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gwd-scouter

How do you promote your troop without disparaging another

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Last December, we had members of a Webelos Den join us for a campout. They only came for Saturday (their choice) and we had our older boys lay out an orienteering course for them and they participated in a camp improvement project with us. They had a great time, especially during free time when our boys taught them how to make primitive bows and arrows. Glowing reports from all who attended.

 

They later came with more members of their den to visit a Troop meeting, a meeting in which we had planned to make alcohol stoves. Also very cool, although not a typical meeting - they just happened to pick a night we had one of our more successful Troop meetings.

 

But, none of these boys joined our troop. The initial reason I got was that they wanted to go where their friends were going. OK.

 

Three of those Webelos parents (one was their Den Leader) are disappointed in their Troop's decision for summer camp and are actually going to go with our troop this summer. OK again.

 

Last Monday the former Den Leader came by, along with her son, to pay their deposit. Son participated in our Troop meeting and had a good time. But it was while talking to the Mom that I found out why they, and others in their Den, did not join our Troop. I posted this in another thread, but what it breaks down to is that they were scared to join our troop because we let the boys fail (a less than perfect lunch on the campout was the culpret).

 

She then went on to describe the Troop they are now with. Typical meeting is an opening led by SPL, announcements made by the SM, break into patrols - all older boys in one that don't do anything but talk about high school and girls, a few 12-14 in another, and the new boys in another now led by her (no Troop Guide yet). After patrol activities, the troop has a snack provided by the SM's wife, an ASM. Then free-time or games.

 

So, the former Den Leader is telling me all this while at the same time telling me that her troop is not running how a troop should - seems more like Webelos - and she really liked the way we did things even though at first glance she and her son (along with others) were scared by it.

 

She asked a lot of questions about that Troop - things like "is that the way a Troop should be run? Is the SM supposed to make all the decisions? Is it right that the SM just announces a change in plans right before a campout and that it's been changed to such and such place and we're going to work on this? Are boys not allowed to work on merit badges until they make 1st class?" She mentioned a campout their troop has coming up and said "the SM discarded the menu the boys made and told them that they would make 'this' instead. Is that supposed to happen?"

 

In the other thread I made about "we'd starve if we joined your troop" I was asked how well I deal with these kind of questions and I answered that I've never had to because our troop has never been visited by a Webelos Den before. And, sadly, the feedback I finally got from the folks that chose another troop came too late for me to do anything about it (they visited us in December and January and I'm only just now hearing about their reasons for not joining).

 

Sorry for the very long post to get to the question, but I wanted to give some background. So, how would you answer this lady about the benefits of your troop without disparaging or saying "their doing it wrong" about the troop her son has joined?

(This message has been edited by gwd-scouter)

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I wouldn't disparage the other troop. I would just say, "all of our adults and youth leaders are fully trained and we are operating the troop according to the BSA program...boy-led. Our scouts do their own planning and learn from their mistakes."

 

 

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There is no need to make the other troop looks bad. All that you have to do is to promote your troop and sell scouting!

 

When the webelos visits, explain to the webelos' parent:

- how a scout troop should be run (ie. boy-lead) and how your troop is functioning in such effort.

- what fun outings, events, activities that your troop have done and where and where your scouts are planning for this coming year.

- your troop advancement process and progress (how well your scouts are advancing and what they do to get there.

- summer camp ... where your troop has been and where are you going.

- annual planning ...

- point out how the scouts interact during the meeting.

- point out any training that you provide for the boys (JLT, skills, etc.)

- point out any specialty that your troop is known for (car camping, backpacking, canoeing, hiking, biking, etc.) There are troops that only car camp or backpacking or pack and paddle .... etc. What makes your troop different?

- point out any high adventure events, patrol, etc.

- point out the number of Eagles, retention rate, etc.

- point out the number of trained adults and what they are trained for.

- describe and let them experience a typical campout.

- describe how your committee work and the involvement of your CO.

 

lastly, I would tell them

- let each cub decides by himself what troop he wants to join with the parent's guidance and

- if your troop is not chosen, at least have the boy stays in scouting, because that is more important than not.

 

This is what how I usually sell our troop.

 

Good luck,

 

1Hour

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I agree with 1hour - focus on your troop's strengths rather than talking about other troops' weaknesses when recruiting webelos and their parents. I found myself doing a lot of that this year, but I'm also lucky in that the five troops in our area are all pretty decent. But for this woman, who is asking you to sit in judgment of the troop they joined, I suggest you help her get signed up for troop committee training or something. Let her hear from someone besides yourself how things are "supposed" to be done. Maybe continue to help her understand how YOUR troop works, but at some point you may have to be honest that she's putting you in an uncomfortable position by constantly asking if the troop her son joined is "doing it right."

 

You know, I was pretty skeptical when you mentioned in another thread that a bunch of boys from the other troop were going to camp with you this summer instead. But I'm beginning to wonder if they won't simply decide to switch to your troop as a result of all this.

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You are all correct of course and I have not put down any other troop while trying to promote ours. But, it has been difficult when asked directly by a parent in another troop if theirs is doing it right.

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How about the "what is best for the boys" approach. "Is the Troop I'm with doing it right?" Answer "There actually isn't a right and wrong way to run a troop if you look at it as what is best for the boys." Do you think the way your troop is being run is best for the boys? I can tell you why the leadership of our troop thinks the way we do things is best for the boys.

LongHaul

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Lots of good ideas. I can only add, emphasize the good points of your troop. In the future, do a better job of educating the parents about how a boy scout troop should be run, and why. Explain why your troop is being run the way it is. A well run scout troop is a shock to cub scout parents who know nothing about boy scouting and think it's going to be more cub scouting.

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So ... the question that was asked is the other troop doing the right things. If that were asked of me (which it was at one time), my answer would still be the same as above; however, I prefaced it with:

 

" ... I cannot speak for other troop. Our troop follows what Lord Baden Powell prescribed close to 100 years ago, the patrol method. The patrol method includes ....

 

... (Troop's highlights) ...

 

Our adult leaders are all trained to allow the boys this freedom to learn to lead each other. Is Troop XX doing it wrong? I cannot tell because I am not part of that troop. So I cannot tell you exactly whether the troop is good or bad. The one thing that I would like to point out to you is that our troop seems to be chaotic at times and clueless at other times. This is normal. It would be too easy for the adults to step in and run a perfect troop meeting or outing and all the boys rank advancing at the same time. The bad part about adults' doing everything is that the scouts learn nothing about leadership, responsibility, cooperation, and accountability. I cannot tell you that Johnny will like our troop or Troop XX. It is entirely up to Johnny and what interests him. If it doesn't work out on one, the other troop is still available. As I have pointed out Mrs. Johnny's mother, each troop has its own strength and weaknesses. As long as the Scouts are having fun, growing, and living by the Scout's Oath and Law with minimum adult involvement, then the troop is doing the right thing. After all scouting was put together for the boys ... not for the adults!"

 

 

That what I told a concerned mother with the same question two years ago. Her son is currently a 1st scout in our troop and enjoying every minutes of his time in our troop.

 

1Hour

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lots of interesting info...

- you really never have to ever run down another troop... After talking with parents for a while the "how are you better than your competitors" question frequently comes up.

 

Competitors? We have no competitors. We have brother troops and we actively encourage the "prospects" to spend a lot of time with other troops. In addition to style, "direction" and troop strengths (weaknesses) there are also personalities to interact with and the "feelings" one gets in these visits. Sit down with your Scout after several visits and activities and figure out where your son will do the best and go for it...

 

We also point out that being one of the "oldest" troops in the area (district) we (our leadership) assisted most of the other troops at their start and stand ready to lend a helping hand to all the troops should it be needed. WE WANT ALL OF OUR NEIGHBOR TROOPS TO GROW STRONG and be successful...This scouting thing is not a competition, it's about offering the BSA program to as many boys as possible and only numerous and varied programs will accomplish the goal.

 

seems to work pretty well...

nuff said

Anarchist

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Anarchist, you are right of course that we should all want every troop out there to be strong and successful, do our part to help each other, and avoid competitiveness. It's wonderful that your troop lives that and helps new troops get started. Sadly, that is just not the way of most of the troops in our area.

 

Among others, one positive comment made about our troop stands out. I guess the comment was more specifically me by two parents of boys that visited ours but chose another. They both said that I was the only Scoutmaster they talked to that encouraged them to visit other Troops, go to more than one meeting, and go on an outing with each of the other Troops to try to find a Troop that best fit with their sons.

 

Oh well, this time it wasn't ours - maybe next time.

 

 

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GWD, I wouldn't count those kids as gone yet. If the program is Webelos III like you say, they you might be seeing those kids again soon. Your best bet is to just have a solid program and tout your troop without mentioning any others. Let them sink thier own ship.

 

When I was CM and my son was getting ready to cross over to Scouts, I sat my parents down and explained what we needed to look for. Boy Run, good finaces, experienced trained leadership, Patrol method, etc. We checked out 3 troops minimum. 1 was a Webelos III, we left as soon as we could without making a scene (very tactfully I thought), I was way toooo big (100 + boys and the sm trying to recruit me to be the next SM = scary) and the one we liked, 24+ boys, boy run, all the things that we wanted, and our kids really liked the troop, which was the biggest selling point. Ultimately the decision was the boys to make, but we knew what to look out for.

 

Now when a Webelos den visits, we introduce the Webelos to the SPL and they're off doing thier thing with the troop. The parents get an aims and methods presentation and a troop how to, what do we do orientation. I love that part, at first the parents are weirded out that they're not in full view of thier sons. It takes them ten times longer to relax than it does the boys.

 

God I love my 1 hour...

 

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I'm reading through the topics and spotted how to promote without disparing another-- This struck home -- for the last eight years our troop works closely with our feeder pack--den cheif, pinewood, skit night campouts etc. Three years ago the webelos went to another troop -- so last year I called the WL and asked why? he told me that the troop SM will be taking the 11yr old webelos to sea base that year and that our troop was to small (something about critical mass )bunk-- high adventure for sea base requires min.14yr olds-- anyway that lie caught up to them, no sea base, 4hrs troop meetings and other things, the scouts drop out of scouting all together. What have I learned... I give all the webelos our troop program,on webelo to first class scout program, listing camping dates and every thing needed to get that first class rank and a soild scouting program. You don't need to be disparing to others.

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I'm reading through the topics and spotted how to promote without disparing another-- This struck home -- for the last eight years our troop works closely with our feeder pack--den cheif, pinewood, skit night campouts etc. Three years ago the webelos went to another troop -- so last year I called the WL and asked why? he told me that the troop SM will be taking the 11yr old webelos to sea base that year and that our troop was to small (something about critical mass )bunk-- high adventure for sea base requires min.14yr olds-- anyway that lie caught up to them, no sea base, 4hrs troop meetings and other things, the scouts drop out of scouting all together. What have I learned... I give all the webelos our troop program,on webelo to first class scout program, listing camping dates and every thing needed to get that first class rank and a soild scouting program. You don't need to be disparing to others.

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Yah, I think da easiest and best way to think about it is that every unit has its strengths and weaknesses, and every unit has things it emphasizes and ones it doesn't. That's a nice way to talk about your unit and others that gives people a feel of common service.

 

For example, one troop I work with puts a lot of emphasis on uniforming and advancement. They look sharp, their boys move along, they frequently do "public" service like parades and such. Outing-wise they mostly car camp 9 months a year, no real high adventure, OK but not great use of patrol method. Lots of active adults.

 

Another troop is more relaxed about advancement, go-at-your-own-pace. Lax uniforming, but lots of outdoors - great age-appropriate adventures year round, and an active Venture Patrol. Better patrol method and youth leadership, but a much smaller level of adult support.

 

If yeh want, you could find things to "disparage" in each of these programs. Better I think to talk about what each does well. Telling someone, "Our troop emphasizes XXX and YYY, so you'll see us do a lot of ZZZ" and "Da troop down the street runs a great program, just different. They put more emphasis on AAA and BBB than we do, and that means they CCC". Yeh should find the program you think is the "best fit" for your son and your family.

 

Don't get into right vs. wrong. Just talk honestly about different strengths and styles.

 

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