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Recruiting observations of a "new" Cub parent

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Hi folks. Im a former cub and boy scout, now a parent starting to ease back into scouting. My son is 7 and just joined a Cub pack. Now that weve got a couple of pack meetings under our belt, I thought Id write down some thoughts that might be useful and help with other recruiting efforst. Consider these the observations of a new parent (I was a Cub Scout myself, but that was a long, long, long where do the years go?... time ago). All offered in the spirit of constructive criticism most of you probably already know all this already, but I bet a few packs could profit from the experience.


1 When youre recruiting, dont forget to send flyers to private schools in the area. Our son goes to a small private school and there were no flyers or any other recruiting information sent to that school. My wife saw a sign announcing the pack meeting tacked to a stick on a street corner, otherwise we would not have known about the pack. She told some other families at the school, and now nearly half the first and second grade boys in the school are new scouts! Okay, so its only 2 boys out of 5, but still, a 40% recruiting rate is pretty good. (and the other boys are now hearing all about what the two that joined are doing, so maybe there will eventually be more.).


2 The first pack meeting we went to had a couple of problems that nearly caused us to not join. First, the meeting was mostly the boys sitting down while the pack leaders talked to the parents about stuff. Not fun. The twenty minute popcorn pep-talk was particularly un-fun (more on that in a bit). Now, the Pack leaders realized this and the second Pack meeting was a huge improvement the boys were immediately (after opening ceremonies) engaged in activities and having fun while one of the leaders got the parents together off to the side to talk about parent things. I really liked this, and thought it worked well. If you have at least three adult leaders in the Pack, you ought to be able to run a breakout session for the parents without making the boys sit through it. Be especially aware of this when you're recruiting.


3 The second thing that went wrong at the first pack meeting was that there werent any Pack leaders helping us new parents figure out what was going on or what we needed to do. Wed been given registration forms, which I had filled out (with a check!) but it felt like we were a complete afterthought. I had to chase down a couple of people in uniform to even hand in the registration and dues. If I hadnt been a scout myself and didnt already know about the program, I might have given up and walked away. Id strongly suggest during recruiting season to have a Welcome Wagon with at least one adult leader proactively engaging new families during their first couple of pack meetings. Make them feel welcome and that youre excited to have them in the Pack. Otherwise it might end up the only new parents in the pack being pushy people like me telling you how to run things.


4 Popcorn sales. Okay, I know its important for the finances, but is it really a good idea to hit new families with popcorn sales immediately? We got our order forms at the first pack meeting I attended - Yikes. Id guess popcorn sales are really low on the list of things most families enjoy about scouting. If I were designing the program, Id try to get as much distance between recruiting and fundraising as possible. Sell the families on the benefits of the program before you ask them to donate their time raising money. I feel a little sheepish here because I expect the collective wisdom and experience of Scouting has probably already hashed this issue over and someone is going to give me a link to the explanation of why its this way, but I figured I should mention it anyway cause the timing bugged both of us new families.


Ill close with a big thank you to everyone who puts their time and effort into Scouting. It was a fantastic program for me as a kid, and Im looking forward to my son enjoying it too.


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Hi JMHawkins and welcome to the forum. Cub Scouting is so much fun and I hope you and your son have a good time in the Pack.


In reply to your comment about notices at private schools. When the District Executive (the paid professional in your area) contacts the schools to do recruiting, it is dependent on that school giving its permission. It may be that the school your son attends did not want a recruiting drive done there. I know in my town, we have many private schools - some allow recruiting, some don't. Even some of our public schools do not allow the DE to hand out flyers or conduct a scouting night.


Popcorn. Well, that's a sore subject with a lot of people. The timing of the sale is bad because it comes at the same time of year that children are back in school and most likely trying to sell wrapping paper, fruit, cookie dough, etc. etc. to raise money for PTO, Band, boosters, whatever. Also, the sale comes at the same time that new families are recruited to scouting, so it will seem like "welcome to the Pack, now go sell something." I suppose the Pack could wait a year until asking the new families to participate in raising much needed funds to help the Pack's operations, but I don't think that's a fair solution.


I agree that Pack meetings should not be an hour of adult announcements. On the other hand, if this was the first pack meeting after recruiting a bunch of new parents and boys, the Pack leaders may have thought it was the best method to get out a lot of information all at one time. You note that the 2nd Pack meeting was better. Another thought is that during scout nights at schools, much of the information about the Pack, the Dens, and Cub Scouting is given at that meeting. Since you joined the Pack without this initial meeting, it makes sense that you would be unaware of a lot of things. Even more so that the Pack leadership was unaware of you. Having been a Cubmaster for years, I had school nights and also folks just walking in on meeting nights to register. A pack meeting is a busy time with existing parents and new parents all wanting a piece of the Cubmaster's time. Just a personal observation.


Welcome back to Scouting. From your post it seems you had a great experience in the program as a boy and hopefully your son will also.



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I'm a district membership chair, and if there was only one thing I could change about the Cub Scout packs in our district, it would be to get them away from the idea that Cub Scouting is an academic year program (out of 14 packs in the district, I think only one has an extensive summer program).


I understand why they run it that way, but I wish it would change. For one thing, I think the program works better when there is lots of outdoor activity. In the northeast, our season is short enough as it is, so I don't think it makes sense to give up on the three best months of the year. Sure we get he arguments of "but so many people are traveling in the summer", but I think that is a wash. During the school year, there are sports and other activities that come up too. There is *never* a perfect time for anything!


Then there is the awkwardness of recruiting. Units drag their feet about scheduling fall roundup -- they wait until school is in session, and then try and get permission for flyer placement in schools (it is the DE and I that do that bit of admin work). The problem is that something that could be done in early August (before schools are open), takes backseat status once school starts (schools have many things to worry about the first two weeks of the school year). September is roundup month, and most of these units use their monthly pack meeting night for the roundup.


So that gives us October as the first real pack meeting. Guess what, it's popcorn time! Along with all the school fundraisers, sports fundraisers, and everything else.


The DE and I have been trying to encourage units to take advantage of spring recruiting, and pack summer programs, but so far there has been little interest in it. I think things would work out a whole lot better for everyone.



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When I did Webelos I, I totally blew away the parents when I announced that we will meet weekly and that would include the summer months. Some put their foot down and said that was too much and so I said, not a problem, come when you can. It took about a month and the boys all wanted to come weekly and with all the plans we were making for the summer hikes, outings, etc. they weren't going to miss out on any of it. All the boys had AOL in 1 year and the second year we just went out and had fun using the skills we had learned. The boys took great pride in wearing their AOL for a long time before crossing-over. It made it clear that AOL and Cross-over were two entirely different issues.


Although a Pack may have a tradition of a 9-month calendar, an individual den leader can make adjustments.


Typical month:


1 meeting was the Pack Meeting

2 meetings were fun events (focused around advancement)

1 meeting was planning, "Hey, guys, what do you want to do next month?, where should we go to have fun? etc."


During the summer the pack didn't meet (nor did the other dens) but we were out there hiking, biking, etc. doing all the stuff you couldn't do because in the winter it's too cold.



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Hi JMHawkins, and thanks for the valuable feedback!


Our pack does a separate recruiting night in September, and it is usually the week before our pack meeting. Our leadership has put a lot of effort into improving our recruiting (both advertising beforehand and the recruiting night itself), and it paid off - this year we more than doubled in size to 70+ boys!


However, the problems came at our first pack meeting. We had planned to introduce all of the new scouts and present them with their neckerchief, slide and book, and stuck with that plan, but it took forever (in boy time) to get that done. Not only that, but we had several new sign-ups that night, which diverted the attention of some of our leaders away from the meeting. We did have a snack for the boys to work on while we did the Popcorn Kick-off, but still I have to believe most new parents came away hoping all pack meetings are not like that. I plan for us to address that next year.


I agree the timing of the popcorn sale is bad, but for our pack it is our only fundraiser, and it accounts for a vast majority of our funds (we collect only about $30 in pack dues). We make a point of telling the parents about it at our recruiting night, because we feel it best to be up-front about it.

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jblake47 - that was a great idea, and I bet it helped with retention within your den. I especially like that you didn't put the parents in a "Scouts vs. X" dilemma, which I've seen another Webelos leader in our den do.


I think an approach like that works best at the den level rather than the pack level, because you can plan age-appropriate (read: fun, exciting, challenging) activities for your Webelos boys.


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I think "new" parent input is quite valuable. I'm new also- we went to our first pack meeting/outreach earlier this month.


To an outsider, Scouting is a bit mysterious. The PR information seems to presume that parents are already familiar with Scouting. Some councils have great web sites, others are fairly weak.


I appreciate that our pack doesn't push the popcorn sales and don't expect the new scouts to sell any.


We went to the pack meeting. The expectation was that one of the Tiger parents would become the Tiger den leader. After a minute or so of everybody staring at their shoes I volunteered.


Unfortunately the outreach meeting was the same day that our Council held their last Cub leader training sessions. So here I am, mid-October with the nucleus of a den (4-5 boys), no personal scouting history and no ability to get training within the district until Spring.


I sort of had a choice- go back on my offer and find another pack, or do all I can to make this den and pack work. I chose the latter because as I see it the Tiger den and next year's Tiger den are the future of this pack, not the current leadership. I've done a bunch of the online training and BALOO, but have only led one den meeting. We're going to follow the "Fast Tracks" series to help ensure that the boys earn Tiger even though they have started late.


Regarding recruiting-

There was absolutely no outreach to Kindergarteners last Spring. If there had been we probably would have seen some interest in the Council day camp. Plus those of us with interest in leadership could have gotten training, attended roundtables, and planned for the den before school started.


There was a table at Back to School Night. I don't think that there was a flyer passed out to all first graders before the pack meeting. At one level it almost looks like this pack wants a single den in each grade out of fear that more dens would just mean more work for the existing leadership. Maybe I'm naive, (I did volunteer after all), but it seems the more families involved the more potential volunteers. It seems that a good critical mass would be at least two dens at each grade level, with meetings on different days so that kids who participate in extracurricular activities would be able to avoid schedule conflicts.


I'm going to try for a Tiger "Boy Talk" and outreach letter after the local soccer season winds up in a few weeks- with the goal of filling out my den and possibly adding a second.


We also seem to have a Tiger den leader for next year waiting in the wings.


The Cubmaster is very dedicated- but his youngest son is in Webelos. Not counting the Tigers, the pack has 20-25 members. It looks like there are about 5 parents filling all the den leader, committee, etc. roles. I don't know if this is due to internal politics, more doers than leaders, lack of general interest, or what.


Hopefully this will change over time.




(This message has been edited by jimwhitelongbeach)

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scoutldr - that is an interesting way of looking at it. My question is what exactly are parents paying for? It seems to vary from pack to pack. In my opinion the $10 (soon to be $15) registration fee alone certainly doesn't cover a year's worth of *activities* - it doesn't even cover advancement costs.


In theory, I understand the importance of offering a year-round program, and in practice our pack holds a single event each month during the summer to offer the boys something to do. However, these events tend to be loosely-organized because the volunteer leadership is trying to take a breather from the whole scout program for a couple months. It could just be me, but I find it hard to be an enthusiastic, gung-ho volunteer leader all 12 months out of the year. It's much easier being a volunteer coach for rec soccer or basketball.


In my opinion the Cub Scout program can be tricky for new parents to understand because it appears at first to be something they can simply enroll their boy into, like soccer or baseball or karate, etc. The devil is in the details, however, as they are enlightened to the fact that the entire program is parent-run and will not succeed without significant volunteer effort. I went through the same experience as JimWhiteLongBeach when my son first signed up as a Tiger, and remember being totally surprised.


Cub Scouts appears to be some national program, but in reality at the pack level it's just a bunch of families planning and conducting activities so their boys can have some fun. The experience can vary WIDELY for each pack.


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I think that your comments as a "new cub parent" is completely invaluable. I was also a cub and boy scout (AOL as cub & a Star as a BS). I took over my son's Tiger Cub Den in May of last year after our previous DL had to relocate to another state.


So I also volunteered to be our recruitment chair. What we did was a Raingutter Regatta -- and while the potential recruit boys were detailing their boats (already put together by volunteers), we were able to speak with the new parents and introduce them to the Den Leaders and Cub Master. The idea is... keep the boys busy doing something.. and THEN speak to the parents separately. (We had a couple of parents helping the boys during this time)


New parents are usually lost... where do we go, when is the den meeting, where do we get the uniform... ect. ect.


Each potential recruit had an inexpensive coth cutting (from fabric store) scarf of either orange, yellow, blue, or green(for webelos), so we could keep track of what grade the boy was in. We then included the boys with their potential den, and let them then do a skit with the current boys. The idea was to incorporate the boy immediately into the den.


It worked like a charm... we signed up 10 of the 13 boys that came.

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Hi Folks,


Just some thoughts and suggestions on this topic:


If your Pack doesnt have one, put together a Pack Handbook. It saves loads of time helping new parents and their scouts get acclimated. I can remember writing a long email to my Tiger Den parents trying to cover all the basics. We then developed the Handbook (makes a nice Wood Badge ticket item) and now we simply hand it out (or email an electronic copy) to new or prospective Cub Scout Parents. It makes things so much easier. Our Handbook covers information specific to our Pack (contacts, meeting times and location, etc.) and general Cub Scout information (uniforming, badge placement, ranks, etc.). There are still questions, but a lot less of the basic ones.


Our September Pack Meeting is billed as an open house and our District provides flyers to the schools (and we do a little of our own advertising as well). When we tried to combine running the Pack Meeting with dealing with new and prospective Cub Scout families it was somewhat chaotic. The approach we then took was to schedule the open house portion an hour before the regular Pack Meeting, that way the den leaders and I could deal one on one with the new families. We of course invite them to stay and experience the Pack Meeting, which now the other leaders and I can focus on. We try to put our best foot forward, so to speak, at this Pack Meeting as we realize a crop of new Cubs hinges on how fun and engaging we make the meeting (not that we dont try to make all of our Pack Meetings fun and engaging). This approach seems to work well for us.


Our Pack runs a year-round program with special events in the summer. We do an Ice Cream Social in June which is actually a recruiting venue. We have activities in addition to the ice cream but as it is not as formal as a Pack Meeting we are able to devote more time to new and prospective Cub Scout families. Cubs recruited there are kept active with the summertime events and are seasoned Cub Scouts by the time September rolls around.


I do feel sheepish about pushing the popcorn sales to new families (as well as to those who have been around), but what are you going to do? As others have pointed out the timing is lousy and, if your Pack is like mine, you need the revenue. At least those that we recruit in June arent hit up right off the bat.





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Thanks for the insight. It's not often that you can get candid information from new parents. About your observations:


-I recognized the importance of private school recruting early on after my appointment as CM. HOWEVER, they don't call them "private" for nothing...I had ZERO allow me to send flyers, talks, etc. How I got around this was Letters to the Editor in local newspapers inviting ALL 1st-5th grade boys to join INCLUDING private/home schooled boys. Out of the 19 I recruited, 4 were private or home schooled.


-The first Pack Meeting (In my opinion) is always kind of...well, bad. Sad to say, it's the first time you get all of your parents/Scouts in the room and you just HAVE TO get some information across. I combated this by having all Dens meet seperately for the first half of our Meeting, then having preplanned games and activities after the "boring" stuff. I DO like your idea of seperating the Scouts from the Parents...I'll have to use that. Thanks!


-We didn't do signups at the first Pack Meeting. We tried to do all of the "boring" paperwork during Roundup night. During our First Pack Meeting everybody should be "on board". I gave out DETAILED "Welcome" information sheets to all of the Parents during Roundup so I was hoping questions would be minimal. I was wrong and I, again, like the idea of someone DEDICATED to helping new families during the first couple of meetings. I will, again, stea..uh USE your idea. :)


-Although I agree about Popcorn, unless the families want to get hit with MASSIVE dues to cover the very much overpriced beads, patches, beltloops, pins, colors, etc. It's kind of necessary. The timing does suck, but we kind of need it now at the beginning of the season. I just am honest and upfront about it and resistance has been minimal, at least VOCAL resistance. As a side note, I signed my son up for Tball a couple of years ago and on the first practice date, before the coach told us his name, he handed us Chicken Plate Tickets. So...it aint just us! LOL


Good luck to you and your son. I can truly say that I love Scouting. I'll love it even more once the last popcorn kernel has crossed my desk. :D



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Thanks for all the replies.


About private schools, I doubt that the Headmaster at our school would have refused a stack of flyers (especially after the generous popcorn purchase he made when he saw my son manning the table outside the grocery store), but from the replies it sounds like he may be an exception. Perhaps the local district/pack just stopped trying after too many rejections. But I'd encourage folks to keep trying - a polite phone call each year, even if they said no last year, you never know, you might get a yes. Getting their kids (and families) interacting with other families is a good recruiting tool for the schools too, and in this economy they might be glad to have a little free publicity. Might be something to suggest if you get a cool reception. Scratching each other's backs and all that.


gwd_scouter, your comment about everyone wanting a piece of the CMs time makes a lot of sense. I was very aware of that myself - I knew he was probably the guy who could answer my questions, but I also knew he was pretty busy and didn't want to add to his burden which is why I was chasing down other uniformed leaders. And why I think a "Welcome Wagon" is a good idea - it's a way for a proactive CM to avoid at least a little bit of the chaos. You could make the person in charge of making new parents feel welcome also the person in charge of recruiting new parents into pack volunteer positions. Just, y'konw, to make double use of their time and all that...


GKlose, the idea of spring recruiting sure seems like a good one to me. Of course, it would only make sense for a pack running a 12-month program. I don't know yet how extensive our Pack's summer program is (the Troop they are a feeder for has a very active summer schedule though, so I'm hopeful). For what it's worth, a couple of popular summer day camps in our neck of the woods won't be running next year due to the economy. If that sort of thing is happening in your town too, it might be a good opportunity to get more kids into Cubs as their families look for other options for summer activities. I think I'll mention that to our CM. Summer really is made for Scouting, isn't it?


Well, winter is too if you have good raingear (it's 35 degrees and sprinkling as I write this, just east of Seattle).


About the popcorn, yeah, I'm not questioning the need for it, just the timing. We survivied, and now that it's over, I _am_ looking forward to eating the popcorn...



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Two comments:


I've seen Packs really do great recruiting on "Welcome Back Night." In my neck of the woods, that's the night before school when the families come in, kids find their rooms and meet their teachers. Having Pack leadership manning a table, having Pack Cubs come to that night in uniform and then having Cub Scouting FUN, is an invaluable recruiting tool. Even better, bring the pinewood track; aslo even better, if the principal will let you run a few Dutchs out back, make cobbler.


The BSA national websire for Cub Scouting is actually pretty strong. There are program helps, all manner of info ... and that's not counting training at MyScouting.


Finally, there is help. New Den Leaders who cannot get to training might ask, through the Cubmaster, for their Unit Commissioner to pay them a visit. A good UC (I know...) can provide another wealth of information and a store of insights.



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"GKlose, the idea of spring recruiting sure seems like a good one to me. Of course, it would only make sense for a pack running a 12-month program. ... Summer really is made for Scouting, isn't it?"


Mr. Hawkins, that is exactly it. Last spring, at our district's monthly roundtable, I presented a very brief session on spring recruiting. The point I made is exactly what you brought up. It makes no sense to do spring recruiting if you have no summer program. I then segued into ideas for a summer program, and the unit and Cub awards for summer pack activities.


I only had one CM come up to me after the program and tell me something like "well, you don't get it -- by summer, I'm ready for a break." I'm thinking they have other problems to solve before they tackle the issue of a summer program for the pack.



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