New Cub Scout enrollment has continued to trend in the right direction. In fact, on one single day in September 2022, the BSA added 8,000 new Cub Scout families!
Now begins the part of the year when we have to make sure we deliver what we’ve promised to all these new members.
The good news is, the BSA knows what parents like about Cub Scouting. In technical terms, it’s called “key drivers of satisfaction.” In simpler terms, it means that if we can provide families with these five things, we greatly increase the chances of them staying in the program longer, and maybe even sharing all those positive vibes with their non-Scouting friends.
Pat Wellen, the BSA’s director of research, recently joined an episode of #CubChatLive to talk about what Cub Scout leaders can do to make sure they deliver the things that families are looking for.
“We do quarterly surveys, so by the end of the year, we’ve talked to all the Cub Scout parents that we have an email address for,” says Wellen. “We know what drives unit satisfaction. And if you’re satisfied, you stay.”
Watch the discussion with Wellen in its entirety below and read on for the highlights.
What do parents like about Cub Scouting? It starts with …
Getting the right support from their Cub Scout leaders
Quality leaders can make or break the Cub Scout experience. This doesn’t mean that a Cub Scout leader has to be a superhero (though, if they’re doing it right, some of their Cub Scouts might see them as one anyway).
What it does mean is that a Cub Scout leader should be helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and cheerful. It also doesn’t hurt to Be Prepared.
Most of the parents coming into Cub Scouting nowadays don’t have a background in Scouting. They don’t know nearly as much about this experience as their leaders do.
It’s important to keep that in mind in every interaction.
“What they’re looking for is a unit leader or other person in that pack who’s going to help them navigate this experience and be the best support for their child they can be,” says Wellen. “We speak in code a lot of times. What’s a pack? What’s a den? What is advancement?”
As a recovering Cubmaster myself, I can testify: One of the most common questions I got from parents was, “What’s the difference between a pack and den?”
Doing great outdoor activities
When we share Cub Scout recruiting images on social media, we rarely share pictures of Cub Scouts sitting still. Instead, they’re almost always doing something, and more often than not, they’re doing something outside.
“The No. 1 things kids want to do when they join Cub Scouts is go camping,” Wellen says.
Remember, most new families have no experience in Scouting. That means many of them may not have ever been camping before. They’re going to have questions — about gear, safety, activities and things like that — and they’re looking for answers from the Cub Scout leaders.
(If you’re a Cub Scout leader who’s looking for answers to questions about camping themselves, we’ve got you covered.)
“You’re going to get families who don’t know how to camp,” says Wellen. “They may have concerns, but they want to do it. That’s why they’re there.”
Having the feeling that meetings are worth their time
There’s nothing wrong with letting children burn off some excess energy with a little free play, but no one joins Cub Scouts just so their kids can go to a glorified play date.
Click on the “Leaders” section of this page for more help, but basically, all you have to do is plan ahead and follow the official Cub Scout program (more on that below).
“Having a program planned is key,” says Wellen. “It also helps even more to have it already set up for the year, so parents can see what they’ve gotten into, and they can also see where they can help.”
Having a general sense of belonging
One of the biggest reasons families quit Cub Scouting is because — despite filling out all the paperwork and paying all the dues and maybe even buying a uniform and Handbook — no one ever reached out to them to tell them when the next den meeting is.
“Or, no one talked to them when they did come to their first meeting,” says Wellen.
Imagine signing up for this brand-new experience when you don’t know anyone, and the first thing that happens is you’re treated like a total stranger.
“Fostering a sense of belonging starts with that first impression,” says Wellen. “It doesn’t happen by accident. It has to be intentional.”
If you’re a Cub Scout leader but you aren’t a people person, that’s totally OK — find someone in your pack who is. Many packs have a new member coordinator whose only job is to make sure all those families who just signed up have everything they need. This might include reaching out to them via text, email or an old-fashioned phone call to make sure they’re good to go. (They might take advantage of this resource, as well.)
And if a new family misses a meeting or two, sometimes contacting them to make sure they’re OK can be the difference between them returning to the fold or never wanting to be involved in Scouting again.
Belonging to a pack that follows the Cub Scout program
The Boy Scouts of America has been around for more than 110 years. We know a thing or two about what kids and their parents want, and it’s right there in the official Cub Scout program.
“You don’t have to make anything up,” says Wellen. “If you present the program as it’s designed, we know that it will build those skills and traits that we promise it will build. And that’s why we’re all here.”