Fall recruiting was a smashing success; now it’s on to spring

Photo by Michael Roytek

It was never a secret that recruiting new members during the fall of 2021 was going to be critical for the BSA. Chief Scout Executive (and recent Bronze Wolf award recipient) Roger Mosby said as much when he spoke with Bryan on Scouting last summer: 

The real test to see where we are in terms of normalcy in Scouting is to see how many new members we get this fall. That will be key for us. I have no doubt that we’re going to emerge from bankruptcy. But in order to keep the program vital, we’ve got to get new members.

Now that 2022 is here, it’s safe to say: mission accomplished.

The number of new members added to all BSA programs from fall 2020 to fall 2021 increased by 191%, from 78,910 new members in fall 2020 (when many families couldn’t even leave their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic) to 229,243 in fall 2021 (the second consecutive recruiting season affected by the pandemic). That brings the total number of youth benefiting from Scouting’s programs to more than 1 million.

That kind of growth is impressive and speaks to the hard work our volunteers and Scouting families put in to share Scouting with others. It’s also a sign that Scouting still holds tremendous appeal to modern families.

What was the key message that adult volunteers — and, in many cases, the Scouts themselves — used to get new members? The same as it ever was. Over the years, the technology we use to spread the word about Scouting has changed, but the message hasn’t. 

If you want your kids to learn to make ethical and moral choices, then Scouting is for you. If you want your kids to become responsible, participating citizens and leaders, then Scouting is for you. If you want to have fun with your family outdoors, Scouting is for you.

Photo by W. Garth Dowling

Some things can change …

For decades, the recruiting timeframe for BSA units has been to recruit new Cub Scouts in August and September, and then recruit Scouts to the older programs as Cub Scouts in fifth grade age out and are old enough to enroll in Scouts BSA, Venturing and Sea Scouts. 

But who says recruiting new members has to be so limited? 

The BSA is offering a series of webinars as part of its 2022 spring membership growth initiative. Open to volunteers and professionals, the webinars are designed to share tips on recruiting new members in the spring and starting new units from scratch. 

Here is the schedule: 

As you embark on your spring recruiting campaign, don’t forget about the assets available in the BSA Brand Center. You’ll find flyers and images of all kinds of Scouting events suitable for printing and sharing online … at any time of the year.

Photo by Michael Roytek

… while others should remain the same

Mike Matzinger, Scoutmaster of Troop 219 in Oak Ridge, N.C., considers himself to be “old school.” 

He’s been involved in Scouting for more than 50 years. He’s an Eagle Scout. He proudly claims that his troop has the best uniformed Scouts in his council, “to the millimeter.” Troop 219 contains four members of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. 

To him, though, recruiting new Scouts has little to do with any of that. Troop 219 went from six to 35 members in 2021 using a simple two-step process:  

  1. Develop a quality program, and 
  2. Encourage Scouts to share that program with their friends.

“All the things we do in Scouting, we just present as fun,” Matzinger says. “Sometimes that means you aren’t working on advancement. Sometimes that means not being in uniform. 

“We present our Scouts having fun as a sisterhood. ‘We are an outdoor active program that does stuff that’s fun,’ is what we say. Everybody wants to have a good time with their friends.” 

That same message works with Cub Scout-aged youth and their families, with only a slight twist.  

“What Cub Scouting does is it allows young families to make friends with other young families who have a like-minded moral compass with the Scout Oath and Scout Law,” Matzinger says. 

Since the founding of the BSA so many years ago, the key to recruiting remains basically the same: Educate potential members about the program, and then make sure you keep your promises by delivering that program.

Photo courtesy of Mike Matzinger/Troop 219

About Aaron Derr 436 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.