Lets 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!
Posts Tagged With: program
Lets talk about membership.
I 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!
No one really likes the taste of salt… Take your finger and dip it in salt then stick it in your mouth… you really don’t like the taste do you.. honestly… But take the salt out of your pie dough and you take away flavor that is pulled out by the salt. You need the salt to accentuate the other flavors.
There are many things in Scouting that are like the salt. You don’t like it by itself, but put it together with the rest of the stuff and it makes the program better.
Backpackers don’t really enjoy traversing switch back after switch back, but the reward is getting to the top and seeing a beautiful view. Salt.
I personally don’t enjoy the administrative things we have to do in Scouting. Monitoring dues, fundraising, tracking camping nights and service hours. Hey, I just want to go camping! But it is all of those functions that make the program go. Getting enough seat belts, making reservations, and tracking advancement. Making Mom and Dad feel great about the program and rechartering each year. Salt.
Training is more salt in the context of Scouting. While I am a firm believer in training and encourage every Scouter to get trained. I am also a believer in not wasting people’s time. Training should be a great tasting cookie.. not a salt lick. Training is important and should be encouraged as an important part of the Scouting program.. not a “you need to do this or else” adventure. Round tables are often viewed as to salty. They often don’t leave the participant with a yummy taste and therefore become less and less attended. Let the salt bring out the other flavors and the cake will taste much better.
Awhile back I talked about the Journey to Excellence. I received a lot of feedback telling me that it was a waste of time, especially for small units. The more I thought about it the more I saw that the process had a lot of salt in it. The finished product was always good as long as the recipe was followed, but when the salt was left out, the flavor of the meal was lacking. Sometimes, we just need to accept that there is a need for salt, we can watch how much we add, but we need to always make sure that we add enough to make the meal tasty.
Have a Great Scouting Day!