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Falling Membership - 2011 Annual Report

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BSA's 2011 annual report shows continuing annual declines in membership and revenues.


The decline has been going on since the 1960's, with the number of potential youth almost doubling in the same period.


BSA's market share of youth is drastically reduced from what it was in the 1960's.


Is there ONE BIG THING that could be "fixed" to restore BSA's attraction to youth, is it many things, or is the brand burned?


Interested in your thoughts.

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The biggest issue for me as a District Membership Chair is the need to do a much better job of recruiting from Latino, Asian and African American populations.


In my district, there are a number of schools that are 60% Latino and 10% white. Whites are a minority in a lot of schools. Yet all our Cub Packs are English speaking, and few make much of an effort to crack those minority communities.


I'm working on it, but I have only very small successes so far.


Our Council Scout Executive is very good on this issue, and has been a lot of help to me. The Field Director has been of no help and doesn't think much if anything can be done.


My current goal as District Membership Chair is to identify methods our English speaking Cub Packs can use to recruit and retain more Latino families. I'm using the Cub Pack I work with as a laboratory to identify those methods. I will be trying out additional methods during the fall recruiting campaign.


Latinos are my target because there are so many of them in my district.

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Take away access to questionable video games, TV hypnosis, and delusions that every kid can become a professional sports player of some type so they might be involved simple playing for the "fun" of it.


In the hay-day of Scouting, Little League barely existed, and there were few other sports for youth. High school sports had restrictions on how much training could be required in the off season by schools, and of course TV and computers were pretty basic and a minor distraction. Kids also were encouraged to simply play outdoors, often until dark; then simply were called home, or went there due to darkness. The paranoia about something awful happening to kids was not there, and of course the traditional family was more outwardly cohesive, with one parent at home much of the time; and even those that had two parents working, had relatives and neighbors watching out for the kids.


And of course, the contradictory attitudes towards foul language, suggestive dress, and easy exposure to "very adult" things in magazines and movies was far less accepted. Also, kids were not so often "labeled" in school and society, and getting in trouble in school or on the streets was more likely to bring home punishment, as well as that given out by a teacher, principle, or official. Kids had more respect for adults, and also possibly for themselves; at least in appearance. And, most understood that you had to actually "earn" your way and were far less likely to callously waste food or be frivolous with possessions.


Scouting will not likely ever grow substantially in the culture of today, because they still have the audacity to at least try to have standards to which members should aspire.


Again, simply MHO.(This message has been edited by skeptic)

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Lets see...


Most youth do not view scouting as cool.


Most youth do not think camping and being out doors are fun any more.


Youth sports has dramatically increased since the 60's....Soccer, Baseball, Football, lacross, hockey, tennis,


Most young men will choose a weekend of Xbox over a weekend of camp.


Most young people cannot go 12 hours with out a shower.


Boy Scouts are called fags and gay at school and made fun of.


Boy scouts are no longer the football captains and valedictorians....


Cub Scouting has become a haven for the ADD/ADHD and Autistic Crowd. Have folks walk in and walk out seeing the behaviors of some of these boys.... They simply don't want to deal with Autistic Bobby melting because he didn't get a bowling belt loop too.......Or the ADD boys running crazy because their daily med doses run out during the scout meeting.


Program is very inconsistent unit to unit and district to district.




And you wonder why we are losing our market share.



Fixing it......


Make scouting cool....

Get a Chief Scout.....Super Cool Someone go will attract the youth like Bear did in England.

Get scouting into the headlines in a positive manner.

Make the program more consistent unit to unit and district to district.

Make Cub Scouting True Family scouting by making it coed.




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Base has some good ideas. I'd add the following


#1 Put more outing in Scouting. Yes more kids are staying indoors, but I've foudn that if you can get them hooked, they love the outdoors.


#2 GET RID OF SOME OF THE STUPID RULES COMING OUT OF IRVING!!!!! (And yes that's me shouting ;) )


Sorry but the last batch of rules in regards to service projects is nothing but pure HORSE HOCKEY! It's sad when you tell Cubs that they cannot use little red wagons to carry flags to put on graves for a service project, only to be laughed at by them b/c they think is is a joke.


As for the no laser tag rule, give me a break. Church groups do laser tag.


And do NOT get me started on the pioneering project rules. My troop stopped doing scout shows over them, only going to the one in which Green Bar Bill was the guest of honor of once the no higher than 5 feet rule came out in 1989.



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Some parts of the market are lost to us.


Top academic kids: The competition for college acceptance has driven a lot of the top kids into weekend classwork, and the need for check-offs for application. While Eagle Plus SPL is worth points on the application, there are activities with less time commitment that will get the same points.


Top athletes: Coaches will not play a kid who misses practice. One of my Eagle's never made Philmont because he coach would not excuse him for the first week of practice, and that is when our lottery pull hit two years in a row. Coaches (and I am one of them) can demand 100% dedicated players, and they get them.


Cultural barriers: This is both the dork / nerd issue (which was true even in the 80s. Add in that patriotism, other than a brief resurgence after 9/11, is not as strong as it once was. Being an "all American" boy is not always celebrated sadly.


Demographics: For many of us, we are multi-national ethnic mix. I have great success with Korean expats in my area. The Persian community is not as strong though. Indians show up a lot though. Each grouping requires a different approach as you bring them into the unit.


God & Gays: We beat this horse regularly around here already. There are more people with no religion, and young people who are accepting of gays and lesbians. The "Bigoted Scouts of America" costs us a few percentage points as well. We are perceived as a white, Christian youth group.


So, with all of that - how do we get "cool" - or at least "cooler?"


Hard core outdoors. Hard core search and rescue. Hard core hunting, stalking, wilderness survival. Backcountry parkour courses alongside COPE. Recover our reputation as the guys you want with you in the woods, because we are the experts at finding food, starting a fire by rubbing two cliches together, making a shelter and having a good time doing it all.


The kings of self-sufficiency. We will turn your boys into men. Give us a summer, and your son will be able to handle it all on his own. I sometimes tell parents that we don't give boys credit for what they can already do. The teenager did not exist until the 50s. Admiral Nelson had 13-year old Midshipmen on his warships. Powell wanted young Scouts for the wars.


What if the BSA had a campaign telling parents to stop molly-coddling their boys, and instead get more out of them? What if the BSA started running ads promising adventure again?


Now - this is all just marketing (which is what I do for a living). The next challenge would be getting it to happen.

That means that instead of banning "oversized sheath knives," we issue a BSA Bowie knife instead.

That means that we have a new patch for adults who are certified backwoodsmen (some variation on the HAT stuff).

That means that wilderness survival gets real again (when I took it, the final test was when I was handed a live chicken and told to come back to the instructor's shelter once I had finished cooking it.)


We turn our uniform into one of rip-stop fabric pants and a wicking shirt with a necker only. Ranks would be on a leather vest, worn only for formal ceremonies. The uniform would be based on something you would want to be wearing if we dropped you into the woods in an emergency.



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Yes there are several systemic problems in the BSA that all need to be addresed. Since the 70's with the push for "urban scouting", whatever that is to the current Mazzucca era with, "Camping and hiking are just not important anymore in scouting", etc. etc. there has been a continual decline. From councils creating ghost units inflating their membership by over 50% to incompetent SE fiscal management resulting in many councils being closed and camps being sold nationwide. IMO, the further the BSA has gotten from its core roots and values the faster the decline in membership. Boy scout troops decades ago had an average of 35-50 boys today the average troop is around 10-12 boys, and the number of troops continues to drastically drop each year.


In the past and currently every effort National has made to "MODERNIZE" scouting has resulted in dismal failure, and I am quite leery as to what National is planning to impose on us in the near future.


Bottomline it is time to get back to the core roots,values, and scouting experiences of the founders and pioneers of this movement. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Eagle become a truly valuable and respected award once again. Where the youth really learn how to respect and have fun in the parks and forests of this country. Where the joy for scout leaders is the experiences they give to their boys instead of how many knots they can get to show off on their uniform. There is so much more which I will leave to the rest of you.

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I'm all for outdoor focus. Outdoor adventures create the environment where the scouts must work together to get the job done. No game playing needed. It's part of the adventure.


BUT ... I think the big big issues is perception. The country has changed. Politics have changed. What's acceptable has changed. BSA is out of date. BSA needs to avoid cultural battles and focus on serving youth.


It comes down to as long as BSA judges people, people will judge BSA. BSA should just be the umbrella under which many organizations come to structure their youth programs. I truly think letting charter orgs choose leaders that represent the charter org beliefs would solve the PR issue. But as long as BSA makes the judgement, BSA is judged.


And to be honest, rightfully so. It's pretty hypocritical to ask charter orgs to host a program when BSA's beliefs about people contradict the charter org. It's hypocritical to ask schools to support recruitment when BSA's beliefs contradict the schools. If you want to be effectively a civic service organization, you need to represent current civic values. Those values include tolerance. Always has. BSA needs to focus on civics, ethics and leave sexuality and beliefs to the scout's family and the scout's church.


Now I'm Catholic and pretty old fashioned. And I want my sons in a scouting group that reflects my values and my churche's values. But I also recognize you can't push people away with one hand and then recruit from the same pool with the other.


There's lots of other perception issues too. They need to be worked. Too many kids are losing out on a great program.

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Great thoughts!


Another I would add is too much emphasis on advancement - especially Eagle.

Don't get me wrong - I am a Distinguished Eagle and know the importance of the rank, but for a pre-teen and teenage boy, that's FAR from the top of most priority lists!


I think we would keep more active and interested in the program if we would focus more on THEIR interests: Fun, Friends, and Adventure!

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Sorry, you are wrong in my opinion.


Liberals are never going to be happy with Scouting.


You seem to think that giving chartered organizations the freedom to appoint homosexuals to leadership positions will make liberals happy. It wont, of course.


They will simply demand that chartered organizations have to appoint homosexuals whether they like it or not. If that caused Catholic churches to throw out Scouting, that would be a highly desirable additional bonus.


It's pointless to pander to liberals.

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How do we make Scouting cool?


Well, who are the cool kids at school? They're the ones oozing self-confidence. Maybe we get confused about which is the cause and which is the effect and think they're self-confident because they're cool, but no, it's the other way around.


People, especially young people (and especially girls...) gravitate - are attracted to - people who are confident in themselves. So while I am 110% in support of getting a Chief Scout who will convey the message of "Scouts are cool", I think the best thing we can do is develop self-confidence in our Scouts. Real self-confidence comes from real accomplishment, and there's nothing quite like outdoor adventure to bring a sense of accomplishment. Outdoor adventure isn't just an advertising gimmick. It's not even just a selling point for the program. It's also the best way to make our Scouts walking, talking, swaggering advertisments for cool.


Yes, swaggering. In moderation, and all of it earned, but our scouts ought to have a little swagger to their stride. After all, they're doing stuff beyond the ability of the molly-coddled football team and the poor, deluded grinds working their weekends off for the chance to squander $100k of Mom and Dad's money and graduate another $150k in debt to Prestige U with a degree that increasingly does nothing that a cheaper degree from State doesn't do. They're given responsibility for things the football coach would never dream of letting a kid handle. They're tougher, more adventurous, and more capable than their classmates.


That's the theory anyway. It's up to us to make it a reality.


Of course, if the general public ever gets a load of what's currently in the G2SS, we're scuppered. They'll laugh us right out of whatever toehold on cooldom we've been able to gain.


[edit: fixed spelling mistakes - at least I think I did](This message has been edited by JMHawkins)

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> Liberals are never going to be happy with Scouting.


What about Scouts Canada, the UK, and Germany? Do their populations consider the scouts out of touch with youth culture? Are they under attack by their country's liberals?

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The two things that seem to come up over and over:


* The Great Elephant in the Room (old fashioned)


* Failure to position and perform as an organization for tough guys.


Forgetting the first one for a second, consider the tough guy aspect. Can BSA market itself as being for tough guys while it is full of nerd guys?


Or won't we have to actually require that one pull up, or maybe more, for tenderfoot, and make scouting something hard that kids cannot do?


In my area, a lot of non-profit types of organizations are firing up that are sort of ROTC based. They are paramilitary organizations for youth. They are very strict on uniforming, and the kids are required to do considerable running of obstacle courses and calisthenics.


The kids also get to shoot AR-15's instead of .22's and get to spend time on military bases.


Is that the replacement for the scouts? Is that where we went wrong? Baden Powell came up with his Handbook for Scouting as a tool to teach youth to be tough outdoorsman to make them good soldiers.


But we now prioritize their safety. Should we instead be prioritizing their capabilities instead of their safety?

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