Cub Scout Recruiting: How They Do It
By Suzanne Wilson
Otetiana Council's 2004 'Run With the Right Pack!' Campaign Inspires Boys to Join Cub Scouting
Everyone wants great fall roundup ideas, and Scouters in Otetiana Council, Rochester, N.Y., are happy to share the strategies that fueled their 2004 campaign.
The council continuously looks for improved ways to inspire boys to join. This has been especially important in recent years, because the number of boys of Cub Scout age has been declining in Monroe County, the area served by the council.
Organizers faced challenges that included reaching families effectively, especially in areas where the council had limited or no access to schools.
The results show how well their efforts worked25.8 percent of available boys became Cub Scouts in 2003, and an even higher percent, 26.1, joined in 2004. That was 6.5 percent higher than the 2004 median for councils nationwide.
The 2004 roundup welcomed 2,012 new Cub Scouts, almost 30 percent of the 6,749 Cub Scouts who were registered at the end of 2004.
Regardless of a council's size, says Otetiana Scout Executive Larry Pritchard, it's essential to allocate the necessary money to roundup. "If we're not spending it to get families into the program, then we won't need to spend it on anything else."
Another essential is an effective marketing committee. Volunteer Jeffrey S. Halik, council vice president of marketing and communications, is a senior account supervisor at an advertising and public relations agency. Other members of the committee are also advertising and marketing professionals with the creativity and knowledge of media to get the Scouting story to families.
"We work year-round to tell our stories and impress on people the values of our organization," says Halik. "If we're successful, it gives us a platform for concentrated pushes such as we have in the fall."
Also essential is a quality roundup coordinator. Volunteer Robert N. (Bob) Carafice, council vice president of Cub Scouting, oversaw the entire campaign, coordinating the work of the marketing committee and everyone responsible for Joining Night activities.
"This brought together all the forces in our council that are passionate about Cub Scout recruitment," Halik says. "And it gave them a clear pathway together."
Planners evaluated the previous year's campaign and considered new ideas. They didn't hesitate to borrow some tools from other councils. "That's the wonderful thing about Scouting, you can share ideas, and everybody wins," says Pritchard. Here are some key parts of the 2004 roundup:
For the first time, the council used one creative theme, "Run With the Right Pack," in everythingprinted materials, yard signs, adswith a goal of creating community awareness. But their best tool was still traditional "boy talks" at schools and handing out Joining Night fliers.
In areas without school access, the council targeted selected ZIP codes111,100 subscribers of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle found a 3-by-3-inch yellow sticky-note ad attached to their Sunday paper.
The ad included: "Get your son running with the right pack; Join Cub Scouting, September 13-23; Boys, grades 1-5; visit www.joincubscouting.org"; a photo of a Cub Scout; and a phone number.
Professional staff and volunteers manned a dedicated phone line from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for three weeks. Callers learned where and when to join a pack. The phone number, the council Web address, and www.joincubscouting.org appeared in all campaign materials.
In one school district, the council tested a pilot program in which first-grade boys in five schools received a New Cub Scout Kit in the form of a plastic lunch box containing a pinewood derby car kit. Packs serving that area signed up 65 new Tiger Cubs, compared to 44 in 2003. (Sixty-two of those 65 reregistered with their pack six months later.) The council expanded the program this year, noting how well it fits with "Race to Cub Scouting," the BSA's national 2005 Cub Scout recruiting campaign (see Editor's below).
The council developed a DVD modeled after a video created by the East Carolina Council in Kinston, N.C. Aimed at parents and featuring a local TV news anchor who is the mother of two Scouts, the short presentation described the benefits of Cub Scouting. Five thousand DVD's were distributed in schools to first-grade boys.
Several surrounding councils shared production costs of the DVD's and a TV ad that aired with shows most watched by mothers of Cub Scout-age boys.
New also was the promise of Cub Scout Adventure Day, an outdoor experience for new Cub Scout families, held soon after joining. Three Adventure Days were well attended, and Cub Scout leaders appreciated the event that Bob Carafice described as "a tool packs can use to retain their new Scouts."
"It takes a lot of work and a lot of different kinds of work to be successful," said Scout Executive Pritchard of the fall campaign. "And it takes a lot of different messages to the parents to, perhaps, send the message home."
"You have to look at recruiting as a year-round activity," adds Bob Carafice, "and make sure people understand that Scouting is a place where they will be welcome."
Cub Scouts 'Race Into Scouting' in the Crossroads of America Council
Before "Race to Cub Scouting It's Fun at Every Turn" was launched as the BSA's nationally supported roundup campaign earlier this fall, a number of Scout councils were using racing themes for their local recruiting efforts. One of these was "Race Into Scouting," the Crossroads of America Council's 2004 recruitment campaign theme.
It was a perfectand logicalfit because the council is based in Indianapolis, site of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and home of the famous Indy 500 race.
Using the racing theme for Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and Venturing recruitment, the council crossed the finish line with more than 10,000 new Scouts, a council record. Cub Scouting added 8,500 boys, an increase of 30 percent. Tiger Cub membership increased by 17.6 percent, as 3,532 boys joined. For all of Cub Scouting, 22.2 percent of available youth joined, 2.6 percent higher than the 2004 median for councils nationwide.
Off to a fast start
The campaign used Indy driver Scott Sharp, a former Cub Scout, as its official spokesperson. Sharp drives the No. 8 car for the Delphi Fernández Racing Team, which, along with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, became the council's partner in the campaign.
Photos of Scouts with Sharp and his car appeared on fliers, posters, and other campaign materials. Public service spots featuring Sharp played on radio and TV.
"The sports stations in town just absolutely ate the campaign up," says Doug Nelson, council director of field services and campaign committee staff adviser.
Any new Cub Scout who brought a friend to join the pack received a limited edition Scott Sharp miniature collector car.
Sharp also recorded a phone message reminding families about School Night for Scouting.
Sizzle, pizzazz, and dazzle
"Race Into Scouting" had "sizzle, pizzazz, and dazzle" for youth, parents, and Scouting volunteers, says Elaine Sholty, chairman of School Night and a member of the campaign committee.
"A lot of that had to do with starting earlier than usual," she says. "And it also had to do with having a team, and that certainly fits with racing."
Early in the year, key School Night positions were filled. "You're going to be really happy," prospective trainers and other volunteers were told at a July training session. "We've got a great program, it's organized, there's a theme, and there's a plan for the boys who are recruited."
Nelson says Sholty was "phenomenal, a cheerleader" at the School Night training for more than 400 volunteers. For her part, Sholty credits the training's success to the partnership between volunteers and professional staff.
The staff had prepared School Night materials. "We had milk crates completely filled with hanging files with all the materials, all the books, all the things they needed for School Night, all together," Sholty explains. "Everyone kept saying, 'Wow!'
"That training session was a real pinnacle night for the whole process, and that led to great success on the School Nights."
How did kids and parents react to School Night?
"It had sizzle!" Sholty said. "They liked it, and they thought it was really cool that one of the Indy 500 drivers was involved. The idea of a theme really took it to a different level."
As a reward for membership growth that met Quality District standards and for improving the rate of Scout retention, the council flew 94 volunteers to visit the 2005 BSA National Jamboree.
Circuit of Fun
At School Nights, families learned about the Circuit of Fun, a year-round series of nine events for Scout families.
For new Cub Scouts and parents, the first activity was a Cub Scout Joining Event, held on an October Saturday afternoon inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Almost 5,000 people attended, visiting pit row and the garages, places not usually accessible to the public.
Race cars were on display, and drivers signed autographs. It was also a typical Cub Scout day camp, with boys making crafts, playing Frisbee golf, testing their marksmanship with BB guns, slingshots, and bows and arrowsall a preview of adventures to come in Scouting.
Some of the other circuit events for Scout families were Scout Days at an Indiana Pacers' professional basketball game, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the Shrine Circus, and the Indianapolis Zoo. Tiger Cubs graduated in a crossover ceremony at an Indianapolis Indians baseball game.
Scouts received a patch for each event. When combined, the patches formed a picture of cars circling a race track.
The circuit events were part of the council's "get them in the door and keep them" approach to membership. When packs rechartered in spring 2005, retention had improved.
For its 2005 recruiting campaign, Crossroads of America opted to continue with "Race Into Scouting." Sholty, a marketing professional, advised the campaign committee to stick with their established brand.
"Don't abandon the theme and reinvent the wheel we created," she told them. "It has sizzle and gives people a level of excitement that makes them want to be involved."
Editor's note: These are the first two of four profiles by contributing editor Suzanne Wilson on recent successful local council Cub Scout recruiting efforts. Details of Cub Scouting's nationally supported 2005 recruiting campaign, "Race to Cub ScoutingIt's Fun at Every Turn," can be found in Scouting's September 2005 issue at www.scoutingmagazine.org.
Copyright © 2005 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.