“All Hands on Deck!” These words are typically associated with an emergency at sea to indicate that all crew members should go to the deck to help. Though we are not at sea, we are asking all of the Scouters in the New Birth of Freedom Council to respond to our “all hands” call.
In 2020, COVID-19 devastated our Cub Scout membership (we are currently down 42%). Schools were not open to back-to-school nights, units couldn’t meet in person, and families were hesitant to join anything in the uncertainty of the pandemic. Though Scouts BSA (-6%) and Venturing (+1.3%) adapted much better to the pandemic, it is important to remember that 90% of Scouts BSA members started as Cub Scouts.
What can I do? Great question! Research, summer travel, increases in families participating in outdoor activities all show that families are looking to engage in exciting, worthwhile, family outdoor activities to Escape the Great INDOORS! Scouting is one of the best programs around to provide that to families. Whether you are involved in Cub Scouts or not, we are asking everyone to share their experiences in Scouting and help to answer questions on how families can find a local Scouting unit. We want every family in southcentral Pennsylvania to know that Scouting is resilient and relevant and is fighting back from the challenges of COVID-19.
Here are some easy ideas that anyone can do:
- Share Facebook, Instagram, Twitter posts and tweets with your circle of friends. Likely you know someone or know someone who knows someone who could benefit from the Scouting program.
- Share Scouting stories on community group pages or with other parents from youth organizations you are involved with. Does your neighborhood have a community page? Let everyone know that there are Scouting programs near them.
- If you live in a high traffic area consider putting a yard sign in front of your house. We have Cub Scout and Scouts BSA yard signs at both Service Centers.
- Remember BeAScout.org. BeAScout lists all of the active units and helps families find units close to their homes.
- Is there a gas station or a pizza restaurant or high traffic area in your community that you could put up a Join Scouting poster? We have posters at both the Mechanicsburg and York Scout Service Centers.
What can my unit do?
- Engaging Parents
- Incentivizing/Motivating Scouts
- Getting Your Message Out
- Planning for Success
- Parents may well be your best recruiters. Call a Parents Meeting ASAP, ideally tied to a fun activity for Scouts.
- Ask parents to reach out to the parents of their Scouts’ friends who are not in Scouting and invite them!
- Ask parents to share the unit’s social media posts on their own social media pages, with invitations to contact them for more information.
Incentivize/Motivate the Scout
- The Recruiter patch alone isn’t enough. Find out what works (ask the Scouts!), make it fun and exciting, and celebrate each success.
- Incentives could be anything from a mystery prize box to an individual or den/patrol competition, with a bigger overall prize to the Scout who recruits the most new members.
- Schedule multiple “bring a friend” events as opportunities for your Scouts to work their magic.
- Cub level and Scouts BSA level incentives may be totally different.
- Lots of flexibility. Be willing to try something new.
Get Your Message Out
- Use multiple ways to let the community know you are recruiting. There’s no single magic bullet.
- Don’t count on the traditional visits at schools and flyers sent home with the students. Covid restrictions may limit or prevent that.
- Signs, signs, everywhere signs. The more the better, and start now.
- Social media. Get aggressive, ask parents to share, and consider geofencing.
- Unit website. Make sure it’s up to date, with lots of photos of fun activities.
Weekly newspapers and advertisers. Submit stories and photos of fun activities, and include an invitation to join and contact information.
Flyers. Have a simple handout that can be distributed to prospective Scouts and their parents, and distributed around town.
Bulletin boards. Minimarts, libraries, grocery stores, and others maintain community bulletin boards. Tack up your promotional piece with contact information and website links.
Township/borough e-News. Many communities publish regular electronic newsletters and may welcome your notice of an upcoming event.
Back to School Night. If permitted, be there and go big.
Chartered organizations have a stake in your success. Ask them to help.
Community events. Be visible. Festivals, parades, and National Night Out are great ways to increase visibility and recruit new members.
Engage your Unit Committee. Obvious, but often underutilized. Put them to work.
Troops – help Packs recruit. You’re their future.
Messaging is no one thing, it’s a lot of little things.
Plan for Success
- Recruit new leaders NOW. That way they can be registered, obtain clearances, get trained, and be ready to go on Sign Up Night. Don’t risk losing new Cubs because nothing happened after they registered due to the time it took to get new leaders up to speed.
- Put your program for the year together NOW. A great program, filled with fun activities, is a great recruiting tool. Promote it and share it with the parents of prospective Scouts.
Please, join us in the ALL HANDS ON DECK call as we work to restart Scouting in our communities.