What’s the secret to recruiting Boy Scouts?

Tuesday-TalkbackThere’s plenty of great material out there to help Cub Scouters recruit boys into their pack and den.

Focusing on Cub Scouts makes sense. Why not introduce families to the adventure of Scouting as early as possible?

But less is said about another important aspect of strengthening the Scouting movement: recruiting Boy Scouts.

For today’s Tuesday Talkback, let’s hear from our Boy Scout leaders. What are some proven ways to grow the number of Scouts in your troop?

First, though, a quick three-part overview of Boy Scout recruiting.

1. Remember that Boy Scout recruiting happens all year.

I don’t like to think of Boy Scout recruiting as having a “season.” You can add new Scouts to your troop all year long.

And doing so helps maintain your troop’s health and bring in new energy and enthusiasm.

One good goal is to add at least 10 new Scouts every year. That way your troop grows without ever growing stagnant.

2. Appoint a troop membership chairperson.

Every successful recruiting effort needs a strong leader.

Find a committee member who can take the lead on growing troop membership.

This person develops and implements a year-round growth plan. He or she should work closely with Cub Scout packs in the community, the district membership committee and the unit commissioner.

3. Use all three methods of growing your troop.

There are three primary ways to get new Scouts into your troop:

  1. Graduate Webelos from Cub Scouting into Boy Scouting.
  2. Host a troop open house.
  3. Encourage peer-to-peer recruiting.

If you use just one or two of these recruiting methods, you’re likely missing out on adding new Scouts to your troop. For best results, use all three.

Your turn

Is your troop growing? What’s your secret? Do a good turn by leaving your ideas below.


  1. All of these techniques seem true for Exploring also. Perhaps in a future article we can explore some best practices for recruiting in the age group of Venturing and Exploring.

  2. Recruiting is a challenge for us as we are not co-located with a pack. We start by reaching out to our DE at the start of each school year to get the current names of den and pack leaders for the packs in our area. I have used the beascout,org website to develop a list of nearby packs. We then invite dens to visit one of our meetings or attend an outing in the fall and winter.

    One thing that has worked well is that once our PLC develops our program in November for the upcoming year, we create a one-page summary of events and dates. I write a one-page letter for sending to dens. It has a bullet list of what we did for the year, touches on what we will be doing the following year, and invites the den for a visit. We include our contact information, Facebook page link, and a photo of the scouts, have all the scouts sign it, and send it to the dens and packs with our schedule for the upcoming year. It shows that we are somewhat organized (parents like being able to schedule outings far in advance) and our Facebook page lets them see the types of activities we do to see if we are a good fit.

  3. When I was a Scoutmaster, and now as a Unit Commissioner, I promoted a three pronged approach. 1. Visibility – we get in the paper, on the radio and on TV any chance we could. Posters, current photos and regular updates to our chartered organization are a must. 2. Connectivity – outstanding young scouts are invited to be Den Chiefs, at any pack that will say yes. Scouts are encouraged to staff Cub events. We urge district and council activities too – maybe a disenchanted scout can be persuaded to transfer rather than quit. 3. Bribery (ok, slight stretch there) – but get recruiter patches to deserving scouts. Recognize patrols for growing (one troop hosts a pizza party for patrols that add two members by invitation)

  4. Most of the above suggestions are valid and do work in certain situations but recruiting is a marketing problem that has never been met fully in the last 25 years in our Council. The last time we had a full training course devoted to recruiting it was done as an all afternoon Saturday session staffed by our District Chairman and the Council Comissioner, both of who were Unit leaders in Boy Scouting and Exploring. Since then there has been very little real in depth training in “How to Recruit A Boy Scout”.
    Four Major Points in Marketing
    1- Know Your Product (Scouting)
    2- Know Your Target (Customer Profile)
    3- Know What His Needs Are (Have Fun & Learn New Skills)
    4- Satisfy His Needs (Delivering The Promise)

  5. Our District Membership Committee in an Atlanta, GA suburb sponsors a Webelos Open House event every fall where most of the troops in the district set up a table with a presentation (poster, photos, video on laptop, etc) manned with scouts and leaders to promote their troop to all the Webelos and their parents who are invited to attend. We hold it at a church in their fellowship hall. The District publishes a booklet with a page for each troop showing their adult leadership’s contact info, place of meeting, number of scouts by rank, and abbreviated yearly calendar of events. It is a “trade show” atmosphere with lots of fun. Webelos families get a preview of the various troops and make arrangements to visit their meetings. It is always a great time.

  6. The secret to recruiting scouts is to run a great program. We started a brand new troop 4 years ago with 7 scouts. We now have 20. Word of mouth keeps bringing in boys – that and all the photos of our scouts rappelling, kayaking, camping, rock climbing, canoeing, swimming and more camping. Boys want to have fun and do stuff outdoors. We do that. Simple.

    • >>Word of mouth keeps bringing in boys – that and all the photos of our scouts rappelling, kayaking, camping, rock climbing, canoeing, swimming and more camping.<<

      Social media is a great tool. A lot of troops keep the excitement of their program "hidden" and the adventures that they have become somewhat of a a well kept secret that's only shared with those who went or those already in the troop.

      Show off what you are doing! Share photos (and videos) of your troop in action. If your friends (and their friends) and the Scout's friends can see the action and excitement of what the troop is doing then they'll want to get involved. But if they think it's just dull meetings in a church basement, popcorn selling and boring campouts at a local park, well they won't think twice about joining the Scouts. However if their Facebook newsfeed is filled with photos of the troop rock climbing last weekend, or canoeing at summer camp, or planning to launch model rockets at a troop meeting, or whatever… and they see Scouts their age (or their son's age) having fun… well that might peek their interest.

  7. The enthusiasm is the first step to create attention to youth.
    The second is the adventure that you are providing that satisfy their interest. It is very important to understand what they want and which program satisfy their curiosity. Give them the option to choose what they wants, but provides them what you proposed.
    We start with the Robotics Merit Badge. Most of them believed that robots didn’t exist, and only happened on movies. When the discover that they can construct and program the interface and start up a sequence of programs to operates them, the start new horizon and wakes up another dimension of scouting. Then adapt the scout crafts with the robotics operations and voilà! As soon as you prove them that the scout craft is necessary to their ordinary life, they wants more. The appetite devours them and starts to discover what’s in the program.

  8. The year after my son joined the troop in 2003, we had 0 visitors and 0 new scouts, so we put together a plan which included an annual Webelos campout, an Open House, and pushed for Den chiefs– we also more than doubled our annual camping (from 12 to 26 campouts/year) — the troop has grown from 19 to 65 scouts and has been at the 60+ number since 2011

    1) You have to have the program- boys don’t join to go to meetings-
    2) You have to be visible- wearing the uniform on outings is a must – great advertising
    3) We had carabiner key rings made with the troop number on it (great handout items to cub scouts or interested boys)
    4) MOST importantly, when boys visit your troop, your scouts have to be friendly and welcome them 🙂

  9. There are a lot of great ideas and having a good relationship with a pack is #1, boy to boy recruiting is high on the list as 11-13 or 14 year old boys need a personal invitation. You have to provide a great program and include some ‘high adventure’ type activities. In the spring, don’t just get Webelos but go to the local 5th and 6th grades and invite them for a day hike or even a weekend camping trip to ‘try your troop out’. Also, focus on parents. You need a strong group of adult leaders to have a successful troop. Good Luck!

  10. Regarding Facebook, do people recommend a group or a page? We just joined a small Troop of 12 Scouts. They have an old Group I’m re activating. It’s an open group. Being a group gives m ability to moderate posts, which is good. Also post are shown via a flag. But a page will show up on friends of friends feeds, assuming thy look sometime near the time you post. Problem with a page is posts easily get lost in the mess of posts.

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