Important Message About Scouting's Future
Recruiting New Youth Critical to Scouting’s Future
Steve Wilburn, Old Hickory Council Scout Executive
An entrepreneur spent years planning a new business. He got the right education and training, got some investors to support his idea, found a great location, bought all the necessary tools and equipment, had some nice golf shirts embroidered with the new company logo, put an “open” sign on the window, and then waited for customers to flock to his door. Weeks went by, yet not one person took advantage of his great new services and products. Where were all the customers that he had imagined? What did he forget?
In all the excitement of getting ready to start this new endeavor, the owner had failed to promote his business and to identify, cultivate, and recruit potential customers. It wasn’t long before the doors would be shut and this man’s dream would come to an unhappy ending.
Scouting in northwest North Carolina is not unlike the situation described above. Thousands of enthusiastic volunteers have dedicated huge amounts of time and effort into building quality programs in their local Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, Venturing crews, and Explorer posts. They have taken training, put all the materials and equipment in place, and planned exciting adventures for youth. Our product – preparing youth for the challenges and opportunities of life through the ideals, values, and methods of the Boy Scouts of America – is unmatched.
Unfortunately, as a whole, we are not being as successful in attracting new youth and families to Scouting as we have been in planning and delivering outstanding program experiences. While the Boy Scout and Venturing programs have held fairly steady, our Cub Scout membership has declined in each of the last five years. This is in line with national BSA trends. In fact, Cub Scout membership in the Old Hickory Council has declined nearly 40% since 2009. Many area Boy Scout troops have already felt the effects of this decline, as the youth who joined (or didn’t join) as new Tiger Cubs five years ago are just crossing over from Webelos.
There are a number of bright spots in this situation, though. First, we are blessed to have nearly 2000 of the most dedicated volunteers of any youth program in northwest North Carolina. Second, we have a great program that has a tremendous positive impact on youth and families. Third, there is a huge market of kids and families who are not involved in Scouting, but would join if asked. Finally, the need for young people to learn positive values, life skills, personal responsibility, and leadership that Scouting offers in a fun and safe environment has never been stronger.
Volunteers at every level of Scouting must focus efforts on recruiting more youth and families – especially at the Cub Scout level - if we are to reverse the current trend. We can no longer just rely on the traditional “school night” programs and expect new members to flock to our doors. A robust and proactive year-round (or at least seasonal) recruiting plan should be a part of every unit’s annual program. Parents must be encouraged to share their families’ Scouting experiences and to actively invite other parents to enroll their children and become involved. Local Scout groups will have to take advantage of school, church, and community events to share their activities and to raise awareness among their local community. A “grass roots” social media campaign driven by local pack leadership and parents could be a great and innovative way to reach the parents of younger boys.
A revitalized emphasis on reaching more youth and families will not be an easy task. But, the work pales in comparison to that of millions of people who have worked for the last 104 years to make the Boy Scouts of America the world’s foremost values-based youth movement. Let’s do our best to make sure that the dream of Scouting continues for generations to come.
Note: To learn more about recruiting ideas and best methods, attend one of our local Pack Marketing sessions, attend monthly leader roundtables in your district, or contact your local District Executive.
If your pack has had success with a unique recruiting effort or event, please share it with us!
Watch for exciting changes in the Cub Scout program being rolled out in the spring of next year!
The Old Hickory Council
Serving Northwestern North Carolina's young people and families with a program of fun, excitement and outdoor adventure for over 100 years. We achieve character development, citizenship training and physical and mental fitness through a program of challenge,personal achievement, leadership training and association with positive adult role models - all while we're having lots of fun! To find out where a Scouting unit is located in your area click on the "Be A Scout" logo at the top of this page.
Joshua Golden, a member of Boy Scout Troop 934 at Mount Tabor United Methodist Church, was awarded the Boy Scout Medal of Merit award for heroism at Troop 934s Court of Honor ceremony. The medal is awarded on a national basis for outstanding acts of service or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for others. Joshua helped scouts on three separate occasions who were in life-threatening situations. Shown at left is Winston-Salem Mayor and Eagle Scout Allen Joines, who along with Scoutmaster David Helms made the presentation.Congratulations go out to Joshua, his family and troop for this honor.
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