When Joshua Hoffman became a leader in Pack 141 in Sycamore, Ill., annual planning conferences took six hours or more — and sometimes required follow-up meetings. (Sound familiar?) In his three years as Cubmaster, he helped cut those meetings down to 2½ hours tops. And attendance at pack events began to regularly exceed 60%.
The secret to the pack’s success? A streamlined planning process and plenty of communication.
Each July, the pack committee meeting (which is open to all leaders and parents) is devoted to planning the next 12 months. Participants come armed with two important tools: a binder of past pack calendars and a stack of school, community and sports calendars.
“There’s nothing worse than planning that blue and gold dinner on the same night as teacher conferences or on the Little League playoff night,” says Hoffman, who is now Scoutmaster of Troop 2810 in Sycamore. “Because we’re going to lose.”
Sticking to the script
Pack 141 repeats most activities from year to year — both obvious activities like the Pinewood Derby and special events like the pack fishing derby.
“If we’re providing an exceptional activity — if it’s well organized, well thought out and fun — Scouts look forward to doing it again,” he says.
That approach means six pack meetings and three summer activities are predetermined, which allows more time to focus on the rest of the calendar.
Hoffman says the pack doesn’t change dates once they’re set, because leaders recognize that many families have earmarked certain dates for Cub Scouting. But that doesn’t mean the calendar sits on a shelf. Printed copies are available at every pack meeting during the year and are also emailed to families in PDF format. Mimicking the local school district, the pack uses a one-page format that’s intended to be posted on family refrigerators.
The calendar also goes into Scoutbook (which syncs with the calendar on the pack website).
“Families can access it any time at their convenience on their mobile device, which is nice,” Hoffman says.
Allowing for snow days
What’s more, the pack sends automated reminders through Scoutbook 14 and three days before key events.
The pack calendar includes rain/snow dates for the Pinewood Derby and blue and gold banquet, which is important since winters can be harsh in Illinois.
“In the last four years, we had one time where we had a significant snowfall and we had to cancel our Pinewood Derby,” Hoffman says. “But because we already had a rain date on the calendar, our attendance was still phenomenal.”
Get more tips about pack program planning in this Cub Scout virtual roundtable video.