New BSA President Gates: ‘Time for blunt talk’ in Scouting

Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, will prioritize transparency, marketing, retention and recruitment, and continued program innovation during his two-year term as the 35th president of the Boy Scouts of America.

In his first speech to Scouters and Scouts since the 2010 jamboree, the Distinguished Eagle Scout and past president of the National Eagle Scout Association also expressed his support for last year’s membership vote.

Furthermore, he said he’ll oppose any effort to reopen debate on the issue during his term.

During his 27-minute speech at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., Gates outlined his vision for the movement. A movement, he said, that has improved dramatically in the eight years since Gates was last involved as a volunteer.

“My bluntness may disturb some of you, but it’s part of the package,” he said. “And maybe it’s time for blunt talk.”

Case in point: He said that during his time as president of NESA and member of the board until 2006, “I was harshly critical of the way this organization was run. … Everything seemed scripted, and the volunteer leaders seemed to me to be largely figureheads.”

But since he returned to Scouting in February of this year, Gates said he has noticed a dramatic change in how the organization is run.

“I believe the volunteer leadership has assumed its proper role as the guiding hand of this movement. There is still room for improvement, but as someone who has not been involved for the past eight years, the difference between then and now is like night and day.”

I encourage you to read the transcript and watch the video of Gates’ full speech at Scouting Newsroom.

I’ve also selected some quotes from Gates on some issues of interest to Scouters like you, including transparency, marketing, recruitment and the membership policy.

Continue reading

Boy Scout finds bag containing $4,500 in cash, does what Boy Scouts do

cvs-cashWhat would you if you found a bag with $4,500 inside?

Caribbean vacation, maybe? Shopping spree at Best Buy?

For 15-year-old Boy Scout James Villeneuve from Latham, N.Y., there was never any question about the answer.

As reported by WNYT-TV, James spotted a money bag while strolling with his family through a park in Albany, N.Y.

Inside was four-and-a-half grand in American money. That’s enough to buy a decade’s worth of videogames, movie tickets, comic books or anything else a typical teenage boy might spend his money on.

But James is no typical teen.

It turns out the bag belonged to a CVS nearby; the cash was on its way to the local bank.

James, who learned to be trustworthy as a Boy Scout, returned the money right away. The CVS manager met him outside — “sweating profusely,” James said — and thanked him for returning the cash.

The manager gave James a $20 gift card as a thanks, and CVS’ national public relations director told WNYT that the company plans to do even more for James.

“Our local team is in the process of trying to contact the boy,” CVS Public Relations Director Mike DeAngelis said. “We want to appropriately recognize him and his honesty, and express our gratitude by rewarding him with more.”

But the story gets better.  Continue reading

What would your city be like without Scouts?

In Scouting’s April 1921 edition, a U.S. District Court judge states, “No city can afford to be without its Boy Scouts.”

Judge Foster argues, “I have never come in touch with a man who had Scout training without finding him efficient and proud that he had been a Scout.

“If every boy in the United States could be taught Scouting, we could be assured of a patriotic, virile citizenry that would be a lasting bulwark against all enemies from within and without.”

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BSA introduces Virtual Reality Scouting

VR-Scouting-deviceApril 2 Update: See an important message about VR Scouting at the end of the post.


Love Scouting but hate getting out in the fresh air?

You’re in luck! Today the Boy Scouts of America introduces Virtual Reality Scouting, a revolutionary alternative to regular Scouting that lets you experience all that the BSA has to offer without ever leaving the house.

The new program, debuting this fall, already has a catchy slogan: “Bring the Great Outdoors to the Great Indoors.”

To experience VR Scouting, families will want to purchase the Complete Home-Based Virtual Reality Scouting Starter System — or, simply, the CHBVRSSS (pronounced just like it’s spelled). It’ll go on sale this fall.

The CHBVRSSS will retail for only $1,999.95 — a bargain when you consider it’ll pay for itself after just six years of staying home while everyone else in your unit experiences outdoor Scouting adventures.

David Wilson, a Scouter from Michigan who got to test VR Scouting last month, said he’ll buy a device as soon as it goes on sale.

“I love going camping with my Scouts, but I’m not a fan of fresh air, warm mountain breezes or being outside in general,” he says. “So VR Scouting is perfect for me.”

I bet it’ll be perfect for you, too. Just imagine: Continue reading

BSA announces partnership with ATV manufacturer Polaris

All-terrain vehicles combine dirt and a motor — what’s a Scout or Venturer not to like?

Recognizing this winning mix, the BSA launched council-level ATV programs at camps across the country. And today, Polaris — a leading manufacturer of off-road vehicles — enters a 10-year partnership with the BSA, providing top-of-the-line ATVs, side-by-sides (SxS) and safety equipment to help deliver this exciting program to even more youth. PolarisSxS

Driving down a dirt trail doesn’t replace the rugged adventures of exploring on foot, but it does add diversity — not to mention horsepower! — to current activities available at BSA properties.

Now, with the help of Polaris, Scouts and Venturers age 14 and older will not only learn to drive the crème de la crème of ATV equipment, but they’ll also receive safety instruction vetted by a company with 60 years of industry expertise.

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Here are the three big changes in the BSA that happened on Jan. 1, 2014

Before you watch Times Square’s big countdown tonight, take a look at three big changes coming to the Boy Scouts of America at the stroke of midnight.

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, you’ve got a new list of Eagle-required merit badges, a new membership policy for youth, and new membership fees for Scouts and Scouters.

Let’s take a look at each one of these changes:  Continue reading

ScoutStuff’s Cyber Monday sale is live — get 25% off most items, free shipping

Ahh, Cyber Monday. All the savings of Black Friday with none of the pushing and shoving.

ScoutStuff.org is joining the Cyber Monday party by offering 25 percent off a bunch of its items and free shipping on orders of $75 or above. In my experience, ScoutStuff offers its lowest prices each year on Cyber Monday, so now’s the time to stock up.

The discounts will be automatically applied at checkout, so you don’t need a promo code. But you do need to hurry. When the clock strikes midnight Central Time tonight, this deal turns into a pumpkin.

Another important note: the savings don’t apply to every item. Most jamboree items are included, but uniforms, program insignia, program literature, Pinewood Derby items, advancement items and gift cards are excluded from the deal. Continue reading

Robert M. Gates, former defense secretary, joins BSA national executive board, serves as national president-elect

Arena ShowRobert M. Gates, a Distinguished Eagle Scout and our nation’s 22nd secretary of defense, has been elected to the national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America. Gates will serve as a member of the executive committee and as the national president-elect.

This move means that upon approval of voting members of the National Council, Gates would begin a two-year term as the BSA national president in May 2014. The national president works alongside Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock and National Commissioner Tico Perez to form the National Key 3 that guides the organization. (Learn more about the National Key 3 in the sidebar at right.)

national-key-3-2013Gates’ appointment was made upon the recommendation of national volunteer and professional leaders, including the BSA national nominating committee. Following the National Council’s approval of Gates’ two-year term as the BSA national president beginning in May 2014, Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive officer of AT&T Inc., has agreed to serve as the president-elect of the BSA.

“There is no finer program for preparing American boys for citizenship and leadership than the Boy Scouts of America,” Gates said recently. “As an Eagle Scout, I know firsthand how impactful this program can be, and I believe its mission is more important today than ever before.”

Gates’ Scouting résumé is voluminous: Distinguished Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, former president of the National Eagle Scout Association, past National Executive Board member and Silver Buffalo Award recipient. When it comes to the Scouting movement, Gates gets it.

“When I joined the CIA at age 22, I had no connections and didn’t know a soul,” he told the crowd at the opening arena show of the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. “The only thing in my life that led me to believe I could make it was my Eagle Scout badge. It was the only thing that distinguished me from most high school kids.”

Gates has a tremendous passion for Scouting but also a sense of humor when appropriate. In his 2010 jamboree speech, Gates described what happens when the director of the CIA goes camping with his Boy Scout troop.

“I think the edge gets taken off the wilderness experience when 100 yards away there are three large black vans, a satellite dish and armed security guards,” he told the crowd, drawing a big laugh. “It’s a challenge no Scoutmaster ever anticipated.”

Last year, Gates indicated a willingness to re-engage with the BSA, and because of his leadership capabilities and his long history of participation and service in Scouting, the BSA had the opportunity to take advantage of a unique moment to bring on board a truly great leader in Gates. He is one of our nation’s most respected public servants and a proven leader of the highest caliber.

“I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working on behalf of the millions of youth and adult members who make Scouting what it is today — an organization providing life-changing opportunities to today’s youth,” Gates said.

Video: Watch Gates discuss Scouting

Watch an excerpt from his speech at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree after the jump. Continue reading

BSA membership fee increased to $24; what does your $24 get you?

The Boy Scouts of America will increase its annual membership fee for youth and adults to $24 from $15, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

For those who join after the beginning of the year, the fee will be prorated at $2 per month. This does include units with a Dec. 31, 2013, expiration date.

The change was announced at last week’s annual Top Hands meeting of professional Scouters in Washington, D.C. In a letter to Scouting professionals, Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock explained the reasoning behind the increase.

“First, I want to make clear that the Boy Scouts of America maintains a strong financial position,” he wrote. “In order to continue to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program, it is occasionally necessary to increase membership fees so that we can offset rising administrative costs.”

The BSA’s last fee increase — to $15 from $10 — was in 2010, and since then, the organization has taken steps to control and reduce costs. But “administrative costs have continued to rise faster than projected,” Brock wrote. “As always, our focus is to build the future leaders of this country by combining adventure, educational activities and lifelong values. The fee increase is a step we must take in order to continue providing the services you and our members expect and need.”

So that’s the big news, but I wanted to take you deeper into the story. What exactly does your $24 annual fee pay for? And how does that $24 fee compare to other youth organizations and activities? Much more after the jump. Continue reading

First look: Troop Leader Guidebooks, set to replace Scoutmaster Handbook

scoutmaster-handbookUpdate, Feb. 28. 2014: These books are still being reviewed, and Vol. 1 should be available in the coming months. Vol. 2 is expected later this year.


If you judge the Scoutmaster Handbook by its cover, you might assume it’s solely meant for, well, Scoutmasters.

Assistant Scoutmasters, it seemed, were to look elsewhere for Scouting wisdom.

That’s about to change. Later this year, the two-volume Troop Leader Guidebook will debut, replacing the Scoutmaster Handbook and offering helpful checklists, quick tips and fresh ideas for both new troop leaders and veteran Scouters.

Scouting magazine contributor Mark Ray wrote Volume 1, while Bob Birkby, author of the latest Boy Scout Handbook, penned Volume 2.

You can see the covers of the new Troop Leader Guidebooks after the jump. I’ve also got a sneak peek at what’s inside the books and what makes them better tools for Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters.  Continue reading