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What rkfrance describes in the post I spun off from is just about exactly where our district is right now too. It is a little overwhelming. We get told not to cannibalize existing unit volunteers and (as a victim of that cannibalization myself) I get that. But reality is, that's where you find people who are interested and willing to help! I kind of find myself wondering sometimes about the disconnect between the ideal and the real world when we talk in scouting circles about adult recruitment. As for me, my goal in the next two months is to broaden our district membership committee from 4 active people (3 from the same troop + 1 UC from another part of the district) to 7 active people with at least a couple of current or recent cub folks included.



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"We get told not to cannibalize existing unit volunteers and (as a victim of that cannibalization myself) I get that. But reality is, that's where you find people who are interested and willing to help!"


Sorry, but this touches a personal nerve and really annoys me.


I am not currently involved with a unit, and frankly haven't been for many years. (don't have the time). I have been struggling for years to be a council ONLY volunteer, and find myself passed over or ignored in favor of people who are unit volunteers &/or already have 2-3 positions. How stupid is that.


There are people out there that are not currently tied to units who would like to volunteer at the district or council. Some might be parents. Some (like me) are former scouts that may like to get back in involved. But no one bothers to get those people. (for several years I dropped by a local council office and offered my assistance, even dropping off my business card. Despite promised that 'someone would contact me', I never was. Instead I was personally recruited by another volunteer who knew me and knew I was living in the area and knew he could use my help.)



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emb, first off THANK YOU for volunteering. You are right that it there must be others "out there" like you who are willing and very capable, and who would be great assets to the district and council.


My problem is that I don't know how to find people "like you." Nobody is dropping off business cards around here and saying, hey pick me. Or if they are, whoever is on the receiving end at council sure isn't sharing that info. The people I know in my community (bedroom community where everybody works elsewhere, comes home and goes to sleep) are mostly already involved. In fact that is one reason for being in scouts, to help make deeper connections to the community, and while it works, the people one tends to meet are...also involved in scouts already!


Conversely the people I know from other venues like work, do not live anywhere near here. So it comes down to personal recruiting and I find that my "pool" is made up primarily of people who are already involved in scouting. And while I suppose I could do the equivalent of "cold calling" local business folks, I don't think this is either efficient or productive. If half of the district committee chairs went and did this then many business folks would be getting hit up at random by several different people! That would be annoying. Not to mention the part about having a day job and cold calling business owners is a very time-consuming proposition for pretty limited pay back.


Bottom line: we get told to "go out and find volunteers" but we have very few resources other than personal ones, which may be stretched thin, with which to do this. Or anyway that's what I am facing. Maybe it is different for folks in other places where everybody knows everybody and people don't transplant every few years.



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Folks who aren't involved in units who might make good district recruits:


Former scouts who are still in the area.

APO fraternity members or alums.

Former unit volunteers who have dropped off the roster (ex SMs, ex CCs, etc.)


Anybody involved in youth programs/education, especially outdoor ed.

Local outfitters.

And yah, any scouter who moves into an area like emb. If your council doesn't have a way of "capturing" those potential recruits, take a mallet to the heads of your council staff until they put one in place. ;)




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To add to Beavah's list:


aged out Eagle Scouts. National is making yet another attempt to gather current contact info for all living eagles.


Your council office should be able to get from National a list of eagle scouts in their area. Put it to use.


Also, see if you can get addressed from your council of former scouts and leaders.


Another avenue may be any local town festival/fairs or the like that would allow a non-profit group, like the scouts, to have a booth. May be a way to connect (or re-connect) with potential volunteers.



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While "cold calling" business people probably would be unsuccessful and frustrating, networking with them would be the way to go. Who on your district committee is a member of Rotary, or the Chamber of Commerce or Lions or Elks, or . . . you get the idea. Your DE probably belongs to at least one of these groups. (I've found they are encouraged to join).


Brainstorm with them about members of those groups who were Scouts, or have pro-Scouting attitudes. See if your DE can scan the community Friends of Scouting donor list for prospects. School principals/teachers? Church staff members? (not necessarily pastors, but assistants, youth ministers, etc.) Create prospect lists. Contact those listed and say "so and so recommended I contact you because you care about young people and the future of our community." If they bow out, ask them to keep you in mind, and suggest others who they know as potential members.


The fact that our District chair was successful doing this has a lot to do with the fact that his family has been prominent in the area for years, he has lots of contacts by being active in local politics and government, and is a good networker. Like all skills, its not one all of us has. (For sure not I). If you have someone on the district committee who's good at this, use their skills to benefit the whole committee.

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Don't forget about aged out Life, Star and other scouts. One of the best leaders in my troop at home never got his Eagle Scout. Not everyone will be an eagle, doesn't mean they don't want to support the program.


I don't have much help for you other than to say that volunteers are out there. I am also in emb's situation. I moved to a new area and didn't really want to get involved on a troop level. I got in touch with the local DE and now I am on the district committee.


That being said, I think we do a terrible job of recruiting adult volunteers. I had to contact the local council 3 times before they got back to me. I shouldn't have to try so hard to volunteer. On top of that, we keep asking more and more of the volunteers we have. I don't know how to fix it, but I sure hope somebody does because its broken.


Well, after going back and reading this post, I guess I didn't help much. Good luck with your recruiting!



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Good point Tim!


My struggle is, How on earth am I supposed to identify these people??? If they have a kid in the program then that's one thing and either they are likely already unit leaders, or their unit leaders might be able to help me extend my network by pointing those people in my direction.


But if they are not currently affiliated with the BSA either personally or through their child(ren) and I don't already know them, how would I ever find them?


This isn't directed at any one poster - I am just frustrated sometimes, that there isn't a better system in place for reaching out to the local community. Our council does not support this, although from time to time they ask/push/browbeat us into trying to make it work anyway. And to be perfectly honest I do not have the time to build such a system, nor do I have the community connections to make it work based on my personal network. And I think that's true of most volunteers.


Just venting, that's all. Thanks.


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I've been involved with various volunteer organizations for about 30 years. Unless, the organization has a program set up to foster new volunteers, finding new volunteers is difficult.


One problem that Scouting has in common with other youth activities that many of the volunteers are just counting the days until their child leaves the program so that they can get out. They are quick to complain when something doesn't happen but they don't realize that events take place because a bunch of volunteers have put them together.


For volunteer organizations in general, the problem is complex. Often new volunteers are rebuffed, "No, we got it covered." Other times, the old-timer who has been running the event is hostile to newcomers. Heaven help the new guy who offers a new idea, "I've been doing this for 20 years and we never had tea on the coffee bar! We don't need it now!"


Something else that happens is that a old-timer who always did everything himself will suddenly quit, usually because of burn out. There was no assistant or staff to pick up the job so it falls to the hapless new guy. Now the new guy is floundering because there was no turn-over file, no contact phone numbers, nothing but the vague handwaving of people who had been to the event. So the new guy comes up with his own ideas only to be greeted with "John never did it this way!"

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Gold Winger points out another critical element that makes recruiting new members difficult if not impossible, when you have the members that were around way back when.


If you are "lucky" enough to get that new recruit signed up and coming to meetings, it's only going to take 1 or 2 meetings for them to get frustrated because no matter what kinds of ideas they have, it's either "we've never done it like that" or "you're new, you think you know more than me" attitudes. Then you never see them again and are starting all over.


Are there good candidates out there? Absolutely! Are there good candidates with little to no Scouting experience? Absolutely! But as Lisabob mentioned, I'm not going out in my "FREE" time to go look for volunteers. If they're not within my radar, I don't have time to go hunt them down.

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A smart machine takes a new volunteer and puts him to work as a cog in a system that is already working. After the event is over, every sits around and does a post mortem on the event and decides what worked, what didn't work and what might work next year. This is where the new eyes and minds help.


As rkfrance said, a broken machine says at the first planning meeting, "we need new ideas" but when the new volunteer pipes up either with a brand new idea or something that he saw somewhere else, he is publicly humiliated and told that that his ideas stink.


It may be sad but the broken machine may have to be destroyed before it can be fixed.

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GW pointed out several issue with volunteering. I'm a volunteer leader/member of several orgs, including the BSA, and several times been frustrated by some of the things I see. I decided to vent this frustration in a series of 'articles' I put up on facebook. (no mention is made of any organization, and its worded such that you shouldn't be able to figure out what org I may be talking about.)



In addition to some of the points of GW and others, there are 2 other things I've seen in the BSA that frustrate me.


* overburdening of some volunteers (ie volunteers with multitude of positions)

* turning away people who volunteer for specific positions.


The first is usually refered to as 'how many hats do you wear'. For some reason, there are some volunteers who have a large number of positions they hold. I'm not sure that's a good thing. What is particularly frustrating is when I see a position open that too often its given to someone who already has 2-3 jobs instead of the person who will make it their only job.


The second is an attitude I see too often in the BSA. The attitude is that if you specificaly seek out or make it clear you want a particular job, that that means you are automatically unqualified for the position and should not be given it.



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This is where all the District Committee folk, and the Commish staff, need to work their professional contacts. Knights of Columbus, Masonic, Rotary, Lions, VFW, Legion, various university faculty senates, all are places where volunteers can be found.


Some of it involves having a "speakers bureau", if you will, who can go out there and share the things Scouting does for the community.


Yes, let's be blunt: We're not going to get a flood of folks knocking down the doors. But if we don't even have a trickle, it all goes dry.


Someone in your District is a professional salesperson. He's the first person to contact, to help you build a pitch that will touch hearts and minds.


Does this make any sense?



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The too many hats syndrome is certainly a problem at the district level. As Cubmaster of a struggling pack, Im happy to have a unit commissioner who is enthusiastic and helpful; this poor person doesnt know how to say no. In addition to being unit commissioner for too many units (about 10); my UC holds several other district positions, most of which are very demanding. With that kind of schedule, its tough to get a phone message returned or email answered. I usually call the District Executive first, rather than bother my UC.


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Well...you could recruit from the chartered organization representatives in your District (thank you, Beavah, for remembering).


Radical idea, huh?


CORs are already registered, uniformed, Scouters. Compiling a list of these individuals, complete with contact information such as telephone numbers and email addresses (if available), is exceptionally easy for the District committee.


CORs are not unit scouters, so recruiting CORs does not cannibalize existing unit volunteers. CORs are Council scouters (Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, Article VIII, Section 1, Clause 2).


CORs are supposed to be the chartering organization's "voice" on the Council and District committees anyway. Most District committees meet monthly on a set date. This should enable the COR, and the organization the COR represents, to take advantage of available District service. At the monthly District committee meetings, CORs should contribute facts from the units standpoint based upon the CORs knowledge of them. This is supposed to be valuable information to the District committee, and is supposed to keep the Districts program realistic and tuned to the needs of the units (The Chartered Organization Representative, BSA publication #33118D (2004), page 8, paraphrased). So...since they are supposed to be there anyway, put them to work.


One of the five guiding principles of the BSAs 2006-2010 National Strategic Plan is to dramatically increase the number of engaged, accountable volunteers. One of the tactics listed in the Strategic Plan to accomplish this goal is to strengthen relationships with existing chartered organizations. The CORs, by definition, represent these organizations. Engage them. Strengthen the relationship.


CORs represent a large, underutilized, human resource pool. It is disheartening when volunteers at the District and Council levels persist in the shallow end of the pool, refusing to explore the deep end (here there be monsters!), yet claiming that the pool isn't deep enough.


...or am I tilting at windmills again.


Sancho! My helmet! My armor!


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