Selecting volunteers

raised_hands_200As we get back into high gear with our pack and troop programs, we may find that we’ve had some “churn” in our adult commitments. Perhaps a family moved away over the summer or decided on a shift in priorities. When that happens, an adult who made a commitment to volunteer in our unit is no longer available. This churn is most common in Cub Scouting, as den leaders move up and new dens (particularly Tiger dens) form, membership in the various den levels gets redistributed, or an adult in a key role has experienced a change in outside commitments, such as work or other involvement, and can’t continue in that role.

You might thin the term selecting volunteers is a bit strange – usually, we ask for people to help out and hope someone puts up their hand. In rare cases we actually have volunteers who seek us out. Mostly, though, we need to select and invite others to join us in our mission.

While everyone can be helpful in identifying volunteers for these open positions, it rests on the committee chair to make sure they are filled with qualified people. This is where selecting comes into play. It’s important to find the best available person for a particular job, whether it’s our unit treasurer, a den leader or the Scoutmaster. There are several steps involved in the process of identifying the right person and convincing him or her that they’re right for the job:

  • Know what you need. You should know which positions need filling, which means you need to know the organization of adult leadership in your unit. Refer to the Cub Scout Leader Book or the Troop Committee Guidebook for an outline showing how your adult volunteers are organized. You’ll also find job descriptions for the various positions; these are essential so the person you’re recruiting will know what’s expected.
  • Know what your unit’s parents can do. Get to know the parents of your Scouts. Find out what they like and are interested in. Sometimes, knowing their expectations for the Scouting program can give you insight into what motivates them. Often, den leaders are more familiar with the parents and their talents; call upon them for suggestions. Another help is to use the Family Talent Survey Sheet to obtain some profile information on your parents. These tools can help narrow your search.
  • Confide in a colleague. It doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion from a friend if you feel you need a different perspective. As the chairman, however, selecting members of your team is still primarily your responsibility along with the chartered organization.
  • Speak with the prospect. Depending on your own comfort level, you might want to hold a preliminary chat with someone you think would be a good addition to your troop or pack adult leadership. Some people might feel put upon if you come right out and ask them to do something; establishing a rapport with them first can help ease the way toward asking them to take on a specific role.
  • Deliver the pitch. At some point you’ll need to ask them to step up. Script in your mind how you’re going to do this. Rehearse what you’ll say. Try to think of objections they might bring up and have answers. (After all, you took the job you have – you probably had some reservations at first yourself.)
  • Seal the deal. Make sure you have an adult application form with you, and ask the prospect to complete it on the spot. Also, have step-by-step information to give them on how to complete Youth Protection Training, and ask them to send you the training certificate as soon as they finish. A printed job description and a calendar of events (such as committee meetings or pack activities) will help them understand the job. Also, make sure they know about training for their new position, and explain that training will help make the job easier. (Don’t forget to meet with your chartered organization representative for review and signature, then be sure to promptly turn in the application to your council.)
  • Give a warm welcome. At the next appropriate moment – the beginning of the next committee meeting or at the pack or troop meeting – announce the new volunteer and welcome them. Doing so will help to inspire in others the desire to serve.
  • Don’t leave them alone. Sure, let them do their job, but check in with them frequently during the first few weeks to make sure they understand what they’re supposed to be doing and to see if they need anything. The Cubmaster should work with den leaders to support their work. Likewise, the Scoutmaster needs to ensure that Assistant Scoutmasters have specific roles and responsibilities, otherwise they’ll give you exactly what you give them – nothing.

If you take a systematic approach mixed in with some person-to-person interaction, you should be able to fill those critical positions in your unit and carry on your mission of providing excellence in Scouting for your youth.


Image: Nokhoog Buchachon /


This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 Replies to “Selecting volunteers”

  1. As I visit troops I find that volunteer management is one of the most commonly neglected areas. Many committees and Scoutmasters seem to believe in an “if you build it they will come” approach. Finding out what parental and volunteer resources are available and learning how to ask the right people for the right contribution is one of the most valuable abilities a leader can have in Scouting.

  2. I have been a Key 3 leader at all levels of scouting over many years and the level of volunteerism seems to drop as one moves up the scale with the different ages & stages of the youth. At Cub Scouts, many will volunteer, but turnover is very high and you have to keep working at it.

    The turnover in adult volunteers in your average Boy Scout troop is lower than in Cub Scout Packs, but the job requirements (outdoor program) may limit the number of adults willing to actively help the Scoutmaster. But what I thought was most interesting was the experience I had at the Venturing Crew level, as youth enter the “High School” ages, parents almost stop being willing to help unless they come up through the Troop as a prior volunteer.

    I put allot of time in adult recruitment (as well as program support) with my past venturing crew, seeking anyone adult who could get involved. Many venturing crews have a hard time finding anyone willing to volunteer and crews. They also often have the added requirement for both male and female adults willing to take part in the Venturing outdoor program. In my two year term, In the end, the “turnover” had impacted the crew operations despite a youth membership of 22. I gained only one female adult volunteer, but lost four adult leaders (due to sons moving on). This is one of the causes that most venturing crews do not re-charter for more than 3 years.

Comments are closed.