The latest in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works, and how to get the most out of the experience. For past articles, see back issues of The Guide.

Scouting’s Season of Renewal!

Each Pack, Troop, Crew, Ship and Post should be completing their program plans for the coming year. It is time to put the final touches on activities and weekend outings, meeting schedules, resource people and fun programming for each unit. Camping facilities should be reserved, budgets set, leadership put in place to help make this an outstanding year for your unit and in particular for our youth in Scouting. Each unit should have a popcorn kernel in place, ready to complete training and prepare for this important annual fundraising effort to support both unit activity and the operations of the Council. In like manner, each unit should have one or more new member coordinators in place, someone who will coordinate new member recruiting and the intake process that helps to orient new families, integrate them into the life of the unit, and provide a warm and sincere welcome. New member recruiting is an essential and fundamental task for each unit, and requires participation by all members and their families to be successful.

Traditional recruiting centers heavily upon our Packs and usually involves a joining event where new families can learn about Scouting, meet other families involved in the Pack, and understand the commitment required to provide a successful and fun experience for their youth. We encourage join nights or other events to be scheduled in advance with dates, times and locations reported to the District Executive in each District by early August so that the staff can prepare marketing materials to support the Pack. These events should provide some fun and engaging activity for the youth where they can get a taste of Scouting while their parents can ask questions and learn more about Scouting. The current wisdom suggests that these event should not be held during a regular unit meeting, that Scouts and adult leaders should not be in uniform, but rather should be opportunities for making new friends, uniting current members with their non-member friends, and engaging new families in the program.

A relatively new approach to the more traditional approach to recruiting is known as holding “Invite a Friend” activities. This approach is particularly well suited to both Pack and Troop recruiting. The concept is to invite non-member friends to join with members in fun activities that reflect the interests of the youth. These activities may or may not be directly related to Scouting programming.

One excellent example is an event coming in early August, the Cub Scout 500. Hosted by the Gathering Waters District and open to all Cub Scouts and non-members of Cub Scouting age, the event will be held at the Wisconsin International Raceway facility outside of Kaukauna on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. Youth will be able to create and decorate a cardboard racecar, then take to the track for a fun race filled with obstacles and fun activities. There will be real race cars on hand and drivers with whom to visit, emergency response vehicles to explore, and the evening will conclude with “Down and Derby”. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic supper and enjoy the evening. Fall recruitment training will be provided to those adult leaders assisting with new member recruiting. This is an excellent opportunity for Scouts BSA troops to be present and provide information to families, and to provide service helping to facilitate the event. Best of all, this event is entirely FREE! Registration is open on the Bay Lakes Council website. Units can make this part of their Pack planning, or can simply promote it to their families who can register individually. In either case, extending the invitation to non-member friends and neighbors is essential to its success.

As we approach our Season of Renewal, you may ask how you can be of help? Each unit needs adult leaders to step forward and help with the program. Perhaps you can take on the popcorn sale, fall recruiting, or planning for a program. Each of these commitments is short term with an end date and should not be overwhelming. There are many resources available to support these roles and training is available. Whether new to Scouting or a seasoned volunteer, there is plenty of help to make the experience rewarding and manageable. Invite a Friend Activities can be planned at the Council, District and unit level. Many opportunities for Scouts to have fun have already been planned and are open to prospective Scouts and their families. Take a look at the Council calendar and include those that meet your needs in your unit calendars. Your unit Commissioner, District Executive and other District leadership are all standing in your corner, ready to help and filled with ideas and resources. Finally, each family most certainly knows other families in their neighborhood, school or place of worship with whom their children share experiences and have a relationship. Share your Scouting experience, invite them to an event or activity to see what Scouting has to offer, and encourage their consideration. Experience tells us that the best recruiting is person to person, door to door, friend to friend. Unit growth enhances the experience for all participants, helps to spread out the workload, and is simply more fun!

As I’ve said before, we all give to support Scouting in one or more ways, lending our time and talent, volunteering to help lead an event, Den or unit, providing support and encouragement to our Scouts and their friends. Hopefully you can find some time to support your unit, help it grow, and fully engage in those activities that help to create a most meaningful experience for your youth. For all you do to help make Scouting a reality in the lives of so many young people, thank you.

Paul Shrode
Vice President of Membership
Bay-Lakes Council