One of the most distressing things for a volunteer to hear when they mention to someone that they are involved in Scouting is to hear “Oh, Scouting? That’s still around?”
Yes! Scouting is still around! We all experience the great programs that develop the character and values of the youth of our communities, and we are proud of the great work that we do. So how do we let families know that not only are we still around, but we are thriving and welcome them to join our Scouting family?
In today’s overwhelming media market, it is not easy to spread the message of the constant good our units, youth, and volunteers do, the amazing trips, countless hours of service to the community, and the long-term impact our program has on youth. To spread the word about your Scouting program, it will take a commitment and a good amount of work at the grassroots level. The families that are members of your program can help you deliver this message. They are our best ambassadors, and with the right message vision and direction, our most effective workers. Read on to find out how to engage your unit in effective recruitment strategies.
Increasing Your Unit’s Digital Exposure
Computers are great! They help us track important information, connect with others, and learn about how to do what we want to do better. Chances are, you learned about the information in this article through a computer. It is through a computer that you know that you can find all of the recruitment information on our District’s site by clicking Categories, Membership, then Recruitment. Computers allow your unit to be around 24/7 without requiring your being available 24/7.
Website / Facebook
What can your unit do to get out there? First, if you do not have one, your unit should set up either a webpage (usscouts.org has a great resource to help, also check out how to improve your site) or a Facebook page (or both!). Facebook is probably the easiest (Facebook has a great guide), and allows for simple management of who is allowed to post on behalf of the unit. Either option you choose, you should set it up to make sure that someone who is not a member of your unit can find out the 4 W’s (Who to contact, What your unit does, Where your unit does it, Why your unit does its program). You should also make sure that there is information available for your families to share (Facebook is a great place for this).
You know that saying, “A pictures are worth 1000 words”? Pictures are a great way to communicate the 4 W’s of your unit (provided you have permission from the parents). You should develop a policy that encourages the responsible use of technology while at meetings and out and about on trips. Bryan on Scouting has a great post about the different policies out there, as well as a good Scoutcast post. A good part of any policy should be the Cyber Chip. Encouraging the responsible posting and sharing of what your unit is doing can help encourage those on the fence to try out your program.
Remember, frequently (at least 1x per month) posting quality information that can be shared increases the chances of your message going out further than just your unit’s families. Also, while you’re at it, share this fun video and this article on identity development.
Encourage your families to send out 1 or 2 “mass invites” to your unit’s open house or recruitment activities (more about those below). Better yet, challenge each family to invite 2 or 3 friends to the event. Sports lists, grade lists, etc. that have emails from youth that can join Scouting are great places to check. For pre-formatted emails, check out our “E-Blasts” at the National Marketing site. Also, consider using Facebook events, or Evites (Whoozin is a great site, make sure to create an “open registration”) to encourage families to invite their friends.
A part of a conversation when discussing the public perception of Scouting with another volunteer has stuck with me: “The problem that we have is that 99% of what we do in Scouting is either in a Church basement or in the woods! How are people supposed to get to know us?” As we continued the discussion, we determined that we can not wait for the public to find out about us, instead, we need to get out in front of the public. While a portion of this problem can be solved by getting out into the community to perform service and activities in the community, we also need to meet with families where they are.
Reaching out to families who are unfamiliar with Scouting is important, and attending community events where families gather is an effective method of recruiting. Parades, Car Shows, Night Outs, and more provide excellent opportunities for you to show what your program does and for families to ask questions about Scouting. One of the most important pieces you should have on your table though is a display of Scouting. A picture board & some Scouting material that families can touch is a great way to inform families. There are also some excellent resources available, some which can be printed by the Council (contact [email protected]) for you to have on your table. Additionally, we have a guide to all of our programs, and can create fliers with your unit information on them.
Just like community events, events at school such as Back to School, Field Days, and Sporting events provide you with an opportunity to provide families with a preview of your program. Make sure to provide families with a schedule for your unit and to communicate that Scouting does not hold a youth’s progress hostage to meeting attendance, that we do not “cut kids from Scouting.”
Unleash The Parents!
In addition to having a presence at community and school events, your families can help with multiplying your reach into the community. To help with this, check out our Membership Recruitment Initiative. This guide has ready-made initiatives that outline the vision, a profile of ideal volunteers to carry it out, specific directions, and lists of the tools required and resources available for volunteers. Simply print out an initiative and provide it to a parent that has the ability to carry it out and let them run with it!
Give Them Something Fun To Do!
Now that you have read about how to communicate with families, what can you do to get them engaged, to come out and check out your program? In one of our posts last year we posted 15 ready-made events for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Ventures that are perfect to invite current and prospective families to. These events range from Field Sports and S’mores Parties to “Mountain Main” and a Survival Challenge. You can develop a monthly hike program like Pack 1 (Troops, this is a great service to deliver to local Packs!) to invite the community to join. Pack 437 had a great event where they invited families to come learn about Scouting during an evening program, and had the new boys participate in a night-long “man-hunt” game, complete with a hot-chocolate station for youth who were tagged out. Do your best when inviting families out to not just talk to the kids about the fun things they will be able to do, but also show them the fun!Print