Picture a stack of 174 newspapers, each 85 pages thick. Back in 2007, researcher Martin Hilbert calculated that’s how much information the average person received every single day.
And that was before Instagram, Snapchat and an endless stream of hashtags. Is it any wonder potential pack families didn’t see your School Night for Scouting flyer last fall?
All is not lost. As Pack 90 in Centralia, Mo., discovered, you can get your pack’s message out even if
#ourpackisawesome never trends on Twitter — and even if you end up contributing a bit to the information overload.
After several years of stagnant recruiting, committee members Gavin Kribbs and Kelli Elliott decided to shake things up in 2018. The previous leaders, Elliott explains, had followed the same recruiting script each year.
“It continued to work, but it didn’t continue to improve,” she says. “We wanted improvement. We wanted to better ourselves every year. That’s what we’re striving for now.”
Opening the Doors
Step 1 was to rethink the pack’s join night. Traditionally, the pack followed up flyer distribution with a sign-up night at the local elementary school. Leaders put up posters in the cafeteria, but they didn’t really promote the pack.
“People who were coming already had the intent to sign up,” Elliott says. “We didn’t do anything to capture those who weren’t sure.”
Last fall, the pack did something very different: an open house at its meeting place, Centralia United Methodist Church, on the same night as regular den meetings. Both potential and current Scouts went through a round-robin of activities planned by the den leaders, including making s’mores, participating in a mini-Pinewood Derby race using Hot Wheels cars, doing fitness activities and engaging in a team version of rock–paper–scissors using hula hoops. Potential Cub Scouts met the den leader for their age group, which allowed prospects to get to know who would be leading them.
While the kids were having fun, the parents met with pack leaders to learn more about Cub Scouting: what it teaches, how much it costs, what parents are expected to do and more. In short, the pack didn’t assume anybody was planning to join — but nearly everyone did.
“We had 27 families come with their children, and 26 signed up,” Elliott says. “And that was just our first night. More called or emailed or Facebooked us to inquire.”
Those Facebook messages were the result of another idea the pack tried: Facebook advertising. Kribbs says the pack purchased a geotargeted Facebook ad that reached about 2,500 people. (At $25, the ad didn’t bust the pack’s budget.) What’s more, he worked with a friend who runs the city of Centralia’s Facebook page to get additional exposure.
“She made sure she shared it so everybody who was on the city’s page would see that,” he says.
Doubling the Impact
Facebook ads also played a role in last spring’s end-of-year pack party, which the pack opened to potential members for the first time.
“We made an event off of our Facebook page for our pack,” Elliott says. “We shared it to our friends and family, then we did a targeted ad on it.”
Two boys and four girls showed up that night, and they all signed up.
The pack has also renewed a longstanding tradition by opening its Pinewood Derby to the public. That idea came from a man whom Elliott met while her son was selling popcorn door to door. The man remembered the public being invited to the pack’s Pinewood Derby back when he was a Cub Scout.
Opening pack events to the public builds on something the pack always strives to do.
“We always try to give all our events a twofold meaning, whether we’re giving back to the community and raising funds or whether we’re giving back to the community and just raising awareness,” Elliott says. “There are always two reasons for everything we do.”
Finally, the pack makes a point of participating in community events, such as the Centralia Anchor Festival the weekend after Memorial Day, the Centralia Pumpkin Fest in October and the Centralia Lighted Tractor Parade in December. More than 10,000 people attended the 2017 parade, where uniformed Scouts passed out hot chocolate and candy canes from their camping-themed trailer.
Did any of those people join the pack last fall? It’s difficult to say, but it’s clear Pack 90 is getting its community’s attention through its combination of online and real-world promotion.
Kribbs says the real secret is not the how but the who.
“You need to find that go-getter in your program — that person who has ideas that are outside the box,” he says. “Every pack has that person. You just have to find them.”