Cub Scout Recruitment: 4 Steps for Recruiting New Cub Scouts for Your Pack and/or Den
With back-to-school officially under our belts, Scouting recruitment and popcorn fundraisers are kicking off or in full swing! You laid the groundwork over the summer months when your Pack Committee met to discuss and plan your upcoming Year in Scouting, jamming a calendar full of fun and exciting meetings and special events that meet the needs and expectations of your existing Pack families AND provide new families with the opportunity to experience the greatness that is the Scouting program. You’re already exhausted, so when your official year kicks off and meetings begin, fall recruitment can feel completely overwhelming.
Have no fear – there is plenty of joy to be found in the recruitment of new Scouts! It’s all in your attitude and how well you’ve planned your effort.
My Pack has gleaned a significant amount of recruitment wisdom by referencing the BSA Marketing and Membership Hub at ScoutingWire.org. I’ll circle back to this and other sites throughout this post.
Step 1: Be Prepared! with a Recruitment Plan
To make a solid plan, you’ll need a clear purpose. Remember that the point of recruitment is to ensure that every child who wants to be a Scout has the opportunity to do so! How do we do that? We determine a recruitment goal and work to find the right places and times to send leadership out into the field to spread the good word about Scouting.
The first part of your plan should be to decide how many Scouts you’ll need to have a successful Pack program year. Your Pack Committee will work together over the summer months to determine a program and budget, setting dues in the process. This information will help you determine how many new Scouts you’ll need to recruit.
Getting yourself out in front of those potential Scouts is obviously mission critical. Reach out to your Council about Join Scouting Night (or Sign-Up Night) training and opportunities. You’ll want to participate in JSN’s at the schools you normally recruit from or your chartered organization’s meeting space. Your Council should have packets full of goodies, like Youth Applications and flyers for upcoming Council and District events, and a small prize for youth who sign-up on the spot. They are also responsible for promoting these JSN’s via social media, posters and flyers they deliver to the schools. Work with your local schools to secure space at Back-To-School and/or Orientation nights and Fall Festivals. Work with your leadership team to ensure that there are trained, uniformed Scouters on site at each recruitment event to represent your unit. These events tend to be high-traffic, and depending on where you’re physically located (by the front door is preferable), you can easily meet your recruitment goals in one evening. I’ll talk about the materials you should have on hand a little further on in the post.
Make sure that you have a uniform recruitment message, den specific information like leadership details and meeting times, and a printed calendar that can be given out to new or potential families.
Consider a peer-to-peer recruitment option as part of your plan. A simple business card that Scouts can hand out to friends at school or sporting events could be what captures the attention of a family who is ready to join but didn’t know where to start; afterall, hearing all about how great a program is directly from a trusted friend goes a long way. Offer up incentives for Scouts who recruit a new member of your Pack, like Amazon gift cards, mess kits, flashlights, or water bottles. Don’t forget that Scouts who bring in a new, registered member of the Pack will have earned a “Recruiter” patch that should be presented to them as soon as possible.
(The ScoutingWire Membership Hub has great tools, to include a Unit Playbook, that you can use to get the most out of these special recruitment opportunities.)
Step 2: Spread the Word
Busy families tend to do some online research before committing to a youth program. That means you will need to have some form of online presence to capture their attention and provide them with important information. Use Facebook to create a public page promoting your unit and its recruitment opportunities. You can create “events” for each of your JSN’s, Back-To-School nights, Fall Festivals, and other recruitment efforts, and will want to highlight what sets YOU apart from the other units in the area. You can even include a link directly to your unit’s personal Online Youth Application on My.Scouting.Org. You’ll also want to make sure your Be A Scout Unit Pin is updated and represents the program your unit is offering. Ask your registered families to share your posts with their own friends and families!
Make it easy for families to reach out! Consider creating a Google Form to capture interested families throughout the year. Some mom’s and dad’s might be reluctant to immediately register their child for Scouts without having some questions answered or some experience with the unit. A Google Form is a great option for non-committal families who want to get their feet wet but not take the plunge. Learn more about how to make and manage a Google Form.
In the Bug Out Bag section, I’ll talk about a Recruitment Log. Make sure you are utilizing that log to circle back with families who were interested in Scouting but did not take or complete a Youth Application. You absolutely HAVE TO STAY IN TOUCH or you will lose them to the busy time that is September. They gave you their contact information because they want for you to contact them… don’t let them down. Be in touch, invite them to Den and Pack events, include them in newsletter mailings or Pack emails for a month or two, and stay committed to offering that youth the Scouting experience.
Step 3: Recruitment Materials
You’re Recruiting Youth!
The last thing a child gets excited about is a long drawn-out soliloquy about the history of Scouting, the merits of the EDGE method, the cost of their experience, leadership training, or how your Pack works behind the scenes. They will run, not walk, far away from you, never to be heard from again. They want fun, colorful, and cheerful! They want adventure, fish slime, and race cars! If they find their way to your table, you have been given a gift that you will have to work hard to keep.
You need pizazz, you need spunk, you need… a rock star presentation board!
A presentation board is a very high-level recruitment tool. You aren’t getting into the details, it’s simply eye candy that showcases some of your favorite events like Pinewood Derby, Blue and Gold, the Family Bake-Off, Camping, and special Den meetings. Because you’re about as tall as a trifold poster board sitting on a table, you’ll need to give it some extra height with toppers (and apparently antennae). Here’s a printable PDF of the blue mountain graphic used as part of our board topper.
The table it sits on is also important! Cover it with a cloth, even a cheap plastic cloth from the dollar store will do, and bring along a bunch of cool Scouting decorations like handbooks, Boys Life magazines, safety whistles, water bottles, lanterns, paracord, pieces of a uniform like neckerchiefs and woggles, compasses, binoculars and magnifying glasses, hiking packs, and more. Consider a short game or craft that can be done right there at the table – like lengths of paracord and a knot guide, coloring pages, or mini golf. Your Council or District might have promotional items that are free for you to take, like branded pencils or miniature copies of Boys Life magazine. Go all out if you have the space, and consider setting up a miniature camping scene with a tent, camp chair, and faux campfire.
You want to present the youth that come to your table with something to touch, something to do, and something to take home.
Print letters specifically to the Scout that welcomes them to the Pack, notes upcoming meeting times or special events, and introduces them to their specific den leader. A Scout Letter shows that child how important they are, that the program is for them, and that you thought specifically to welcome them to your Pack. Believe me, it’s the little things that go a long way!
Check out my Scouting – Recruitment Pinterest Board!
You’re Recruiting Adults!
Don’t get me wrong, they’ll also get excited about your creative display! In fact, that display might get them amped up about being a helpful member of your unit… perhaps even a leader. But what will really get them excited about Scouting is if you are organized, direct, and able to answer their questions. Sometimes those JSN or Back-to-School Nights are extremely busy for parents, so having something they can take home and look at is your opportunity to extend that open window.
Your basic needs are printed Pack calendars, den-specific information, Pack and Den meeting invitations like the aforementioned Scout Letter, and paper Youth Applications. Point them to resources they can refer to later, like your website or Facebook page.
Most importantly, take down everyone’s contact information. A simple Pack Sign-Up Night Roster is your ticket to making second contact with potential Pack families, or circling back with those who signed-up, which means that one document is priceless!
Step 4: Sign Them Up!
For those families who are ready to roll, have a device available and connected to the Online Youth Application on My.Scouting.Org to sign them up on the spot! Also, have paper copies of the Youth Application available for families to fill out on the spot (make sure they write-in the Scout’s birthday, not their own, and that they sign it so there aren’t any hiccups when you submit it to your Council). Get all of the appropriate leadership signatures and submit those to your Council as quickly as you possibly can and check ScoutBook often to ensure they are assigned to your Pack. You can collect registration and Boys Life fees at that time via check or cash. For most families, it’s faster and more convenient for them to use a credit card, so consider a Square Point of Sale Reader; you can use Pack 521’s SquareUp referral code to receive free processing on up to $1,000 in transactions, and use your Square Reader for registration fees, dues payments, and even fundraiser sales. Convenience is paramount!
Parents are your secret ingredient for Pack success and should be treated like the gift that they are. Each parent has something to offer, be it time or talents, so you should find out what their interests are gauge their desired level of participation. Every so often you’ll find a parent at a JSN or Back-to-School Night who outright gushes about how much they want to help, asks about leadership opportunities, and wants to be considered… don’t let those parents walk away without taking the time to talk to them about open leadership opportunities and a paper copy of the Adult Application. Explain to them how grateful the Pack is for their enthusiasm and willingness to help! Truly convey that joyful feeling you have as you marvel over the size of their heart! Breathe that in, comrade. Some parents will give you clues about their work / life balance, explaining that they would love for their child to participate but don’t have an abundance of free time to wear the uniform and take on its responsibilities. Assure those parents that participating in den activities, helping where they can, and enjoying their time bonding with their Scout is all you will ask of them. Remember your purpose!
REMEMBER THIS… Bringing Scouts into the fold is the whole point and it’s bigger than just YOUR unit. Recruitment is a privilege, not a competition. The Pack down the street is run by people like you, not the enemy. Get to know your local units and their schedules, be willing to point potential Scouts to the unit that works best for their family, and be an active participant in the success of Scouting in your area.
It’s no secret that the fall recruitment period is a stressful time for leadership. Make sure you aren’t taking on more than your share, spread the responsibility out among your leadership team, and give yourself a huge pat on the back when all is said and done. You did a great job and the new Scouts in your care are in for a wonderful year in your program!
Document Downloads & Special Links
- Scout Letter
- Pack Sign-Up Night Roster
- Printable Blue Mountain Graphic for Board Toppers
- BSA Marketing and Membership Hub at ScoutingWire.org
- About Online Youth Applications on My.Scouting.Org
- About Be A Scout Unit Pins
- About how to make and manage a Google Form
- Square Point of Sale Reader
- My Scouting – Recruitment Pinterest Board