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Why you don't even want to consider a blood drive as an Eagle Leadership Service Project

Clothing drives, donation drives, and blood drives are worthy service projects.  They are particularly troublesome when they are proposed as Eagle Leadership Service Projects.  Remember, your goal is to lead others as well as provide some service to the community.  You will want to do a project that requires a number of volunteers who will carry out the project under your leadership. 

The problem is easiest to describe with blood drives.  As one Scouter says, "my secretary can organize a blood drive in 5 minutes - call the blood bank, arrange a date, and they'll provide posters and show up with a crew.  How does that show leadership?"  Good question, and not one you want to try to justify in front of your board of review.  But Eagle projects this simple do sometimes get approved.  It happens often enough that blood drives have practically become the "poster child" for the bad Eagle project. 

Another problem with blood drives and with any collection project is that the results are out of your control.  Suppose you imagine collecting a ton of food for the local food bank.  Then, on the day you schedule you event, there's a rain storm and you only end up with 100 pounds of food (or ten pints of blood, or 5 coats, or whatever you are collecting).  What is your board of review supposed to conclude from this?  Was the disappointing result due to your lack of leadership, bad luck, or what?  Again, you don't want them to have to debate whether or not you have demonstrated leadership with your project.  You want to use your project to deliver a very clear, unambiguous demonstration of leadership.

Collection projects such as blood drives are not explicitly forbidden, so there must be some way to make them work.  The first key is to scale up the size and modify the details of the project so that no one can argue that it is routine.  Some task or project that is routine cannot be an Eagle project, so your project has to be new, unusual, have unique plans, and require new people compared to the typical blood or collection drive.  The second key is to make the project complex enough that there is no way it can succeed without your personal leadership.  Set yourself a very ambitious goal, above and beyond the typical drive, and publish it as part of the project plan so that you can't wiggle out of it.  For example, organize a project to collect 3-4 times more pints of blood than might usually be collected, and require all new donors.  You'll need volunteers to help promoting the project, processing the crowds, etc.  You may have to coordinate more than one blood collecting crew.  You get the idea - if you do an ordinary, easy collecting drive of some sort, you are certainly providing a service, but can you explain to your board of review how you demonstrated Eagle-quality leadership?  You have to scale up the project so that they can see what kind of leader you are.

I consider it technically possible to create an outstanding Eagle Leadership Service Project around a collection drive, even a blood drive.  Other Scout leaders and volunteers disagree.  Blood drives have been overused and abused as Eagle projects for years and have left a gut reaction behind in many Scout leaders that says "blood drives cannot be Eagle projects".  There is legitimate reasoning and experience behind this reaction.  I strongly recommend devoting your energy to leading others in a project that is not a blood drive or collection drive. 

Last update:  3/5/2009