Advice for a new advancement coordinator

scout_ranks_250You’re taking over as advancement coordinator for your troop. Congratulations and thank you – this is an important position with an impact on every youth member.

Being advancement coordinator is part recordkeeper, part go-fer, part scheduler and part Mr. or Mrs Know-it-All. You wear many hats and serve many masters.

  • The Scoutmaster and committee will be looking to you for updates on who is advancing and to which rank.
  • The parents may be looking to find out how their son is coming along.
  • Scouts may want to find out specifics on certain requirements or merit badges, and certainly expect to receive their insignia badges when they are earned.
  • The senior patrol leader will be looking for materials to hand out at the court of honor.
  • You’ll be helping the troop Librarian maintain the troop’s supply of merit badge pamphlets, and working with the Scribe to maintain his advancement records.
  • The council office needs completed advancement reports and may coordinate with you on the accuracy of your unit roster.
  • Your council or district advancement committee will most likely provide you with the list of merit badge counselors, which you’ll share with the Scoutmaster.
  • And you will need to button-hole committee members to serve on boards of review.

As advancement coordinator, you aren’t really supposed to be “working on advancement” with the Scouts. That’s the job of the Scoutmaster – but really the Scoutmaster supports the Scouts as they train each other. The last thing we want to see is an adult leading a “class” on some Scout skill or advancement item. If there are no Scouts who can act as instructors, then maybe the Scoutmaster or an assistant Scoutmaster can coach the Instructor in that skill, and the Instructor then teaches the other Scouts.

Really, though, we don’t want to get in the habit of working on advancement requirements for advancement’s sake. If you look at the requirements, they mainly list the things that Scouts of each rank should be doing in the course of Scouting, via troop and patrol meetings and campouts. The methods all interlock like a jigsaw puzzle, and when we lift out the puzzle pieces and look at them individually, we lose the big picture of Scouting.

Your interaction with the Scouts will mainly be to collect completed blue cards, and to help the senior patrol leader (or whoever he designates) to get ready for presenting advancement recognition at troop meetings and courts of honor. The Scoutmaster will let you know when a Scout is ready for his board of review, and you’ll assemble the board from members of the committee and schedule the review. You’ll complete the advancement reports, go get the insignia (or get someone to make a run to the service center for you), and get things ready to present (chase down signatures on certificate cards, for instance).

You’ll also be the resource person when it comes to advancement matters, so you’ll need to brush up on the essentials. Fortunately, there is lots of reference material available:

  • The Guide to Advancement is the reference work which outlines all the policies, practices and procedures related to advancement. It’s updated every other year; the current revision is 2015
  • Boy Scout Requirements lists all the requirements for ranks, merit badges and special recognitions. It’s updated in book form every year and online quarterly when there are changes.
  • Of course, the Troop Committee Guidebook and Troop Leader Guidebook contain much general information on working with youth and the committee.
  • And don’t forget basic training for your position – Troop Committee Challenge, taken in person or online.
  • To keep current on happenings at the BSA advancement team, be sure to subscribe to Advancement News.

It should be abundantly clear that due to the complexity of this position’s duties, you shouldn’t be doing anything else in the troop.

And remember the words of Baden-Powell:

Advancement is like a suntan – it’s something that happens naturally whilst having fun in the out-of-doors.

Good luck and have fun!


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3 Replies to “Advice for a new advancement coordinator”

  1. Frank,
    Great piece on the Advancement puzzle. Being an individual in the trenches may I offer this bit of advice. As Advancement chair, encourage committee members who serve on boards of review to become educated in the process. It would be in the best interest of the Advancement chair to conduct their own training or use the videocasts produced by National (bsaseabase.org/Home/BoyScouts/Resources/advancement_presentations.aspx) to further everyone’s understand of what a Board means to the Scouts and Scouting. As Scouters, we have to “Be prepared” too.

    1. Great advice, Ralph! There are still too many Scouters who don’t understand that a board of review is not a retest. I’ve been on boards where others have asked Scouts to repeat a requirement (show or tell something). With a little advance prep, and a quick reminder before the board gets underway, this could be avoided.

      When we do it right, a board of review is a friendly conversation with the Scout about his impressions of the youth experience and a look forward to what he expects from Scouting and life in general.

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