Traditional Unit and Membership Growth
Overall membership in the BSA traditional program—Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing—totaled more than 3.3 million members in 124,660 units.
The Boy Scouts of America retained strong membership numbers in 2000 thanks to the efforts and dedication of millions of adult volunteers, tens of thousands of chartered organizations and community groups, and hundreds of local councils who worked tirelessly to recruit and retain Scouts across the nation.
Overall membership in the traditional program—Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting and Venturing—totaled 3,351,969 in 2000. The number of traditional units—packs, troops, and crews—equaled 124,660.
Many councils found guidance for their recruiting efforts in the pages of the 1998-2002 National Strategic Plan. The plan calls for six major steps to be taken: an increase in the number of traditional units nationwide; the execution of a national Cub Scouting campaign; improvement of the organization's relationship with the educational community; continued establishment of the Venturing program; further enrichment of urban and rural Scouting programs; and attention to the sales skills of unit-serving executives.
Two councils who exemplify the benefits of following aspects of the National Strategic Plan are the Greater Cleveland Area Council in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Adirondack Council in Plattsburgh, New York.
In Cleveland, the council's recruiting efforts allowed it to achieve 1.2 percent growth in the traditional Scouting program in 2000, with even more impressive growth in urban Scouting areas.
For recruiting in urban neighborhoods, the council was able to depend on college students and others willing to work part time as neighborhood executives to establish new units and train potential leaders. This initiative helped the council reach 7.3 percent more young people in urban areas during 2000.
Council Membership Chair Judy Caine, who became a volunteer seven years ago after watching her husband and son having "way too much fun" in Cub Scouting, notes that engaging other volunteer leaders in the recruitment process is important.
"It's really great if you can have a unit leader from the area go in to recruit," she explains. "It's like, 'Oh, there's that guy from down the street.' It makes people more comfortable."
In the Adirondack Council, most of the young people contributing to the council's 4.2 percent gain in traditional membership were recruited by council volunteers.
Scouting volunteers maintained excellent relationships with the educational community, allowing for a revitalized School Night for Scouting program, and organized recruitment dinners for chartered organizations within the church community. Newly recruited chartered organizations allowed the council to create new units in areas under-served by Scouting—areas once considered difficult to reach with the program.
"We're reaching more and more Scouts, adding more units, and opening up new doors," says Dr. Barry Mack, vice president of membership. "We were especially excited to see a significant increase in Cub Scouts."
The council has focused much of its training resources in recent years on volunteers at the Cub Scout level knowing that boys who enter the program as Cub Scouts are more likely to stay in Scouting. The result for the council should be not only immediate growth but also long-term retention of members.
"We're very proud of what we've done," notes Council President Johnathon Schuessler. "It just goes to show what you can accomplish when you have volunteers who are willing to step to the plate and do whatever needs to be done."
Nationwide, councils are embracing the enthusiasm of their volunteers and looking to the National Strategic Plan for guidance in their pursuit of Scouting's ultimate goal: reaching as many young people as possible with the positive program of the Boy Scouts of America.
"It's been said so many times," notes Caine, "but you can really change a boy's life by bringing him into the Scouting program. Sometimes we get so caught up in programming and campouts, we forget how much we can really impact that child's life and his family's lives."