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Membership Decline Reasons

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When I look at the numbers from this (polictally motivated) webpage


it seems that the decline is primarily in cub scouts.



Of course today's cubs are tomorrows Boy scouts, but the point is the # of boy scouts has bounced back and forth from 900,000 to 1,000,000 severl times simce 1986 or so.


Cub enrollment OTOH also cycled from 2.1 million to 1.9 million back to 2.1 million and then dropped like a rock to 1.6 million.




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Eagledad makes a good point. Actual numbers tell us relatively little. Percentages are what we need to look at. However, even they are not entirely accurate.


Using the figures from USAToday and those that Beavah provided, the percentage of youth reached for the Boy Scouting (ignoring Cubs for now) program is not suffering too badly.


2005 - 3.34%

2006 - 3.27%

2007 - 3.25%

2008 - 3.26%

2009 - 3.25%


I would be curious to see what the results would be going back, as well as how accurate national's numbers are. Sure, we are getting some loss for the various speculated reasons. However, I don't think we are hemorrhaging like some people make it seem. None the less, the goal is to grow the program, which isn't happening...

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Great topic. Good posts. Two I haven't seen yet:


1- Face to face social interaction is on the decline. Facebook, Twitter, eMail, and discussion forums like this one have surplanted getting to know your neightbors and the parents of your child's classmates.


2- Electronic games, computers, and TV provide a substitute outlet for boys' energy, babysitting for lazy parents, and an addictive vortex that sucks in young minds hooked on instant gratification.

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While every council has their own recruiting periods, there are two dates that EVERY council uses for membership purposes. The first and most important is December 31st and that is the year end membership stat and is used in calculating Quality Districts and Councils. Second is June 3oth, which is the mid year membership stat, and that is counted towards Chief Scout Executive's Winner Circle. Both are very big deals to pros.

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rkfrance postulates a whole set of reasons - it's very difficult to tease these apart, but it would be very interesting to see some real statistical analysis.


Do the 3G issues really have an impact? (Really just one of the G's appears to be a big issue.) If so, I'd presume there would be a red state/blue state difference in the statistics. Eagledad - it may be that the next generation is accepting of the program, but I can certainly see that some portion of the population is turned off by the position and constant controversy. What are the membership numbers in Massachusetts, and what are they like in Texas?


I'm in a relatively conservative part of the country - and I believe Scouting is growing here, but so is our TAY number - I don't know how the percentage is changing.


One interesting thing we've seen is that a number of Indian families have joined our troop - I would not have immediately identified them as good candidates, but they seem very interested in associating their kids with the things that Scouting provides.

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Based on my personal experience, the biggest problem for our Pack is organized sports. We have become a society fixated on professional sports and its highly paid heroes and that fixation has trickled down to the local level.


Sports are a year-round activity and even when you think the season is over there are travel teams and camps. In addition to the staples (baseball, football, basketball and hockey), soccer, lacrosse, and flag football have taken off around here. Other posters have mentioned folks not wanting to commit the time and money, but I dont necessarily buy that as I see all the time and money that parents commit to their sons sport activities.


I can say definitively that weve lost several boys to sports. I had one boy in my Wolf Den who did earn his rank (according to his parents), but hardly attended any meetings or events due to sport conflicts. After earning the rank his parents told me that he would not be back because the sport commitments were just too much. Now you might say to me that perhaps our Pack program is not engaging enough, but when I talk to the parents of the sport boys they tell me that their sons do have fun at our meetings and events, but the sports are just more important to them. Im aware of a number of parents who make an effort to balance activities (sports, scouts, music, etc.), but unfortunately many do not.


I make an effort to publicize our activities in the local papers (look at the fun our Pack is having), but its more glamorous to be Little League champions than to earn your Arrow of Light.


I should say that Im not down on sports. My sons and daughter have played soccer and baseball and there are a lot of positives you can get out of participation, but its not the end-all be-all activity for us like it seems to be for some. One of my pet peeves is when parents tell me about the mandatory practices and if Johnny misses those hell be left on the bench. I wonder what the reaction would be if I started mandating Pack meeting attendance!


On a completely different slant, I often wonder the rise in the fear of sexual predators has affected enrollment. I bring this up because Ive actually have had the mothers of two potential recruits tell me that the boys fathers did not want them to participate because of a fear that they might be abused! Ironically, these men were sports-oriented, so Id like to know what makes them think their boys have more of chance of being molested by the Cubmaster than by the soccer coach. Maybe its the uniform.


As to the gays and God rational that started this thread, I dont see it having an affect on the Packs and Troops Im aware of. Its not a big issue nor do we go out of our way to make it one.





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Yah, interestin'.


Around here I think what we're seein' overall is a parental preference for "outsourcing." Whether it's daycare or youth programs, there is sufficient wealth that it's worth paying others to provide programs for your kids rather than spending the time yourself. Also feels like yeh have more "control" that way, with a fixed, highly-adult-organized schedule and such. Sports are a big part of it, but da same applies to music programs, bands, science camps, etc.


The advantage of da "outsourced" child care stuff in addition to getting your time back (except for driving and cheering) is that it's fairly high intensity. If a lad is practicing soccer every day, his parents can see real, rapid growth in skill and fitness. So it feels "worth it" to both the boy and the parents. Yeh don't get da same sense of rapid growth and success from a weekly scout meeting and an outing a month, and certainly not from da cub program.


Those are the biggies where we're at, though declining youth demographic plays a role, too. Don't see any effect from 3Gs, really. As many folks join or stay because of the BSA policy as those who object, and of da folks who disagree it's a deal-breaker for very few. They're makin' decisions on other grounds. I do think that da school-access issues different places have impacted the cub programs somewhat.


Some folks in the outdoor industry have been tellin' me that there's been a very real decline in sales of outdoor gear over the past 10 years; in fact, some shops are stayin' alive only on the clothing sales. Hard to say how much of that is a shift to online, but even da online shops haven't been doin' that well. I think the notion of outdoor adventure recreation as something that every family does (as opposed to a few crazy people) is in decline.


All those add up to trends that are hard to break, eh? I'm a bit surprised we haven't seen more decline.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Sports has been around as long as scouts and has always been a large competitor and really isn't to blame for the decline. OGE hit upon some very credible reasons, there is indeed a anti outdoors sentiment found in the youth and the adults of today. You all might be interested to know that visitation to the national, state, and local parks and wilderness areas have also been experiencing a large decline. The post baby boomer generation and their children are looking to other areas of recreation. A poll done in my local area showed these same adults and kids most did not camp or ever been camping, or even own any camping equipment. Many outdoor stores have been closing down as well, GI Joes, REi's profits have continued to spiral downwards for over five years now for example as well as many independent ones.


Working with teens on both a professional as well as a volunteer basis for many years I have seen this anti-outdoors trend continue to grow. You can blame the new technology, a shift in our societal social structure, or a new idea of what recreation truly is, indoor skate parks, etc. but there is no denying that a change has and is occuring and unfortunately the BSA is one of the main groups being affected. One last point on Cubs, while they may have been growing the dismal figures on Webelos who actually or sucessfully crossover and stay in boy scouts is appalling, so they are not going to be a real factor in the boy scouts surviving another 100 years.(This message has been edited by BadenP)

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In terms of parental involvement, I think the opposite is true. When I was a Cub Scout in the mid 1970s, the only parent involvement was the den leader and the assistant den leader. The rest of the parents just dropped off the scouts after school to the den meeting. Most of my den meetings as a Bear Leader and WDL had at least two or three parents helping out. When I was a Boy Scout in the late 1970s, the only parental involvement (besides the SM and ASMs) was drivers. My oldest son's troop has parents (committee members and ASMs) all over the place.


I do agree with the volunteering organization aspect, not in terms of actual volunteerism, but in terms of joining volunteer organizations. We are doers, not joiners. People will show up in droves for a beach cleanup, but not for a meeting to organize a beach cleanup group.

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I think that much of the membership decline has to do with the attempts to "modernize" Scouting and forgetting about the task at hand. Also, we should recognize that Scout-age boys are receiving the message that being a "joiner" isn't cool. So maybe we should re-establish our focus on traditional Scouting and get a better program going that kids will come to, not just to "join."

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when I was in Cubs, we met at the elementary school, but the school was not the sponsor. The actual sponsor was the (school name) Mothers' Club. Now that more women work outside the home, maybe they have less time for other outside the home activities. It may be that Council needs to hire a professional organizer to set up a Parents' Club at each elementary school to get things rolling again.

As for sports, if you can't beat 'em, then join 'em? I don't see anything wrong with having an all-Cubs soccer league throughout the city. It would be a better use of money than that stupid race car. More traditional activities could be fed back in after the program is underway.

As for being camping adverse: most camping places are now so overcrowded and full of litter that the "wilderness adventure" is no longer there. Other once prime camping areas have been replaced by malls and developments. Also, many of our newer Scouters, while a great boon to Scouting, prefer bathrooms and showers while camping; the old mindset has changed. At our last New Scout Patrol weekend camp, it was decided to reward the boys by odering in pizza to the campsite. The adults are still "discussing" whether that was such a good idea.

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