Council and district advancement and recognition committees (generally referred to in this guide simply as council or district advancement committees) are responsible for implementing and facilitating advancement and processing most special awards and recognitions. This is done according to national procedures and local practices under the direction of the council executive board. Advancement committees operate under the Boy Scouts of America program function. They should cooperate with the other program function elements— outdoor programs, activities and civic service, and training—and also with the membership, finance, and unit-service functions. Accepting the responsibilities outlined in the following pages will help to accomplish this.
Advancement committees operate under the Boy Scouts of America program function. They should cooperate with the other program function elements—outdoor programs, activities and civic service, and training—and also with the membership, finance, and unit-service functions.
The council advancement committee often falls under a vice president for program. The committee’s members should represent a breadth of experience in all Scouting programs. Normally, district advancement chairs are included. The council professional staff advisor for advancement provides coaching and guidance— especially as it relates to national policies and procedures. The advancement chair and the staff advisor work together closely, and in harmony with the other efforts and functions involved in delivering and supporting the Scouting program.
A full, functioning council advancement committee should be organized to accomplish the following.
- Recruit enough committee members to fulfill the responsibilities described below and achieve council advancement objectives.
- Provide members with ongoing training to maintain awareness of updated procedures, best practices, and details related to all programs of the Boy Scouts of America—Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Sea Scouts. See “Building an Advancement Committee,” 188.8.131.52.
- Establish objectives and action plans that stimulate advancement and lead to maximum success in Scouting’s Journey to Excellence.
- Inspire a positive working relationship with district advancement committees, providing clear guidance and direction on their responsibilities and objectives.
- Plan, present, and submit for the council calendar those advancement conferences and training experiences that will strengthen the performance of district and unit advancement volunteers.
- As appropriate, support advancement elements involved in training, and in events and activities presented by other council committees.
- Support outdoor programs where advancement may take place, such as day camps, Cub Scout resident camp, long-term camping experiences, and specialized activities featuring advancement. See “Advancement in Camp Settings,” 184.108.40.206.
- Establish local practices for adhering to National Council advancement procedures at outdoor programs, summer camp, and events such as merit badge fairs or midways. See especially “Group Instruction,” 220.127.116.11.
- Support and promote the BSA’s internet portal for advancement reporting. Accurate advancement records are critical to program planning and analysis. Councils should work toward 100 percent electronic data entry.
- Share advancement statistics for use in council fundraising materials and for supporting membership recruitment and retention efforts and commissioner service.
- See to an effective merit badge program administered at either council or district level that functions according to national procedures and recruits, approves, trains, and makes known sufficient counselors to meet the needs of the council.
- Determine, according to national procedures, consistent and appropriate methods for approving Eagle Scout, Summit, and Quartermaster service project proposals and fundraising applications, providing Eagle Scout service project coaches and Venturing boards of review chairs, and conducting Eagle Scout boards of review and Quartermaster bridges of review.
- Determine methods of collecting Eagle Scout or Quartermaster references.
- Know and precisely follow official procedures for appeals and time-extension requests.
- Establish procedures for the use of technology-based tools in advancement according to “Using Technology-Based Tools in Advancement,” 18.104.22.168.
- Know and follow proper procedures for considering special needs cases involving alternative requirements and merit badges, and registration beyond the normal age of eligibility.
- Participate in considering and presenting special awards and recognitions according to established council procedures. This responsibility may or may not include the Silver Beaver Award.
- Support and promote the religious emblems program and other awards as determined by the council executive board, such as STEM/Nova, for example.
- Process lifesaving and meritorious action awards according to council practices and national procedures.
- Notify the media to recognize significant youth achievements, such as Eagle Scout or Quartermaster rank, the Venturing Summit Award, lifesaving and meritorious action awards, and other noteworthy accomplishments.
Although the council advancement committee or executive board determines specific responsibilities for district advancement committees, district advancement chairs report to their respective district chairs. The following is a guide to the responsibilities that might be established.
- Recruit enough members to fulfill the responsibilities and accomplish any objectives established by the council advancement committee or executive board.
- Provide members with ongoing training to maintain awareness of updated procedures, best practices, and details related to Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Sea Scouts. See “Building an Advancement Committee,” 22.214.171.124.
- Establish objectives and implement action plans that stimulate advancement and lead to maximum success in the Journey to Excellence.
- Maintain advancement records and share them with commissioners, trainers, and other district volunteers who serve units. Point out units with little or no advancement.
- Plan, present, and submit for the district and council calendars those advancement conferences and training experiences that will improve the results of unit advancement volunteers.
- As appropriate, support advancement elements involved in training, and in events and activities presented by other committees of the district.
- Support outdoor programs where advancement may take place, such as district day camps, camporees, etc.
- Support and promote the BSA’s internet portal for advancement reporting. Accurate advancement records are critical to program planning and analysis. Districts should work toward 100 percent electronic data entry.
- Follow national and local council procedures in administering the merit badge program and in recruiting, approving, and training a sufficient number of merit badge counselors. Provide units with access to a current listing of council-approved merit badge counselors.
- Follow national and local council procedures as prescribed regarding appeals, Eagle Scout and Quartermaster references, Eagle Scout service project proposal approvals, Venturing board of review chair selection, boards and bridges of review support, and time extensions.
- Support and promote the religious emblems program and other awards as determined by the council executive board, such as STEM/Nova, for example.
- Recommend, according to council and district practices, recipients for the Award of Merit or other recognitions.
- Notify the media to recognize significant youth achievements such as Eagle Scout or Quartermaster rank, Venturing Summit Award, lifesaving and meritorious action awards, and other noteworthy accomplishments.
- To strengthen units through strong advancement programs, consider the following:
- Assist unit commissioners and others who serve units.
- Serve as a resource for roundtables.
- Develop relationships with unit advancement volunteers.
- Provide units with advancement reports, summarizing and explaining what they mean.
- Assist unit leadership with advancement planning and promotion.
- Visit pack, troop, team, crew, and ship committee meetings, as warranted.
- Visit boards of review, as warranted.
- Help troops, teams, crews, and ships avoid pitfalls as qualified youth strive for Eagle Scout rank, the Summit Award, or the Quartermaster rank.
- Encourage prompt and proper recognition, ceremonies, and courts of honor.
- Recognize units excelling in advancement.
- According to local council practices, assemble lists of consultants and other resources important to Venturing advancement.
Unit advancement coordinators and those who assist them have the basic responsibility to support the unit’s advancement program, to maximize rank achievement, and otherwise facilitate a smooth implementation of the process. Specific responsibilities are outlined in the leader literature for each program. The following responsibilities are not all-inclusive, but typical.
- Support and facilitate the unit leader’s vision for advancement, providing consultation on the policies and procedures put forth in the Guide to Advancement.
- Educate parents, guardians, unit leadership, and committee members on appropriate methods to stimulate and encourage advancement. For example, help build unit programming rich in advancement opportunities, encourage members who are advancing slowly, and post advancement charts.
- Help plan, facilitate, or conduct advancement ceremonies. In troops, teams, and crews, schedule and support regular courts of honor—quarterly is generally sufficient. Ships will want regular bridges of honor, and packs should make recognition a key part of every pack meeting.
- Obtain necessary badges and certificates, etc., and arrange for timely presentation of ranks, adventure belt loops and pins, merit badges, awards, and other recognitions. It is best to obtain and present these as soon as possible after they are earned. They can then be re-presented in more formal settings.
- Ensure Cub Scouts advance in rank annually by school year’s end and are recognized in a meaningful ceremony.
- Know and understand the advancement procedures for the program served, especially those applicable to Eagle Scout, Summit, and Quartermaster candidates.
- Assist the unit leader in establishing practices that will provide opportunities for each new Boy Scout to achieve First Class rank within 12 to 18 months of joining, and Star rank soon thereafter.
- Arrange for timely (monthly suggested) boards of review, and see that youth ready for them are invited.
- Maintain advancement records and submit reports to the unit committee. It is appropriate in Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Sea Scouts to involve youth leaders in this process.
- Use the BSA’s internet portal to report advancement to the local council.
- Keep a current and accessible copy of the district or council merit badge counselor list. As needed to fill in, develop and maintain a list of unit merit badge counselors. Note that all merit badge counselors must be registered as such, annually, and also approved through the council advancement committee.
- In troops, teams, crews, and ships, work with the unit’s youth leadership to maintain a library of advancement literature, such as merit badge pamphlets and the annual Boy Scout Requirements book.
- Learn about other BSA awards and recognition opportunities that may be helpful in delivering a well-rounded unit program. A good resource for this is the Guide to Awards and Insignia.
Awards and recognitions by definition are not part of the advancement plan. They supplement it in many ways, however, and often lead to increased retention. Some awards and recognitions are for youth members, some for adults, and some for both. Some are earned, while others are presented in honor of service rendered. Awards and recognitions can be administered by a council advancement committee or by other committees or task forces as determined by a council executive board.
For more information about awards, visit Awards Central. Application and nomination forms are available on the Scouting Forms from the National Council page. In most cases, the forms provide details on where to send the paperwork and also list any additional information that might be required. Questions about awards and recognitions should be directed to the National Advancement Program Team at the National Service Center.
A separate publication, the Guide to Awards and Insignia, No. 33066, is a central source for building a deeper understanding of the opportunities available.
To accomplish the suggested responsibilities outlined in 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 above, council and district advancement committees need to be well staffed and organized. The following positions, in addition to the council advancement chair and any vice chairs, are suggested for a council advancement committee:
- District/unit advancement chairs support
- Advancement promotions specialist
- Advancement training and events coordinator
- Camping committee and outdoors program liaison
- Records/Journey to Excellence
- Technological reporting support
- Merit badge counselor and Supernova
- Eagle, Summit, and Quartermaster issues
- Special needs Scouting
- Awards and recognition
- Religious emblems
For thoughts on what each position might entail, see the information sheet “Building Effective Advancement Committees” that is posted on the Advancement Resources webpage. A list of positions for a district advancement committee could be very similar. The organization of advancement committees is a local council decision. The above is offered only as a guide in establishing a committee that could fulfill its various traditional responsibilities and also meet the Journey to Excellence call to positively influence the rate of advancement.
Unit advancement coordinators are good prospects for district advancement committees. They become well versed in best practices, policies, procedures, and responsibilities, and may be able to provide vital information on the needs of the units. They also know what it takes to increase the rate of advancement. Note that membership on any advancement committee should reflect and support the variety of programs offered in the council or district.
Thoughts on finding and recruiting advancement committee members is also covered in “Building Effective Advancement Committees.”
Training is the foundation for successful leadership in the BSA, and this is no less true for those working in advancement. Volunteers, in conjunction with the National Advancement Program Team, have produced a number of educational presentations based on the Guide to Advancement. These presentations may be downloaded from the Advancement Educational Presentations webpage. The sessions are of varying lengths and suitable for personal review or use in instructor-led training. Each presentation has an expiration date and instructions on how to download an updated version when the time comes. New courses will be added periodically to meet specific advancement needs according to feedback received through firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional resources such as Advancement News provide ongoing information as well to help advancement administrators provide quality service.
Upon release of this edition of the Guide to Advancement, the following educational presentations were available from the Advancement Educational Presentations webpage.
The Essentials of Merit Badge Counseling. This PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes, 60 to 90 minutes, helps merit badge counselors understand their role in the BSA advancement program and the proper methods to use in working with the youth.
On Increasing Advancement. As presented by national volunteer advancement administrators at the BSA National Annual Meeting, May 2013, Grapevine, Texas. Includes an introduction and thoughts on increasing volunteerism, building a fully functioning advancement committee, promotion of advancement, purposeful management of the advancement function, increasing advancement reporting, and a conclusion.
Why Advancement? In this series of videos, individuals give testimony about the quality of their Scouting experience and how advancement was important in their personal growth. The clips were filmed during the 2014 conference, “Increasing Advancement by Delivering Excellence,” at the Philmont Training Center.
Guardian of the Gate. View nationally recognized Scouting volunteer and author Darnall Daley reading his article, “Guardian of the Gate.” The piece has appeared in Advancement News and is considered by the National Advancement Program Team to be the most accurate accounting of the proper approach to advancement.
Getting the Most From Internet Advancement. This PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes and an FAQ sheet, 60 to 90 minutes, guides participants through methods to make effective use of the Internet Advancement software.
The Eagle Scout Service Project Coach. This PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes is designed for Eagle Scout service project coaches who have been designated by councils or districts to provide guidance to Scouts whose service project proposals have been approved. It delivers the basic knowledge and skills needed to get started. It can also serve as a refresher for veterans. It is intended as an instructor-led presentation to project coaches of any experience level and takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
Cub Scout Advancement: Delivering Adventure. This presentation provides new and prospective pack advancement coordinators with the basic knowledge and skills needed to get started, and can serve as a refresher to others. Participants will learn about the Cub Scouting advancement process, as well as related BSA national policies and procedures, and gain a better understanding of how to improve the quality and rate of advancement. The updated Cub Scout program effective June 1, 2015, is also covered.
Effective Troop Advancement. This presentation provides new and prospective troop advancement coordinators and troop advancement committee members with the basic knowledge and skills needed to get started. It can also serve as a refresher to veterans. Participants will learn about the advancement process, their unique role in it, and the related BSA national policies and procedures. The session is intended to be instructor-led and lasts approximately 60 to 90 minutes depending on the experience level of those attending.
Including Scouts With Disabilities. This PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes provides leaders, and parents or guardians with the basic knowledge needed to implement the advancement plan with Scouts who have disabilities. Topics include: documenting a disability, registration beyond the age of eligibility, alternative advancement requirements, the Individual Scout Advancement Plan, scenarios in working with Scouts who have special needs, and resources available at www.scouting.org.
Developing Council and District Advancement Committees. This PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes provides advancement administrators with the basic knowledge to organize and operate council and district advancement committees to effectively meet advancement responsibilities. It is intended to be an instructor-led presentation and takes approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
Video casts based on the Guide to Advancement. These seven PowerPoint presentations of varying lengths, converted to video, help orient volunteer advancement administrators with the following fundamental publications of the Boy Scout advancement program.
- Introduction to the Guide to Advancement
- Judgment Calls (“Active,” Positions of Responsibility, Scout Spirit, and “Reasonable”)
- Boards of Review
- Boards of Review Under Disputed Circumstances
- Boards of Review Appeals
- The Eagle Scout Application Process
- Eagle Scout Boards of Review