Boy Scouts of America

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Character Development
Youth Club
The Boy Scouts of America offers character-building programs that foster ethical decision-making skills while engaging in fun outdoor activities. For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has been a leader in conservation. In the next 100 years, Scouting is taking the initiative to a new level from stewardship to sustainability and from “leave no trace” to leaving the world a better place (Boy Scouts of America)

Written by Casey Ruschman with some content from an earlier edition by 



The Boy Scouts of America was developed as a community program to teach character, citizenship, and physical fitness. The mission of the Boy Scouts is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law. The vision will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law (Boy Scouts of America).

The Boy Scouts of America have very specific ideals.  Their slogan is “do a good turn daily” and their motto is “be prepared.” Their Scout Oath is “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight” (Boy Scouts of America 1978).

Historic Roots

In 1900, Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell became a national hero in Britain for his 217-day defense of Mafeking in the South African War. Soon after, Aids to Scouting, a military field manual he had written for British soldiers in 1899, caught on with a younger audience. Boys loved the lessons on tracking and observation, and organized elaborate games using the book. Hearing this, Baden-Powell decided to write a nonmilitary field manual for adolescents that would also emphasize the importance of morality and good deeds (

With the success of Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell set up a central Boy Scouts office, which registered new Scouts and designed a uniform. By the end of 1908, there were 60,000 Boy Scouts, and troops began springing up in British Commonwealth countries across the globe. In September 1909, the first national Boy Scout meeting was held at the Crystal Palace in London. Ten thousand Scouts showed up, including a group of uniformed girls who called themselves the Girl Scouts. In 1910, Baden-Powell organized the Girl Guides as a separate organization (

Chicago businessman and publisher William D. Boyce was in England finding his way through the fog when a boy appeared and offered to take him to his destination. Boyce tried to tip the boy, but the boy refused and courteously explained that he was a Scout and could not accept payment. Boyce visited Baden-Powell to learn more about Scouting and went home with a suitcase filled with information and ideas. And so, on February 8, 1910 Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America (Boy Scouts of America).


The Boy Scouts of America is one of the largest Scouting organizations and youth organizations in the U.S. Today there are more than 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers. Since 1910 more than 110 million Americans have been participants in Boy Scouts of America programs at some time in their lives  (Boy Scouts of America).

The term “Boy Scout” is used to generally describe someone who is earnest and honest, or who helps others. Over 64 percent of the members of Congress have participated in Scouting. Over two-thirds of all astronauts have had some type of involvement in scouting and eleven of the twelve men to walk on the moon were Scouts.

The Boy Scouts has touched the lives of a wide and very diverse group of individuals through its non-discriminatory membership policies. As an example, the Boys Scouts, since it was founded, has fully-participating members who suffer from physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.  There is a special badge for Scouts that are handicapped. The Scout’s goal is to keep handicapped boys in the mainstream of Scouting while realizing their special needs (Soto 1987).

In the 21st century, the Boys Scouts have adopted a “bullying awareness program” which trains adults to recognize the signs of bullying, especially when scouts are in isolated environments such as extended camp-outs in the wilderness or at summer camps (Boy Scouts of America). The future of Scouting appears strong in that Americans are still tied to a code of values that warrant the need to continue programs that offer excitement, adventure, and challenge for young people to develop their potential.  On October 11, 2017 the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout. The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls. This new model will help serve more diverse families making it convenient for the whole family to get involved.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

The Boy Scouts of America has many loyal and dedicated supporters. Their mission is strong and compelling.  This leads to many philanthropic gifts and volunteer support. People trust the work and outcomes of The Boy Scouts and want to be a part of their cause. They see the impactful work in the community and the influence it is having on raising responsible, philanthropic citizens.  The National Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is funded from private donations, membership dues, corporate sponsors, and special events. The Boy Scouts are supported by local institutions called charter partners, which provide a meeting place and adult leadership. Nearly half of the chartered partners are churches, temples, and other religious bodies. Others are public and parochial schools, parent-teacher groups, civic and service organization, and businesses (Peterson 1984).

Key Related Ideas

By Scout Law, scouts are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent (Boy Scouts of America).

  • Brave:  A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He stands for what is right even if others laugh at him.
  • Courteous:  A Scout is polite to everyone and always uses good manners.
  • Loyal: A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school and country.
  • Trustworthy: A Scout tells the truth and keeps his promises. People can depend on him.
  • Obedient:   A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and pack. He obeys the laws of his community.
  • Reverent:   A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.
  • Thrifty:   A Scout works to pay his way. He uses time, property and natural resources wisely.


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857-1941): Baden-Powell was the original founder of Boys Scouts in England.
  • Daniel Carter Beard (1850-1941): Beard designed the original Scout uniform and badges.
  • William D. Boyce (1859-1929): Boyce met with Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell upon meeting one of his scouts. He incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910.
  • Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946): Thompson was born in England and immigrated to America as a young person. He created a youth organization in the United States called the Woodcraft Indians. He was the first Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • James E. West: West was appointed the first Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America in 1911.


Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • Cub Scouts is run by the Boy Scouts of America and is a year-round family program designed for boys who are in the first grade through fifth grade (or 7, 8, 9, and 10 years of age). Parents, leaders, and organizations work together to achieve the purposes of Cub Scouting (
  • Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's largest organization dedicated to helping all girls everywhere build character and gain skills for success in the real world. In an accepting and nurturing environment, and in partnership with committed adult volunteers, girls develop strong values, leadership skills, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth that will serve them all their lives (
  • United Way of America is the nation's leading community solutions provider, investing in and activating the resources to make the greatest possible impact in communities across America. The United Way movement includes approximately 1,400 community-based United Way organizations. Each is independent, separately incorporated, and governed by local volunteers (


Reflection Question - How can Boy Scouts make a greater positive impact to help solve community-wide problems?


Bibliography and Internet Sources

  • Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts of America. Accessed October 2017.
  • Accessed November 2017.
  • Peterson, Robert. The Boy Scouts. New York, American Heritage Publishing, 1984.   ISBN 0-8281-1173-1
  • Soto, Carolyn. The Boy Scouts. New York, Exeter Books, 1987. ISBN 0-671-08914-5.
  • Accessed October 2017.


This paper was developed by students taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University in 2017. It is offered by Learning To Give and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.