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Roundtable Attancence

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I have posted this on a few Commissioner groups on the internet, just thought I would get some ideas here

 

I am an Assistant District Commissioner for Roundtables in a large, but rural district that is approximately the size of Rhode Island, but with about 1/10 of its population, and we have 28 units. 14 packs, 12 troops, 1 crew and 1 ship. Over the last year or so our roundtables have transformed from basically a district events planning session to something that is very close to what is laid out in the roundtable planning guides. We still do a bit of event planning, but we are putting on a true roundtable program. I have a great group of Roundtable Commissioners and Assistant Roundtable Commissioners, who have embraced the changes and are putting on a great program. And we have had the support of our District Commissioner as we made these changes.

 

The problem is we have not seen any real increases in attendance, and it is still mostly the same faces every month.

 

Here is our breakdown the attendance of our units

 

13 attend essentially every month

4 attend most months

5 attend occasionally

6 never attend

 

If you look at the percentage of units that are attend, I think we are doing better than most.

 

While most of our units are represented, our goal has been to double the attendance on the Cub Scout side. We typically only have 5 or 6 den leaders in attendance. We currently have one ARTC for Webelos den leaders and one for all other den leaders, while the RTC handles Cubmasters.

 

On the Boy Scout side it is mostly Scoutmasters, with the same handful of assistants.

 

We came up with an attendance promotion plan this past summer that included, a new district Facebook page(with the main goal of promoting roundtable), emails send out the week before roundtable, calls to the Cubmasters and Scoutmasters to encourage them to invite other leaders, and doing the same at roundtables. We have had door prizes, preopening games and presentations. We have cut the announcements way down, reeled in a few of the ones who would talk for 10 minutes or more.

 

On the Cub side, they still take about 10-15 minutes to plan our districts monthly event. On the Boy Scout side, the month before a Camporee we will take 10-15 minutes to discuss it, and then move on to the rest of the roundtable program.

 

One of the ARTC was promoting roundtable at her home pack, and then Cubmaster told everyone that they did not need to go because she was going. If all we were doing was program planning that would be fine, but we are giving hands on skills and program ideas that can be taken back to the Packs and Troops. This is the mentality we are trying to overcome.

 

We are currently running an online survey to see what the unit leaders think about what we are doing, and what they think would increase attendance.

 

So far I have had some great suggestions:

  • Make roundtable the place to be - Have several different district functions happening on the same night, Eagle Project approvals, Eagle Boards, OA chapter meeting, training such as IOLS and BALOO over several month
  • Contacting den leaders directly
  • Encourage car pooling
  • Recording the roundtable and posting to youtube
  • Broadcast roundtable over internet
  • Troop night - great recent topic on this site about this topic
  • Have UCs pitch attendance during visits
  • Have the roundtable staff make some unit visits to pitch it
  • Bring a buddy promotion

 

Thanks for any input you guys may have on how we can improve our attendance!

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Hey, Click!

 

Well, I just started my fifth month as a Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner. I've seen the attendance pick up gradually since August, where we had hardly anyone due to the family vacation conflicts. My district is urban/rural and I happen to know it's slightly larger than Rhode Island land-wise. (No disrespect to Narragansett Council and Camp Yawgoog!) The December attendance was up significantly and that's a trend I've noticed over the past three years as a volunteer. The deeper we get into the fall/winter the more volunteers we have showing up. This is mainly new Cub Scouts volunteers, though. As with your situation, we typically get the same handful of Scoutmasters, Assistant Scoutmasters and the occasional committee member.

 

We have begun offering basic training for Den Leaders and Troop Committee Challenge. That boosted attendance dramatically! Also, we've had the OA chapter meeting at the same time and location for several years. The attendance there shifts up and down depending on the charisma of the Chapter Chief of the moment. I know there's potential to bring more adults into RT if their Arrowmen sons are there....

 

We have a model Blue and Gold Banquet every January and it's a pot-luck dinner. Fun stuff to do, food to eat, fellowship to be had.

 

It's in the state capital city and I find that the ones who come the most often are the ones who drive in from the surrounding suburbs and villages...Go figure. The rural communities are the ones who support Scouting the most, in my opinion. The big city tends to drive Scouting away (not Atlanta, I know...I was a Scout there for many years and they're dialed.)

 

I started a Google group for the Boy Scout volunteers so they could continue the dialogue/discussion virtually after the BS-specific breakout sessions. It's sort of working but I think email is dying in favor of FB or whatever the next thing will be...

 

We have a June pic-nic is a local Fireman's Park and that usually draws some folks out...weather depending. Bring your own meat to grill, some chips and dip, cookies, Cokes, etc.

 

There's a list of all registered SMs in the district and I've tried calling the ones who never show...Disconnected. No such number. I've resorted to word-of-mouth recruiting. Plus I ask the Unit Commissioners to invite their unit volunteers...

 

It's getting better each month. Stick to it!

 

LeCastor

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I feel for you. I'm your target audience, and I attend roundtable about once every 2 years.

 

We had a great RT commissioner who put in a lot of effort to attract new attendees, but the program content just couldn't justify my time.

 

Suggestions:

 

1- Put announcements on a sheet of paper to hand out. 30 minutes listening to old farts in Liberace uniforms bloviate will guarantee my late arrival or absence.

2- Send out your RT agenda for the year. I'm feeling guilty enough about not attending RT that if you have a topic that is of particular interest, I'll make an effort to be there.

3- Don't promise me interesting discussion and not deliver. I may allow you to bore me once or twice, but not 3 times.

4- If you try a 'new guy' promotion, think about it from the new guy's perspective. That trophy that rotated to each unit with the highest attendance did nothing for the solitary SM from the smaller troop. And I really thought my time was well spent watching grown men fight over a plush toy...

 

Less under your control: make a new guy feel welcome. Maybe even assign him a sponsor. The subtle 'down your nose' from the old boys is hard to quantify. After I learned that most of the Liberace dudes were really idiots trying to re-capture a lost childhood, I chose not to offer myself as a target for their disdain.

 

Your efforts are respected.

JoeBob

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They say that roundtables get an average attendance rate of 10% of the volunteers. So many I have attended have been disorganized, poorly presented and plain boring. The RT Commish in my district is a nice old retired man who doesn't have the drive or energy to put on a quality program and efforts to replace him have been thwarted by the DE so scouters have just stopped attending. At least we have the district Venturing program going strong without this guy's help.

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I completely understand the concerns about the old fogies aspect, and that is one of the things that I have addressed when putting together my staff. While I have great respect for the older scouters in the district, I feel in roundtable we need the energy of younger folks. I am 35, the Boy Scout RTC is a few years younger than me, the Cub Scout RTC is her mid 40s, and all three Assistant RTCs are in the 50's.

 

JoeBob, that is exactly the type of feedback I am looking for. As much as I want to know how to get them to attend, I need to know why they are not attending.

 

 

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Assuming you do the email thing....

1) Announce the ongoing, updated schedule of topics in each DIstrictRTNews.... Include the District/Council News in each issue, with a few fun things gleaned from other sources (knot tying from Sweden, neckerchief tying, places to go like train shows, flag displays, park programs, etc.)

2) Send this out AT LEAST once a week, updated with new things. Include worthy Eagle projects, STEM classes, training opportunities, etc. Send out whenever the e-editor feels like it. Update and make them fun to read. Include worthy quotes ("When I was 14, my father was so dumb, I was almost embarrassed to be seen with him. But when I turned 21, I was amazed how smart the old man had become in only 7 years"=Mark Twain=), from BP, Emerson, FDR, the Bible, the Koran and others. Give your Scouters thought provoking stuff, SMMinute stuff.

3) Send it to who? Collect the most up to date emails for ANY Scout leader: SM, ASM, CC, CM, DL, CM, ACM, and ask for any other interested Scout adult. Don't be shy about asking if THEY want to be included. Ask your DE and RD and SE for names and emails. When I became RTC, I added over a hundred emails to my list in the first month and culled at least 30 out of date ones....

4) Topics: Ask the folks.... Use the ones that YOU would like to see. I invited a podiatrist to address us about foot care, sock and boot choice and folks still talk about it almost a year later. It will be repeated. Topics/themes used and developed: High Adventure choices, Parks and Museums in our area, Winter Camping, "Open Discussion" ("our experts solve your problems". Sure we will....), Camp Cooking (home Troop does a demo campfire cooking in the parking lot), Religious Awards, Holiday Party (develop a Powerpoint of pics from Camporees, WebWoods, Troop trips, etc. ), Movie night (Scout movie choices, show vignettes, trailers).....

5) Have announcements FIRST and SHORT. RTC (the MC, natch?) needs to take charge and (Courteously, Kindly) SHORTEN the amount of announcements.

6) Do not have a written agenda. It must be adjustable, so write it on a white/black board at the front of the room, and as speakers give info/ numbers/websites, post them up there too. Encourage Scouters to TAKE NOTES. Leave everything up for folks to copy after the meeting.

7 ) Have a LARGE table out in the hall for the offering of handouts and extra maps, brochures, etc. Keep last months and put'em out this month, too.

8) What topics? ASK them! USE the suggestions.

9) Have a Plan B. When your speaker has a death in the family , be ready to show "Troop 759 of Harlem" or demonstrate fun knots and let the Scouters show their expertise too.

10) If the venue will permit, serve snacks. Folks will contribute to pay for them. My favorite trainer did this: When he asks a leading question, and someone breaks thru their reticence to answer, he throws them a candy bar. I do not do this every time, but hey, it keeps interest up.

11) Run the BSRT like a Troop meeting. Opening, program, involvement, RTCommisher gives a "minute", Scout promise, close and goodnight. No need to have a formal flag presentation and retrieval, but still make the opening and closing DEFINITE, not just "hello" "goodbye".

12) Activity planning is usually done in committee, not so much IN RT. Scheduling, yes. Planning, no.

13) I like the idea of the FB page, wish I had a fellow willing to take that on. Youtube ? Not unless it is something REALLY significant, not ordinary meeting...

14) Try and remember the WORST, most BORING meeting at work, and learn therefrom. Have fun. Look up "Red Green" on youtube and study the Possum Lodge Meeting plan. "We're all in this together. I'm pulling for you".

 

YiS

 

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One thing we do is to actually to create a webcast of our roundtable so people can get the info afterwards. Getting people to attend is an issue for us even in a suburban area. I wish we could get more people to attend but it is spotty.

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What JoeBob said, especially that first one, but without the guilt. Around here I gave up on RT long ago as a complete waste of time.

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Assuming you do the email thing....

 

2) Send this out AT LEAST once a week, updated with new things.

 

If you eMail me once a week, I'll either stop reading the eMails or block you as spam.

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I had pretty good success as a Scout RT Commissioner based on a few principles.

 

1. New stuff every month. If you miss a RT, you miss out.

2. High energy Everyone is at or near the biorhythmic downslope, so they need help.

3. Hands-on/participatory (Make a backpacking stove. Make a large, square neckerchief. Make a neckerchief slide. Make a set of knot practice ropes. Make a rope spinner. Make snow shoes. Cook and eat results. Plan next Camporee [Really need youth for this.])

4. Take something home you can plug right into troop program

5. Announcements are death. 5 mins per month max. Can't keep to your limit? Never make another announcement.

6. Gathering time displays/handouts.

7. "Coffee" by Refreshments Committee before program and after program for informal interaction (Some of best and most productive discussions were after the program.)

8. Central and good site.

9. Youth participation in audience and as staff.

10. A certain % WILL NOT BE HAPPY. Life is like that so don't sweat it.

 

We moved three time to get a progressively larger venue. (Meanwhile, the Cubers were packing and rocking the room wherever we went. That RT Commish was amazing!)

 

Today, the district is three times the size it was and has no Roundtable Commissioners. RT's are thrown together at the last minute and are mostly announcements and appeals for $$$$. The resulting mess is excused on the grounds that "People are not interested in Roundtable." (Do you think?)

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Number one reason I attend round table ... to be honest ... is to be with my friends. I know many of the district scouters. It's a chance to see them. As a side effect, I stay up to date on a lot of information.

 

When I started, many of the scouters that had been helping for years gave at best perfunctory greetings and chit chat. And I remember those days. Being greeted, but then still feeling like an outsider. If you want to change that, then start making these new scouters feel like insiders. Part of the group. Friendships. Knowledge. Part of the significant conversations.

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Don't treat me like a twelve year old Tenderfoot. Don't teach me how to tie a square knot. Rather have the units sit down at a true Round Table and discuss. Where did you go camping last month? How far was it? What did you do? How was the campsite? Cost? Any nearby places of interest? You went Rock Climbing? Where? How much? Did your kids finish the merit badge? etc. This would be useful information all units would like to get. Helps your program to hear what others are doing and get the details.

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Aww geewhizzer shucks JoeBob, once a week is four emails a month. I come up with enough new stuff (activities up coming, training schedule opportunities, Park service possibilities, Eagle projects to support, fun silly stuff to keep up spirits AND a short list of our District Leadership) all the time. By spacing them out, I allow folks to glean what they want rather than slog thru a super long newsletter thing, which some organizations do. And I try to remind folks of the topics in the RT. Sometimes I can add something two days before that someone (you?) might find intriguing.

I figure I must be doing something right, our attendance is up, and I get smiles from folks as they leave. I just wish our host venue would allow us to stay later, but the disciplined need to close up clean up and go home by a certain time I think MAY save some marriages!

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As a new scout leader, I loved going to round table and getting snubbed by the Latin American Generals. I get they are catching up with their buds, but at least acknowledge the new guy.

 

I agree with 90.

 

Sometimes roundtable conflicts with life. I have missed the last year because of conflicts with my personal life. Honestly I can't say that I missed it.

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