Fall is approaching, whether we realize it or not, and with it comes our most productive recruiting season. School starts back up, and our Cub Scout program kicks into gear. Each year, packs need to form new Tiger dens and add to the others, replacing those who aren’t returning or have moved away.
We also need to make an effort to reach out to all available youth and give them the opportunity to join Scouting. Even if they’ve seen us before, boys grow and develop and their interests change rapidly. Last year’s lukewarm prospect may be this year’s go-getter.
By now, every pack should have held its annual program planning meeting – if yours hasn’t, get together as soon as possible to map out the year’s pack meetings and activities. You should also be scheduling your recruiting events:
- A Boy Talks presentation, where the Cubmaster or a member of the district membership team gives a short presentation to the boys (during school if possible)
- Flyers (usually ordered from your commissioner or district professional) are sent home with the boys the day of the Boy Talks or in the first packet of parent information
- A recruiting night brings parents and their sons in for informational (for the parents) and entertaining (for the boys) presentations, applications are taken, and you try to recruit adult volunteers
- Your kick-off pack meeting where everyone comes back together
Besides these typical activities, what can you do to get the word out? Marketing research shows that it’s all about exposure, and it takes up to seven impressions to cement the message in your audience’s consciousness. Here are a few ideas you probably haven’t tried:
- Information, please. Many schools have an informational evening, often the week before school starts, where parents can learn specifics about the school, tour the classrooms and meet the teachers, and find out about opportunities such as clubs, sports and technology groups. Find out if your pack can have a booth or exhibit at this event. Staff it with one or two adult leaders and a couple of your Scouts. Have flyers announcing your recruiting night to hand out, and ask parents with any interest at all for their contact information so you can follow up with them.
- Blow your own horn. Put up a display at your school and at your chartered organization. Even a static display in a window or display case can catch the eye of prospective members. Have pictures of fun things you’ve done recently. Some camping gear or a Pinewood Derby car adds to the “wow” factor. A poster or three in the lunchroom with the day and time of your recruiting night reminds boys about the event. Don’t forget about local businesses that may allow posters or displays in their store windows.
- Use your Scouts as recruiters. The best recruiters are those boys who are having fun right now! Ask your Scouts to invite a friend who isn’t in the pack already. The BSA has peer-to-peer recruiting cards that boys can give their friends (ask your unit service executive or council office for details). Make sure they know they’ll earn the Recruiter emblem if their invitation results in a new Scout joining.
- Pin one on. You might know that the BSA has a website devoted to recruiting new members. The beascout.org site has a ZIP Code search function that returns a list and map of Scouting units in the area; each has a “pin” with meeting time and place and contact information. I just checked our local area and found that just about every unit has outdated information. Unless you set up your unit pin, it will usually point to the address of your chartered organization (not necessarily your meeting location) and give your council’s phone number. Make sure your unit’s information is current and correct; follow these directions to update your pin.
- Go out on the town. Participate in civic events in your community. Many towns have a fall festival of some kind. Have an exhibit demonstrating Scouting. Volunteer to help with some aspect of the festival, like selling refreshments or managing lines for attractions. If there’s a parade, ask to march in it. Scouts in uniform remind the community that yes, we do still exist, and might intrigue impressionable youth and their parents.
- Go to church. Contact the churches in your area and ask if they’d be willing to put an announcement in their bulletin. Also ask if you can put a recruiting flyer on the bulletin board. Your commissioner, district membership team or district professional may be of assistance and could help you with finding out who to contact. A general information phone number or website could be listed, and flyers could have tear-off tabs so interested parents will have a number to call to find out where and how to join.
- Get in the newspaper. Contact the editor of your community’s newspaper and provide details on your Join Scouting events. They’re usually happy to provide a listing or run a story. A high-quality photo of some exciting activity can help promote your recruiting and can help the editor fill the “news hole”.
- Your name in lights. Schools, churches and civic facilities often have a changeable message sign that displays short announcements for passers-by to see. Ask if they’ll add your recruiting event to the rotation. Our city hall has such a sign, and they usually run items of a community nature.
With all the different activities for young people today, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Stand out by ensuring that you’re making impressions. Don’t let the boys and their parents in your area forget that Scouting is alive and well and a whole lot of fun.
Have you tried any of these? How did it work out for you? Are there other things you do in your pack to recruit new members? Leave a comment with your thoughts and help your fellow Scouters improve their recruiting efforts!