Boys' Life and More
By Mac Gardner
What started as a California council's incentive program to promote wider readership and use of Boys' Life magazine now brings many additional rewards to youth.
In California's Orange County Council, more Scouts than ever are reading Boys' Life magazine, thanks to a special council incentive program.
The BSA magazine for young readers has always offered quality reading and program-related content at a bargain price. But thanks to the council's Founder's Award, last year the number of 100 percent Boys' Life units in the council reached 441. Overall, the council's Boys' Life circulation is 65 percent, substantially higher than the 45 percent rate for the whole country.
"We expect units to earn the Founder's Award, and good units expect it of themselvesit's become a council tradition," says Ron Earl, commissioner for the council headquartered in Costa Mesa, southeast of Los Angeles.
The award recognizes packs and troops that achieve goals beyond the minimum standards required for the Quality Unit Award. [See "Quality Time" in the May-June 2000 issue of Scouting.] Being 100 percent Boys' Life is one Founder's Award requirement; so is participating in the annual Scoutorama.
"And here's an example of the award's impact," Earl says, pointing to the hundreds of booths and demonstrations set up for the council event, held at a site just east of John Wayne Airport. "We'll attract more than 25,000 people to Scoutorama today; we think this huge crowd is one benefit of our Founder's Award."
The council promotes the national BSA Quality Unit Award, Earl points out, "and we have been very successful in raising our units to that standard. However, the Founder's Award allows the council to "kick things up a step or two, with local embellishments."
Frank Whalin, field director on the Orange County Council staff, explains further:
"In fact, the first requirement of our Founder's Award is to earn the national Quality Unit Award. Then we ask our units to complete additional items in the 'package'100 percent [subscribing to] Boys' Life magazine, Family Friends of Scouting [council budget-raising effort], Scoutorama, Scouting for Food, and the annual unit and council money-earning popcorn sales campaign. It's a combination of activities that encourages units to stretch a bit."
It began with Boys' Life
The council program committee started the plan in the mid-1980s as a way to promote Boys' Life. "Features were gradually added until today's version of the Founder's Award began in 1995," Whalin explains.
At a Saddleback District roundtable, Scouters are discussing the value of Boys' Life. "Our troop is glad that Boys' Life was the starting point for the Founder's Award," says Scoutmaster Jeffrey Wallace of Troop 787, chartered to Coast Bible Church. "The magazine is so important to our planning, and it appeals to our boys with its quality, wholesome stories."
He smiles, and adds: "I have two sons, and each gets his own copy of Boys' Life. In our troop, the cost of a subscription to Boys' Life for every member is also an automatic part of the budget."
Scoutmaster Charlie Vogelheim of Troop 818, chartered to Serra Catholic School, speaks as a dad. "I enjoyed Boys' Life as a boy," he emphasizes. "Therefore, I was thrilled that when my own son, Charlie, became a Tiger Cub, he formed an immediate attachment to the skills, jokes, activities, and the other good stuff in Boys' Life. He's now a 13-year-old Boy Scout, and the magazine still helps push him on advancement."
Vogelheim says Troop 818 also uses the magazine "as a 'blue ribbon' test of our own program. Are we as good as the troops we read about? Can we do as well? There's a built-in challenge to do better each time we camp or take a trip."
Christa Gefke, a Webelos leader with Pack 766, says the magazine gives continuity to a unit. "Its articles tie in with the BSA's annual Cub Scout and Webelos Scout Program Helps and with our roundtables, and it helps keep our parents up-to-date."
Then she chuckles. "A guy told me the other day that Boys' Life is just for Boy Scout-age readers. Well, he's wrong! There's an edition just for Cub Scout-age readers, with special articles for their interests and reading level. And my boys read everything in the magazine, and it reinforces the values we try to instill every week."
"Boys' Life is a great transition motivator for boys going from Webelos Scouting into Boy Scouting," adds Thomas Sales, Cubmaster of Pack 771, chartered to St. Timothy Catholic Church. "I think many leaders who don't use the magazine have just not read it. If they would, they'd probably have the same favorite features as our boys dothe illustrated lifesaving stories in [A True Story of] Scouts in Action, fact and fiction adventure stories, jokes, and cartoons."
More than good reading
Providing more boys with a quality source of reading material is just one benefit for units that achieve the Founder's Award. There are other incentives in the package for units and boys alike:
- free advancement cloth badges for the charter year for each Scout who advances in rank.
- a six-inch, round patch with Lord Baden-Powell's profile for the unit flag, with a cloth arc showing the year in which it was earned.
- a special council shoulder patch with gold-colored edging.
- a 5 percent unit discount for Cub Scout day camp or for Boy Scout summer camp fees.
The program, along with its goodies, is carried as a special item in the council budgetwith a $15,000 price tag.
"At that price, it's a bargain," says Bill Grennell, past staff field director. "If you divide the cost by 57,000our total registered boysyou get an average cost of only 26 cents per youth. Of course, not all units will reach Founder's Award standards, but the cost is still worth it because of the rise each year in program quality and in the number of participants." (The program cost is often underwritten as a project by individual sponsors in the annual Friends of Scouting campaign.)
Evidence of success
How well does the incentive program stimulate units to reach the goals to qualify? Consider some evidence:
The Orange County Council is one of the largest local councils in the nation, with 57,000 youth in close to 1,400 units. In 1995, only 35 units were recognized for the Founder's Award. In 1999, 188 units earned the honor. Boys' Life 100 percent units climbed from 360 to 441. Dollars pledged in the Family phase of the Friends of Scouting campaign went from $132,000 to $305,000. Other programs, like Cub Scout Day Camp and Scoutorama participation, had similar increases.
Council commissioner Ron Earl emphasizes some other factors that make the Founder's Award popular and successful.
"We push training right at the start," he says. "Our commissioners are enthusiastic, and we have higher levels of reregistration. We have a greater retention of units because the leaders want to stick around longer. The units set high goals and expect to reach them. It's a great team effort."
"We can't rest on our laurels either," adds Scout Executive Kent Gibbs. "We change the program as needed and try to improve it whenever we can."
Then Gibbs points out what is probably the biggest benefit and the key reason for the program's success: "The kids get from Scouting what was promised to them."
Mac Gardner is a retired professional Scouter and former Scouting magazine staff editor. He lives in Eureka, Calif.
To Learn More About the Founder's Award mentioned in this article, contact: Orange County Council, BSA; 3590 Gateway North; Costa Mesa, CA 92626-1425; (714) 546-4990
New Boys' Life Promotion Award Is Available for Commissioners
Registered commissioners who successfully promote Boys' Life magazine and 100 percent Boys' Life units are eligible for the 2000 Boys' Life Commissioner Award.
The award is a three-inch patch in its own presentation folder. Qualifications are determined by commissioner position.
To submit names of personnel to receive the award, fill out the application form available at your local Scout council service center. Send it through your council office to Boys' Life, S202, at the national office or fax (972) 580-2079. All applications must be submitted by Jan. 29, 2001. For more information, call (972) 580-2376.
November-December 2000 Table of Contents
Copyright © 2000 by the Boy Scouts of America. All rights thereunder reserved; anything appearing in Scouting magazine or on its Web site may not be reprinted either wholly or in part without written permission. Because of freedom given authors, opinions may not reflect official concurrence.
|The Boy Scouts of America||http://www.scouting.org|