Month: August 2010

If you build it they will come pt.4, The Annual Plan

The meat and potatoes of building the program so young men come to and stay with your unit is the annual plan.
The plan that delivers the promise.  OK.. stop.. what is this promise that we keep talking about?
Simply put the promise that Scouting is supposed to deliver is Adventure, learning, and challenge and responsibility.
We do this through the Aims of Scouting using the methods as building blocks to achieve Citizenship training, Character development, and Fitness.
What does that mean to a teen aged young man.
Fun, Adventures, and meaningful time spent with his friends.  Now most teen aged young men are not going to express “meaningful time” as one of the reasons they join and stay in Scouting, but it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that when they are bored they leave and when they are not having fun with their peers, they leave.. so we have this game with a purpose and the outline, rules, and execution of the game is in the annual plan.
So let me take you through our Troops process.  The caveat here is that this works great for us and our youth.  It is fair to say that this is the process we established and have trained the Junior leaders to use.  The important thing to take home is establishing a workable process and refine it within your unit.  I am not saying that we are the end all be all.. but the saying goes “the proof is in the pudding” and our process works very well.  We have had sustainable growth every year and little by way of loss.  We have had our share of loss, but the good news is that when we do have a Scout leave, they typically transfer to a Troop that is better suited for them.  Backpacking may not be their ideal Scouting experience and we encourage young men to find the program that fits them, they will be successful in that environment.
Our planning starts before the Troop attends Summer camp each year.  The patrols begin the process of building lists of activities and places they want to go.  These ideas are then brought to the Patrol Leaders Council after summer camp and a discussion of Troop goals and desired outcomes for the year are committed to paper. 
For example, this last year the Troop wanted to climb Mt. St. Helens, they wanted to backpack in the Olympic National forest, they wanted to do a 50 miler, they wanted to canoe, they wanted to climb at Smith Rocks, and they wanted to do 2 winter camp outs on Mt. Hood.
Those were their plan above the regular Camporee, Summer camp, and Webelos Woods events that we always do.
Once the PLC came up with places, they assigned specific activities that would be the focus of the camp outs or outings associated with locations. 
Some of the specifics looked like:  While backpacking on the St. Helens Trip they would focus on Leave no Trace, they would be inviting Webelos Scouts to go on the trip with us, and they would work on better planning process’s with the New Scout Patrol.
Once the calendar with filled in with places and activities the PLC looked at training opportunities, service projects, and special events.  They were plugged into the plan.
The plan is now taken to the Troop committee for approval.  It is the committee’s job to say yes.  The committee began the process of permits and cross checking our dates and events with the council and district plan.  Everything worked out except for the Mt. St. Helens climb.  The permits were sold out on opening day and so an alternate location had to be picked.
The PLC did some research and came up with climbing the South Sister in the Sisters Mountains.  They determined this because the difficulty was moderate and the summit could be reached in half a day.  It was a good location to accomplish the goals and activities they had set for this camp out.
Upon completion of the planning session and invitation for Troop Junior Leader training was extended to any Scout that was interested in leadership within the Troop.  No training, no leadership.  The SPL and the PLC would conduct the training over a weekend.
During the TJLT the annual plan was brought back out and all of the participants took part in refining the plan.  This is a great opportunity to get everyone, especially those Scouts that are going to lead for the next year, to get on board and become versed in the plan.  The vision of the Troop is made clear and the expectations of the leaders are made real as they all own a piece of the plan.
After training, the plan is published, posted, and made available to the whole troop and those visitors that are interested in our troop.  The local packs are also given a copy of our plan and dates are set aside for visits and other ways that we can interact with the Packs.
Now obviously there are a lot more little nuts and bolts that hold the plan together, but in a nut shell, the process is not complicated and kept simple.  The key ingredient is the Junior leaders.  Our plan is not a dictate from above and the Scoutmaster acts only as an adviser and coach.   This is their plan, I will train them, teach them, and make myself available as much as they want or as little as they need.  The more we go through this process, the better we get and easier it is for the Youth leadership to handle on their own.
Once they build their plan, the word gets out.. and they come.
If you can help build a plan that offers Adventure, Challanges, and develops self reliance, the Scouts will recruit harder than you can ever imagine.  Remember they are looking for meaningful time spent with their buddies, they can find that is a well planned and youth executed Troop.
We will wrap this up next time with some FAQ’s!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

National Outdoor Awards

 FROM THE SCOUTING MAG. BLOG (I love this idea, this is Scouting folks!)

With its new National Outdoor Awards, the BSA honors guys who can’t stand still

NationaloutdoorawardsGuys join Scouting to experience the outdoors. It’s that simple.
To recognize that passion for adventure, the BSA announces its new National Outdoor Awards. As we told you last year, the awards are available to Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who meet specific requirements in one of five subject areas: camping, hiking, aquatics, riding, and adventure.
There are two levels of the award. Boys can start with the National Outdoor Badges, seen at left. These are earned by boys who demonstrate “that they are knowledgeable, safe, and comfortable in the outdoor activity covered by the badge.”
Each segment is earned by completing the First Class rank, earning relevant merit badges, and accumulating experience—nights of camping, miles of hiking, hours of swimming, etc.
Once they earn a segment, boys can go the extra mile (in some cases literally) and shoot for gold or silver devices, available for spending extra time on a particular activity. Nationaloutdoormedal
The badges and devices are impressive, but the highest honor for outdoor lovers is the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, seen at right.
We originally reported that boys needed all five segments to earn the medal, but the National Camping Task Force has altered those requirements slightly.
The list of requirements is still daunting, though, meaning this medal isn’t for everyone.
Boys must earn the Camping badge with a silver device and two other badges, each with gold devices. They must also earn four outdoor-specific merit badges, plan a unit outing, and take a Wilderness First Aid course and a Leave No Trace course, each 16 hours long.
Ready to introduce these new awards to your guys? You’ll need the full requirements, listed after the jump, and the award applications (link opens PDF).
(Thanks to Brent C. for the tip.)
Follow the jump for the complete requirements.

National Outdoor Badges for Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding, and AdventureCamping

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the Camping merit badge.
  3. Earn two of the following three merit badges: Cooking, First Aid, Pioneering.
  4. Complete 25 days and nights of camping—including six consecutive days (five nights) of resident camping, approved and under the auspices and standards of the Boy Scouts of America—including nights camped as part of requirements 1 through 3 above.

A gold device may be earned for each additional 25 nights of camping. A silver device is earned for each additional 100 nights of camping. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of nights camping.

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the Hiking and Orienteering merit badges.
  3. Complete 100 miles of hiking or backpacking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including miles hiked as part of requirement 2.

A gold device may be earned for each additional 50 miles hiked. A silver device is earned for each additional 200 miles of hiking. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of miles hiking.

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges.
  3. Earn the Mile Swim BSA Award.
  4. Earn at least one of the following merit badges: Canoeing, Rowing, Small Boat Sailing, Whitewater. Complete at least 25 hours of on-the-water time, applying the skills that you learned in the merit badges.
  5. Complete at least 50 hours of any combination of swimming, canoeing, rowing, small-boat sailing, or whitewater activity under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including time spent in requirements 2 through 4.

A gold device may be earned for each additional 25 hours of aquatic activity. A silver device is earned for each additional 100 hours of aquatic activity. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of hours of aquatic activity.

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Complete at least one of the following: Cycling merit badge and 100 miles of cycling; or Horsemanship merit badge and 50 miles of horseback riding.
  3. Complete 200 miles of riding activities, either on a non-motorized bike or a stock animal, under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America, including the miles in requirement 2.

A gold device may be earned for each additional 100 miles of riding. A silver device is earned for each additional 400 miles of riding. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of miles of riding.

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Complete either the Wilderness Survival or the Emergency Preparedness merit badge.
  3. Complete 10 of any combination or repetition of the following adventure activities under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America:

a. A backpacking trip lasting three or more days and covering more than 20 miles without food resupply
b. A canoeing, rowing, or sailing trip lasting three or more days and covering more than 50 miles without food resupply
c. A whitewater trip lasting two or more days and covering more than 20 miles without food resupply
d. A climbing activity on open rock, following Climb On Safely principles, that includes camping overnight
e. Earn the National Historic Trails Award
f. Earn the 50-Miler Award
g. Attend any national high-adventure base or any nationally recognized local high-adventure or specialty-adventure program

Items 3a-g may be repeated as desired. A single activity that satisfies multiple items in 3a-g may be counted as separate activities at the discretion of the unit leader. Similarly, a single activity that doubles an item in 3a-d may be counted as two activities at the discretion of the unit leader.
A gold device may be earned for each additional five activities. A silver device is earned for each additional 20 activities. The Scout may wear any combination of devices totaling his current number of activities.
National Medal for Outdoor AchievementThe National Medal for Outdoor Achievement is the highest recognition that a Boy Scout or Varsity Scout can earn for exemplary achievement, experience, and skill in multiple areas of outdoor endeavor.
In order for a Scout to earn the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, the Scout must complete the following requirements:

  1. Earn the First Class rank.
  2. Earn the National Outdoor Badge for Camping with a silver device.
  3. Earn any two additional National Outdoor Badges, each with two gold devices.
  4. Earn the following merit badges: Backpacking, Emergency Preparedness, Nature, and Wilderness Survival.
  5. Complete a 16-hour course in Wilderness First Aid from the American Red Cross, Wilderness Medical Institute, or other recognized provider.
  6. Become a Leave No Trace Trainer by completing the 16-hour training course from a recognized Leave No Trace Master Educator.
  7. Plan and lead, with the approval of your unit leader, an outing for your troop, team, patrol, or squad in two of the following activity areas: hiking and backpacking, aquatic activities, or riding. Include in each outing a service element addressing recreational impacts resulting from that type of activity. With the approval of your unit leader, you may plan and lead the outings for another Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, Varsity Scout team, Sea Scout ship, or Venturing crew.
  8. Complete at least one of the following:

a. Plan and lead, with the approval of your unit leader, an adventure activity identified in the National Outdoor Badge for Adventure for your troop, team, patrol, or squad.
b. Successfully complete a season on a council summer camp staff in an outdoor area, such as aquatics, Scoutcraft, nature/environment, climbing, or COPE.

If you build it they will come pt.3

Welcome Back.
When we left off I teased that we would talk about open houses and Troop visits.
But going back to the relationships that have built with the Packs, they get the first invites to the open house, even though they should be familiar with the workings of the Troop.
The open house or Troop visit is an important part in the recruiting process.  There are as many ways to do this as there are troops, but the important part is that you need to conduct these events.  They are opportunities for parents to see the Troop in its environment, they get to see the youth leaders, they have the opportunity to talk to the committee and ask questions about the Troop.  It is a great way to show case the unit.
Our Troop is a backpacking troop.  At our open house that we do annually we present the Troop as it normally camps… in the backpack style.  Our philosophy is to be very up front and show the Troop how we are.  We set up a camp site in our meeting hall to show the types of gear we use and provide lists of the recommended and required gear.  This is important for the new parent to know just what they are getting into.
We have photo albums and a slide show running for the new parents and Scouts to see, as well as invoke a story or two from the older Scouts.  I think that is real important for both new Scouts and parents to see.  It is the shared experience of the Scout that is what we are selling.  This is a big part of the promise that we deliver.
Our open house is not on a meeting night.  Meeting nights are for meetings… and Troop visits.
During a Troop visit we conduct business as usual.  When we have visitors, we treat them as guests and have a regular meeting.  We think this is important so the visiting Scout and his parents see just what a meeting looks like and they get a real feel for the Junior leaders and how the Troop operates.  Keep in mind sometimes this is ugly and confusing to the untrained eye.. that is where Assistant Scoutmaster (insert name here) comes in.  He is the wrangler of parents and acts as the translator as the evening progress’s.  He can be a great help in answering questions and explaining the process’s that are unfolding before these shocked parents… he should also be versed in treating for that shock and also how to fill out applications and merit badge counselor interest cards.  The bottom line is that the Troop visit should reflect the true flavor of the Troop.  If you put out your best, then it is fair that you should be that way all the time… it is ok for visitors to see reality and understand that young men run this program.
Some key items for both the Troop visit and the open house:
1.  A copy of the Troops Annual plan
2.  A copy of the Troop budget
3.  A list of “Must haves” that include uniform standards, gear, handbook, and other things unique to your Troop.
4.  Business cards for key leaders (Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, Membership chair, Treasurer)
5.  Hand out with “GO TO INFO” :  Troop website, email address’s, resources,  FAQ’s.

In our next edition of “If you build they will come” we will talk about the annual plan, the meat and potatoes of the recruiting effort.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

If you build it they will come pt.2

Well, it took less than a day for someone to read the post and fire an email to disagree… thanks for the email… now Mr. Anonymous… I would like to invite you to read all the way to the end of the last post.. it says “We will talk more about the other pieces to building the program in the next few posts.. so stay tuned!”
So here you go.. Part 2 of “If you build it they will come”.

In the last post I focused on the Scout Leadership and how fundamental that point is in developing your program so ‘they’ will come.  Once that is established, or at least progress is being made to that end, it is time to sell the program.
How do you sell a calendar?  As simple as I can put it, just show it.  And how you show it is through relationships.  Your unit needs to have several relationships to grow.  The first is obviously with the Packs.  Yeah, PACKS, plural.  It is not good enough to rely on a single Pack to “Feed” your unit.  The reason I say that is because we are selling a specific program.  Let me take a minute and explain that.
Our program, our plan, our Troop is not like every other Troop.  Each Troop has its own flavor, its own way of delivering the promise, its own style.  The beauty is that given the Mission, Goals, and Values of the Boy Scouts of America we (all Scout units) can do it that way, we can all have our own flavor or style to achieve the Goals, work through the methods and deliver the promise to the young men that come to and stay with the Troop… so having said that what we are selling is OUR program, and that applies to every Troop out there.
Relationships with multiple Cub Scout Packs is critical if you want to maintain sustainable membership numbers.  It is realistic that not every Webelos Scout will cross over to your unit.  It is fair to give the Webelos Scouts and their parents choices in their selection of Boy Scout Troops.  Den Chiefs that assist the Pack and Dens are great recruiters and sell our program weekly.  They demonstrate through their stories, there teaching, and their presents that we have a unit that values their leadership.  The Den Chief is encouraged to make open invitations to the Webelos Scouts to attend Troop meetings and camp outs.
The Den Chief is the front line of recruiting for a Troop.
The second line of recruiting and relationship building between the Troop and the Pack is Adult leaders that have their hands in the program.  The Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmasters should maintain a friendly presents within the Pack.  Attending Pack meetings, Den Meetings and participating in special Pack functions.  Relationships with Den Leaders and Cubmasters are important in the process of transitioning a Webelos Scout to a Boy Scout Troop.  This process never ends and is only effective when it is real and part of the annual plan.  Dedicated time and energy is a must to the recruiting effort.  Your Troop should have dedicated leaders, both youth and adult that can and will give effort to building and maintaining relationships with those Packs.
The relationships that you build become lasting and meaningful when you give that time.  Some things that we find are successful are; helping the Packs with their recruiting efforts, providing assistants with Pack programs like family camps, pinewood derby races, parades, and working with the Webelos Scouts on activity pins.  Providing youth “teachers” to help the Dens of the Pack achieve belt loops is another great way to get your Troop program sold.  That and by having the Scouts do it, they develop their leadership styles and demonstrate to the parents of the Cub Scouts that our program fosters youth leadership, skills development, and and over all delivery of the Scouting program.  Taking the Cub Scouts on a Fishing derby, working with them on a Wildlife conservation effort, participating with any of the sports related belt loops provides opportunities to lead and recruit, all the while selling the Troops program.
These are building blocks in the “Field of Dreams”… if you build those relationships they will come.
In our next post we will talk about the open house and troop visits… Stay tuned.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

If you build it they will come pt.1

Its that time of the year again when District Membership chairs, Troop and Pack Committee Chairs, and leaders all over Scouting start seeking out the future of the program.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, its recruiting season in the BSA and the fever pitch ramping up.

With a new and exciting program delivery method for the Cub Scout program hitting the shelves, and the BSA’s commitment to enhancing the recruiting effort through the BeAScout program, you can see that an effort this year on membership is a high priority.
Membership is the life blood of any organization, and Scouting is no exception… but that really goes without saying, right?

Whiz Bang programs, fancy fliers, and cool websites are great tools in the recruiting effort, but I will share with you a tried an true secret to effective recruiting. 
A GREAT PROGRAM at the unit level.  No matter what type of a unit it is, Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout Troops, or Venture Crews.. if you build it (the program) they will come.
I call this the “Field of Dreams” philosophy. 
Simply put, you need a great program to both sustain membership and recruit new members.
So the question then is how do build this great program?
Let me give you a few tips that have worked for me.  I apologize to the Cub Scout leaders at this point because I will really only focus on the programs that are Scout led (Boy Scouts and Venture Scouts).

And having said that… that is the first key.  SCOUT LEADERSHIP.
The Scouts need to be the owners of the plan, they need to be the decision makers of the plan, and they need to be, with assistance, coaching, and support of adults, the folks that execute the plan.  Ownership in their plan leads to leadership development and action.
An annual plan that allows the Scouts to use their imagination, test their skills, seek adventure, and challenge themselves are key.  Allow them to develop that plan.  The beauty is that imagination, skill levels, adventure and challenge are extremely subjective and can be tailored to any type of unit.
Allow the Senior Patrol leader or Crew President the chance to lead.   They will develop the right course of action when they understand that leadership requires them to provide Purpose (through their Vision and plan) Direction, by communicating their plan and setting an example of skills, attitudes, and Scout like behavior, and Motivation.
But how does this get new Scouts into your unit?
When parents see a unit operating the right way, they want to learn more.  Understanding that it is not always pretty (but that’s the Scoutmaster and Committee chairs job to communicate that to the new parent) and that this is the simple design of the founder Baden Powell, the parent will soon see that in order for their son to get the most out of his Scouting experience, he needs to be in a unit that has a great program. 
We will talk more about the other pieces to building the program in the next few posts.. so stay tuned!

Have a Great Scouting Day

Back from Jambo!

We are back from Jambo and full of Scouting!  That is not to say that I have had my fill… What I am saying is that I have never been more excited to be in Scouting.
I have been in Scouting since I was 7 years old and the 2010 National Jamboree sealed the deal for me that Scouting will always be a part of my life.
The shows, the demos, the action centers, the outback activities, the people.. they all added up to a wonderful experience that will long stay with me.  I am ready for 2013 at the Summit!
I will be putting out a few podcast about Jambo in the next few weeks, so stay tuned to the SMM podcast.

Speaking of which.  The Scoutmaster Minute Podcast is undergoing a few changes, starting with the name.  We are in the midst of negotiations with the BSA as we speak and in the interim, the Scoutmaster Minute needs to change a bit.
From now until things get settled and maybe into the future, the Scoutmaster Minute will be called the SMM podcast.
Nothing else will change, you can still get it on iTunes and via just a name change.
Thanks for staying with us and being such great listeners and readers of the blog.  I appreciate it.

Have a Great Scouting Day!