Article contributed by Laura Clay, Western Los Angeles County Council
Are you a Scouting professional who wants to know the secret to hitting year-end growth, raising more money, and increasing participation in program? With a bit of planning and proactive work, these goals are achievable through a successful fall membership campaign.
How Sign-Up Nights Can Help You Get There
Every pack should be holding a sign-up night! Sign-up nights have two goals: to register youth who have been recruited and to make sure parents have information for upcoming events. Parents typically go to a sign-up event wanting to know how to sign up their child, how much it will cost, and when the next meeting will be.
Ideally, packs have completed their program planning (including a sign-up night) before school is out and families have moved to other activities. By collecting their calendars, not only will you have the sign-up information, but you’ll also have Blue & Gold for Friends of Scouting, their camping plans for next summer, and regular meeting dates to get to know their volunteers!
School Access Is Key
If a pack hasn’t planned for a sign-up date, a good place to start is by tailoring a membership plan based on school access. Sign-ups should be held at least two weeks after school starts to ensure enough time for signage, flyer distribution and school talks. Open houses can be a great opportunity to gather leads for sign-ups. Schools are the ideal location for sign-up nights, as new families feel more comfortable attending. However, an alternate prominent community location may be appropriate, as well.
Besides setting the date, share with your packs how your council supports them! Whether it’s a rally over the summer to hand out yard signs, sign-up kits, incentives, an easy turn-in location for applications, encouraging troops to assist at the sign-up night, or having a plan in place for girls at a school that feeds a boy-only pack, there are lots of resources and strategies to ensure success. For packs that may need a boost, these tools may bring them back into the fold and feel encouraged about recruiting.
Common Pack Recruitment Challenges and How to Solve Them
If a pack pushes back about recruiting, here are some helpful responses to consider:
Objection: “Our pack is too big – we can’t accept any more kids.”
- “Because you’ll still be recruiting Kindergarteners for your new Lion den, we’ll still need a sign-up date for them and any other specific grades that there are available spots. Will you get that information to me, so that I can work with [nearby Pack] to make sure the other kids in the school have the opportunity to join Scouts?”
- “Let’s sit down and go over who we have returning from the pack. It looks like there are about four youth in each den, which is under the recommended six to eight. Your pack also has three girls of different age levels, so there is plenty of room for them to grow into having their own age-level dens. Based on this, it doesn’t appear that the pack is ‘at capacity.’ Are there other issues like adult help or space limitations that I can help address?”
Objection: “We don’t have enough adult leaders for the kids we do have.”
- “How does your pack support current leaders (covering registration costs, training, camp attendance, etc.)? Are there any specific reasons parents give for not stepping up? One strategy some packs use is that every parent must fill out an adult application and help with something in the pack – even if they do not end up registering.”
And Don’t Forget!
To facilitate a welcoming process for new families, put a date on the calendar after the sign-up night for a parent orientation meeting. This should be held within two weeks of the first sign-up night. The goal of this meeting is to give parents details about activities, dens, and volunteer involvement. This orientation not only fulfills the question in parents’ minds about when the next meeting is, but it also sets the pack up to recruit volunteers from new families.
Have any other tips? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Scouting Wire would like to thank Laura for contributing this article.