Marketing and Strategic Planning

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A problem solver—that's how the Greater Niagara Frontier Council of Buffalo, New York, is known within the community. This success came about from careful marketing and strategic positioning conducted over time. According to past President Alan West, the council went through "two cycles of strategic planning to get our marketing in sync with community needs." Council staff and volunteers got extensively involved in strategic committees within the community for networking and collaboration opportunities. "We needed to get to know youth organization leaders—those who have a stake in youths' lives and could help deliver programs," West says.

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A Tool for Success
Madison, Wisconsin

It takes the right tools to get the job done. And one of the tools the Four Lakes Council developed to get its internal communications job done is the Traditional Membership Expansion CD-ROM. It offers resources to help unit leaders conduct successful annual programs, recruiting campaigns, and more. Immediate past President Terry Shockley comments, "It generates enthusiasm and provides a very positive message to our volunteers."

Spotlighting Scouts
Buffalo, New York

"One youth at a time" is the concept driving the Greater Niagara Frontier Council's recent media campaign. Designed to appeal to parents, print ads showcase local youth role models, including a Venturer ranked in the top 1 percent of her class, a Cub Scout who saved his brother's life, and a Boy Scout raised by his grandmother who achieved Eagle Scout rank despite his mother's drug addiction.

This strategy resulted in the council's tapping into the African American community and adding valuable, diverse leadership to the board and committees. Additionally, through collaboration with Erie County Youth Services, new city troops were subsidized. By convincing local youth agencies that Scouting is their program, the council helped solve the community's youth program difficulties and now has an additional 35 units citywide. The council's reputation for being the community's go-to agency in youth development has also been earned by its grant-writing assistance to school districts and others.

For its efforts, the council was honored with Erie County's Outstanding Youth Initiative Award and named the local United Way's top agency. Steering committee member Joseph Abdallah, Erie County deputy commissioner for youth services, states, "Scouting truly makes a difference in neighborhoods, helping families stabilize and reducing delinquency. I was so impressed by what the council was doing that I became a volunteer."

In addition to strategic positioning, council marketing techniques included a comprehensive urban Cub Scout campaign, Give Every Kid a Chance material distribution, Scout print ads, and public relations opportunities on local news shows. The council also produced television commercials that targeted single-parent households, which make up a large segment of the market. The work has been "a conscious effort to build a positive image for Scouting in the community," states Marketing Chair Dan Mecca. "Everyone has been involved, from the troops to professional staff to volunteers."

Volunteers are a major marketing target for the Four Lakes Council of Madison, Wisconsin. The council wanted to increase unit-level volunteer involvement in membership and fund-raising functions, as well as communicate strategic issues and day-to-day operations to them. The council also sought to improve unit programming and achievement.

"We took a strategic view in engaging our internal audience and giving them tools to do their jobs," remarks Vice President of Marketing Kennan Wood. The council retained a local marketing and public relations firm "to provide professional guidance to help us develop a plan and stay on track," states immediate past President Terry Shockley.

Two areas identified for internal marketing and strategic improvement were the council's newsletter and Web site. Scouter, the newsletter, was expanded in content to support Scouting program, fund-raising, and membership. Additionally, it was redesigned to include photos and color. "We retooled the newsletter for readers' needs," Wood reports. "And we're hearing great reviews."

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While keeping timeless values close to their hearts, Scouts reach out to the world around them.

The Web site was redesigned to integrate with the newsletter, so both electronic and print media maintain a consistent look and feel. This uniformity also promotes council branding efforts. These improvements "helped us reestablish ourselves within our own organization," observes Shockley.

Next, the council developed a strategic annual planning CD-ROM for units. Vice President of Council Operations Andy Milkowski says the Traditional Membership Expansion CD-ROM was "designed to improve membership, provide more unit tools, and help motivate people." The CD-ROM was rolled out in combination with the council's fleur-de-lis unit incentive program, which honors units achieving Quality Unit status and membership goals, implementing Ideal Year of Scouting training, and more. Fifteen units earned fleur-de-lis status in 2004.

Altogether, the council's marketing and strategic initiatives "turned around unit relationships with the council," reports Milkowski. Further, the council received the National President's Marketing Award for both the newsletter and CD-ROM, and Friends of Scouting and traditional membership numbers have increased. Shockley attributes this success to one simple fact: "We made sure to stay true to the marketing plan. The momentum from our efforts added up."