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Recruiting New Scouts

How many of us think the world would be a better place with more children in Scouting, learning the values of the Scout Oath and Law? The answer, of course, is all of us. But in order for more youth to join, we must make sure every family is invited.

Membership recruiting – when done properly – is not a passive exercise. Handing out flyers and putting up yard signs is important for building awareness of a Sign Up Night or similar event but do they really deliver the message that a family is invited to join? Put another way, are you more likely to attend a party if someone only mails an invitation… or if the same person takes the time to call and personally invite you? This doesn’t mean you literally have to call every parent in your school and invite them (although we’ll talk about that below) but it does mean your unit should do something above and beyond the minimum.

BeAScout.org

First – if you don’t do anything else – make sure your unit’s listing (called a “pin”) on the website BeAScout.org has the correct leader contact information and meeting information for your unit. BeAScout.org is going to be the first search result that shows up when a family looks online for information how to join Scouting, so it’s important that your unit’s information is up to date. Go to this page to find step-by-step instructions on how to update your unit’s “pin.”

Here are some additional ideas, in no particular order:

Cub Scouts

  • Have a parent in your pack visit school (get permission from the Principal first) and conduct a 3-5 minute “Scout Talk.” This is a chance to quickly talk about the fun stuff your Cub Scout Pack does all year long. Your goal is to motivate kids to bring the Sign Up Night flyer home and show their parents.
  • Create a Facebook event on your pack’s Facebook account and “boost” the event for two weeks before the date of your Sign Up Night. Set a radius of a few miles around the address of the Sign Up Night location so that whenever a Facebook user enters that distance around the location, your event will pop up in their Facebook timeline. Don’t spend more than $1 a day in budget (you can spend more if you wish, but it’s not necessary). If your school and/or school’s PTA/PTO have a Facebook account, ask if they will agree to co-host the event on Facebook; doing so will increase your event’s reach (meaning more Facebook users will see it). See this document from BSA’s marketing team for more on how to do this.
  • On the day before your Sign Up Night, have parent volunteers from your pack pass out stickers to children as they get on the bus to go home. The stickers should have information about the pack Sign Up Night. If your school won’t let you set up near the bus area, stand by your recruiting yard signs or a tent/shelter and offer stickers to students/families as they walk home or walk to their car. If a family is interested, take some time to talk with them briefly about why your family enjoys Cub Scouting and personally invite them to the Sign Up Night.
  • Have your Cub Scouts all wear their uniform to school on an agreed-upon day before your Sign Up Night. Give your Scouts a business card-sized “buddy card” that they can give to a friend as a way of personally inviting them (sense a theme here?) to the Sign Up Night.
  • Use contact information from your school directory to email each family with a personal invitation to your pack’s Sign Up Night. Include some kind of personal testimonial/message about how Cub Scouting has benefited your child and family. This is especially important for Kindergarten and First Grade students, who might not be as involved in other activities yet. Attach your Sign Up Night flyer.
  • Similar to the email idea, utilize Facebook Messenger to send a personal invitation to parents to attend your Sign Up Night. Messenger lets you send a note through Facebook to anyone, even if you are not “friends” on Facebook. You’ll need to exercise some judgement as it may be impossible to know which of the 50 John Browns that turn up in your search is the John Brown who is a parent at your school. In that case, you might just omit them from this effort. But, there will likely be enough unique names for you to utilize this idea. Include an image of your Sign Up Night flyer and/or the URL for your pack website or Facebook account with your message to reinforce that you’re legit.
  • Use the “rotational recruitment” model. This is a way to conduct your actual Sign Up Night that is less intimidating for new families and focuses on the most important goal that night: get them signed up! It was actually tested by volunteers in one of our largest districts and worked incredibly well.

You can find information like this and more in the Join Scouting Night (JSN) Playbook. Our council membership committee will update this document every year.

You can also find logos, images, and promotional materials on BSA’s Brand Center page for Cub Scouts. Before you go spending money to print flyers, check with your District Executive and Membership Committee because they are probably already printing flyers for you.

Scouts BSA

  • Formalize a relationship with a nearby Cub Scout Pack and build the expectation that 5th grade Webelos Scouts will continue their time in Scouting by “crossing over” or graduating into your troop. Troops that do this often invite these Webelos to camp with them at a special fall camp out called “Webelos Woods.” This effort culminates with a crossover ceremony in the spring where the Webelos Scouts become official members of your troop. You can learn more about this process by visiting this page.
  • Hold a Troop Open House. This is not too different from the Cub Scout Sign Up Night idea, only you are focusing on 5th Grade and 6th Grade youth. While the example on this page describes holding the open house in the spring, you can also do one in the fall.
  • Create a Facebook event on your troop’s Facebook account and “boost” the event for two weeks before the date of your open house. Set a radius of a few miles around the address of the open house location so that whenever a Facebook user enters that distance around the location, your event will pop up in their Facebook timeline. Don’t spend more than $1 a day in budget (you can spend more if you wish, but it’s not necessary). See this document from BSA’s marketing team for more on how to do this.
  • Do your Scouts have Instagram accounts? Have them post a fun photo from a recent camp or event and tag friends, inviting them to attend your open house or similar event. This can be part of a peer to peer or “friends asking friends” type of campaign; you can learn more about this idea by visiting this page.

You can find logos, images, and promotional materials on BSA’s Brand Center page for Scouts BSA.

Venturing/Sea Scouting

  • The existing youth members of your crew or ship are your best ways of attracting new members. Have your Scouts invite friends to a crew open house, hike, or other activity or a ship sailing day.
  • Create a Facebook event on your crew’s or ship’s Facebook account and “boost” the event for two weeks before the date of your joining event. Set a radius of a few miles around the address of the event’s location so that whenever a Facebook user enters that distance around the location, your event will pop up in their Facebook timeline. Don’t spend more than $1 a day in budget (you can spend more if you wish, but it’s not necessary). See this document from BSA’s marketing team for more on how to do this.
  • Do your Scouts have Instagram accounts? Have them post a fun photo from a recent camp or event and tag friends, inviting them to attend your open house or similar event.

You can find logos, images, and promotional materials on BSA’s Brand Center page for Venturing.

Sea Scouting has two resources for promotional materials; here’s the page on BSA’s Brand Center and here’s the Marketing Toolbox page on the national Sea Scouting website.

Here is a recording of a webinar by Sea Scouting volunteers about best practices for membership recruiting. The ideas can work just as effectively for Venturing Crews.