Article submitted by David Nelson of the Great Alaska Council
Fall recruitment is one the most exciting times of the year for Scouting. Setting forth to deliver the promises of outdoor adventure, positive family interactions, and strong character development instills a sense of hope and renewal each year. One of the challenges that is surfacing more and more is that there is a misalignment between the number of Packs serving available schools. In some districts, Packs serve whichever school is most convenient, while others employ limits based on geography alone. A strategic conversation with your unit leaders on the appropriate number of schools a Pack should serve can be done in three simple steps. Doing so will uncover new opportunities for growth within existing packs and will help identify new Pack prospects.
Step One: Develop a Plan to Right-Size Existing Packs
Each month I create time in my schedule to take an in-depth look into the membership of all the Packs that make up my district. I delve into the total membership and then into individual dens. Doing this shows me a few things: the Pack growth potential, the effectiveness of each Pack’s recruitment endeavors, and the Pack’s ability to retain members on an annual basis. Once this analysis is complete, I hold a conversation with unit leaders (people who are committed to the growth of the Pack) and ask what things we can do to ensure that they have full dens for all ages. If they are a small Pack, I recommend that they should limit themselves to serving only two schools. Packs that are significantly larger could consider long-term plans to ensure that every youth has a chance for meaningful recognition. Leaders have told me that their upper threshold is around 80 Scouts and that a conversation about intentionally branching off into a new Pack has helped them to expand into more communities.
Step Two: Find or Develop an Effective Planning Tool
A tool that is easily accessible for me and the membership growth volunteers I work with is essential. I am particularly skilled in cartography; two months before the start of the school year I began map making. I first began with a printout map of the district with every elementary school (public and private) visibly marked. From there I added all my Cub Scout Packs and connected them with their traditional schools. I found great benefit in my map this year—the perspective was valuable. Through this process, I discovered one Pack in my district was serving a school that was 30 miles away from where they meet! I was able to show unit leaders that distance between a school and meeting locations limits a Pack. The visual representation helps me to share the powerful narrative of why parents would prefer good Scouting programs that are more conveniently located in their own neighborhoods.
Step Three: Develop and Strengthen Connections
Connections are crucial to everything we do. Recruiting, Friends of Scouting, and community involvement all depend on our ability to connect with passionate people in our districts. I like to ask unit leaders about a Pack’s connection to schools and about what I can do to help them make the connection stronger.
My volunteers and I have discussed that strong connections include regularly going to PTA meetings, being familiar with the school’s administration, knowing the key parents who lead other events like carnivals, fundraisers, and community service events. If a Pack is serving five schools, it is not likely that they are able to consistently accomplish these things. Packs with school connections provide the best service to families in a community. My role as a Scouting professional is to uncover the great opportunity to develop these connections and facilitate them among my unit leaders.
This approach has helped me to strengthen relationships with my existing units. Direct conversations about our roles in the volunteer/professional partnership serve as the building blocks to successful membership growth. When we develop and implement a plan to ensure that the very best version of Scouting is delivered to every youth in a Pack, we see amazing results. This begins with ensuring that each Pack understands and subscribes to its capacity and potential.
Scouting Wire would like to thank David for submitting this article