How do you recruit older youth to the BSA?

Photo by Shutterstock / Simone Hogan

One of the most common questions we at On Scouting get is, “Where do you come up with your story ideas?”

And the most common answer to that question is, “We get them from readers like you!”

And so it went with one reader who responded to a story from a few weeks ago on forming new Cub Scout dens with a terrific question:

I am a longtime volunteer with a Scout troop, and I am always looking for tips in recruiting the older boys (and girls for our sister troop). There is, understandably, a greater proportion of attention paid to bringing in the younger children. I see the wisdom in doing so. But our troop has had several Scouts over the years who joined us as older boys and they made Eagle. So, besides word of mouth and special events, how would you all approach this situation?

Great question! Please respond in the comments with any advice you guys can share and read on for a couple of thoughts from us.

Maintain a healthy relationship with your local Cub Scout packs

Many of the youth members in the BSA’s programs for older kids — Venturing, Sea Scouts, Exploring and Scouts BSA — come from nearby Cub Scout packs. That’s why it’s important for units that serve older kids to stay in touch with your local packs — and not just when it’s time for them to cross over into Scouts BSA.

Venturers, Sea Scouts, Explorers and Scouts BSA members can help Cub Scout packs in many ways. And when an older kid puts on their uniform and talks to a group of Cub Scouts about camping, sailing or whatever … what they’re really doing is promoting that program.

Trust us: Den leaders and Cubmasters would love to have an older youth stop by a meeting and give a quick talk on setting up a tent, or casting a fishing line, or packing a backpack … or anything that older Scouts do.

And if your Scouts BSA troop or Venturing crew doesn’t already promote the Den Chief program, now’s the time to start!

BSA file photo

Don’t count out older youth who have never been Scouts

There are plenty of reasons why a young person may have never enrolled in Cub Scouts, including the possibility that they were simply never asked. Don’t give up on them!

Instead of a traditional “join Scouting night” or similar recruiting-focused event that you see in Cub Scouts, consider inviting older kids to join any fun, practical Scouting activity that you already have planned. Since BSA medical forms are required from any non-members for an overnight camping event, it might be best to invite them to something simpler: bowling, fishing, outdoor movie on a big screen, or cookout … something fun that gets them outdoors on a nice day for just a few hours.

Where do you find the older kids to invite to such events? Start with friends of your current members. (The Recruiter Strip is a nice incentive for older Scouts to invite their friends.) Then, go to the BSA Brand Center for fliers, logos, posters, web banners and tools to promote your unit via social media.

And remember: Non-Scouting families — especially those who weren’t in Cub Scouts – likely have no idea what terms like “First Class” or “Citizenship in the Nation” mean. So don’t worry about that stuff for now. Instead, focus on letting them have a good time with their new Scouting friends, and then see how it goes after that.

Click here for more tips on recruiting Sea Scouts, and here for advice on recruiting Venturers. And bookmark the BSA’s Recruitment Resources page.

How do you recruit older kids to your Scout unit? Let us know in the comments!

About Aaron Derr 175 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.