A large-scale service project is one of the final obstacles that you’ll need to overcome to reach Scouting’s highest rank: Eagle Scout. If you’re a Life Scout in the process of planning your own Eagle Project, you’re in the right place! In this article, I’ll be guiding you through how to plan and lead your own successful Eagle Project! Plus, I’ll even let you in on a few crucial mistakes to avoid.
(If you’ve already finished planning and are ready to lead your Eagle project, check out my next article on Eagle Project Execution and Leadership)
By the way, I’m Cole; it’s great to meet you! For my Eagle Scout project, I helped to restore the grounds of an elementary school I attended. This involved pouring concrete, building a permanent shed, setting up worm composting bins, and clearing land to plant a native garden that the students could learn from! (It was a tad ambitious, but I love sustainability and helping educate others 😀 )
Hopefully, I can give you some tips here so that you can make your Eagle Scout project even more awesome! Before we begin though, take a second to thoroughly read requirement 5 for the Eagle rank, which outlines the official guidelines for your Eagle Scout Service Project:
While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts of America.)
A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.—Eagle Scout requirement 5
Pop quiz: Can you begin before getting your district or council’s approval? The answer: Heck no! Another thing to keep in mind is that you must act as the project leader. If you need a few ideas as inspiration for your own project, I’ve got your back with 99 Awesome, Creative, and Acceptable Eagle Project Ideas!
Remember, there’s much more to setting up an Eagle Scout project than just choosing an idea— in fact, in my experience, there are 10 different steps that you must keep in mind in order to organize a successful Eagle Project:
Eagle Project Planning
Eagle Project Execution
- Keep Your Volunteers up to Date and Motivated
- Lead Your Project and Delegate Sub-leaders
- Document Your Project
- Submit Your Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and Eagle Binder
- Discuss Your Project During a Board of Review
This article will mainly focus on ‘Planning’ of your project, phases 1-5, to help you get your idea off the ground. Once you’re ready to hold your actual project, click here to head over to my guide to Eagle Project ‘Execution’ where I’ll be walking you through phases 6-10!
1. Choose Your Eagle Scout Project and Organization
Before you get started on your Eagle Scout project, both you and your Scoutmaster should go over the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook. This handbook is jam-packed with valuable information about how to organize an Eagle Scout project and will give you a good idea of what kinds of projects are eligible.
Remember, there are two major factors that you should take into consideration when choosing your own Eagle Scout Project:
- The project can’t only be a fundraiser. While it’s not against the rules to have a fundraiser to raise funds necessary for an Eagle Scout project, the project itself can’t simply be a money-collection type of fundraiser. The BSA also prefers that scouts choose Eagle Project ideas that aren’t too expensive.
- The project must benefit an organization outside of the Boy Scouts of America. This can be anything from a church to a charity to a local organization. Help the cause you’re most passionate about!
Below are a few quick examples of successful Eagle projects that I either attended in my own troop or found online. Hopefully, these 10 awesome ideas can get your creative juices bubbling:
- Created an equipment shed for local sports teams to safely store their large gear.
- Built and installed ADA-compliant playground equipment.
- Used recycled materials to create dog beds for an animal shelter.
- Built stairs, a railing, and a park bench along a hiking trail.
- Cleaned litter and built a Gazebo near the entrance of a nature park.
- Planted vegetation along a water line to serve as an animal habitat and to reduce erosion.
- Restored a campsite by improving fire pits, filling holes, and repairing tent setup boxes.
- Collected and installed emergency trauma kits for classrooms.
- Hosted a Pinewood Derby at a children’s hospital.
- Built a boardwalk to limit trail erosion.
You can check out almost 100 other Eagle Project ideas here. Your only limits are your creativity when it comes to choosing an Eagle Project! Hopefully, at this point, you have a project and organization in mind that you’re really passionate about. All that’s left to do now is get your idea approved by your Scoutmaster, beneficiary, and council.
According to the official Guide to Advancement section 188.8.131.52 your “proposal must be approved before you start.” Before bringing your idea to your Scoutmaster, make sure you can address the following points:
- The project provides sufficient opportunity to meet the requirement.
(How will you ensure this project is successful? How will this project support the beneficiary?)
- The project appears to be feasible.
(Can it be done? How will you define success?)
- Safety issues will be addressed.
(What are the potential hazards? How can they be mitigated?)
- Action steps for further detailed planning are included.
(What is your current plan? How will you continue to refine it?)
- The Scout is on the right track with a reasonable chance.
(What milestones are you aiming to hit? Is your project possibly too ambitious?)
These questions are known as the Five Tests of an Acceptable Eagle Scout Service Project. Know that your proposal is just an overview, but also represents the beginning of your planning process. Show your unit leaders that you’re prepared by discussing each of these points when introducing your Eagle Project proposal (Section 1 of the workbook)!
2. Connect With Your Eagle Project Coach and Project Beneficiary
How To Connect With Your Eagle Scout Service Project Coach
Once you’ve run your completed Eagle project proposal by your Scoutmaster and gotten their approval, you’re ready to move onto the next step: Connecting with your Eagle Project coach! These individuals are often volunteers with your Scouting district or council, who specialize in helping Eagle Scouts complete their projects, successfully.
An Eagle service project coach is an expert when it comes to planning Eagle Scout projects. The best way to connect with your project coach is simply to ask your unit leader to put the two of you in touch.
While it isn’t required to work with an Eagle project coach, I’d highly recommend it. Most Eagle Project coaches know the Eagle Scout project workbook like the back of their hands and can help you to avoid making big mistakes in your planning process.
Since your project coach is a Scouting representative, remember to follow the official BSA Youth Protection procedures. For more information, check out my complete guide on the role of Eagle Scout Coaches, plus how to work effectively with yours.
How To Connect With Your Eagle Project Beneficiary Representative
You should only reach out to the organization you’d like to help after first meeting with your unit leader and Eagle Scout service project coach. Ideally, if you already have a contact within the organization, you should speak with them to request they put you in touch with someone who’s role closely aligns with your project.
However, if you don’t know anyone within the organization, no need to worry! I’d recommend first calling in (Or even better — showing up with a parent, in person) and saying something along these lines:
Hi, my name is Cole and I’m a Life Scout with Troop 135. When I was younger, your program had a huge impact on me. I’d like to give back by using my Eagle Scout Service project to support your organization.
My plan is to (promote sustainability, help restore your grounds, etc). If you have any team members who are in charge of that area, I’d really appreciate it if you could put me in touch with them. (Give them your name and email address/phone number)
Personally, since my Eagle Scout service project took place at my old elementary school, all I needed to do was speak with one of the teachers who then introduced me to the person in charge of outdoor projects. Finding my beneficiary representative was easy-peasy! 🙂
After you connect with your project beneficiary representative, be sure to keep them in the loop. In addition to reviewing your completed Eagle Project proposal with them, you’ll also want to give your beneficiary representative a project timeline and check-in with them after reaching every milestone.
3. Budget and Fundraise for Your Eagle Scout Service Project
How To Make a Budget For Your Eagle Scout Project
The average Eagle Scout Service Project costs anywhere between $500-$800. However, there are a ton of projects that have been more and less expensive. Before you can start on your Eagle Project, you’ll need to create a budget of your own to assess the costs of getting your idea done!
For someone who doesn’t have a background in accounting (almost all of us) drafting up a Eagle project budget is tough! For help with planning your project expenses, check out my article on How Much Eagle Scout Projects Cost (With Example Budgets). There, you’ll also get a better idea of how to write up a budget of your own!
How To Fundraise For an Eagle Scout Project
In many cases, prospective Eagle Scouts must fundraise in order to have enough money to make their ideas a reality. While the BSA recommends that Eagle Scout service projects be organized to require as little money as possible, it’s common to fundraise within your troop and family to help cover project expenses.
It’s important to remember that a fundraiser in itself can’t be your full project—in other words, an Eagle Scout can’t just donate a bunch of money to a worthy cause and call it good. Instead, funds that are raised must be utilized towards the completion of the Eagle Scout service project.
All public fundraising efforts must also be pre-approved through the BSA before they can be legitimately applied to an Eagle Scout service project. A fundraising request form can be filled out and submitted to the BSA for approval on upcoming fundraising activities before the fundraisers are run.
If you’re planning to raise money for your own Eagle Project, you should know that there are a few loopholes that require no council pre-approval! I’d highly suggest checking out my article on Eagle Scout Project Fundraising: Tips, Methods, And Guidelines.
Briefly, here are the main BSA guidelines on how to conduct fundraising for an Eagle Scout service project:
- Do not use a fundraiser that includes gambling activities. This includes games such as bingo or raffles. The BSA can’t endorse fundraisers that openly endorse gambling, largely due to the fact that gambling is illegal in many areas.
- Do not accept checks that are made out directly to the scout. Any personal checks that are accepted as part of a fundraiser should be made out to the troop or the benefitting organization, not an individual.
- Cash donations can only be given to the scout through the following sources: Family members, troop members, or the charter organization (and its members). All other donations must be taken in the form of a check to be properly recorded and accounted for.
- The scout in charge of the Eagle Scout service project should get together with the Troop Treasurer. It is often beneficial for the scout to set up a separate budget within the troop’s budget that is specifically set out for the service project. Not only does this allow the Troop Treasurer and the scout to collaborate on financial matters, but it also helps keep the whole troop involved with the service project.
(Source: NCA Council BSA)
4. Get Your Eagle Scout Project Workbook Filled Out and Approved
Completing the required forms and documenting your plan’s development is a very important part of the Eagle project process. If you fail to properly complete your Eagle Project Workbook, even if you’ve completed your Eagle project, it might not be approved by the BSA! That’s why it’s crucial to work with your Scoutmaster and Eagle Project Coach to ensure everything is done correctly.
It’s also very important to keep your paperwork organized and well-protected throughout your entire Eagle Scout service project. You’ll later be submitting them in your Eagle rank application, so keep all these files handy!
As I mentioned in my Ultimate Guide For Preparing An Eagle Scout Binder, the ideal binder for holding Eagle Scout Application paperwork is undoubtedly the 1.5″ Avery Binder. In fact, it’s the current industry leader due to its interior pockets and ring durability! If you don’t already have a binder to use for your Eagle Project and rank application, I’d recommend this one (I use it too).
So at this point, what needs to be done? Using the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, complete the first 3 sections to the best of your abilities. If you’ve already outlined your project proposal, met with your project coach, and figured out funding, this shouldn’t be too tricky! The following sections must be completed before proceeding:
- Contact Information (Page 6): Used for verification when submitting your workbook.
- Preparing the Project Proposal (Pages 7–10): You may not begin working on your project until this proposal is approved (which we covered in step 1).
- The Final Plan (Pages 11–16): This is your own plan and does not need approval. However, you should definitely put some work into making your final plan thorough. It’s also very recommended you share it with your project coach,
- The Fundraising Application (Pages 17–18): This is only necessary if you’re fundraising from outside sources. See the project workbook for more details.
All that should remain at this point is your Project Report (Pages 19–20), which you’ll be writing after your project has been completed. And with that, you’re ready to go through your Eagle Project paperwork in an organized manner!
Tip: One crucial thing to consider is whether your project will require permits. When planning any construction-based Eagle projects, I’d highly suggest talking to your beneficiary beforehand to determine if a permit for development will be required.
Although this suggestion isn’t for everyone, I’d highly suggest writing two drafts of your Eagle Project workbook: The first in pencil, and the second, later on, in pen. You’ll likely make a ton of changes as time goes on, and creating that second, neater copy will be more suitable for your Eagle Scout binder (and your memories, later on). 🙂
Allowing yourself a messy rough draft and then rewriting your workbook was my #1 tip. However, here are some other useful tips I learned through my own experience while working on my Eagle project paperwork:
- Keep all project communications (paperwork, emails, letters, receipts) organized in one location. Set up a separate folder or binder section exclusively for anything related to your Eagle project. Sort through this once or twice a month. Not only is this good practice for keeping your project organized — it’s also a good real-world strategy to make any project easier!
- Make sure to keep a calendar to stay on top of project-related deadlines. There are bound to be deadlines and important dates when organizing your Eagle Scout service project. Keeping a master calendar is key! I’d recommend using Google Calendars as a free option. However, my personal favorite is the Apex Planner (referral link) which I use for 95% of my daily scheduling these days.
- Keep a notebook or journal to record your thoughts while organizing your Eagle Scout Project. There are 2 benefits to this: not only will recording your thoughts keep your plans clear and help you to run a better project, but a journal will also serve as a rewarding memento you can look back on for years following the success of your Eagle service project!
- Back your files up or, at the very least, take pictures. All physical paperwork should be backed up digitally and shared to the cloud — that way if something is lost, there’s still a remaining copy to fall back on. This is generally a good idea for any files you wouldn’t want to lose.
Practically no one likes filling out paperwork, but making sure that everything is completed correctly is a valuable life skill that all Eagle Scouts should master. Remember that submitting documentation can be tough, even for adults, so don’t hesitate to ask for help from your parents, Eagle Project Coach, or Scoutmaster, if needed!
5. Reach Out to and Coordinate Your Eagle Scout Project Volunteers
How To Find Volunteers For Your Eagle Project
Often, a scout’s friends, family, and troop will all volunteer to help make an Eagle project successful. Isn’t the Scouting community great! If you need more manpower, I’d recommend asking your volunteers if they’d be willing to ask their friends to help out too.
As the organizer of your Eagle project, it’s your job to make sure that all your volunteers are engaged and kept in the loop. I’d highly recommend collecting volunteer RSVP’s beforehand using a Google Form, Facebook event page, or by using email and a spreadsheet.
After getting your volunteers’ RSVPs, be sure to provide updates on your project. Ideally, you should send 1 email to every prospective volunteer asking for them to RSVP at least 2 weeks before your project date. If they confirm their attendance, send them a project FAQ sheet with the following info:
- Your Project Date: What day is it on? Pick a time that will be convenient for the most people (Like a Saturday morning).
- Your Project Time: When to arrive? How long should they expect to be there?
- Location: Where is it? Where should they park? Will you arrange a carpool?
- Your Project Details: What will they be doing? Give a description of your project, the beneficiary, and your goals.
- Recommended Attire: How should they dress? Do they need sun protection or insect repellent?
- Necessary Tools: Do you need to borrow any tools? This is a great time to ask if anyone has it.
- Food/Water: Will you organize this or do they need to bring their own?
- Ask them to mark your project date in their calendars!
After sending your initial email, I’d suggest following up with people who didn’t reply one more time a week before the project. Then, you should provide a reminder to everyone about 1 or 2 days before the actual project. This will help the most people show up! 🙂
Remember to keeping a clear and organized volunteer list, as this will be useful when writing your final project report (as well as for an Eagle Scout College Essay). Additionally, knowing your volunteer count will be helpful when judging how much food will be necessary to feed everyone after your project is finished (which you should do).
How to Coordinate Your Eagle Project Volunteers
Aside from keeping everyone in the loop, another key to successfully coordinate your Eagle project volunteers is to make their work fun! Happy volunteers work harder, enjoy themselves more, and produce better-quality results.
Along with that first tip, here are some other key things to remember when coordinating your Eagle Scout Project volunteers:
- Use email to keep everyone’s contact information organized. You should be able to communicate with all of your volunteers at once via email. You don’t want to send too many messages, but giving them an outline of your project, as well as a few reminders, will go a long way in making sure all of your volunteers are informed and ready to help.
- Keep volunteer work rewarding. While many scouts and adults will be happy to volunteer their time and energy to help a fellow scout complete their Eagle Scout service project, it is still good to practice good leadership. Praise your volunteers for good work, and try to assign people tasks they’d like to do. Also, send out a big thank-you once finished!
- Provide useful training for volunteers. If your volunteers are doing a task they’re unfamiliar with, assign an expert to help them or provide a brief training, yourself. Remember though, as the project manager your time is valuable — try to delegate as much as possible!
- Give volunteers chances to rest and socialize. One way to keep volunteers engaged throughout your Eagle Scout Project is to designate rest and snack breaks periodically. Encourage your volunteers to switch tasks if they’d like, and introduce them to one another if you think they’d get along.
Managing lots of volunteers will help your project to be completed more quickly. Plus, It’ll make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. (Having tons of volunteers will also be super impressive if you put Scouting on your Resume)!
As long as your volunteers are kept organized and are given positive reasons to join in, there should be no shortage of people willing to help you complete your Eagle Scout Project! With that step done, you’re now fully prepared to run an awesome Eagle Project!
Great job reading this far! You’ve just completed the Eagle Project preparation phase and are now ready to move onto the fun part: Actually making your project happen! This is your opportunity to turn your helpful idea into a reality. You only get one shot at your Eagle project, so try your best to make it count!
Soon it’ll be time for you to learn about Eagle Project Execution! To do that, check out my article on How to Run a Successful Eagle Scout Service Project. In it, we’ll be covering each of the points below, in detail:
- Keeping Your Volunteers up to Date and Motivated
- Leading Your Project and Delegating Sub-leaders
- Documenting Your Project
- Submitting Your Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and Eagle Binder
- Discussing Your Project During a Board of Review
Thanks for your contributions to our world through Scouting and congrats on your upcoming Eagle achievement! If you want more helpful Scouting (and life) info sent straight to your inbox each week, sign up for my newsletter, the ScoutSmarts scribe. Hope to see you here again soon and, until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey!