As one of the few organizations chartered by Congress, the Boy Scouts of America takes great pride in presenting its Report to the Nation to the president, the speaker of the house, and other government leaders, as part of the Scouting Anniversary Week celebration each February.
It's difficult to look at the "Choices" ad from the Greater Pittsburgh Council and not be moved by it. Staring out from the black-and-white page is a little boy. There's no laughter in his eyes, only fear and uncertainty about the future.
It's the future that this ad is working to change in Pittsburgh. It's one in a two-part series put together by the council to educate adults about the real mission of Scouting. It's a crisp, hard-hitting example of the marketing approaches councils are using to build awareness of Scouting in their communities.
Marketing is playing an increasingly important role in Scouting as local councils compete for finite community resources. Key to our success in gaining access to these resources has been our ability to build awareness of Scouting through comprehensive marketing efforts that go beyond mere communications to energize every aspect of Scouting in a community.
To succeed in today's marketplace, Scouting has to change the way it communicates, says Jim Crawford, council president for the Greater Pittsburgh Council in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"It's a whole different world out there today, and we can't afford to live on old assumptions; we have to be competitive," says Crawford. "We need to position ourselves in a way that distinguishes us. When supporters have seen the 'Choices' ads or read about our efforts in the newspaper, they're much more interested in partnering with us to make things happen in places where kids are struggling to survive."
The National Council plays a large part in raising the profile of Scouting around the country by supporting local councils with a variety of marketing efforts designed to communicate Scouting's core message of values and leadership.
These efforts include ads placed in national publications, such as Parade, Forbes, Redbook, Black Enterprise, Hispanic Business, and others, designed to target business and community leaders. During 1999, these ads reached more than 113 million readers.
Public service announcements distributed to television and cable outlets also have a large impact. For instance, the John Glenn public service announcement, released in 1999, has been broadcast more than 13,300 times and resulted in more than $3.6 million in free advertising for the BSA.
In addition to these efforts, studies such as The Values of Men and Boys in America and A Year in the Life of a Cub Scout, both conducted for the BSA by Louis Harris and Associates, have been valuable in developing new and more effective fact-based marketing tools. They also provide material for local councils to use when talking to chartered organizations about the impact Scouting has on young people.
The Istrouma Area Council in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is another council for which marketing has made a difference. By developing a comprehensive marketing plan that takes advantage of every available media outlet to communicate its message, Istrouma has established a presence in the community that has impacted everything from youth and volunteer recruiting to fund-raising.
"We're trying to educate the community so they'll better understand who we are and what we do," says Chair of the Board Pat Cheramie. "The end result of that education is more support and participation."
For the Istrouma Area Council, that increased support and participation have meant a 26 percent increase in participation since 1995, reaching 17,120 at the end of 1999. Direct financial support is also on the rise with Friends of Scouting contributions increasing 73 percent to $435,000, and United Way allocations increasing by 24 percent to $514,000.
It's these types of results that drive councils to hone their marketing efforts. By formulating marketing plans that enable councils to deliver their message of values and leadership to their target audiences, the Boy Scouts of America is able to deliver the promise of Scouting to more and more youth.