Traditional Membership and Unit Growth

To turn young boys on to Scouting in Puerto Rico, the local council had to find a way to promote a traditional idea in an untraditional setting. That meant reaching out to them where they live.

The Puerto Rico Council joined with a contractor for Puerto Rico's Department of Housing to operate at facilities in 16 towns. Among the challenges: eliminating barriers of language and wealth.

The "My Best Friend Is a Scout" promotion was translated into Spanish, and through the housing partnership, 500 Scouts signed up in the poorer part of the island. As of October 31, 2005, the council was ahead 11.9 percent in membership and 4.6 percent in units from 2004.

"There's a high level of poverty here, and people had seen Scouting as something for wealthier kids," former Scout Executive John Coyle said. "But it's really all the same when you look at it. Parents are looking for something good for their kids to do, something productive."

Puerto Rico contractor Jose Machuca makes it a point to have employees devote some of their work time to Scouting.

The contractor, Jose Machuca, requires all of his employees who work in the social services area to devote some of their work time to Scouting activities. He does so, he said, because he believes in Scouting's message.

"When I prepared my first proposal [to operate public housing], I said that I would work with Scouting because I knew that it works," he said.

"Once those skills, principles, and values are within the individual, they go with him for all of his life."

In the Golden Spread Council—encompassing 27 counties in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle—leaders trying to broaden their reach into elementary schools found success in challenging some conventional wisdom about recruiting.

The challenge: No longer does School Night for Scouting have to be at 7 p.m. Tuesday or Thursday. To get the message to parents, Scouters have to meet the parents first. In the sprawling Golden Spread Council, that meant earlier start times, many nights a week. In some cases, it meant multiple meetings in a night—whatever it took to get a chance to talk to parents.

The approach—essentially a barnstorming-style effort—includes acquiring mailing lists and running ads in papers, but the key is in making the extra effort to accommodate the schedules of prospective Scouts' parents.

"Once they see what Scouting is, the values it teaches, we can attract the families," said Sheri Myers, an assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 87 and council committee member.

"Boys are drawn to the fun: being outdoors, going camping, BB guns, archery lessons. It hits the family on two levels."

"Once they see what Scouting is, the values it teaches, we can attract the families."

Sheri Myers, assistant Scoutmaster,
Troop 87, Golden Spread Council

It doesn't stop there, though. When leaders recruit Scouts, they ought to be recruiting their families as well, Myers said.

She should know. Four years ago, when her family moved to Amarillo, she found that there wasn't a Cub Scout pack in her new neighborhood. So with some encouragement from the council, she started calling parents in the school directory and formed one.

She has since been to Wood Badge and is active in her son's Boy Scout troop. She's working to encourage other parents to get involved as well.

"It's not just programs for kids or for adults," she said. "It's programs for whole families."