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.
More Than a Motto: A Call to Action
Now is the time to prepare for Fall recruiting, and it is really simple if we identify those steps we must take to successfully attract and welcome new families into Scouting. This planning is fundamental to the success of Scouting; it is the process we expect of every Eagle Scout candidate as he or she undertakes their project. Fall recruiting is among those activities being considered at all of our planning sessions during District roundtables this month. Resources, information and training are available now and our District Executives are prepared and excited to support each unit through the planning process. Our unit Commissioners are also ready and willing to help, and if your unit does not yet have a Commissioner, our District Commissioners are prepared to step in. The challenge now is to accomplish five simple steps.
- Identify a New Member Coordinator in every Pack, Troop, Crew, Post and Ship. Someone needs to coordinate plans for recruiting and gather support from others in the unit to help. This person is essential as the unit organizes recruiting events, gets the word out, and then welcomes new families into Scouting. Training is available for these volunteers so it shouldn’t be a role that scares people away!
- Establish a relationship with the organizations and institutions that are essential to recruiting success. Now is the time to connect with school administrators to clarify the relationship between the school community and Scouting, identify ways that the unit may be helpful to the school especially as it seeks to welcome or welcome back students and their families at the end of summer, and find ways to work together to make families aware of the opportunities available through Scouting. School contacts are important, but so are relationships with Charter Organizations, local churches, temples and other faith communities, community organizations, etc. We must think more broadly about the communities we serve and enlist the support of those who can help us. It is especially important to act now with school administrators before the summer recess sets in and communication is more difficult.
- Set goals for recruiting. We tend to focus on Kindergarten and First Grade cohorts when recruiting, but don’t think much beyond that. What are our goals for recruiting both boys and girls? How can we fill our the ranks of our older Dens and assure that each Den has enough youth to provide for both a meaningful experience for the youth participants and sufficient adult leadership? What about Scouts BSA units? We rely so heavily on Webelos to Scout transitions, but fail to reach out to others and offer the benefits of Scouting.
- Utilize a backwards planning process. Set dates for recruiting activities, then work backwards to set deadlines for various planning steps. When do you need to send out publicity and invite folks to the event? When do you need to prepare the messaging, design and secure materials, recruit help from others in the unit, reserve space, consider refreshments, activities, etc. as you prepare for recruiting? Taking this simple approach will help you to engage others in the work, break down the planning into manageable chunks, and will provide sufficient time to adjust plans as you run into roadblocks.
- Obtain resources and materials to support the recruiting process. This includes providing training for volunteers, reviewing online resources, and talking with other units to see how they approach things. We can learn so much from others if we only ask.
So much emphasis is placed on Pack recruiting, and rightly so. It is the best time to engage new families, the program is well developed, and Scouting provides opportunities for socialization and interaction among youth, something that is so important to counteract the isolation that can result from technology, the pandemic and busy family schedules. Scouts BSA units need to participate in recruiting as well! We have become complacent, relying upon crossover Scouts to fill our troops and crews. Too many units are struggling with numbers now, and we need to step up our game. Troops and crews must reach out to area Packs to support their recruiting efforts. This is simply put an investment in future unit membership! Troops can provide leadership and support new Pack development, either reinstating those Packs that have folded or starting brand new units. So many adults associated with troops and crews served as Pack leaders and have both the experience and training to help a new unit get off the ground. Providing help until new families can take on the leadership is a short-term commitment with long-term benefits, a sound investing policy.
As we take on our annual call to action, now is the time to Be Prepared and put into place those steps and plans that will assure our success this fall. We mistakenly focus on numbers when we approach recruiting and too easily forget the life-changing experiences we provide to youth in our community. The real reason to grow in numbers is to extend the promise of Scouting, the values and skills, youth leadership development and community service opportunities to more families. And just in case we forget, it is FUN!
Thank you once again for entrusting your youth to Scouting and sharing your time, talent and treasure. In all that we do, let us not forget that Scouting is really for our youth, for their life-shaping, life-changing Scouting experience. Let’s Be Prepared!