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.
The latest in a series designed to help Scout units, 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.
Get Ready for Recruiting 365!
Why focus on membership growth and retention in the middle of the year? Our program certainly benefits the individual Scout and our units, and it is incumbent upon all of us to share and extend those benefits to others. More Scouts means more parent involvement and help, more Scouts to share in the fun of the Den or Patrol, more excitement at camp, and more service power in the community. It enables us to share the cost and responsibility of planning and implementing the Scouting program among more people lessening the burden on a few dedicated leaders and lowering the cost per person.
We have learned a few lessons this fall, lessons we need to take to heart! Scouting is not as well -understood among young families as in years gone by. It is not a given that parents understand what Scouting offers, how it is structured, and what is required to take advantage of the program. They may not realize the life-long impact of character and leadership development, self-awareness and skill development, appreciation for the outdoors and stewardship of our natural resources, or the values represented by our Oath and Law. We’ve heard from parents that they were not aware that Scouting was still around, a likely consequence of the recent Bankruptcy and messages in the media. The cost to join Scouting is another challenge for many and I would guess that most families do not realize that financial assistance is available in order to make Scouting accessible to any youth who want to participate. Our program seems designed to welcome new youth early in the school year and it is hard to join something already in progress.
So, what can you do to help turn this membership trend around?
- First of all, regardless of the size of your unit, you need to recognize the need to spread the word, invite more families to join in the fun, and share Scouting with neighbors, friends, parents of your Scout’s classmates, and explain why you participate and what you are getting out of it.
- Take advantage of the new calendar year and all that is embodied in the New Year euphoria! January and February are ideal times to recruit. There is plenty of time left in the school year for a new Scout to advance in rank. The Pinewood Derby, Rain Gutter Regatta, Blue & Gold Banquet, winter fun, weekend outings and looking forward to summer camp provide a great way to engage new families.
- The cost of Scouting may be more manageable in the winter and spring while families are not also paying for school fees, materials, sports and other extracurricular activities. Remember the membership year begins now when a Scout joins and continues for a full 12 months, so new fees will not be due until the same time next year!
- Work with families of your Scout’s classmates. Spread the word at after-school programs, a great place to hold a Scout Talk and distribute information. Hold events in the school open to all students such as a Winter Carnival, gym/recreation night or event, ice cream social, or school spirit week. These activities can be helpful to the school and provide visibility for your unit. For Scouts BSA youth, inviting friends to participate in unit activities and outings can introduce them to Scouting. Just because they missed the opportunity when they were younger does not mean they cannot jump in now.
- Scouting needs to come out of the shadows and be visible. Indeed, our motto “Be Prepared” could easily be joined with a new mantra, “Be Visible”. Wear uniforms while performing community service such as Bell Ringing for the Salvation Army, school or park clean-ups, etc. Unit t-shirts commonly known as Class B’s are also visible and should be encouraged as daily wear in school. What if a Pack had a day of Pack Spirit once week and all Scouts wore their Class B shirts on the day of their Den or Pack meetings? Participate in Scouting for Food! Did you know that vast areas of our Council were not included because some units didn’t participate last spring? Whenever you do something fun, contribute to the community in some way through service, or gather in a group setting, spread the word. Contact local media, take photos and post them in social media and share your fun with others.
Recruiting cannot be left to chance or to the rare occasion when someone who was a Scout seeks out the opportunity and shows up at your door step. We all need to intentionally plan for recruiting, prepare materials, invite families to check out our units at any and every meeting. Each unit must have a new member coordinator who can focus on welcoming new families, provide an orientation and materials, and help them to understand Scouting and the unit. Schedule recurring join nights, perhaps on the same night as Pack meetings each month. Check for inquiries on your Be A Scout pin and make sure your online pin information is current. Schedule a spring product sale either with the Council or on your own and offer an opportunity for new families to earn their fees through participation. Come to roundtables and talk with unit leaders from those units that had a good recruiting effort in the fall to see how they did it. It never hurts to borrow the good ideas from fellow Scouts!
Bottom line: we simply need to grow, and in the process, our units will be stronger, our youth will have more fun with more new friends, our work load will be spread out among more adult volunteers and Scouting will provide the benefits of membership to more youth. Our society simply needs more women and men who can solve problems, work collaboratively, are community-minded and willing to step forward as leaders of character and integrity. Where do they come from? Sound like Scouting to me!
Thank you once again for entrusting your youth to Scouting and sharing your time, talent and treasure. As the Scouting year continues 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 Visible” and “Be Prepared”!