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.

In Membership Matters, Only Two Numbers Count!

Let’s start with that 365 number, the number of days in a calendar year (except of course when Leap Year rears its ugly head). Recruiting and retention needs our attention throughout the year. Not every family is ready for Scouting during a short period in September nor can we really capture the attention of every potentially interested family with one or two recruiting events. Each unit should be open to welcoming new members whenever they are ready to join, and must be prepared to integrate new members into existing Dens and Patrols, assisting with advancement catch-up, friendship formation and of course fun. This is equally true of welcoming in new parents and enlisting their help with the unit. It can be daunting for new adult members to fully understand the structure, operation and even the lingo of Scouting. To them it may look as though everything is covered, yet there should always be room for more help. Offering adults an opportunity to engage without overwhelming them is essential to retention of the whole family.

So how do you find potential new members as the year goes on? This begs the question of how you find new families in the first place. Throughout our Council, many schools welcome Scouting and certainly support what Scouting offers, yet many districts do not make communication with families in a given school easy. We need to be creative in finding new ways to connect with parents and families. One approach that seems to be working is to connect with after-school programs and their participants. Most are operated within the schools by outside organizations such as the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, community organizations. They do not have the same restrictions regarding communicating with participant families as the schools in which they operate. Charter organizations also may provide access to families through their members or employees. Once the initial recruiting process has concluded, you have a wonderful resource in those families that have joined your unit. They all have contacts among the parents of their Scout’s classmates and can certainly help in reaching out to invite new families to check out the unit. Ask for their help!

Simply put, ongoing recruiting is both possible and essential to broaden the involvement of families in your unit. It requires each unit to designate one or more adults to be responsible to coordinate recruiting efforts and generate excitement around recruiting, and of course each unit must “Be Prepared” to welcome and integrate new families in Scouting. Set a goal and work toward it. Without a goal in mind, it is hard to energize those in your unit to work toward recruiting new members.

So what about retention? Ah, that’s where the number one comes into play. We must never forget that the power of the Scouting experience is intended for each and every Scout. All we do is for each of them and it is incumbent upon all of us to create a meaningful Scouting experience, help our Scouts to learn from the program, make friends and have fun. Uniforms and rank advancement are designed to instill pride and a sense of honor and accomplishment, but if they aren’t having fun and making friends, then we are doomed to lose them at some point. Most of the Eagle Scouts I have known through the years have had a cohort of Scouting friends who travelled the road to Eagle with them. These friendship cohorts keep Scouts engaged as their lives become more complex. Let’s not lose sight of the goals of the program; teach new skills, build communication skills, offer leadership education and opportunities to lead, explore career pathways through beltloops and merit badges, develop an appreciation for nature and an understanding of engaged citizenship, and above all to make friends and have fun. If we listen to our families and our Scouts, we can certainly identify ways to meet the needs of each of them. We have only to ask the right questions and “Be Prepared” both for their answers and to respond appropriately.

So there you have it. Scouting is a year ‘round adventure 365 days a year and deserves our attention to recruiting and retention throughout the year, and we must never lose sight of the individual Scout in Scouting. He or she should always be number one in our book!

Thank you once again for entrusting your youth to Scouting and sharing your time, talent and treasure.  As the Scouting year unfolds and 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”!

Paul Shrode