From the very beginning, Scouting has been a volunteer-driven organization. The paid professionals are but a tiny number of people who make our program go. The heavy lifting is done by the parents and friends who step forward in every unit, district and council.
April is Scouter appreciation month. It’s a great time to recognize the work and dedication that your unit’s volunteers put forth so your Scouts can have a fun and enriching program. We can’t give them a pay raise but we can do many things to show them that their efforts are noticed and worthwhile.
- Nominate them for your district’s appreciation award. We call it the Trailblazer Award; others call it the Unit Award of Appreciation or something similar. This recognition shows that they’ve dedicated their time in service to your pack or troop, and is frequently awarded at the district or council volunteer appreciation dinner, banquet or event. Make sure that the award is also presented at your pack meeting or troop court of honor, so the others in your unit know about their accomplishment.
- Provide them with training. A trained leader not only does his or her job better but has more fun doing it. They have greater confidence and don’t have to wonder, or find out for themselves, how things work. Many leaders are reluctant to go to training because of the time commitment, but it is actually a time saver in the long run. Sure, all required Cub Scout leader training is available online, and more areas are seeing much of the Boy Scout leader training go online as well, but training conducted in person in a group setting can be much more fun and valuable. See if your district or council training team can arrange in-person training for your unit, or for the packs or troops in your town. The cost of training really could be considered a program expense, so provide for it in your budget.
- As long as you’re paying for basic training, consider paying some or all of the cost to attend supplemental training like Pow-Wow, Scouters’ Conference or University of Scouting, as well as Wood Badge.
- Pay their BSA membership fees. You can’t run a pack or troop without adult volunteers, so the cost of adult registrations should be wrapped into your unit budget also. So should other expenses, such as summer camp or day camp fees. If they’re giving up their vacation to serve your Scouts, they shouldn’t have to pay twice.
- Volunteers eat first. When you have a meal at a court of honor or Blue & Gold Banquet, invite your volunteers to go through the buffet line first.
- Tokens of appreciation. At these events, I’ve recognized Scouters (and their very understanding and tolerant spouses) with certificates, flashlights, books, gift certificates and other small gifts as a gesture of thanks. And call me chauvinistic, but I liked to give flowers to the ladies who put on the banquet and who ran the kitchen at summer camp.
- Take me out to the ballgame. Plan a getaway to a baseball game, a fishing trip, or similar outing.
- A framed photo of the volunteer in action, running a den meeting, counseling a Scout or working at a service project.
- A newspaper article listing the volunteer leaders. If your town has a community newspaper, send them a story about your unit’s happenings and list the volunteers who make it happen.
- Lend them your ears. Listening is the greatest gift we can give others, so listen intently when they talk with you. Ask them how things are going and what you can do to help them. Then, do it. We all want to be heard and understood.
- Say “thank you.” Sometimes, a pat on the back and a sincere thanks, or a handwritten note sent through the mail, can brighten someone’s day and reinforce their commitment. And it costs next to nothing.
Some of these ideas are for things to do once or twice a year, and others are ongoing actions that show that the efforts of your volunteers are appreciated. Adopt an “attitude of gratitude” and everyone will work and play happier.
Our readers would be interested to hear about the things you do to recognize your unit’s volunteers. Won’t you leave a comment and let us know how you honor those who make your program better for the boys?
Image: Jon Ashcroft / Creative Commons Attribution license