2014 at 9:34 am // Reply

      What made it outstanding please? (Not disagreeing, just curious.)

    • how did you apply Leadership to a blood drive?

  2. Tom DeShields // May 1, 2013 at 11:08 am // Reply

    If a Scout puts effort in, and strives to get more donations than the minimum amount requested by the blood organization; and maybe add a health fair, then it will benefit more people.

  3. Scouters and Councils seem to often be in the business of creating restrictions and saying “no,” rather than turning that into a “Yes” with suggestions and guidance. If it’s what the boy wants to do, help him instead of blocking him.

  4. Blood drives are a good Eagle project as long as it meets the standards of leadership and many hours and volunteers devoted to the project. I give blood every 8 weeks to the local Council account it started in 2010 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the BSA.The goal was 100 pints of blood. I still donate blood. Sincerely,
    Trenton Spears

  5. Karl Kaszuba // May 1, 2013 at 11:26 am // Reply

    Chris Hunt is, in my humble opinion, spot on with his approach to this type, and all, Eagle Scout service projects. It is vital that the Eagle project involve a level of leadership from the candidate that goes beyond merely passing out fliers advertising the event (I’ve seen that), but if he demonstrates the leadership commensurate with that of an Eagle Scout by, say, developing a full marketing plan, recruiting, supervising and leading volunteer workers, etc, it might well qualify. As Chris said, our job as adult volunteers is not to “just say ‘no'” to such projects, but to instead lead that candidate to an acceptable solution and project that he will be proud to call his own and that is worthy of being called an Eagle Scout community service project.

  6. Patrick Provart // May 1, 2013 at 11:29 am // Reply

    One of my Eagles did, not a Blood Drive, but rather a donor drive. He set up a “donor pool” of a number of donors who each committed to donate eight times over two years. He spoke to the largest church in town a number of times and organized a group of a dozen scouts to man scheduling booths over the course of 90 days or so. There had been a miscommunication with the local blood bank and he only signed up first time donors. . . Over 200 of them.

    Not only did this qualify for his Eagle project, but he was also “1994 Volunteer of the Year” at the Blood Bank.

    • Dave Mohn // May 1, 2013 at 2:42 pm // Reply

      This is how I became a donor, they love O-

  7. My Eagle Project was a blood drive. The key is: How much work does the Scout put into it? For example: my goal was to get 80 units donated. That required a LOT of marketing tactics that needed to be done by me—the Red Cross didn’t have a hand in that—just to get 80 people to show up (which was what ultimately happened), let alone donate. Yes, you can’t guarantee a specific result (in my case, we fell about 16 units short), but you can’t do that with a science project or a work project either. If the Scout’s involvement is negligible at best, of course it’s a bad project. If the Scout is getting volunteers to staff the day and showing leadership to get the blood drive marketed, it is certainly acceptable.

  8. As a Blood Drive Chairman for 25 years and a Scouter for 30: Blood Drives make great Eagle Service Projects! Contact me at BSAMustang@(remove)gmail.com if your scout would like to consider helping “Give the Gift of Life”,

  9. I have a scout that is just completing a flag drive and retirement. I am generally opposed to drives as a project but if the boy can demonstrate leadership i think they can work. The flag drive had a community education side that i really liked. he ended up collecting over 400 flags. I feel as though perhaps as a troop we are not letting people know we are always available to help retire a flag.

  10. Andy McCommish // May 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm // Reply

    Thanks, Bryan, and big thanks to Chris as well —

    It’s great to see this in writing!  I’m sure this will help a lot of Scouts on their trail to Eagle!

    Andy

    ________________________________

  11. If the Blood drive is set up and in an area that has drives and most of the donors are the regular crowd just in a different location, I don’t think so, but if a goal of the drive is to get a number of first time or get a few times a year donors that will take planing and work and will benefit everyone. A drive for new donors is always a good thing.

  12. My Eagle project was a food drive.

    The only assistance I received from the food bank was permission to use their name, and they agreed to accept the donations.

    I coordinated every aspect of the drive, including placing drop off boxes at over a dozen schools and churches, having announcements made at each location to promote the drive, recruiting helpers to maintain and inventory donations from each location, compiling a master inventory of donations, and enlisting help to deliver to the food bank and organize the food on their shelves.

    As others have said, the key to ANY Eagle project is the leadership provided by the Scout.

  13. Dave Mohn // May 1, 2013 at 2:40 pm // Reply

    Agree I had a scout propose a project to make dog tags for those killed in action in Iraq, and place them on a special display at a local air museum, his SM said no. Within 6 mo. Another boy from another Troop did the project, to this day the impact is unmeasurable, see the Fargo Air museum web site for more. This project has since been front page news on a number of occasions.

  14. Tim G in MN // May 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm // Reply

    We do not rule out drives automatically. But, we do ask the scout to come up with a way to include a community eduction component to the project, and if possible, make the project sustaining (ie. a recurring event moving forward, annually hosted by the unit or charter organization,) or something along those lines.

    • To what end? Why should a unit be saddled with a project from a guy they haven’t seen in 10 years? How do you police your extra burden?
      There is no longevity requirement. The purpose is to develop leadership skills while making a significant impact to the beneficiary, not to create a legacy.

  15. “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.”

    Exactly. Too many troops/councils allo Eagle projects to pass that are little more than school service projects. I wouldn’t mind seeing an hour requirement attached to them.

  16. I’m seeing a few crappy community service projects slip through as ‘eagle projects”. Seems there are more since the 100 hour requirement was removed. Having been the benefit site for 14 projects It seems that since the hours requirement was removed I have seen more kids wanting to do the least required project when they are capable of so much more.

    It is important to match the project to the kids ability and ensure it is challenging yet he is able to accomplish the goals. My best project leadership wise was a mentally challenged kids several years ago. Several more capable kids have left me disappointed since.

    • Matt Culbertson // May 2, 2013 at 12:44 pm // Reply

      There has never been an hour requirement for EPs

      • Maybe where you live but there was around here till the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. Maybe it was a council rule but several old timers refer to it and I was in on the math calculation on numerous projects. Ya I know one is not to add or subtract to the requirements these days but a quick Google search still finds the 100 hr requirement for some councils and reference to the magic 100 hour project for others as a gauge for worthiness even though it isn’t in the application.

        • Matt Culbertson // May 4, 2013 at 9:07 am //

          Those councils and their old-timers were adding to the requirement. You will not find an hour requirement in any BSA publication. The old-timers jerking scouts around on EPs were some of the reasoning behind the new GTA and Eagle Workbook.

        • Maybe so. I don’t have documentation from 20 years ago to say if it was a BSA policy or a council policy but hopefully you will agree that the higher quality of the project (and the better quality the scout) the higher respect the Eagle (and scouting) will hold in society.

          Feedback from employers is that the quality of the scout has diminished in recent times. I herd second hand that one emplloyer said he would never hire a scout because the last one didn’t e ven know how ot use a phone. I heard form a national that they were looking to the Merit Badge Clinic issue for the same reason. I have been a councilor at these and seems some kids expect to show up with no prerequisites done, do nothing during the day, and expect a badge at the end of the day.

          You have to match the project to the boy but planting annual flowers is not an Eagle project.

  17. I have given many MB courses during MB clinics and agree with Mike. The majority do not have the MB pamphlet (let alone the worksheet) when coming to the clinic. I will not sign off a Blue Card unless the Scout completes each requirement for the MB. During the clinic, if it requires that the Scout discuss or show something then they must do such. Sitting in a classroom without saying a word does not prove they know anything. If they have prerequisites that needed to be done BEFORE the Blue Card is signed off, then they too must be completed. In other words – a Scout does not automatically get a MB for just coming to the clinic. There’s work that must be done to EARN it.

  18. This is one of those “nail soup” conversations. A good eagle counselor can work with a scout to take any idea, even one that doesn’t seem to be complex enough for an eagle project (a “nail” in the old story) and help the scout think through how to develop the project into something of value (“if we just had some vegetables” from the nail soup story). Not doing it for the scout, not even suggesting the additions, but helping the scout think through how to polish the idea. Moving from a “hey, we (meaning you scoutmaster types) should put on a blood drive” idea to something where the scout does significant planning, organizing, recruiting and leading through delivery.

    It’s not about the bridge, barn, or other structure getting built, it’s about the leadership skills of the eagle candidate getting built.

  19. Every scout is different just like every Eagle project is different. As an example my son’s eagle project was a coat drive, I was then of the choice that it be something physical and visibly lasting, and suggested something else. He continued to work the project getting a good sponsor, the support of the advancement chair of the troop, and our district eagle board. His project involved 13 local churches, he had to meet and convince pastors, deacons, youth ministors, and an entire church during mass, to allow their church to be a participant. He then had to get with the folks who print thier bulletins , make boxes to collect, and arrange scouts or others to collect the various coats. His plans included making scarfs to go with every coat, fundraising for the material costs, and scheduling times for the scarf making teams . The coats had to be sorted, searched, sized and cleaned, matched with a scarf and eventually delivered. He would up with 400 coats, way more than expected, one of his issues during the project to deal with was what to do with them all. He wanted to make sure that they would be used correctly and the sponsor was Goodwill, they sell things donated , and he arranged for them to donate the youth coats, and sell the adults, and even brought him in to discuss all the training they do for adults with the money they raise, which was part of the final results. I was wrong, a coat drive was a great plan and he was proud of what he had accomplished because he lead the effort.

  20. Those are some good general guidelines, but a bit too narrow to encompass all of what Eagle projects can and should be.

  21. datafreak // May 1, 2013 at 12:13 pm // Reply

    And the gift of blood lasts a lifetime for the recipient!

  22. From the Guide to Advancement: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf

    9.0.2.12
    Addressing Common Misconceptions
    1. No unit, district, council, or individual shall place any requirement or other arbitrary standard on the number of hours spent on a project. The Boy Scouts of America is concerned with hours worked on Eagle Scout service projects and collects this data only because it points to a level of excellence in achievement the BSA aim related to citizenship.
    2. Eagle Scout service projects are individual matters. No more than one candidate may receive credit for working on the same project.
    3. There is no requirement a project must have lasting value.

  23. Hmm, my comment above was responding to someone’s restrictive criteria of what they felt was a “good” Eagle project. Seems they deleted that and now my comment is hanging out there without context…

  24. Bob Basement // May 8, 2013 at 8:48 am // Reply

    That is sad…

    There is no requirement a project must have lasting Value.

    A local park has a number of benches and a trail that was a number of Eagle projects. All of the benches have plaques on them stating it was an eagle scout project and a date.

    It helps with our public image problem.

    A food, clothing, or blood drive does not do that…… The food drive is forgotten as soon as the beneficiary is hungry again, same for the clothing. The blood recipient will never know they benefited from an Eagle project.

    Far as the Boy scout who did not know how to use the phone…..It is a very strong argument against the way many volunteers and councils are using the merit badge program. Use it as it was intended.

    Scout calls Merit badge councilor and makes and appointment…..

    Imagine that….responsibility, use of technology, decision making. Nice.

    Merit badge fair…..you fill out a work sheet, sit in a class for an hour or two collect your badge….. No calling, no planning, minimal interaction with adults you don’t know, no use of technology.

  25. AMEN! I heard from a person on a national committee that they were looking closely at clinics.

    I have taught at clinics but I make sure they do the work or no credit. So many come unprepared including no MB book and the prerequisites not done. .

    Sorry bud!

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