Ten Strategies for an Over-The-Top Successful Cub Scout Recruitment Night
By John A. Hovanesian, M.D.
Are bigger packs and troops better than smaller ones? Not necessarily. Some smaller units offer a world-class Scouting experience. But one thing’s for sure: larger packs and troops get that way because they generally offer a really appealing program, AND they know how to recruit. Now that we’re coming up on recruiting week (September 24th, 25th, and 26th), it’s time to think about what makes a really successful Cub Scout recruitment night. Here are ten proven strategies used by highly successful Cub Scout Packs.
- Plan something really fun. Pick an event theme that any Cub Scout age boy would love to do but that also appeals to sibs; you’ve got to invite sibs to this family event. Some examples include Lego-palooza, Build-a-Fort Night, Mad Science, and the Lizard Wizard. The first two were self-organized events while the last two in this list were hired entertainers. Whether hired or self-run, the hallmark of an appealing program is something that requires less parental supervision, so parents can interact with leaders, and of course something that is “crazy fun” for visiting boys.
- Spread the word. Organize visits, or at least make sure flyers go out, at every school–public and private–in your pack’s area a few days before. Post your recruitment event on Facebook, and have every parent “like” it in their profile. Put announcements in the weekly bulletin at local religious institutions. Send a press release to the local newspaper. And don’t forget to tell your own son’s friends’ parents to bring their families.
- Be Prepared. Plan the evening so there’s no visible commotion or last minute, hurried preparations. Have plenty of new member forms (don’t forget adult applications too), pens, and supplies. Have your treasurer ready to accept checks. Nothing impresses a visitor like seeing a harmonious organization where everyone knows his/her job.
- Have everyone (adults and youth) wear a name tag–both visitors and members. For visitors, put a visible symbol of which den they’ll be joining based on the boy’s grade. Writing the den number on the name tag works, or consider putting an orange sticker on the name tag for Tigers, yellow for Wolf, blue for Bear, red for Webelos I, and tan for Webelos II. This gives everyone a sense of belonging, and it invites established parents to greet new parents in their sons’ dens.
- Get every visitor’s name and contact information. Though we want them to, not everyone will fill out registration forms on join night, but at least get their contact info, so the pack registrar (see below) chair can follow up. Put their email on your announcement distribution list for major pack events, just to let them know you still hope they’ll join. (If they ask to be taken off the list, please be respectful and comply.) I’ve seen interested people join a pack 2-3 years after they first came to a recruitment night!
- Appoint a Pack Registrar. Appoint a committee member whose sole job is to collect registration forms and payment, follow-up on incomplete forms, and submit the completed information to the council office. This is a perfect job for an organized volunteer who maybe works during the day but has time after-hours to keep your pack records ship-shape. This same person can also be responsible for rechartering at year end.
- Give an incentive for registering the same night. Everyone loves a freebie. Consider giving a free pack t-shirt to those who register and pay on Join Night (as opposed to paying for one later). A simple gift from the Scout Shop (or the 99 cent store) can also do the job, or give a discount on an upcoming event. This also works for established members, who might delay in paying their annual dues.
- Show a recruitment video. There are many available on YouTube, and you can get a great recruitment video on DVD from the council office. Nothing makes families want to join Scouting like a good, 3-4 minute, music-filled, action-packed video showing all the fun things they can do in our organization.
- Have an upcoming events calendar prepared and ready to distribute. This shows new families you’re an organized group, and it helps them plan ahead to participate in major activities of your pack.
- Get every boy to Bobcat within a month and to a major Scouting outdoor event within 1-2 months. Studies show that Cubs who drop out in the first few months do so because they feel a lack of momentum in their Scouting experience. Have den leaders plan their activities around these goals, and you’ll keep all your new members. A great, outdoor activity you can offer your new Cubs this fall will be happening Saturday, November 2nd at the Outdoor Education Center. It’ll be a huge Scouting Fair for new Cubs only. See the council website at www.ocbsa.org for more information.