What are "best practices?" One benefit of being 100+ years old is that the Boy Scouts of America knows what works and what doesn't. The following detailed fall recruitment, or "School Night to Join Scouting," (SNJS) plan is one of those best practices and is used by units across the country.
Follow these steps:
1. Marketing experts tell us a person needs to be exposed to something seven times. For SNJS this includes school flyers (two sets), posters at schools and on community billboards, yard signs, telephone calls, school newsletters, newspapers, television and radio announcements, stickers, tables at open houses, automated e-mail and phone blasts, classroom talks, boys wearing their uniforms to school that day, and more! Our council will print flyers and deliver them to you or the school, whichever you prefer, as soon as you provide the details of your sign-up night. We will also contact superintendents and principals to get approval for classroom visits. Pack and troop leaders should visit the schools they recruit from to promote Scouting to boys. Professional staff can assist when leaders are unable or uncomfortable, but a personal connection from a leader they will see provides a far stronger invitation.
2. Parents attend events when held at their children's school more often than when they are at a park, church, etc. This is why most SNJS events are held at schools.
3. The SNJS event must be FUN! It has to be more than a table with papers on it. Set up a mock campsite, have some rope games, have snacks, show pictures from campouts, have small giveaways, etc. This is a night to sign up for Scouts and Scouts only. It needs to be in addition to anything you do at a school open house or similar function.
4. Plan EARLY! Parents want to see the pack's 2013-14 program calendar that night; they've already seen the sports schedule and the martial arts schedule, you have to be as prepared. Make it full of fun outings and exciting lessons. Part of this also includes getting your details (e.g. time of sign-up night, location, contact person) to the council early. The council print shop needs at least two weeks' notice to print flyers (free to you). School visits typically need 2+ weeks notice to principals. Reserving a gym or cafeteria often needs 30+ days notice and proof of insurance (available from our council).
5. "Be Prepared" -- Parents and boys read the flyers and took time from their schedule for attending your sign-up event specifially because they want to sign-up THAT NIGHT. They decided to join when their boys begged them, they read the flyer, and they drove to your sign-up night. They should not get information and then take home an application to turn in later. This is critical! Parent feedback tells us when packs and troops do not collect their applications on the sign-up night, they feel you have "wasted their time." Get their complete application and registration fees that night. It should be the first thing you do, before going into detail about the pack or troop. If they want to go home and think about things like how to raise money for summer camp, when to buy a uniform, etc. they can.
Items you will need: applications, spare change, your 2013-14 calendar, parent guides (available from the council), additional costs (den dues, uniforms, etc.), flyers showing where materials can be purchased and what they need, exact details about when and where the first meeting will be, position descriptions for recruiting new leaders, new den leader kits (available online), "Day One" flyers. posters and yard signs, displays showing the fun things your pack does, plenty of pens, someone to emcee the night, helpers to entertain the kids and someone to collect money and applications. All unit leaders should be there. Your commissioner staff will help too. Let us know if you need assistance.
6. Have a back-up plan! If it rains on your outdoor event, do parents know where to go? If you are locked out of the school when you arrive, do you know who to contact? Can you set up in the parking lot if you have to? It has happened before. Be prepared.
7. Immediately following the event, report the total number of new youth and adult applications received to the headquarters listed below.
- 08/22 - Ferguson/Florissant School District - District Admin. Bldg. B (1005 Waterford Dr., Florissant, 63033); 6:00-9:00 p.m.
- 8/29 - Jennings School District
- 09/10 - Riverview Gardens School District - Grace Lutheran Chapel (10015 Lance Dr., Bellefontaine Neighbors, 63137)
- 09/16 - Hazelwood School District - District Admin. Bldg. (15955 New Halls Ferry Rd., Florissant, 63031), 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Although the SNJS plan focuses primarily on Cub Scouts because it is their first exposure to Scouting, every troop and crew should adopt similar strategies for their fall recruitment events. Good luck!