Recruiting new Scouts is your chance to share the values of Scouting with other families. We talked with the experts to get tips for making your fall recruiting event successful. Here’s what they had to share:
HAVE A PLAN.
Planning for a successful recruiting event begins up to eight weeks (or more!) before the actual sign-up night. By the time you’re reading this article, your unit membership chair and select leaders have completed recruitment training, laid the groundwork for the recruitment activity, and selected a time, date and location for the event.
The event planning committee should work with your local district and a unit’s chartered organization to set recruitment goals and determine the best format and theme of the recruitment event. For resources, check out the sidebar on the opposite page.
Planning for a successful event goes beyond deciding on the evening’s activities. Your pack, troop, crew, post or ship should have an annual calendar to share with families at your sign-up night.
“Parents are schedulers,” says Amy Hutcherson, the BSA’s national Cub Scouting specialist. “They won’t want to commit to anything without knowing how it fits into the family’s schedule six to eight weeks out.”
Even better? Prepare a handbook that helps new families get acquainted with your Scouting unit. Find a guide to creating a pack handbook at scoutingmagazine.org/packhandbook — tips that easily translate to any Scouting unit.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS.
When marketing your recruitment night, positive person-to-person affirmations of the Scouting program drive success, says Hutcherson.
How you share this message can vary from a one-on-one chat over coffee about your son’s awesome experience at summer camp to sharing a photo of a weekend campout on Instagram with your network of digital friends. “The value investment is the take-home message,” says Hutcherson, who adds that this can be conveyed by simply telling a friend about the confidence or personal growth your child has experienced in Scouting.
For troops, crews, posts and ships, peer-to-peer recruiting is most effective. Encourage youth to tell their friends about the memorable experiences they’ve had in Scouting and, most important, extend an invitation for others to join in the fun. Pratik Vaidya, the national Venturing president, says apps like Instagram and Snapchat can be an easy way for teens to establish this connection and promote event details.
Other person-to-person marketing can be accomplished by asking your chartered organization for help, says Michael Ramsey, director of the BSA’s national Marketing and Experience Management. For example, he says, a pastor can announce a Scouting sign-up night during a service.
The BSA’s Marketing and Membership Hub’s Sign-Up Night Unit Playbook includes even more event marketing tips at bit.ly/unitplaybook.
KEEP IT MOVING.
By now, you’ve told others about how much fun Scouting can be. Now it’s time to prove it! Don’t use your sign-up night as a time to discuss Scouting’s worth. The experts agree that once a parent or Scout decides to attend a sign-up night, they’ve already learned about the value of Scouting.
Avoid bogging down your event with this message, says Hutcherson. Instead, she says your event should be “quick, easy and fun. Give [parents] the minimum amount of information they need: how much, how often and when.”
The event should focus on an activity, preferably one that keeps Scouts moving. “They don’t want to hear about what they want to be doing,” says Hutcherson. “They want to be doing!” For activity ideas that help achieve this, no matter the Scouting program, check out bit.ly/recruitmentideas.
Many Cub Scout packs have transitioned to open-house style events that allow families to come and go as needed. Using a station-to-station format ensures each family won’t miss a step. There should be a checkout station that includes completing the application and payment. “The easier you can make this for parents, the better,” Hutcherson says.
These strategies also improve the effectiveness of a sign-up night for Boy Scouting, Venturing or Sea Scouting. Scouts or Venturers should run the recruitment event, says Garfield Murden, the BSA’s national Boy Scouting specialist. This should include a “show-and-do” activity that puts youth leaders in charge. “No one should be sitting around,” he says.
Make sure to get the contact information of everyone who showed interest in joining the unit. If someone attends your event but doesn’t sign up, give them a call.
And even if a family decides not to join, “continue inviting the potential Scout to a unit activity so they can see the sizzle of Scouting,” says Murden.
Perhaps the most important follow-up? Delivering all the fun you promised at the sign-up night. Make sure the unit’s annual calendar includes an exciting event held not too long after sign-up night to welcome new members with a splash. Pretty soon, they’ll be sharing Scouting with their own network of friends, and your Scouting unit will welcome even more new members.
Unit-level leaders drive Scouting by interacting with other parents and community members using social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Check out the BSA’s Social Media Playbook to learn more about how to use technology to share Scouting with others at bit.ly/bsasocial.
BSA Marketing and Membership Hub: bit.ly/membershiphub
BSA Membership Recruitment: bit.ly/youthrecruitment
Grow for Gold!
Use these tips to help grow your pack, troop, crew or ship, and you can achieve Gold in Journey to Excellence. View the scorecards at scouting.org/jte.