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2017 Report to the Nation-Membership

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I worked with statistics through most of my professional life, and looking at the numbers given my main impression is that they are not very useful for any kind of analysis.  

The numbers are too general for any valid comparisons to be made with previous years.  The numbers for each group needs to be broken down to show more specific details.  Once again examples have already been brought up by other forum members:                                                                                            

Cubs:  What percentage of the total numbers is composed of the new "Lion" program.                                   

Scouts:  How much of the 12K increase was do to LDS Venturing Crews reverting to Scout troops.             

Venturing:  How much of the decline was caused by LDS crews leaving the program, and will be a one time loss.

From a strictly financial standpoint the question arises, how much membership is required to support the BSA's current infrastructure and fixed costs.  

In future reports, it would be interesting to see what the number of girls who join the various programs will be.  The current report seems to me to be more for PR than for analysis and management.

Thank you

PS Being a "Numbers Geek" is not easy.

 

 

Edited by UncleP
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@UncleP l feel your pain. During the rechartering process, I have generated far more detail than BSA has ever published. For example, for each member who doesn't renew, I have to explain why. There are some check-boxes and one open-ended field. Those data of how many quit for which reason have never been in this report to the nation.

The annual report does include financial statements. If you have nothing better to do, you could fish through those and see how they stack up over the years.

I don't like the belligerent tone this POTUS takes, but I wouldn't mind if he asked our VIP scouts, "Where have the rest of your mates gone?"

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55 minutes ago, qwazse said:

@UncleP l feel your pain. During the rechartering process, I have generated far more detail than BSA has ever published. For example, for each member who doesn't renew, I have to explain why. There are some check-boxes and one open-ended field. Those data of how many quit for which reason have never been in this report to the nation.

The annual report does include financial statements. If you have nothing better to do, you could fish through those and see how they stack up over the years.

I don't like the belligerent tone this POTUS takes, but I wouldn't mind if he asked our VIP scouts, "Where have the rest of your mates gone?"

I think THIS is what is critical.  All of us have some idea, but in aggregate it would be interesting for DEs to share some details to unit leaders on common themes.  While I wasn’t able to get a report on why from my DE, he did share a print out of every unit in my district and their past 8 year membership numbers.  I was able to use that as a new CC to reach out to the successful units (in terms of attrition) and get some recruiting and org structure ideas.  

Attending district meetings I’m shocked that Boy Scout Troops do not have high adventure activities every year.  Some never do HA.  Why?  As a kid, I remember the HA outings were a big reason why I stuck with my Troop for several years after Eagle (I could care less about palms).  

In the end, units vary greatly and over the last 20 years there are successful units and those that fold.  BSA should be more open with existing units on these reasons vs protecting the data and making their own conclusions.

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On 2/23/2018 at 5:38 PM, Eagle94-A1 said:

Regarding the 1998 stats, take them with a grain of salt. I know there was some inflation, i.e. Ronnie Holmes and Greater AL Council. While that is the largest one known, there were inflated stats all over.

Problem is.....even the current numbers are inflated. 

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On 2/24/2018 at 8:54 AM, Eagle1993 said:

I think THIS is what is critical.  All of us have some idea, but in aggregate it would be interesting for DEs to share some details to unit leaders on common themes.  While I wasn’t able to get a report on why from my DE, he did share a print out of every unit in my district and their past 8 year membership numbers.  I was able to use that as a new CC to reach out to the successful units (in terms of attrition) and get some recruiting and org structure ideas.  

Attending district meetings I’m shocked that Boy Scout Troops do not have high adventure activities every year.  Some never do HA.  Why?  As a kid, I remember the HA outings were a big reason why I stuck with my Troop for several years after Eagle (I could care less about palms).  

In the end, units vary greatly and over the last 20 years there are successful units and those that fold.  BSA should be more open with existing units on these reasons vs protecting the data and making their own conclusions.

Never have I seen or been aware of ANY council or district professional or volunteer actually going out and meeting with successful units.  Success being either sustained growth or maintained membership.  Also they can check within the council on regular advancements for a unit.

Do some benchmarking.  What is this or that unit doing.  Not all situations are repeatable, but likely with enough data points there will be some commonalities that can be used

Some of these may be:

  • Strong outdoor program
  • Regular high adventure
  • Outings where scouts have fun 
  • Youth led unit
  • Regular meetings where scouts lead
  • Regular TLC meetings where scouts plan
  • Youth decide where to have outings and events
  • Engaged leaders that mentor
  • Adult leaders that realize scouting is part of the scouts activities and may not be their only activity

 

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Compare to the Eagle Scout numbers(total and percent of scouts), it seems to point to this being reason. I know in my neck of the woods there is a troop that has a track program for eagle. 

1998      1.9%  

2017      4.5%

 

1998 41,167
1999 47,582
2000 40,029
2001 43,665
2002 49,328
2003 49,151
2004 50,377
2005 49,895
2006 51,728
2007 51,742
2008 52,025
2009 53,122
2010 57,147
2011 51,933
2012 58,659
2013 56,841
2014 51,820
2015 54,366
2016

55,186

 

2017  55,494 

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Two years later https://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/02/Report-to-the-Nation-2019-FINAL.pdf

Quote
  • 1,176,119 boys and girls ages 5 to 10 in Cub Scouting
  • 798,516 boys and girls ages 11 to 17 in Scouts BSA
  • 42,571 young men and women ages 14 to 20 in Venturing and Sea Scouting
  • 101,243 young men and women ages 10 to 20 in Exploring career-based programs
  • 80,756 units, representing partnerships and collaborations with businesses, community and religious organizations, and agencies that support BSA programs
  • In addition to our traditional programs, we serve 145,462 boys and girls in elementary through high school in Learning for Life character education programs

 

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I was a vigorous participant in the older youth programs when a youth member.  Later, I concentrated some effort on them as an adult district/council/national Scouter. 

These older youth programs seem to have a have an established program life, whereby the BSA establishs a new program every 20 years or so, lets it build-up numerically, and then replaces what they have with something new.  This leads to a drop in membership as some members depart and all parties adjust to the new program  landscape.  This is nothing new -- we have been doing it all along: 

  • Traditional advancement-oriented Exploring of the 50-60's gave way to non-advancement "specialized interest" Exploring of the late 60's - 80's. 
  • Exploring was spun-off in the 90's into a separate career interest "Learning for Life" program.  This was done because the businesses sponsoring the previous Explorer posts opposed the DADT policy.  DADT did not apply in the resulting spin-off organization, because it wan not part of the BSA.  From that point on, Exploring went into a tailspin.  It was not even included in council membership figures for purposes of evaluating  professional efforts.
  • Advancement-oriented Venturing was born in the 90s -- re-establishing aspects of the 1950's Exploring advancement program using historic award names like "Ranger". 
  • The new Venturing program was volunteer-designed, but much of it was reduced and greatly simplified by professionals into the current advancement program about 8 years ago.  The three progressive ranks are: Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit.  
  • I don't hear much about  Venturing and advancement.  The impression is that the latest revisions and new ranks have not really taken-off.

Is the ever-dwindling number of Venturers partly caused by an unattractive program?  Would like to hear from someone familiar with the popularity of the current Venturing program. 

Incidentally, Sea Scouting sought and received its own entirely-separate program status two years ago.

 

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On March 5, 2020 at 11:42 AM, Cburkhardt said:

I was a vigorous participant in the older youth programs when a youth member.  Later, I concentrated some effort on them as an adult district/council/national Scouter. 

...

  • Advancement-oriented Venturing was born in the 90s -- re-establishing aspects of the 1950's Exploring advancement program using historic award names like "Ranger". 
  • The new Venturing program was volunteer-designed, but much of it was reduced and greatly simplified by professionals into the current advancement program about 8 years ago.  The three progressive ranks are: Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit.  
  • I don't hear much about  Venturing and advancement.  The impression is that the latest revisions and new ranks have not really taken-off.

Is the ever-dwindling number of Venturers partly caused by an unattractive program?  Would like to hear from someone familiar with the popularity of the current Venturing program. 

Incidentally, Sea Scouting sought and received its own entirely-separate program status two years ago.

 

I witnessed the rise and fall of venturing in our council. Observations:

  • The growth of crews was greatly inflated by camp-staff crews, clubs that signed their kids on to BSA for cheap liability insurance, and DEs who thought it was okay to keep these crews on the council roster. In other words, they invested in finding sponsors of crews in areas where no youth were interested in the program.
  • Being assigned executives who had zero training in the program didn't help. It didn't necessarily hurt, because some of the young venturing officers got to work with learn-as-you-go executives. But in terms of knowing what it really took to launch crews, and how quickly a pro needed to respond to opportunities to promote to potential COs, I saw some well-meaning, yet clueless execs.
  • Silver awardees were never invited to NESA dinners. I cannot emphasize this enough. Their medal had an eagle on the device, yet there were scouters who did not believe that they should be recognized on the same level of Eagle Scouts. This wasn't a local phenomenon. Nor was it entirely on the Boy Scout side. The failed launch of Corps of Discovery as Venturing's honor society is indicative of venturers attempts at something separate but equal to O/A or NESA. Advancement means nothing. Recognition does. Just ask the older girls in your troop how they'd feel if they earned Eagle but nobody but you and a few strangers in the Internet knew what that means.
  • The council newspaper stopped publishing reports from lodge Chiefs and venturing officers. The purpose of that rag became for execs to pitch camps. Nobody knew who the President of our VOA was. Officers weren't recognized at council camporees. Event planners did not even consult the venturing committee, but picked the nearest kid in a green shirt to represent the program using a canned script. So much for youth leadership.
  • The current YP regs became crushing. There are very few youth who want adults minding their every move. The thought that a female adult has to be in the room for a crew of mixed sexes to hold a meeting is patently insulting. Heck, the need for any 21+ year-old to be present for a crew of 18 year olds to do any legal activity is absurd. It's a rare community that can field all of the adults needed to run a crew.
  • I found that parents of older youth are overwhelmed, this decade more so than in previous years. Many are working double shifts to reduce their kids college debt. I quickly learned that I and other adults like me are very odd ducks.
  • Apathy regarding recreational drugs and marijuana has not helped.

So that's my short list. On the bright side there are a core group of youth in rural PA who still find venturing to be a rewarding program.

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I was involved in a crew for a little while.  I found that the issue with the crew was that no-one really understood what the point was.  The only value proposition I could find was that it was co-ed.  

1. Venturing for the 18-21 age range was pointless.  Everything changes when you go to college.  

2. With very limited exceptions, everything that a crew could do a troop could do.  

3. Crews are too small.  Units less than 30 people struggle to exist because it's really hard for them to provide enough adults to carry out an active older Scout program.  When you've got a crew of 12 Scouts - it's hard for the adults to provide enough stuff to do.  It's hard to field a decent Crew committee.

4. Both Troops & Crews really struggle with older Scout retention.  Our accepted trainings do not really teach how to keep older Scouts involved.  This is the least understood age range for us to retain.

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Posted (edited)

- Advisors:  some like the image of being a Venture advisor, but are not suited for enabling a successful program.  Instead they strive to lead the crew in the manner of a troop, and sometimes even a pack.  The tone and activities = sedentary and adult-run.  Kids stay away in droves.

- BSA execs are often more enthusiastic about highly-scripted, predictable stuff like cub scouting, merit badge fairs, scout night at the ball game, etc.  This reflects in the scant attention given to Venturing awards, recognition, and resources allotted to the program.

- "Birds of a feather"--there are some great scouts in Venturing.  But there are just as many that are unmotivated and are fine with sitting around, doing nothing, and perhaps attending adult-run activities.  They can be cliquish as well.  I've seen young people that are initially interested in Venturing leave right away, because they know they aren't welcome by their peers and there isn't much going on anyway.

I believe Venturing is the BSA's best kept secret.  The potential of the program is amazing.  It could be "the" program that transforms the BSA.   Could be.

Edited by desertrat77
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, desertrat77 said:

I believe Venturing is the BSA's best kept secret.  The potential of the program is amazing.  It could be "the" program that transforms the BSA.   Could be.

I love the vision!  I do believe that what we lack is description of what successful venturing is and then a path to that. 

It could be said this is true of much of Scouting.

1 hour ago, desertrat77 said:

- BSA execs are often more enthusiastic about highly-scripted, predictable stuff like cub scouting, merit badge fairs, scout night at the ball game, etc.  This reflects in the scant attention given to Venturing awards, recognition, and resources allotted to the program.

By execs I presume you mean professionals...  I groan thinking about how much we care what they think.  I love my professional colleagues and value them immensely, but they are here to support the volunteer efforts.  That we defer to them is fundamentally wrong.  We volunteers are dropping the ball.

 

Edited by ParkMan
clarified a thought
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4 hours ago, ParkMan said:

... By execs I presume you mean professionals...  I groan thinking about how much we care what they think.  I love my professional colleagues and value them immensely, but they are here to support the volunteer efforts.  That we defer to them is fundamentally wrong.  We volunteers are dropping the ball.

@ParkMan, I love my execs too, but when they waste time at roundtable declaring absurdities like we should file a tour permit for every time a unit meets beyon the walls of its CO, and force me to waste my time countering (for the sake of all scouters in the room) that there was no way I was filing TP for every time my crew meets at a coffee shop, I conclude that they are here to preserve their jobs by parroting their superiors not support my efforts. Volunteers aren't dropping the ball, the ball is inflated to the point that volunteers can't get their arms around it.

The TP craze has gone by the wayside ... but it was one example of how BSA wasted all of our time over the past decade.

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5 hours ago, ParkMan said:

I love the vision!  I do believe that what we lack is description of what successful venturing is and then a path to that. ...

Successful venturing? Let me describe that. It occurrs when:

Youth fulfill the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with their mates.

The tour plan debacle is a perfect counter-example. When they worked best was when they were paper/pdf, and I could give them to my crew president or troop SPL and say, for a given activity, "Fill this out and bring it to me for review and signature." Not even a few years into this routine  the TP went online and only unit leaders could access it! What's the point of making me check all of those boxes? I know what it takes to scout safely! It's my youth who need to put things together. They need to call council HQ and ask for facility availability. They need to come up with a good plan and make it work and invite me to show up (preferably in time for dinner).

You don't have to be in venturing to have experienced BSA's profound mistrust of local youth leadership. We cite examples constantly. Undarstand that each restriction is an insult makes the program less palatable for older youth.

Successful venturing? It is when some 18 year olds come up with a plan for the weekend that is so good that you can throw them the keys to the van and say, "Check fluids before you go. Come back with a full tank. You have my number."

Successful venturing? That's precisely what BSA has banned. Venturers now succeed when they embrace life outside of BSA's auspices.

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  1. As the first Venturer handbook shows, it was originally intended that Venturing crews structure their programs around the Venturing award requirements:  Bronze (with its five specialty areas), Gold, Silver, and Ranger (the highest specialty award, later joined by a couple of other specialty awards).  The awards program was leadership- and individual achievement-oriented, similar to Star/Life/Eagle advancement in Boy Scouts.  Surprise!  A high percentage of crews largely ignored the awards program.  With youth not earning awards, BSA had nothing to count, and so no statistics to show how successful Venturing was at developing youth into leaders.
  2. Even if crews had cooperated with that awards-based program, no one understood how Venturing was supposed to fit together with Boy Scouting or whether there was supposed to be some sort of natural transition to Venturing.  BSA was encouraging troops to form crews, and had rules about continuing Boy Scout ranks in Venturing (except for female youth, of course), but a lot of troops didn't want to lose their older Scouts to Venturing.  Also confusing, Boy Scouts had "Venture Crew" program within troops (renamed to Venture Patrols) that shared an awards program with the separate-unit Varsity Scouting program.
  3. With Venturing, BSA had five programs for high school-age youth:  Boy Scouts (boy only); Varsity Scouts (boys only), Sea Scouts (co-ed), Venturing (co-ed), and Exploring (co-ed) (transferred to the fully-inclusive Learning for Life BSA subsidiary, but still supported by councils).
  4. The average lifespan of Venturing crews was about two years. 
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