Eagle project fundraising tips from a Scout whose project cost nearly $40,000

Scouting doesn’t just prepare young people for the real world. It is the real world.

A prime example of this is found in the Eagle Scout service project — the pinnacle of the journey to the highest rank in Scouts BSA. 

An Eagle project isn’t a simulation. It’s a chance for a Scout to use every item in their toolbox as they plan, develop and give leadership to a real-world project that will benefit real people outside of Scouting. 

When we say “real,” we mean it. A young person meets with real adults, prepares a real plan for approval and — in most cases — raises real money for the effort.

Asking people or businesses for money in the name of the Eagle project beneficiary can be intimidating, time-consuming and even a little confusing.

Christian Snouffer knows that process well. He’s a soon-to-be Eagle Scout from Troop 69 of Jacobus, Pa., part of the New Birth of Freedom Council.

His project — replacing a dilapidated, unsafe playground area for a church in Jacobus — cost a grand total of $39,589.16. And Christian himself raised and tracked every last penny.

“When a donation came in or I spent money on something, I put the receipt in the correct folder. About once a week, I would scan my expense receipts and put them into a folder on my Google Drive,” Christian says. “It was overwhelming sometimes, especially at the end when everything was all coming together, but it was very exciting, too.”

We asked Christian to share what he learned about fundraising for an Eagle project. You’ll find his advice — and some words from his dad, who double-checked all of his work — below.

But first, let’s review the BSA’s rules about Eagle project fundraisers. The big one to remember: When raising money for an Eagle project, a Scout is soliciting donations for the project beneficiary, not the BSA.

Before: The project site was in need of a helping hand.

What the BSA says about fundraising for Eagle projects

  • The Eagle project itself cannot be a fundraiser. Fundraising is only for securing materials or otherwise facilitating a project.
  • Fundraising for the project is conducted in the beneficiary’s name (not Scouting’s name), and the beneficiary will receive any leftover funds, materials or supplies not used for the project. The beneficiary should be prepared to provide receipts to donors as required.
  • Any contracts that are signed cannot reference the BSA, the local council or the unit’s chartered organization. They should be signed by an adult acting as an individual (not a representative of the BSA). 
  • At least two weeks before fundraising efforts begin, the Eagle Scout candidate should complete the “Eagle Scout Service Project Fundraising Application” found in the Eagle Scout service project workbook. This form is submitted to the local council for approval.
  • An Eagle Scout candidate WILL NOT need a fundraising application if their fundraising effort only involves contributions from:
    • the unit
    • the project beneficiary
    • the Eagle Scout candidate
    • the Eagle Scout candidate’s parents/relatives
    • the unit’s chartered organization
    • parents or members in the unit
  • An Eagle Scout candidate WILL need a fundraising application (found in the Eagle Scout service project workbook) if the Eagle Scout candidate is obtaining money, materials, supplies or donations from any sources not in the list above.
  • The Scout should check with their council before starting the application. Councils might determine that certain fundraisers — such as car washes or bake sales — don’t require a fundraising application. Some councils also set dollar thresholds for the application. For example, a council might say that “Any effort expected to raise less than $500 does not require an application.”

For more guidance, the Eagle Scout candidate, their parent/guardian, their unit leader and a representative from the project beneficiary should review the “Eagle Scout Service Project Fundraising Application” and the document titled “Procedures and Limitations on Eagle Scout Service Project Fundraising.” Both are found in the Eagle Scout service project workbook.

Save yourself future headaches by being prepared now.

Christian (right) at work during the project.

Christian’s top tips for asking for donations

Christian transformed the church playground into a safe, fun and educational place for kids to learn and play. He led the effort to add a ga-ga ball pit, slides, a gate, a play set, benches, fencing, a toy box, exterior lighting, mulch and a basketball court.

As anyone who has completed even the simplest backyard project knows, this work isn’t cheap. Christian’s initial estimate was $23,000, but “as the project progressed, the beneficiary had additional input and things came up that just needed taken care of.”

To reach his goal, Christian knew he would need to raise a lot of money for the beneficiary. 

After presenting his plan to the council and getting it approved, Christian got to work. Here’s what he learned:

  • Create “leave-behinds”: Christian created packets that explained the project, including drawings and a budget. This gave potential donors a chance to learn more about the project beneficiary before deciding whether they could support it.
  • Try a variety of fundraisers: With council approval, try earning money for the beneficiary in a number of ways. Then keep going with what sticks. For Christian, this meant selling grocery cards, trees, first-aid kits, ham sandwiches and more. 
  • Ask for “in lieu of cash” donations: Businesses can provide materials or equipment instead of money. Christian got help from Kinsley Construction, Lewis Burns Tree Service, Future Solutions Fence & Outdoors, Lowe’s in East York, and Chad Mowry, an electrician who does work for Christian’s parents’ business. 
  • Talk to local service clubs: Christian contacted 16 VFW and American Legion posts, two Moose lodges, three Elks lodges, two athletic associations, two Republican clubs, and two Democratic clubs. Most were willing to show their support to the cause. As for those who could not?
  • Be OK with “no,” especially during the pandemic: “The biggest thing I heard from these service clubs is they wish they could help me, but due to COVID they were shut down and are having cash flow issues,” Christian says.
  • Prepare your pitch: “I always started out by introducing myself,” Christian says. “If they would take a few minutes to talk to me, I would explain what my project was and then ask them if they would be able to make a donation at this time. No matter what the answer was, I always thanked then for taking the time to talk to me.” 
  • Try to meet face to face: You’re more likely to be successful if you meet people in person instead of calling or emailing. 
  • Wear your uniform: Christian found the most success when he wore his Scouts BSA uniform and merit badge sash to meetings. 
  • Say thank you: Christian spent a lot of time writing and mailing thank-you cards — to all who volunteered and all of the people and organizations that made donations for his project. 
One sheet from the spreadsheet Christian used to keep track of his project’s finances.

Christian’s top tips for keeping track of it all

More donations (whether cash or materials) means more to keep track of. 

Christian used a bankers box marked “Eagle Scout Project” that contained two folders: “Money In” and “Money Out.” He also made heavy use of Microsoft Excel, a scanner, and Google Drive.

Here’s what he learned:

  • Keep your receipts from the start: Rather than trying to organize everything at the end, start filing away receipts from the beginning.
  • Create backups: Christian used a scanner to create digital copies of everything, which he labeled and stored in Google Drive.
  • Learn to spreadsheet: Christian created four spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel:
    • One for cash donations showing money in and money out
    • One for keeping track of the total project, showing all the parts of the project and where the money came from for that part (cash payment or donation)
    • One for keeping track of potential and actual volunteers and their hours worked
    • One with a list of potential donors he wanted to go out and see
  • Ask for help: Christian’s parents reviewed his calculations along the way.

“I had a lot of people tell me they didn’t think I could do this project because it was too big,” Christian says. “I got discouraged sometimes when people said these things, but I had people who believed I could do it.

“I think it’ll help me as I go through high school and work on accomplishing my goal of going to the Naval Academy.”

After: An aerial view of the project.

And a few words from Dad

Bradley Snouffer, Christian’s dad and a Troop 69 committee member, says he worked with Christian to set up his Excel spreadsheets and formulas for the project. Bradley and his wife also checked Christian’s work when asked and served as “chauffeurs,” driving Christian around as the young man asked for donations.

But beyond that, Christian’s parents sat back and let the Eagle Scout candidate do all the work.

What impressed me most about Christian’s efforts were that I could see the progression of his realization of real-life money management and how he handled things when unexpected expenses arose,” Bradley says. “We did offer some advice, but for the most part he figured out on his own how to make it happen.”

About Bryan Wendell 3217 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.