Running an Eagle Scout service project is the final obstacle that separates most scouts from the 5% who rise up to earn their Eagle rank. You’ve prepared as much as possible for this day, and now it’s time to put your carefully-laid plans into action! In this article, I’ll be teaching you everything you’ll need to know to run a successful Eagle project workday.
PS. This article is based on the experiences and research of Eagle Scouts, Kevin A, and Cole 🙂
Whether you’re planning to finish your project in one day or across multiple days, executing on your Eagle project plans will be the ultimate test of your leadership skills. You’ll need to take charge of your project with confidence, adapt when necessary, and create the best results possible, all while also not pushing your volunteers too hard!
Kevin here — For my Eagle Scout project that took place a few years ago, I led a team of scouts in hand building PVC-pipe signs for our local senior citizen center. This helped the organization to reach even more elderly people in need of housing and community! While this may seem like an easy project to execute (in theory), when it comes to leading your project, it’s never easy.
If there’s one thing I learned from my Eagle Scout Project experience, it’s that you can’t plan for everything. While the Scout Motto reminds us to “Be prepared,” when it comes to your Eagle Project, you could prepare for years and still have unexpected obstacles come up! Not to worry though. I’ll also be teaching you some useful tips for overcoming almost any challenge, on the fly!
First, let’s begin with the 10 key components of a successful Eagle Scout project. To make things even clearer, I like to break these components into 3 sections: project planning, project execution, and project follow-up. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with each of the 10 keys to Eagle project success, listed below:
Eagle Project Planning
This article will center around keys 6-7 and teach you how to execute on your Eagle project plans. However, if you’re not currently 120% ready to run your Eagle project, I’d highly suggest reading Cole’s guide to Eagle Project Planning which covers keys 1-5. Proper planning is crucial to a successful Eagle project, so don’t put off making sure your plan is a good one!
Now with all that being said, let’s get into step 6 of executing your Eagle Scout project, which is keeping your volunteers up to date and motivated!
6. Keep Your Volunteers up to Date and Motivated
Keeping Your Eagle Project Volunteers Up to Date
As the leader of your project, it’s your job to keep your volunteers in the loop and excited to help out. If there are any important changes that come up while planning your Eagle Project, it’s crucial that you inform the relevant volunteers, ASAP. On the other hand, you should also avoid flooding your volunteers with any unnecessary information.
If you’re wondering how best to relay information to your volunteers, I’d recommend using Google Forms or Facebook Groups to first collect RSVPs, and then group emails to keep in contact. For more details, check out my section on Reaching out to, and Coordinating, Your Eagle Project Volunteers.
So, what’s important enough to update your volunteers on? Great question, and it’s really up to your judgement! To give you a good rule of thumb though, here’s a quick list of some of the things that you’ll want to notify your volunteers about:
- A worksite location change
- A time or date change
- Requesting if your volunteers could bring specific tools, if available
- Double-checking with an individual to make sure they can still help out
- If you’re serving food the day of your project, asking your volunteers if they have dietary restrictions or allergies
- Any significant schedule changes that will affect your project’s length (for example, if you know your project will have to run two hours longer than expected, make sure your volunteers know why.)
Basically, you should send out a message if there are any changes that will affect your volunteers’ experience while executing your project. Remember, your volunteers should be notified about things sooner rather than later! These people are contributing their time because they want to see your project succeed, so you should do your best to make things as easy as possible for them. 🙂
Keeping Your Volunteers Motivated
When it comes to Eagle Scout service projects, there are two main instances where it’ll be vital to keep your volunteers motivated. The first instance takes place in the weeks leading up to your project. Your mission is to keep your volunteers enthusiastic and ready to attend!
Here are some tips to keep your volunteers engaged and eager to help out before your actual project rolls around:
- Keep them Updated on Aspects of your Project’s Development. Volunteers are much more likely to stay motivated if they feel invested in your project’s progress and hear about the work you’ve been doing on your own. To do this, I’d recommend sending out an update at least once every few weeks. (For examples of a pleasant update email, check out my ScoutSmarts Scribe Newsletter!)
- Remember to Give Praise Generously. While I’m sure that you’re very appreciative of your volunteers’ help, make sure that they’re aware of this. Saying a simple “thank you” and expressing your appreciation is a great way to ensure your volunteers are recognized. In turn, they’ll be much more likely to help in any way they can (and, they’ll show up ready to work, even if they reeaaaallly wanted to sleep in 😉 ).
- Organize a Small Appreciation Event Before or After your Eagle Scout Project. Setting aside a bit of time to feed everyone is a great way to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them, while also providing some time to talk and have fun. Grab a bite to eat after your workday, go see a movie together, or just plan something that you think all of you would enjoy!
During Your Project
The second instance where it’ll be crucial to keep your volunteers motivated is during your actual project. It’s no secret that Eagle projects are hard work. Unless you put in effort to keep your volunteers pumped up on the day of your actual project, they might lose morale which could put your entire plan in jeopardy!
That’s why a crucial part of your project plan must be to keep your volunteers cared for and motivated. The trick is to make your “hard” Eagle project work as easy and pleasant as possible. Once things get tough and people stop having fun, the work rarely ever gets done (did you like my rhyme there? 😛 ).
To ensure your volunteers remain motivated during your Eagle project workday, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
- Provide Encouragement and Show Gratitude. Encouraging your volunteers to keep up the good work is key to keeping morale high. Speaking from experience, it gets harder and harder to keep everyone cheerful and working hard, especially if it’s been a long and exhausting workday. However, as the leader, you’ll need to be the one to keep motivations high since your volunteers will be looking up to you.
- Plan Breaks and Rest Periods. Everyone (including you!) will need some type of rest during your workday. The longer your volunteers go without a break, the more likely they’ll be to lose motivation and become less productive due to exhaustion. Don’t let this happen! Plan several intentional rest periods throughout your workday, and make it clear to your volunteers that they’re free to take a break whenever they need one.
- Socialize During Your Workday to Make it Fun. Chances are you’re not going to be working in complete silence. Create a social atmosphere throughout your project work day! Crack some jokes, chat about what’s been going on in your lives, and tell some fun stories! I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be social so that morale stays high. Having a relaxed, social environment while you’re working will help the time to fly by.
7. Lead Your Project and Delegate Sub-leaders
Leading your volunteers will likely be the toughest and most important aspect of your Eagle Scout project. Brace yourself for a ton of valuable info in this section! As the project organizer, it might be one of the first times in your life where everyone (including adult leaders) will be looking up to you for answers on what to do next, so it’s important to lead well.
Before diving any deeper into this step, let’s revisit requirement 5 for your Eagle Scout Rank:
“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.”
Have you ever thought about what it means to “give leadership to others”? To answer this question, think about the previous troop positions you’ve held and how you led your fellow scouts while in those positions.
You’ve been giving leadership to others since you were the First Class Rank! The only difference between giving leadership then and giving leadership for your Eagle Scout project is the context in which you’re giving that leadership.
To remind you of what it means to give leadership to others, let’s review some of the qualities of a good leader in the context of your Eagle project:
- Know Your Project Inside and Out. As I just mentioned, your volunteers and adult leaders will be asking you tons of questions. Be ready to answer anything and everything. By knowing your project like the back of your hand and answering questions with confidence, you’ll be able to successfully lead your volunteers in making your idea a reality!
- Delegate Effectively. Good leaders know when and how to delegate tasks to others. Remember, delegating isn’t just getting people to do your work; it’s ensuring that the task will be completed in the best way possible! Therefore, you’ll need to be careful of what work you’re delegating, to whom, and keep track of the quality of work they’re producing.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Did I mention that it’s important to communicate? Communication is one of the major keys to success in project development and execution. You’ll need to know how to communicate well to others, as well as how to understand feedback from your volunteers and adult leaders. It’ll also be important to adjust your communication style depending on who your audience is. By adopting the most effective communication style, you’ll be able to reduce miscommunications and get your message across in the best way possible!
- Adapt With Confidence. As I mentioned earlier, there’s no way to prepare for everything that might happen during your Eagle project. Because of this, you’ll have to be flexible and adapt to whatever may come your way. While you can’t be prepared for everything, you can be prepared to make good decisions! Refine your process, learn from your successes and mistakes, and apply everything you’ve learned to make expert decisions during your project.
- Take Advice, but Give Direction. As a leader, you should listen to the perspectives of your volunteers and adult leaders. After all, they’re the ones who will be doing most of the physical work in your project. However, it’ll be up to you, as the project’s leader, to have the final say. Take the advice from your volunteers and leaders, combine it with your own opinions, and make a decision that will lead to the greatest success of your project!
While there are many other important leadership qualities outside of what I mentioned here, I believe that these 5 tips are the most important for making your Eagle project a success. Now, I’ll be giving you a full roadmap on how to actually run your Eagle project and execute on your carefully-laid plans.
(The following section is the most important, so read closely!)
A General Plan For Running Your Eagle Scout Project
In this section, I’ll be laying out a general plan that you can use as a basis for running your own Eagle Scout Project! As a reminder, every Eagle Scout Project is different, so the steps and actions you’ll need to take might be a bit different from what I’m about to outline here.
However, from research and personal experience, I truly think this outline can guide you to make your project even better! Now, without further ado, lets jump to where you should be in your planning process the night right before your actual Eagle project…
7.1) Be Prepared And Prepare Your Volunteers
It’s 7 PM, the night before your Eagle project and, as the Scout motto says, you’ve been doing your best to stay prepared! This means you should have all of your supplies, materials, and tools available and ready to be transported to your work site. If you wanted to be extra prepared, you could’ve even dropped your supplies off a few days in advance. 😉
At this point, you should also have a detailed plan of your project’s separate steps that’ll take place throughout the day. Project logistics take quite some time to decide upon, so make sure your plan is clear, well thought out, and able to easily be communicated to your volunteers.
Speaking of volunteers, you’ll also need to make sure your volunteers are sufficiently informed and prepared for what your workday will entail. This means sending over some emails with clear explanations to any questions that might arise around your project. As mentioned in my previous article, some questions to answer via email include:
- 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!
I’d recommend emailing out the full agenda of your plans and necessary reminders both one week and one day before your project. During this time, you should send out a quick reminder to those who volunteered to bring materials and tools so that they don’t forget. With that, you’ve laid the groundwork for a successful Eagle Scout project!
7.2) Arrive Early And Debrief Your Volunteers
As leader of your project, you should definitely be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. When you show up before everyone else, it’ll be useful to set aside a bit of time to organize the supplies for your volunteers. This could be anything from setting up workstations, to prepping materials, to making sure your tools are all functioning. Basically, arriving early will help you and your volunteers to hit the ground running!
Leadership Tip: As your volunteers begin to arrive, strike up a conversation with whoever’s there! Remember, socializing during your workday will help to make things fun, and lead to a more successful project! It’s important to do this early on if you want to create a relaxed, friendly, and social atmosphere.
For more leadership advice, check out my article on the 5 Deadly Leadership Mistakes to Avoid.
Once you’ve reached your designated project start time or 90% of your volunteers arrive (whichever comes first) you’ll want to hold a quick debriefing to explain what’ll be happening throughout the day. Run through a rough outline of tasks and include your expected time frames. Then, break your volunteers into groups because it’s almost time to get started!
7.3) Demonstrate Necessary Skills And Designate Sub-Leads
At this point, you should’ve already put considerable thought into how you’ll be breaking your volunteers into groups. As a general rule of thumb, you want to match each individual with a task that suits their level of skill. Therefore, younger scouts should do safer, less technical tasks, while adults should work on more complex, detailed parts of your project.
After everyone has been debriefed, as project leader it’s your job to now visit each group and ensure that each task is being done correctly. Since you’re the one who came up with your Eagle project it’s crucial that you clearly communicate your vision to others. It’s not like they can read your mind! 😛
An Example From Our Eagle Projects: What Cole and I did during our own Eagle projects was demonstrate the key skills within each of the volunteer groups, beforehand. When I had a team attach signs to posts, you can bet I was there first, showing them how to do it correctly!
I’d recommend you also take a bit of time to explain the process thoroughly, pause to recap your main points, and set aside space for questions.
While you’re demonstrating the skills that will be needed for the project, make sure to also mention any hazards or safety precautions that your volunteers should be aware of. Remember, the safety of your volunteers is first and foremost — It’s even more important than your project!
Take this safety portion very seriously, as you don’t want anyone getting injured while helping you out. If you have time, I’d recommend you even quiz your volunteers on these hazards and safety measures so that they can recognize dangerous situations and avoid getting hurt.
Designating Sub-leads For Your Eagle Project
When visiting each volunteer group, you should also appoint sub-leads. Sub-leads are typically older scouts or Scoutmasters that you designate to lead a smaller section of your project. Their job is to make sure that the work done meets standards, and to report the progress their team has been making back to you.
Sub-leads an essential part of any Eagle project, as you won’t have time to micromanage each workgroup (nor should you).
When selecting your sub-leads, try to choose individuals that have experience in the area they’ll be managing. For example, if you know one of your sub-leads has some experience in power tools, you could ask them to take charge of the drilling portion of your project. Being a leader means choosing the best people to get the job done!
It’s actually best to choose and connect with your sub-leads well before the project workday — ideally, at least 1-2 weeks out. This way, you can give them a more thorough explanation of your plans. After all, if they don’t know what’s going on, how can you expect their team to do good work? By choosing reliable sub-leads and briefing them thoroughly, you’ll be able to successfully delegate out your leadership responsibilities!
7.4) Provide Leadership Throughout The Project
This might come as a surprise, but the demonstration portion might be the only time during your Eagle project in which you actually do any major hands-on work! As the project leader and mastermind, you’ll very likely have your hands full with delegating tasks and guiding your volunteers in doing their jobs. With so many tasks, you’ll actually be more effective by not getting caught up in the hard work!
While it may seem tempting to help out wherever possible (I got that urge too, trust me!), you’ll need to resist because there are other more important duties to attend to. When leading your Eagle project, some of the most vital tasks you’ll be responsible for include:
- Quality control for each section of your project
- Ensuring safety precautions are observed and hazards are mitigated
- Being available to answer questions
- Encouraging your volunteers and keeping morale high
- Responding to unexpected situations
- Keeping track of people and stations
- Making sure your volunteers aren’t overextending themselves
- Making sure everyone is well-hydrated and cheerful
Of course, if there’s some downtime in your duties as the project leader, you’re more than welcome to help out your volunteers. Just a warning though, later in the day it’s possible that many of your volunteers will need to leave, or get too tired to continue working effectively. If this happens, and your project isn’t completely finished, you should lead by example and work as hard as possible alongside your remaining volunteers!
7.5) When Something Unexpected Occurs, Improvise, Adapt, And Overcome
Unwelcome surprises will likely be the most difficult aspect of your project. However, I promise you’ll overcome any challenge and make things work out in the end, so just have some faith in yourself! 🙂 As I’ve mentioned several times already, you’ll likely need to adapt to a variety of obstacles that come up while you’re executing your project.
To show an example of how to navigate an obstacle, I’m gonna tell you about a challenge that I had to overcome when leading my Eagle Scout project:
During my Eagle project, to construct the care home signs, holes needed to be drilled into our PVC pipes with a power drill. Unfortunately, our only two power drills ran out of battery right in the middle of the workday!
There was no time to waste, so to adapt to the new challenge I needed to get resourceful. After trying to charge the drills and realizing that there wasn’t enough time, I asked my volunteers if any of them had access to another power drill.
Luckily, one volunteer happened to live near the worksite, and they graciously offered to drive home and bring back their drill. With that, we were able to somehow get through the workday by alternating between the three power drills while the others were charging! Improvise, adapt overcome (yes, this is a meme, but it’s also a marine corps saying, lol).
Note that to solve this challenge, I needed to employ all five of the project leadership qualities that we covered earlier in this article:
- I demonstrated that I was the expert on my project by knowing that we wouldn’t be able to complete our tasks on time if we stopped to charge the two other drills.
- I clearly communicated with my volunteers by assessing whether anyone had a drill that they’d be willing to provide.
- I then listened and gave direction to my volunteers…
- By delegating the task of getting the drill to the person that was best suited for the job (because they lived nearby).
- Overall, this showed that I adapted with confidence!
When it comes down to it, adapting to challenges is a skillset that gets honed over time, just like anything else you learn! If a problem does come up that you’re unsure of how to respond to, don’t hesitate to defer back to your project coach, adult leaders, or senior scouts for advice. They want your project to succeed too, and are fully willing to help!
7.6) Evaluate The Work That’s Been Done, And See What Left To Do
Towards the end of your workday, you should review everything that your volunteers have done, and consider whether there’s anything else that needs to be accomplished. Were you able to finish everything that was planned? If not, can the task be done by you alone so that your tired volunteers can head home?
It’s not uncommon that Eagle Scout projects can require much more work than expected, which might even necessitate another workday. However, there’s no shame in needing to change your expectations! Live and learn, right? First, I’d recommend speaking with your beneficiary and assessing what else needs to be done. Often, you can either complete the project yourself or leave it as is.
On that note, in some crazy instances, a project beneficiary might increase the scope of the project at the last minute. While this is very rare, know that if you completed the majority of your project plans in good faith, you’re not required to organize another work day.
As quoted from the Eagle Scout Guide to Advancement Section 22.214.171.124 Evaluating the Project After Completion:
From time to time, beneficiaries unfamiliar with the Eagle Scout service project process may decline to approve a completed project even though it was helpful and had a positive impact. For example, there have been situations in which beneficiaries sought to require last-minute additions before signing off, and others where new management had different ideas about what should have been done.
In these cases it is appropriate for the Scout to move forward without the final approval, and for the board of review to understand that the requirement has been met, regardless.
7.7) Clean-Up And Thank Your Volunteers For Their Hard work
In all likelihood though, you’ll complete the majority of your Eagle service project plans without any problems, as planned. Once things begin winding down and only a few tasks remain, let your volunteers know that they’re done for the day, and thank them for their help.
Be warned though, if you let your volunteers go too early, you might lose some of the people working on the remaining tasks! Be mindful of this fact when calling an end to your workday.
As we mentioned earlier, you may want to hold some sort of event to express your gratitude for the volunteers who came out and supported you in completing your project. At the bare minimum, I’d recommend providing them with lunch. However, this really depends on your project and volunteers, so I’ll leave this decision up to you!
After everyone has been thanked and dismissed, take some time to clean up the area. Organize whatever supplies, materials, and tools you used for that day and pick up any loose items that may have been left around. Look for any belongings left by your workers that will need to be returned at a later time. Also, try to leave your work area cleaner than when you arrived.
Congrats, leader! After a long workday, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief now that you’ve completed the hardest portion of your Eagle Scout Project!! 🙂
Wow, this article turned out a lot longer than expected. Great work reading this far, you soon-to-be Eagle Scout! 😉 As you can see, it takes a lot of work to run a great Eagle Scout project. I hope this article has helped simplify the process for you so that you’re prepared to do an excellent job!
After all the hands-on work for your Eagle project has been completed, all that’ll be left to do is project follow-up! To sure that your project completes all the requirements to get you your Eagle rank, check out my article on Eagle Scout Service Project Followup (in progress). In it, we’ll be covering each of the points below, in detail:
- Documenting Your Project
- Submitting Your Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and Eagle Binder
- Discussing Your Project During an Eagle Board of Review
Thanks for making our country a better place through your service in Scouting. You’re really making a difference, and I want to let you know that I’m proud of everything you’ve done! 🙂
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!