Even the best-designed recruiting flyer is just part of the equation.
These days, recruiting more families to your pack, troop or crew means getting out there into your community. It means sharing the story of Scouting directly. It means word of mouth.
That strategy — and three other simple but ingenious ideas — has helped a new Scouts BSA troop for girls nearly triple in size in its first six months of existence. Troop 283 of Wayzata, Minn., formed in February with eight girls. It now has 23.
“We cannot hide in the church basement and hope people find us. We need to invite others to join us,” says Mike Lawrance, recruitment chairman for Troop 283. “We need to share our stories and experiences. We need to show that we are an exciting and relevant organization rooted in a deep, historical tradition. We need to let the Scouts lead and get out of their way.”
Troop 283 uses the linked troop model. That means there’s a Troop 283 for boys and a Troop 283 for girls. They share a chartered organization and committee members but meet and function separately.
The strategies below have helped both troops grow despite recruiting challenges that face any troop. Their main hurdle? It’ll sound familiar: competing with other activities for a family’s time and talents.
To help Scouting stand out, Lawrance and his fellow volunteers and Scouts employ the three tactics below.
1. Try direct-mail postcards
The three middle schools in Troop 283’s area don’t allow outside groups to distribute flyers at school. So Troop 283, working with its local Northern Star Council, mails directly to homes. They use a mailing list the council receives from the school district.
No need to design your own postcard; the BSA has you covered. You can download and use these eye-catching postcards and customize the call to action on the back.
For Troop 283, there are separate calls to actions. For the girls troop, it’s an invitation to a joining event where families can get their questions answered about Scouts BSA. For the boys troop, it’s an invitation to a troop meeting, where families get a feel for how Troop 283 runs things.
2. Communicate — and then communicate some more
Like all troops, Troop 283 (both the boy troop and the girl troop) has activities scattered across the calendar. Some of these activities have irregular meeting locations and times.
That makes accurate, frequent and clear communication essential.
“Again, we are really competing for their limited time, and we want the experience to be as smooth as possible,” Lawrence says.
Your first stop should be Scoutbook, which makes it easy and fun to track advancement and keep parents and Scouts updated on the latest pack or troop news. (My colleague Michael Freeman covered some of the latest Scoutbook updates in this post.)
Troop 283 used Weebly to create a website with easy-to-find info, including an online calendar they update weekly. They use Constant Contact to email regular updates to parents.
Those are paid options, but free choices like Scoutbook will work well, too.
3. Use the patrol method
I saved the best tip for last — the one Lawrance calls “the true foundation of our success.”
When considering youth-serving organizations, Scouting is unique because it puts young people in charge. Each participant gets a chance to lead.
“Our troops are really a set of high-functioning patrols — not a large group of Scouts that sometimes breaks into patrols,” Lawrence says. “They plan the meetings the campouts, the patrol activities, everything.”
Share your advice
How have you helped your pack or troop grow and, subsequently, serve more families through Scouting?