Posts Tagged With: membership

The Participation Problem

campfireWe often focus on membership when it comes to the retention and recruiting issue.  This is absolutely a  header in the discussion.  However a better indication of unit health is your participation percentages.  That is how many of your registered Scouts are participating in your activities.  This number can tell you many things about your unit.  First, it reflects your annual plan.  Do the Scouts want to be there and do the things the plan that the Patrol Leaders Council came up with (using Guided Discovery)?  Second, is that plan a plan that compels the Scouts to come and be with their patrol mates.  And third, does that plan conflict with other events.  School, Sports, Council and District events and family plans.  These three areas are the top three that I have seen and discussed with committees to find out why and what the issues are in solving the participation problem.
The Scoutmaster plays a big role in the planning of the Scout year.  Teaching the Patrol Leaders Council how to look at the calendars and get the right program in place to meet the goals of the unit.  Polling the unit to get a feel for what they want to do.  And adding elements of the National Program into the plan, Jamborees, High Adventure Bases, and other National opportunities are all critical in giving the Scouts a reason to want to participate.
Here are a couple of tips that have helped us have a successful annual program and increase that participation percentage.
1.  Start early.  Establish what the range or start and finish of your “Scout year”.  Most units use the School year as their beginning and end.  Have your annual plan published before the beginning of the planned year.  Allow time for budgeting and family planning.  My unit uses October as the start of our Scouting year.  We do this for a few reasons.  First, it falls on a month with a “Non Negotiable” event.  Webelos Woods in our District is always in October.  This event is a fantastic opportunity to recruit for the unit as well as stand up against the rest of the District allowing our program to be showcased.
And second, October is a good month to launch the program year.  Everyone has been in School for a solid month, the holidays are just around the corner and it allows for time in summer to get the plan in place.  Starting in June and July, the Patrol Leaders Council meets with the patrols polling them for prospective activities for the coming year.  This includes location for Summer camp.  Starting early in the summer allows for plenty of time to look at all the calendars that effect the unit and by the end of August a solid plan is in place and the committee can start the budgeting process
2.  Stay away from the same old stuff.  Pretty much camping is camping.  Try new locations or different activities at favorite places.  Ensure that opportunities for National experiences are a part of the plan.  This in large part is the responsibility of the Scoutmaster and the Committee to provide the resources that introduce these opportunities.  In my Troop we look at the time spent in the Troop of the average Scout.  That seems to be about 7 years.  Over the course of those seven years we want the Scout to have the opportunity to get the very most out of his Scouting experience.  Local Council camps, out of Council opportunities, National Jamborees, National Order of the Arrow Conferences, and High Adventure Bases.  So we, along with the Patrol Leaders Council established a matrix that plugs these type of activities into the annual plan.  If a Scout takes advantage the plan, he will have a well rounded and extremely active time in Scouting.  When a Scout joins the unit he and his family can pick those High adventure trips, Jamborees and the like that he will go to well in advance.  This takes the burden away from fund raising plans and family vacations etc.  Families that have more time to plan will facilitate their sons Scouting experience.
Staying away from the same old stuff gives the Scouts of the Troop something to look forward to.  It shows that planning is important and that their experience is important to the life of the Troop.
3.  Possibly the most important, make sure the plan comes from the Scouts of the Troop.  The Patrol Leaders Council owns the plan, it is theirs and the success of the plan with rest with them.  They will  be guided and coached along the way, but in the end, they will be happy or not with their plan.  Now before you jump off the blog now, keep reading… this is a process that will not happen in one year.  We use guided discovery in Scouting.  Mistakes can be made as long as the Scouts learn from them.  The key for the Scoutmaster in this regard is breaking the Patrol Leaders Council from always taking the path of least resistance.   Give them permission to think big and out of the box.  If they want to go to Disneyland for Summer camp.. let them.  We had a troop recently go to Hawaii for summer camp.  Lots of planning and coordination went into it, but it was that kind of out of the box thinking that raised their participation percentage.  But its all about their plan.  As adults in the program we should support it and do what it takes to make it a success.
4.  And the final advice for today, Keep it fun.  Scouts are in School all day, they last thing they want is more School at meetings and on weekend camp outs.  Give them a reason to want to be a participant.  Each outing should be fun and adventurous.  When the Scouts know how much fun they are going to have they want to be there.  Here is the rub,.  Define fun.  Fun for one patrol may not be fun for others.  Find a balance within the Troop.  A great place to start is by establishing Troop Traditions.  Fun, silly, and things that build up the team.  A tradition of fun camp fires on each outing for example is a neat way of bringing together the Troop while having lots of fun.  A mascot can bring the Troop together also.  It gives them something to rally behind.  In our Troop we do and have both of those and we came up with a necklace that tells their Scouting story.  We took our mascot, a Gnome, and had totems made.  Each outing and activities has a bead that represents it.  At each Court of Honor, the Scout is presented with the beads for the activities he has attended.  At first it did not seem like that big of a deal, then the Scouts really took to it.  We make a real big deal about presenting the beads and wearing our totem.  This is a fun way of making the outings important and creating a reason to be a part of it.  We have had a Gnome as our mascot since our first summer camp in 2004.  This quickly became a Troop Tradition.  Now that we are a backpacking Troop we have inflatable Gnomes that the Senior Patrol Leader carries on each outing.  The Scouts love to show off the Gnome.  Allow the Scouts to define fun, but remember Guided Discovery, keep the fundamentals and methods of Scouting at the forefront of the program.  The Scouts may not need to know the exact purpose of the game, just make sure that the game is played fair and fun.
The participation problem is one that can be solved by a great plan, building in adventure, making sure the Scouts own the plan, and keeping it fun.  Traditions, and sticking to the methods of Scouting will assist in building a program that Scouts want to be a part of.  This will go along way in solving the problems with Scouts not participating fully in their Troop.
What are some things that your unit does to solve the Participation problem?  Share them with us.  May be a big help for someone struggling.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Membership Discussion

WSJpic1Lets talk about membership.
We all know that we need members to keep Scouting alive.  There are many different angles and directions to answer the membership question.  I am not going to solve this issue in this post, rather, I am opening up the dialogue to see what you all think.
Scouting in the United States if a bit different from the rest of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM).
First, we are not Coed, until you get to the Venturing Program.
Second, our programs are not connected.  Yes, Cub Scouts go to Boy Scout etc… but in most cases outside of the US, a Scout group is made up of youth from 7 to 21.  The units are formed from a group.  This allows for continuity in the program and allows for leadership and example to be promoted from within the group.  Personally, I like this idea.  I think it solves a few of the issues we have in Scouting in the US.  Namely keeping youth in Scouting.
I have become pen pals of sorts with some Scouters from outside of the United States.  While they do have their own issues it seems that young people stay in Scouting longer and have a great Scouting experience along the way.
Starting off as a young 7-year-old and staying in Scouting till they are in their young adulthood.  I think this creates a better Scouting life for them.
Anyway, as stated, I am not going to answer the question, just start the discussion.
I think that the BSA will need to explore the COED option sooner than later.  With declining membership and the Girl Scout program not what most girls want… I think that opening the doors to a COOED program may go along way to saving Scouting in America.
So how does that work?  Will we lose our values and program?  I don’t think so.  I think we can move forward with the program we have.  We need not tailor the program to girls, they will fit right in.  Look at the Venturing program as it is?  It would be much better if it were filled with young people and adventure.
OK, membership at the core.
I think that our professionals at the National and Council level have the very best of intentions when they talk membership.  It is a simple equation.  Get more youth in and membership will fix itself.
A few things that I know for sure.
You will never be able to out recruit your losses.  You will never be able to keep Scouts in a program that is floundering.
When I was a young Scoutmaster I was told the three keys to a successful troop were Program, Program, and Program.  If you build it they will come.  Boys do not join Scouts for Monday night meetings.  They join for cool programs and camp outs.  Parents bring their sons to our program.  Not to our meetings.  They need to be able to see value in the program.
Program will drive membership.  So I think sometimes we put the cart before the horse.  The horse is our program, the cart is membership and money.  Now, you can’t have one without the other, but if your priority is not program, you won’t get members.  That, I know for sure.
So where is our effort more effective?  Building programs or recruiting?  I think we build programs and let them come.
There are more factors to this discussion to be sure.  It is not always that simple I understand.  At the unit level programs need to be the priority.  Build it and they will come.  Recruiting efforts need to be a part of the annual plan.  Focusing on Cub Scouts is not the only answer.  We need to sell Scouting to all eligible youth.
This is where I see other WOSM get it.  They appeal to youth of all ages and keep them in longer.  There is a coolness factor about hanging out with their peers and they longer they stay, so do their friends.  I think this is an important part of our membership issue.
So.. lets take a few posts and explore this issue?
What do you think?  Let’s discuss this.
Here is a little video I stumbled on that really got me thinking.  It is from the Scouts in Germany.  I would love to see our youth in American Scouting like this one day.  I got to see Scouting like this when I was a kid in the Transatlantic Council as we did many International Scouting activities.
Also take a moment to check out the Kandersteg International Scout Center videos.  See what they look like and lets see how we can implement some of this here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

A Sky Full of Scouts from Andreas Herten on Vimeo.

Categories: blog, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Values, Webelos to Scout Transition | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Unit Membership Chairman

**UPDATE- I have been informed that the link was broken.. I fixed that link.  I also found this Video.. so I am adding it to the post.
Thanks for your sharp eyes!
Most Troops already have a committee member or Assistant Scoutmaster that focuses his or her attention on membership.
The BSA has created a new position on the Committee at the Unit level to address membership.  This position was launched back in November of 2013 and should be in place in all units by now.
Here is some of the information that has come out from National.
Newly developed resources in support of this position are at
The resources include videos and printable materials to assist this person in the areas of unit membership growth and youth retention.
Unit Membership Chairman is a designated functional position for someone who serves on the unit committee.
It includes the following key responsibilities:
• Meet with the unit leaders and committee monthly to discuss membership goals and retention.
• Conduct at least two recruitment/Scouting promotion events per year to ensure unit growth using the Peer­ to­ Peer recruitment method.
• Distribute membership fliers to schools and churches in the unit’s area.
• Conduct Scouting rallies and boy talks in schools, leveraging council support when needed.
• Attend the district’s membership chairperson training sessions, which will focus on best practices.
• Involve the unit in the required number of Adopt­ a­ School service and community service projects for Scouting’s Journey to Excellence scores.
• Ensure that new youth and adult applications and fees are turned in to the council service center within a week after receipt.
• Work with the unit committee to ensure the unit reaches Scouting’s Journey to Excellence gold status in membership.
• Update the unit’s BeAScout Google pin and follow-up with the recruitment leads generated from this online
• Involve the unit in fall and spring youth recruitment.
• Encourage youth in the unit to join and cross over to the next appropriate program as they come of age to do so.
• Have an annual customer satisfaction survey completed with the unit’s current Scout families.
This new position will help units connect to the resources and objectives of local membership growth plans at the district and council levels.

Is your unit on board with this and using a membership Chairman?  Share some of  your thoughts on this?
Hey did you also know that there are no longer Transfer Fees?  Yep.. no more $1 fees to transfer.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Scouts | Tags: | Leave a comment

In the Trenches

trenchesI have been giving this some thought lately, especially since becoming our Boy Scout Round table Commissioner.  But Scouting is in the trenches.  To use an overused cliché.
What I mean by that is this.  Far to many units and unit leaders rely on the District and Council to make their program happen.  I do not have a beef with our District or our Council, but it is fair to say that if I received nothing from them our Troop would still be fine.
Now, I understand that we need the Council and District, more so the Council to support Scouting in the area.  We need the Council to maintain our wonderful camps and provide administrative services to us, but beyond that I don’t need the District or Council to provide my annual plan.
In a recent discussion I had with a couple Scouters that are knee-deep in the membership world of our Council and District we talked about why membership is dropping and why we (the Council and District) can not seem to build more Packs.  Yes, I was talking Cub Scout stuff.
I dawned on me that the Council will never be able to build new Packs till they put their money where their mouth is and get into the trenches with.. yes… with local units.  Scouting is in the trenches, in the community, not on a white board in an office.
We do not necessarily need more Packs, we need more strong Packs that can recruit.  That will bring more Packs and more Scouts.
Now, on the other hand, there are unit leaders that are willing to just wait around for the District and Council to make that happen.  They are satisfied waiting for Camporee or Webelos Woods to be their program.  They are content with the idea that the Council will provide Merit Badge weekends or Fairs so their Scouts can put more on their sash.  They are happy with the idea that Summer camp is a cookie cutter event and they never need to think out side of the box, but then wonder why their Scouts are bored and are leaving in droves.
Scouting is in the trenches, in the units.  This is not an indictment on the Council or District.  I am just saying that Units and Unit leaders need to know that Scouting is right where they are… not downtown at the Council office.  Scouting is supposed to happen in the community, not from the Scout Executives office.  Scouting is in the woods, youth led, and sustains itself through programs that are planned and executed at the Unit level.
Resources, administrative support, and fund-raising happens from above.  We just do Scouting!
That is how Scouting will grow and prosper.  Waiting on the Council or District is a bad practice and a sure-fire way to kill a unit.
In a world where membership numbers matter, this is where the rubber meets the road and Scouting Happens… In the trenches.  On Monday nights at Troop meetings, in the living rooms of Den Leaders, at Pizza Parlors with Crew Presidents.  Scouting happens in the trenches.
Don’t wait on the Council.  Get out there and do Scouting where it matters.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Values | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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