Traditional Unit Growth and Membership Growth
The National Strategic Plan's emphasis on recruitment and retention has led to success in urban and rural Scouting. Traditional BSA youth membership is expected to grow to 3.75 million by 2002.
Recruitment and retention are the keys to success for the Boy Scouts of America as the organization works toward a greater impact on the values of America's young people. Not only are local councils increasing efforts to enroll Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, but with the help of the growing Venturing program and additional high-adventure opportunities, councils are also giving older Scouts more incentive to stay with the program.
The obvious payoff for this constant recruiting and attention to retention is a greater number of young people exposed to the character-building program of the Boy Scouts of America. Additionally, research shows that Scouts who stay with the program for five years or more are especially likely to develop strong values that will stay with them for life.
At the national level, the Boy Scouts set forth the 1998-2002 Strategic Plan to increase the number of new youth joining Scouting by increasing the number of traditional units, conducting a national Cub Scout campaign, improving the organization's relationship with the education community, enriching urban and rural Scouting programs, establishing Venturing, and increasing the sales skills of unit-serving executives.
Councils such as Sagamore in Kokomo, Indiana, and South Florida in Miami Lakes, Florida, helped make these plans a success at a local level.
Sagamore achieved a 9.1 percent growth in traditional membership in 1999, much of which council leaders credit to the council's use of the national Garfield Round-Up campaign to recruit Cub Scouts.
The national campaign allowed the council to have a broader media coverage than it normally could, thus reaching more potential Cub Scouts than typically possible.
Increased focus on Cub Scout day camping resulted in 40.6 percent of Cub Scouts participating in an outdoor activity in 1999.
Use of the Garfield campaign, combined with Sagamore's early kickoff of recruiting activities, helped the council nearly double its usual number of new Cub Scouts signing up.
"We got into the schools before anyone else," points out Sagamore Council President George K. Brodell, M.D.
In South Florida, the council achieved more than 6.5 percent growth in traditional membership, even though Hurricane Irene ended plans for a coordinated School Night for Scouting.
After the hurricane, council members tackled every individual school one at a time—an especially difficult feat for a council that encompasses the fourth and fifth largest school districts in the country.
The South Florida Council also serves a very urban and culturally diverse area—close to 150 languages are spoken in local schools—and recruiting community volunteers and enhancing urban Scouting helps the council reach more of its approximately 370,000 available youth.
Equally important to the Boy Scouts' effectiveness is the retention of Scouts in the program.
Efforts were made in 1999 to retain members through increased camping for Cub Scouts. Focus on day, resident, pack, and family camping resulted in 40.6 percent of Cub Scouts participating in an outdoor activity nationally.
Retention plans also stressed more high-adventure opportunities for older youth. Increased interest in the Sagamore Council, for example, led to plans for the addition of a third high-adventure trip annually.
In South Florida, the goal of expanded service to units through more unit commissioners was especially important.
"The unit commissioners did a tremendous job of helping units keep Scouts active during the year and making sure too many didn't stray," says Phil Johnson, council commissioner. "The commitment of our district and unit commissioners is evident in our retention results."
And the popular Venturing program experienced growth in both councils, contributing to a 7.7 percent membership increase nationwide.
But behind the percentages remains one fact: more young people were exposed to Scouting in 1999 than ever before. The impact Scouting will have on their lives and the impact those young people will have on our world is immeasurable.