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ScouterPaul

How do we keep the cool in Scouting

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Keep in mind that marketing via the mass media is just the "sizzle". The steak, the meat of the program, is in the quality of your last troop meeting and your last outing.

 

Advertising only gets them to look in the door, it doesn't make your program any better. If you have a quality scouting program you probably don't have a recruiting problem.

 

If you are losing 50% of your new scouts, as some are reporting in another string, more effective advertising is only going to give you the opportunity to disappoint more boys each year.

 

If I were on the the budget committee I would tell marketiing "you can have more money when the units show they can retain scouts".

 

This isn't a "Them" problem, this is an "us" problem.

 

Bob

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I disagree, at least in part. BSA would have much more interest if a well thought out marketing plan were devised. Once in the door, BSA would retain many of these boys. Getting these kids in the door is more than half the battle. Bear in mind, the subject was "How do we keep the cool in Scouting?" I submit that Scouting is cool; it's just that many boys (maybe most) won't even approach the door of a troop because of "bad" press. I'm not referring to the Gay thing or any other political issue. I am referring to the fact that the media as a whole has made Boy Scouting into something that should be mocked. I've never heard the phrase, "What are you, some kind of Boy Scout?" used as a compliment. In sit-coms and movies, Boy Scouts are always ridiculed. If you can find a positive example, I'm sure I can five that are negative. BSA should get smart and counteract this with the truth. Look what the military did following the Vietnam War. Do you think those commercials ("Be all you can be", etc.) are a waste of money? Think again. Marketing works. As far as programs not being what they should be, I imagine there are plenty of examples of this. Regardless, I think BSA could easily double their numbers if they packaged themselves right, regardless of any other change.

 

Envision videos of confident and well organize boys as they head down the rapids of the Youghiogheny River screaming with excitement, basking in the sun while sailing the Florida Keys, hiking the basin of Mt. Rainer, camping in the woods of up state New York, biking the C & O Cannel, etc. What if the public's impression of boys in Scouting was that of strong, smart, confident, very often athletic, young men (or soon to be young men)? What is it now? For the most part, the media portrays boys in the program as weak, under confident, socially inept, uncoordinated, and generally as outcasts. If boys were given an opportunity to see the program as it really is, BSA wouldn't be able to handle the increase in numbers. Would they lose some of those new recruits due to some badly ran troops? Yeah, but they would keep just as many or more elsewhere.

 

If a budget committee is waiting for units "to show they can retain scouts" before they are willing to present a smart marketing plan, then they are cutting off our nose despite our face (never really understood that phrase). If BSA truly wants to thrive, they need to get exposure. They need to show these boys that the media has it all wrong.

 

By the way, I heard from someone recently that the average dropout rate (national) for Boy Scouts is 50%. You seem be using that number as an indicator of a bad program? What is the average dropout rate for Boy Scouts?

(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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rooster7

 

You misunderstood me. I'm saying what makes scouting cool is what you did at your last meeting and last campout. No matter what gets promised in a TV ad if it's not happening in the unit we won't have more growth we will just have a larger group quitting.

 

I never said the drop off rate was caused by a bad program. It is caused by bad delivery of a program. There is nothing wrong with the Boy Scout program. The units who use the 8 methods of scouting are not the ones causing the drop off rate, nor are they the ones suffering recruitment problems. If you are losing 50% of your scouts each year you are not providing a scouting program. That's where our problem lies, not it the flashiness of our ads.

 

If I've struck a painful chord with anyone, it is not meant as a personal slam, but more of a wake up call. The only thing keeping a unit from following the scouting program is a personal choice by the leaders. You put the cool in scouting not an ad executive.

 

Bob White(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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Ya know I just have to say I find it very funny about the hip lingo being passed around on this thread. I actually use these in everyday conversation. My scouts typically pick up my terminology.

 

I do agree that no-one wants to burn kids on Scouting through promoting a bad program the rub is that we don't have a bad program. We have the best program in the world (IMHO), we just need to be better at delivering it across the board. But to strangle marketing because some of us fall down is foolish. Without a steady stream of interested boys Scouting will die by attrition as boys age out.

 

Marketing is the shovel that put the coal in the furnace that created the momentum that pushed the train forward. Remove the shovel and no coal gets in the furnace, no coal, no momentum, the train stops and once a train stops its really hard to get to moving again. We need a bigger and better shovel to get the Boys into the Troops.

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I agree completely with Rooster and his comments on marketing the program that scouting offers. Commercials and ads in youth oriented magazines showing the adventurous activities that are available in so many of our units, and realistically available nowhere else, could entice some boys to at least look into Scouting. Also, how about some commercials with "heroes" of today's youth, such as athletes who were in scouting, talking about what it meant to them. I try to give examples of Eagle scouts, but all I ever come up with are Gerald Ford and Neil Armstrong. This means nothing to youth today. I have also used Steven Spielberg and Albert Belle (believe it or not!). There have to be many more out there that may be willing to help scouting out on a PR basis. Once we can convince more youth that scouting is at least worth looking at, our programs should be able to get them and keep them.

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I don't disagree that marketing could bring more people in the door. But how does that solve the 50% drop off rate that many of the posters are claiming.

 

I am not convinced that a good ad will suddenly make unit leaders deliver the program correctly. Bad Ads are not the cause of poor unit operation.

 

If you're even losing 10% or more of your scouts to reasons other than aging out of families relocating you need to do some serious self evaluation. If you'renot keeping the promise of scouting a classy ad won't help you. If you're using the scouting methods and keeping "the promise" we make the boys in their handbook, then you won't be having a recruitment problem.

 

It's just too easy to look at national and say "if only they would......., rather than look in a mirror and say if only I would .......

 

It's what your troop does each week that makes scouting cool in your community!

 

Bob White

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Bob, you seem to be looking at it as an either/or proposition. Neither Rooster nor I are saying that a good national advertising program solves all the problems of the world. A good ad program by national may help to get more kids to consider scouting - then it is up to us to make sure the actual troop and district programs keep them there. The 50% loss rate you refer to is certainly a local unit issue. But getting more kids in the door to look at the local program is also needed. And as you say, we then have to have the good program so we don't lose 50% of a bigger number of kids. We locally could not do an advertising campaign as well as national can, just as national can't run our troops, we do. Lets each do what we do best.

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As I've stated before in another thread, I'm jealous at all of the conversations concerning drop out rates from graduating Webolos. Our Troop has an outstanding program. Has for years. Unfortunately, our associated Pack has had an inconsistent program (and I'm being nice) and lack of trained leadership, except for the lady running the show. All appropriate procedures are being worked, but the Troop won't receive any benifit for a couple of years if then. We do lots of recruitment around the community. A national kick-butt ongoing promotional campaign would support our efforts. As stated by others, if we can just get them in the door, they'll like it. For a youth, it's just that first step..........

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Bob Russell, Mike Long, and sst3rd seem to understand my point. We are discussing two separate issues. One is a matter of attracting interest, the other concerns retention. Yes, the 50% dropout rate (for first year Scouts?) needs to be addressed. Furthermore, I agree that it probably is an issue of program implementation at the local level. However, what about the millions of boys not even exploring Scouting as an option today because of it's less than "cool" reputation? I'm merely suggesting that national could address this second problem easily if they had some smarts about them.

 

Bob (White) - You didn't strike a chord with me. My (or rather my sons') troop has about 60 boys. Each year we average about 12 to 15 new Scouts (most bridging from our feeder pack). About 50% of these boys stay with the troop until they're 17 or 18. I don't know how we compare to other troops, but we feel we run a pretty good program (per BSA). We about lose 3 or 4 Scouts in the first year. It's been our experience that it is not because of the program or it's execution. It's usually because the boy or boys simply didn't like some aspect about Scouting. This could be anything from too many bugs, not being able to sleep on somehting other than a mattress, to missing mom and dad on an outing. No matter how great the program, or "faithful" the leadership, you're going to lose some boys over the years. I feel no shame in this or any great need to reexamine our methods. This year, we have a big influx - 24 boys are bridging. My bet is, I'll get to know about 12 these guys pretty well after about 6 or 7 years.

 

If you were suggesting that a 50% dropout rate for all Scouts (as opposed to just first year Scouts) is an indicator of a badly run troop, I would disagree. There are too many factors other than the program and its execution that can influence this outcome. The most infamous of these are the two "fumes", perfume and gasoline. However, there are numerous others as I alluded to earlier. As cool as Scouting is, not everyone is going to respond. For many Cub Scouts, it was their parents' idea to be in the program. In Boy Scouts, usually (as it should be) the boy gets to decide for himself, and in the long run, some simply opt to do other things.

(This message has been edited by Rooster7)(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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As Rooster and the others have pointed out, if you don't get them to the door, it doesn't matter how great your program is, they will never see it.

 

National needs to do more to let boys and parents know what Scouting can be for them.

 

Dropout rate---how many kids dropout of sports? How many kids drop out of other activities?

 

True you need to being running a good program but first we have to get people there.

 

It amazes me the number of people who never get their kids to try scouting. People who are otherwise very interested in their kids education and development. My son's teacher is a great, energetic person with 3 boys from 7 to 14 years old. They've never tried scouting. I would think she would have seen the difference it makes for the boys at school, the pride of the boy who comes to school in uniform and writes a page about his weekend campout that normally slinks around in the shadows and can't find a pencil.

 

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Marketing is a completely different aspect of the program. Good marketing does nothing to build good troops but good marketing can show everyone involved what a good troop can be like and get guys in the door with the intention of making their troop like the cool one in the ad.

 

As far as retention has anyone even considered the fact that the onus is not completely on the Scout Troop? I think sst3rd would agree. Most cub packs do a horrible job of preparing Cubs to be Scouts. I have interviewed new Scouts who quit and most I see simply want everything to be handed to them as it was in cubs. They were completely shocked when they joined our troop and realized that when we said Scouts will take care of X in the initial visit we meant it. I guess the how to pack, cook and do KP instruction wasn't clear enough for them to realize that yes they will be preforming those tasks. No we are not a boot camp, not we are not hard cases, yes we do a ton of training, reminding and helping along. Some kids just can't get over that hump despite all our pulling and coaxing.

 

As some of you may remember from earlier threads we worked closely with our brother pack to help prepare the Webelos for crossover. They knew guys in the troop (Den Chiefs) and they had an introduction to very basic scouting while Webelos.

That year we picked up boys from three packs and lost everyone that wasn't a part of our feeder pack. (we lost 6 of 18, 30% if my math is right) We agonized over it quite a bit, talked to parents and scouts. The basic element of all the quitters was that they didn't want to do anything for themselves. Not a single kid said scouting wasn't fun or cool to us, thier parents or the other boys who constantly asked them to come back. Frankly many of the parents labeled their own boys as lazy. (There's that limiting a child through a self-fullfilling prophesy again. What a crime.) We thought maybe we had a bully hiding in our midst and thouroughly worked that angle. We looked very hard at our program and yes we had areas that needed improvement like all programs do no matter how good, but nowhere did we see anything that would chase off a kid. That year the Cubmaster crossed over with his youngest son and a new guy took over. Guess what, this guy managed to tear down the ENTIRE framework we built through his apathetic "leadership". None of the training we were able to provide to the pack happened last year. We just had a group of boys crossover that were under this guy and the difference was astounding to the negative regarding the level of prepardedness these guys had to be scouts. They are all great kids and are excited to be there but it took a lot more work to prepare them to camp and be Boy Scouts.

 

I have determined from watching Cubs crossover from differnt packs that the retention rate in Scouts is directly related to the quality of the two units as I am sure we all agree. BUT Cub programs that don't adequately address the transition to Boy Scouts SEVERLY hampers a Troops ability to retain those boys. I found it very helpful to have a Cubmaster that we could work with and help us to promote the Scouting methods while we helped and promoted the Cub methods. The result of that effort was a one out of twelve drop out rate. That I can live with, but I won't be satisfied. We will be trying again now that the other guy is gone.

 

So you're telling me we have a poor program because 30% dropped out? We didn't do enough self analyzing? Number alone never tell the whole story.

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One more thing....

 

So we are going to penalize the units that do have a great program by not funneling kids to them because some units don't have a good program?

 

Foolish.

 

Y'all keep throwing coal and I'll keep stoking the furnace.

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I guess I see ads as a picture of the train not the shovel of coal that drives it. Your leadership is the shovel of coal.

 

If the reality of your troop is that you are losing half your scouts, and we show a picture of that...how many scouts are going to show up.

 

If you're keeping the promise of scouting, I'll bet that you don't have a joining problem.

 

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld tells the story of the folks on the TV commercial telling how their detergent will get all those blood stains out of your laundry. Seinfeld's observation is "if your clothes are covered with blood stains, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem!"

 

There is a big difference between boys not joining and boys not staying.

 

If, as many poster have said, you are losing nearly half of your new scouts the first year... "maybe national ads aren't your biggest problem."

 

Bob White

 

Mike Long

 

You said "As far as retention has anyone even considered the fact that the onus is not completely on the Scout Troop?"

 

Are you suggesting that a Pack and a den leader who have kept a boy in scouts and active and advancing for almost 5 years has some blame for a troop not being able to keep a boy for one year?

 

So, If i'm keeping track of this string correctly, if we exclude my posts, the reason for boys dropping out the first year is parents, National marketing, the scouts themselves and now the Cub Leaders.

 

Well we can breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing there are enough scapegoats to go around. Now we never half to look at our own responsibility once the Pack leaders and the parents entrust us with delivering the scouting program, because we know they are really at fault.(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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Mike Long,

 

Amen to your last post.

 

We have a similar situation with our pack and troop, although perhaps not as severe. For about ten years or more, the pack ran an excellent program. We had a strong tradition of having dedicated den leaders, hard working Cubmasters, and well organized committee members. The pack is now under new leadership. We're not certain what the future holds, but we suspect that it's not going to measure up to our past. This group of pack leaders does not seem to be quite as enthusiastic or dedicated to the task. As was true with your troop, we are probably going to inherit a lot of boys with the wrong expectations and/or attitudes.

 

There are many other factors to consider as well -

 

Transient area (where I live is a prime example - suburbs of Washington, D.C.)

Personality conflicts with other Scouts

Camping experience is not what the boy expected

Parents do not like the program or the leadership

The boy wants to be with his friends that are doing things outside of Scouting

Competition with other activities

 

All one can do is run the program as it was meant to be. A lot of the factors that lead to boys leaving are primarily within the control of the boy and/or his parents, not the troop leadership. We can't be held accountable just because the dropout rates don't meet the expected norm or the desired standard. As Mike said, statistics do not tell the whole story.

 

BTW, given the time, resources, and the demands (in and out of Scouts) placed on my troop's leadership, I'd stack them up against any troop in the nation. Our Scoutmaster is good as they come, and every Scout in the troop would say as much (even the ones that chose to leave). The adult volunteers supporting him (ASMs, committee members, etc.) are as dedicated to the program as anyone I've seen on this board. If our dropout rate was 1% or 90%, I'd stand convinced we're doing as good as job as we can.

 

As Mark Twain once said, "There are three kinds of liars - liars, damn liars, and statisticians." I'm not accusing anyone of lying, but I am saying statistics are merely numbers. They are not arguments in and of themselves. Someone else once said, "The problem arises when people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support instead of illumination." Yes, a high dropout rate is not desirable. Certainly, it is possible, maybe even probable that the troop is doing something wrong. At a minimum, it is worth at least a cursory examination. If there's some merit, then by all means dig deeper. However, a statistical development does not substantiate the existence of a problem. Illumination means looking at all available evidence to help answer a question. Support means finding and citing particular statistics that support a point that's already been decided upon by the author. In short, the leadership of each troop is more apt to know the truth about their particular circumstances than outsiders quoting statistics.

(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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As a recent Webelos Leader let me speak up here --- Am I part of the problem of boys not staying in the troop? YES!!!!

 

It is possible to provide the Cub Scout program according to BSA's documentation and still not prepare the boys for the troop. A boy can get his Arrow of Light and have never camped or tied a knot other than the square knot. He has to visit ONE troop meeting and ONE "Boy Scout oriented outdoor activity". Lots of things meet that criteria without the boys or the parents have a good clue, must less a good grasp, on what is BOY SCOUTING.

 

As someone else mentioned, the youth led concept in Girl Scouting starts with the Kindergarteners. In Cub Scouting, the boys could go 5 years without ever making a decision about anything. The parents don't know the difference. They think one of 2 things: Boy Scouting is just like Cub Scouting OR Boy Scouting is so separate of a program that the 5th grade is a time to drop out.

 

I went to Webelos leader training. I was told some good stuff and some wrong stuff. I wasn't given a good, accurate picture of what a good troop looks like. Without knowing what a good troop looked like, how could I prepare my boys? Then through in parents having been told "Cub Scouting meets 3 nights a month, for one hour each night". Try changing that expectation. Try covering the Webelos program in 2 hours per month-- MAX! Try convincing these parents that camping and other activities in scouting are important. Also, I became a leader at the beginning of Webelos I with 3 new scouts, 2 existing scouts. Second year I had 5 more new scouts.

 

Even the leader manuals of the 2 programs are very different. I worked hard for the last year or so finding out about the Boy Scouting program. Spending hours upon hours looking for info on the web, buying myself a Scoutmaster handbook and Boy Scout handbook. Spending hours reading forums like these, asking questions, contemplating answers, joining in online chat rooms. There are still areas I don't fully understand. I'm not that stupid of a person, in fact I learn pretty darn quick. So, what about the Cub Leader who does the minimum to get by, or doesn't have access to the internet, or the time to do the research? How will they know? Even if they attend training, monthly roundtables, and follow the Cub & Webelos handbooks to a T, they will not necessarily prepare the boys AND parents. Some are able, most are not.

 

Ideally the troops have sent adults to the packs as "transition" people. Every den has a den chief. Reality is that the adults are doing all they can to keep the current troop running and the boys can't balance yet ANOTHER night of stuff to do in order to be den chief.

 

I know some people reading this are like me, and just left their role as Webelos Leader. Please, sit down and make a list of what you would you would change about the last 2 years if you could go back in time, knowing what you know now. I plan on doing this and sending to the Cubmaster. Not an attack on the Cubmaster or Pack, but suggestions of what the up and coming Webelos Leaders should look out for.

 

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