Traditional Membership and Unit Growth



Cub Scout membership in the Greater Pittsburgh Council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, rose 2.2 percent in 2004, despite a 2.4 percent decline in the council's total available youth. This type of membership success has resulted from innovative recruiting and retention techniques.


A Winning Team
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Its relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers has helped the Greater Pittsburgh Council score a membership touchdown. The Steelers host the council's roundup kickoff, which celebrates the new BSA and football seasons and includes dinner in the team cafeteria, a facility tour, and Steelers caps with the BSA logo for all attendees. The relationship "is a great source of pride for both organizations," comments John Simpson of the Steelers marketing department.

Hooked on Scouting
Peoria, Illinois

One membership hook the W. D. Boyce Council uses is the day camp preview, which allows new recruits to enjoy a complimentary day of camp within four weeks of joining. "Camp helps sell the kids on the program, and they shouldn't have to wait nearly a year to enjoy it," comments District Membership Chair Laura Coe. Participants in the highly successful event enjoy activities such as fishing, archery, and crafts—and get hooked on Scouting.

When recruiting membership, "understand what works and what doesn't, and adapt to change. Be innovative in getting the message across," observes past President Mike Daniel, a former recruiter in the Marine Corps Reserve. He feels a key is to "realize who the competition is—like sports—and partner with them when possible. Also, ask what you can do to provide kids what they're looking for under the header of 'fun' while imparting your values program."

Part of the fun that the council offers comes from its relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In addition to enjoying exciting roundup activities sponsored by the Steelers, Scouts are involved at two home games each season, welcoming fans to Heinz Field while handing out Steelers yearbooks. For their efforts, the Scouts get stadium seats for the game with box lunches.

Council retention rates of 66 percent in Cub Scouts and approximately 80 percent in Boy Scouts also come from detailed unit program planning and timely training of leaders who deal directly with youth. According to Membership Chair Steve Pons, "We've found Fun at Every Turn to be great, effective materials, and we conduct training at the local level throughout the year for district membership chairs, who then train unit leaders for boy talks. Success revolves around training and volunteers."

Since many unit leaders are working single mothers, the council has adapted to their particular needs, using "traditional methods with flexible approaches," as Daniel describes it. The council "takes training to the end user, instead of getting her to come to training. We go to den meetings when possible to help her learn how to run meetings and pack treasuries. This leads to a program where the kids are having fun, which leads to them staying."

The W. D. Boyce Council of Peoria, Illinois, has experienced steady traditional membership growth at 8.4 percent since 2000 and at 2 percent in 2004 alone. The council ensures such success through a holistic approach to recruitment and retention. "Everything has to work together," remarks Vice President of Membership Cathy Fishel. "Unless membership is backed up, it doesn't work."

Community involvement and service to others help Scouts learn to become honorable citizens. Working together to make a difference provides a strong foundation on which to build lasting friendships and a sense of personal direction.

This means that committees in addition to membership, including marketing, training, and program, play major roles in the process. Marketing involvement includes a recent media blitz with radio, newspaper, and television ads; billboards; a redesigned family membership package with CD-ROM; and coverage of the recently consolidated School Night for Scouting.

The training committee reorganized leadership training sessions to ensure strong program and retention. Since the council covers a 14 county area, it "works around the volunteers' schedules and takes training to them," Training Chair Roy Maguire explains. "Throughout the fall, we give multiple sessions within 20 miles of volunteers." As a result, "People are enthused and stay involved since they better understand the program. This helps keep adult leaders and boys." Unit growth also results from "the quality of leadership," reports Cubmaster Scott Fishel. "We've demonstrated to parents how well the program can be run. Strength of leadership makes a difference."

Committees also collaborate to offer recruits enticing incentives. All newly registered boys receive a fishing lure in keeping with the "Get Hooked on Scouting" school-night theme. Recruits also get a voucher for day camp preview, a taste of summer camp that includes—of course—fishing.

The council also works to "hook" parents. "Since they're choosing whether the boys stay in the program, we communicate directly with parents through newsletters and Web tools," states immediate past President Peter Johnsen. The council's Scout shop also hits the road every fall throughout the large territory, delivering to Scouts and parents the items they need. Johnsen explains, "It's all a part of answering our question of how we can better serve the boy and his parents."