To help other people at all times . . .
"If you recruit 1,000 kids, there's that 1,001st out there who needs our program."
Greater Cleveland Council
vice president of relationships
|The result of the Pennsylvania Dutch Council's recruiting plan was a 203 percent increase in new Cub Scout members from September 2005 to September 2006|
For most councils, School Night for Scouting is a sure thing, the one automatic recruiting event each year that's guaranteed to put kids in Cub Scout uniforms. Faced with the loss of that old standby, the Greater Cleveland Council had to get creative.
The economic climate in inner-city areas was such that schools were not able to open their doors at night for the Scouts' recruitment drive. So the council turned to the city's public libraries and found a willing venue for its mission.
"We found that there was a library within walking distance of every residence in the city," said Judy Caine, the council's vice president of relationships. "It was definitely a lifesaver, just a phenomenal idea."
In each of the three years since the relationship began, the percentage of new Cub Scouts who were recruited through the libraries has increased, from 7.5 percent in 2004 to 12.5 percent in 2005 and 20 percent in 2006.
The program—the brainchild of Alan Franks, director of field service—has been so successful that the council has broadened the operation to include libraries elsewhere in the county.
Caine also said the council saw growth as a result of its year-round commitment to recruiting (including a spring start to planning for the fall push) and monthly conference calls in which district representatives share success stories and set goals.
That continuous, proactive push is necessary, she said, to ensure Scouting's future and to reach every youth who can benefit from its lessons: "If you recruit 1,000 kids, there's that 1,001st out there who needs our program."
The Pennsylvania Dutch Council found similar success with a simpler approach. All that was required was that Scouters commit to the council's plan and follow it to the letter.
After one-on-one meetings with each superintendent and principal within the council's boundaries, district representatives developed individual programs for each school. Then unit leaders were trained during the summer, and district representatives committed to attend every back-to-school event to help local packs run the program smoothly. (Over a two-week period in September, district representatives attended some 45 events a week.)
One of the most effective methods the council employed at schools was to set up a full campsite on the school playground to attract kids during recess.
"In recruiting, like in advertising, you have to get in front of people multiple times," said Dave Shirk, chairman for the recruiting committee of the council's Harvest District. "How do we generate excitement when we're in front of them? If we can, we get to the boys themselves."
Doing so with display campgrounds fit the bill well without disrupting class time or requiring too much work from the schools themselves.
The result of the plan—simply getting back to basics with buy-in across the board at the district level—was a 203 percent increase in new Cub Scout members from September 2005 to September 2006.
"We saw this year as getting back to the basics," Shirk said. "The reality is we probably won't get that kind of growth again next year," a fact owing more to the sheer number of boys in schools than to the sustainability of the plan.