Boy Scout Recruiting
In three months, most Cub Scout Packs will have their Blue Gold dinners and cross Webelos over into Boy Scout troops. If your troop is hoping some of them will join you, you've already missed the boat!
Waiting and hoping aren't going to keep your troop vibrant, strong, and healthy. Actively engaging Webelos now before they make their troop decision is what you need to do. There are tons of ways to get Webelos interested in your troop but, before I share my list, you should decide how many new scouts your troop needs. Now, don't be greedy!
If there are other troops in your community, communication with those scoutmasters and committee chairs is a good idea. Rather than being secretive and competitive, it really can work to be cooperative and figure out what's best for the troops and the scouts.
How many new scouts does each troop need? A troop of 20 scouts that gets 10 new scouts may lose many of them because of being ill-prepared for the influx. A troop of 70 scouts doesn't need 20 more scouts. If every troop got one 9-member patrol each year, that would be around 50 scouts total in the troop. A troop growing much larger than that should consider seeding a new troop to spread their success.
I realize that every troop is different. The way the scoutmaster interprets scout-led and the rest of the BSA program has a huge impact on the health of the troop. When a troop has leaders that promote or allow activities and behaviors against the aims and ideals of Scouting, that troop will struggle to attract and retain new scouts.
Assuming your troop is running well and you would like to bring in a bunch of new scouts this year, here's some good ideas to consider:
- First Fish - if one Webelos knows he's joining your troop, ask him to let his den know where he's going. This might be a younger brother of one of your scouts, or your neighbor, or a kid from church. Many scouts just follow where it seems the others are going.
- Super Scouts - offer two eagle scouts to visit a fall Webelos den meeting to answer questions about Boy Scouting and tell about some of their adventures. Uniforms, sashes, and high adventure patches are very cool to wear.
- Collaborate - contact the Webelos den leaders and ask how your troop can help his/her Webelos finish their Arrow of Light requirements. Make sure they know your troop meetings are open to them.
- Scout Skills - schedule two recruiting events in the fall. A day of your scouts' favorite games and stations for Webelos to practice first aid, fire, knots, and the like works great. A hike can be fun and fulfills an Arrow of Light requirement.
- Pinewood Partners - offer to have scouts help at the Pack's Pinewood Derby - shuttling cars, keeping people away from the track, serving snacks, whatever is needed.
- Double Trouble - challenge each Webelos scout that says he's joining your troop to ask a non-scouting friend to check out the troop. He can get a Recruiter strip right away.
Looking ahead to next year, recruiting should be a year-round activity. This takes more planning as part of your normal program.
- Den Chiefs - having a scout help lead a den of 5th grade Webelos has a big impact on if, and where, they continue their Scouting trail. A First Class scout can be a den chief from Sept through Feb and then become a Troop Guide for that new patrol of scouts to help them succeed.
- Rubbing Shoulders - attend roundtable meetings and seek out Pack leaders. Let them know what exciting things the troop's been doing and ask if they need any help.
- Prepare and Plan - by May, have a plan and schedule of your fall Webelos recruiting activities. Hand it to all the Webelos den leaders.
- Camporee Cohorts - invite Webelos dens to join your troop at the district camporees. They're a perfect way to see Boy Scout camping in your troop.
- Troop Expo - plan an open evening for all Webelos and their parents to check out all the local troops. Each troop has a table showing off their adventures set up in a gym or church for a couple hours.
If you focus exclusively on Webelos scouts to keep your troop roster full, you're missing out on a huge potential pool of scouts. By viewing the transition from Webelos to Boy Scouts as a completely new experience, it becomes the perfect time for other 5th graders to join Scouting.
As a troop leader, you could do a Boy Scout presentation at local schools, if you're welcome. But, really the best recruiting tool is your existing scouts. Convincing them that their efforts to add another scout are important to the health of the troop might be your challenge. Some ways to help motivate them to invite a friend:
- Patches - use the Recruiter strip, that's what it's for. Other fun patches are inexpensive.
- Advancement - have new scouts complete the First Class 'tell a friend' requirement right away while there's a better chance of having that friend join. A boy that was busy in the fall might join his friend having fun in the spring.
- Buddy Bowling - plan a non-camping activity that only scouts with a friend can attend, such as bowling, swimming, mini-golf, anything BSA-approved that they want.
- Free Fun - have a campout that is free for any scout that brings a friend.
A few other tidbits that might help your recruiting efforts:
- Teams - remind your sports-oriented scouts that they should ask their teammates to give Scouting a try at the end of their season.
- Trinkets - give out stuff so visitors remember which troop you are, such as wooden nickels, bookmarks, pencils, business cards, pins, or patches.
- Tag-ons - provide postcards in every fundraiser order that asks the buyer to pass it on to neighbors with a 5th or 6th grade boy. It invites him to join and has your contact info.
- Twofers - don't limit your Webelos recruiting events to just Webelos. Invite all 5th and 6th grade boys to your scout skills day, lock-in, or whatever you do.
Well, after all that, I should tell you that in my time as a scoutmaster we didn't recruit for our troop. Our focus was completely on convincing the Webelos scouts that their Arrow of Light was just the beginning of 'real' scouting. They needed to continue scouting somewhere.
Our troop does many of the activities listed above, but never puts down the other four local troops and doesn't tell Webelos to join our troop. Scouts can say they are always welcome, but they should check out the options and choose which one is best for them. That's exactly what we adults tell the parents, too.
And, that might just be the best recruiting tip there is.
Posted: 17:34 11-13-2012 929