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Changing Times & Demographics

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I have been trying to compare the changes I've seen over the years beginning in the '60s when I was a boy scout. At that time, the options were limited compared to today. And I admit that my observations probably don't apply to many other areas of the country. So with that in mind have observed some patterns.


Today's troop gets scouts primarily from feeder cub scout packs. Yes, a few mavericks stray in from time to time but the main cohort crosses over together and moves into a troop. The boys that go into cub scouts are greatly influenced by their parents and I'm guessing that in our area there are about 30-50% single parents. Their motives vary but there is little question in my mind that marketing by National has almost nothing to do with their decision. Almost 100% of the decision is based on what they hear from other parents, on what they see in the community, and on local sources of information.

I think that out of this entire unit, maybe 4 boys subscribe to Boys Life. Most of them are firmly embedded, for better or worse, in the internet and they might go to the library to log on but little else. But that's not why they're in the unit. They are there because they started in a good cub scout pack, enjoyed it, created a social circle with other scouts, and stayed with it. For the most part.

So we do our marketing the old fashioned way: we stay visible with our service projects, the parades, the fund-raisers, etc. And parents make their decisions by what they see and hear in the community.

Therefore my answer to the question of how to bring in a broader base of the population...is first really to make the broader public feel like part of that shared community. Do that and everything else will take care of itself.

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Yep I agree with you, Nobody is going to toot you own horn except us. We are pulling away from being seen by the public. Because of this self centered feel good servant leaders they are pushing instead of Adventure and outdoorsman ship. Scouts is not seen as a good deed by many. Instead we have become rebals and don't want the homos in our troops, (Thank God!!)

Parades, flag raisings at memorial services, football local game flag raisings. in Texas the have clean the (help clean the Trash Off hwys) They will put your troop # and BoyScouts in big letters from 2 miles both ways for you joining there program for a year, This is free advertizement of major roads in Texas, You do it 4 times a year and they supply the bags and even vest if you want them, for 2 miles. plus we need to get back to being seen by the public and helpers, such as green work, food drives, service projects, and when we do this get it into your local paper, they will print it free. Repeat no one is gonna toot our horns for us, we need to do it ourselves.

As to this so called MARKET SCOUTS we are trying to become for the local IPOD generation, I think we are really going to loose our idenity if we continue to follow this path of self helps, success book reading and this so called leadership skills thrown at us. Isn't outdoorsman ship leadership on a grand scale? because we are learning to get along with those within our troop. It use to be called the PATROL METHOD. Playing a game on a ipod doesn't work on social skills, time work, training or leadership. It causes self centerness, alone syndrone, non working with leadership, and attitude problems. No adventure there just a bunch of feel good policy we have been sold a bag of goods that stinks from high heaven. Scouts was born in the woods and outdoors and now we are putting it into leadership class room training. This doeant win boys to the program, thats adult stuff, boys want excitemnt, adventure, dangerous fun, and you can't get it setting in front of a teckno game or some dark room looking at a computer

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Change is a strange thing.

Most times when we change things, there is an element of risk involved.

We are strange animals, if we like the change we tend to do our best to justify it, if we don't we complain about it.


I hear on the TV about how much America is changing. How by sometime in the future Hispanics will be in the majority. But you would never guess this from looking at where I live.

To be honest up until a couple of years back, I wasn't aware that there were any Hispanics in Pennsylvania. Now for work, I'm enrolled in a Survival Spanish course that I'm taking with the PA State Police.

Knowing that things are changing does at times make me a little uncomfortable. I know that I have no control over what is changing, only how I'm going to deal with it.

At times I can get very defensive and want everyone to be like me! (Maybe without the English accent!).


Looking at the list Beavah provided:


1) BSA keeps itself a boy program?

2) BSA changes itself to a family oriented program?

3) BSA keeps it's traditional programming?

4) BSA changes it's traditional programming to accommodate the world in which it exists?

5) Does keeping or changing harm BSA more?

6) ?????


1) I'm in two minds on this one.

I'm not sure that mixing kids of Cub Scout age is such a great idea.

I think a lot will depend on how low the membership numbers go. If they continue to keep falling? Going coed might be a way of saving the day?

2)Cub Scouting has always supposed to have been a family oriented program.

With all the talk about Parent Coordinators,I do think we are going to see moves that force parents to be more involved in what is happening at the Troop level.

3)A lot depends on how you interpret traditional programming?

If we are talking about a value based program? I think that will remain.

If we are talking about the activities? What they are? And where we do them? I think some changes will have to be made to accommodate the youth we want to serve and need to survive.

4)See 3!

5)As I posted there is risk when things change.

I haven't looked at the hard numbers. (I'm sure that someone will correct me if I'm wrong!) But I think we have a lot less members than we once had. I'm not sure when the hay day was?

Cub Scout membership seems to have fallen, even with the addition of Tiger Cubs which brought little fellows in at a younger age than Cub Scouts had in the past.

I'm not sure if having a Parent/Son group has helped or harmed us? I'm not sure if having Parents get involved when their son is so young leads to the parent being burnt out before their time?

The powers that be? Whoever they might be? Do need to be careful so as not to change things so quickly that the volunteers all up and quit! But if they do a good job of really field testing any change and bring it in slowly, with the option of saying that if it doesn't work? We will take a long hard look at it and be willing to say that it doesn't work.

I think the change will in the long run help the BSA.


How should we best "reach out" beyond our core demographic?

We could start by looking at how diverse the professional work force is.

If we are going to go into the areas where people live we need people who understand the community and how they go about getting things done.

Maybe we could look at the relationship that the BSA has with the LDS Church and use this as a model, that would help us do a better job?

We might need to look at a complete program that embraces each of the ethnic groups we hope to work with. Just having a soccer program seems to me to be selling these guys short.

Everyone needs to stop looking at short term recruiting and try to build relationships that are going to survive the test of time. Units that people in the community are proud of and want to be a part of.





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Eamonn, To agree with some of what you wrote and expand on my post, I add that I think the key to BSA future is in cub scouts. The focus, if any by National, should be on the cubs as the primary entry into the program. BSA has allowed itself to be sidetracked by the legal morass of exclusionary membership when the real challenge is to get boys to come in and then to keep them. And the best way to expand into demographics where there is little presence is to start with the base, the little guys in cub scouts. Families are involved, there is nothing more visible than a pack of cubs in a parade, and once they have the 'tradition' established at that age, they're more likely to stick with it. And if the family latches onto the program as part of the family it will be a solid relationship.


I think that the idea that adolescents are going to be attracted to the BSA program in their teens is engaging in irrational exuberance at best, delusional at worst. I think the best 'bang for the buck' is to be found in those early years when a block of wood with wheels can kindle the imagination, when a camping trip is still fun with family along, and when the spirit of adventure is alive in everything and not in need of rediscovery.


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Word of mouth is great, and I'm glad that you're having success with your pack. But imagine how much better things would be if National's campaign was coordinated with the message of exitement and fun that your Cubs are sending out. Right now, there's a complete and total disconnect.




Cubs aren't the future of Scouting - they're the present, overwhelmingly so. There are now 1.6 million Cubs in the country, but only 900,000 Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts. The chief challenge is indeed in keeping them around.



P.S. Talking about marketing and image... does anyone know why this Boy Scout isn't giving the Scout salute? http://ww2.scouting.org/100years/100years/MediaCenter.aspx

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Its those changing times again, and you got somebody on the upper staff not really putting his mind, heart, and soul into scouting and they let little things slip by like this (A SCOUT SALUTE). When you let the little things slip by than just wait because big things will start to fall too. Someone needs to keep a close lookout on tradition and tradition concepts of BSA. It "IS" our heritage and our foundation of what made us strong. Not pipe dreams of the future, because the future is not promised to us. Lets work on what works and made us strong.

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I'm OK with history and tradition, but we if we want to survive need to be moving forward.

Sometimes even things that we hold near and dear to our heart need to be looked at and at times changed.

I was living in London when the first McDonald's Restaurant opened in High Street Kensington.

Everything had been flown in from the USA.

The arrival was big news, even making the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine.

Within a very short time it became clear to McDonald's that people in he UK didn't like root-beer and thought that the milkshakes were too thick!

So the root-beer was removed from all the menus and the shakes were reformulated.

I feel sure that at the time there was some guy in the McDonald's corporation saying that messing with their shakes was just wrong and couldn't and shouldn't be done.

When Pizza Hut arrived they found that the Brits at that time didn't like eating with their fingers so they provided knives and forks.

Small changes are often needed in order to do what is needed.

The BSA has been willing to work with the LDS Church and while I don't know, it does seem to me to be a partnership that has worked well for both the BSA and the Church.


If we as an organization are going to survive we need to become more flexible and more knowledgeable about the groups we want to reach out too.

It's just way too easy to say that all the African-Americans can be found at the local A.M.E. Church and the Hispanics are all hanging out at their local Roman Catholic Church.

While of course these are wonderful places to work with, in order to develop a strong foundation that will enable us to reach the youth that they serve.

We might however want to take a long hard look at why the gangs that attract so many of these young people are attracting so many?

Historically it's worth remembering that much of the early successes that Scouting had in the early days in England was from attracting boy's who were members of street gangs in places like London.


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Eamonn, my version of that story involves a former part of the Commonwealth. My sister and I had spent weeks of anxiety and red tape and bureaucracy in China while she adopted a child. On the return trip we stopped in Hong Kong and that night we were simply worn out. As a treat I decided to bring my sister a Big Mac. So I left the hotel and found a very convenient McDonalds. We ate something that night. But whatever it was...was NOT a Big Mac. ;)

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A Royale with Cheese. That's what they call quarter pounder in Amsterdam.


Cub is the sole source of boy scouts. Sure we don't bar them from joining if they weren't cubs, but very, very few do. But cubs is very different than boy scouting. Many potential boy scouts are lost because they didn't want to join cubs. Crafts and games just didn't interest them or their parents. Surely there can be some way to market scouting to those we missed as cubs?

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I think it is a chicken and egg kind of argument. Boy Scouts come from Cub Scouts because that is where they are recruited. I have seen many, many, many Cub scout recruitment nights at schools and activities but I have NEVER seen a Boy Scout recruitment drive other than a Webelos cross over.



Our new troop consists of 2/3 new to scouting boys. They were never cubs. We are hoping to add another 5 or 6 boys the same way. The boys are asking their friends or the friends hear about the fun the scouts are having and ask to come.


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It wasn't that long ago a new requirement was added to First Class I beleive. That a boy was to ask a non-scout to come to a meeting or something like that. Wasn't that recruiting non-cub scout turned Boy Scouts? As I remember it was met with some derision or did I get that wrong? In the COuncil I serve, there are recruitment nights for both Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, now if I could only get them to do Venturing

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OGE, you have that basically right, "Tell someone who is eligible to join Boy Scouts, or an inactive Boy Scout, about your troop's activities. Invite him to a troop outing, activity, service project or meeting. Tell him how to join, or encourage the inactive Boy Scout to become active."


I'd be interested in seeing some statistics on what effect, if any, that requirement has had on bringing in new members of boy scout age.


My experience has been that most of the time, those boys who come in after age 11 are not as successful or dedicated as those who start as cubs...and not even close to as numerous. I'm not advocating elimination of recruitment of older boys. I'm advocating greater emphasis and recognition of the cub scouts as the real source of a heartbeat for the entire program. My years as a cubmaster (going to roundtable and being segregated from the 'real' meeting and the 'important' business after the meeting opening) gave me a lasting feeling that BSA's focus is on boys and that cubs are considered as a subordinate function. I argue that the opposite it true. I can tell you with great certainty that if the cubs fail, troops will quickly follow and recruitment at ages 11 or greater will not alter that outcome...at least for the troops around my area.

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Cub Scouts train boys to be Boy Scouts, Boy Scouts train young men to be leaders.


I agree that those who have come into the Troop from Cubs "fit in" better and are already "indoctrinated" in the basic Scouting ways. It seems like we have about a 90% retention rate with the Scouts who were Cubs, and 50% with those who join with no Cub experience. Retention drops significantly the older a boy is when he joins.


I'm fresh back from a week-end camping trip, and watched 25 Scouts doing what they love - running around the woods searching for orienteering markers, cooking with their Patrol, sitting around the fire, chopping wood, fishing off the pier, toasting (or burning) marshmallows, playing man-hunt in the dark, and then collapsing in a tent and whispering 'till all hours with their best friend. If I ask them what they like about Scouting, camping trips like this are it. This is why they do it.


But on this same camping trip, I watched (with great pride) these same wild boys clean themselves up, put on their Class A uniforms, and conduct a remembrance ceremony for a Scout from our Troop who was killed by a drunk driver. They were solemn, respectful, and serious.


This to me is the core of Scouting - having a great and wild time in the woods with friends, and then easily shifting gears and letting character show though. There is no way that what happened this weekend is archaic and irrelevant to these techno boys. And there is no other program in existence that can teach boys what Scouting can.


My vote on this discussion -- don't change it - the boys like it just the way it is!

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Been in the woods a couple days, so just getting back to the conversation.


What's struck me from the last couple days of posts is the conversation about Cubs. Several threads in the past have discussed the downward age creep of the program. Clearly, the strength of the program -- at least in terms of members and money -- is in Cub Scouts. After 15 years, Venturing doesn't really seem to be gaining the traction it should (That's just based on what's I've seen, I can't back that up and I'm not really trying to take the thread in that direction.) Around here, at least, we would be in a world of hurt if it weren't for the numbers generated by the cub program.


Perhaps one of the demographic changes we are facing will be that most traditional Scouting will take place with 9 to 14 year olds, not the current 11 to 17 year olds. Honestly, that doesn't scare me. I can even see some benefits.


In terms of BSA's emphasis on values and character development in their marketing programs, the target market is absolutely the parents. Parents are the key decision makers in whether or not a boy joins Scouting -- Cub Scouting. Even within the program, day camp promotions are directed at moms. Do you really think most moms (most moms -- those of you here are exceptional) are best approached with a message that we want to take your son in the wilderness and let them jump off cliffs? Parents are better sold on the personal development aspects of Scouting.


When was the last time any of us had a brand new boy join a troop for the first time after age 13 or so? Never, right? Somewhere around age 11 children begin to develop a sense of their own abilities and can objectively judge what they are good at what what they are not. A nine year old can wiff every pitch all season long and still be convinced he will start for the Yankees one day. But by 12 he clearly understands that he stinks at baseball and will be looking for other activities. It is also about this age that he begins to specialize in those things he's good at. This, inpart, explains the huge drop off (about 50% nationally) between Webelos II and first year Boy Scouts. The boys who really aren't into Scouting take the "break" between Webelos ant the troop to make their exit.


I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Sure, I wish all those boys would stick with the program, but would our troops really be better off with a bunch of boys who really aren't into Scouting?


The point of all is that trying to market Scouting to Boy Scout-aged boys is swimming against a strong current. (And I haven't mentioned all the other options and distractions opening to boys in their early teens) Maybe we've passed the point in our history where Scouting is the mass-appeal program it may have been when some of us were Scouts. Maybe our future is as a more specialized program focused on younger boys and the character and leadership development, but not necessarily through the outdoor program.




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