BSA Scout Recruiting: A Simple Guide To Growing Your Troop


For a troop to stand the test of time, it needs a constant flow of enthusiastic scouts to be joining year after year. That’s why creating a process to recruit new members should be a vital part of any healthy troop’s program! In this article, I’ll be teaching you everything you’ll need to know to hold an easy and successful scout recruitment process within your own troop!

What is The Best Way to Recruit Scouts? There are 3 primary methods that troops use to recruit new scouts: By bridging over Webelos, holding community outreach events, and through word of mouth from current scouts or their parents. Leveraging peer-to-peer recruiting is one of the best ways to bring in new scouts quickly.

While recruiting scouts into your troop might seem like an overwhelming challenge, don’t fear — there are tested and true methods of recruitment which I’ll be explaining in simple terms later on! However, all of your troop’s recruiting efforts will be useless if you don’t get one thing right: retaining your scouts.

Scout recruiting and retention go hand in hand, but I’d actually recommend learning how to retain your scouts first. Be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide To Troop Retention where you’ll learn the best methods of keeping your scouts involved and coming back!

Do you now understand how to retain the scouts in your troop after checking out my article? You should! One of my main points in it was that if your troop can keep a new scout involved for at least 3 years, that scout will be very likely to stay involved until they turn 18 or Eagle out. This point is essential to recruitment as well!

By making sure your promotional messaging attracts scouts who are the right ‘fit’ for your troop, you’ll also be more successful in keeping those scouts involved. Speaking of promotional messaging, when recruiting, you’re actually speaking to two audiences:

  1. Prospective Scouts
  2. The Parents of Prospective Scouts

In my opinion, correct messaging is one of the most important but misunderstood points of scout recruitment, so make sure to read this part carefully. Afterward, we’ll be diving into 3 actionable strategies for getting more young people interested in joining your troop. Now, let’s dive into it!

How to Recruit Scouts Vs. How to Recruit Their Parents

Parental support is vital to almost any Scouting career. How will a new scout stay motivated, attend events, and work on ranking up in their free time if their parents couldn’t care less about Scouting? Spoilers: It’d be really hard for the new scout. That’s why, when recruiting a new member, it’s crucial that you gain their parent’s support as well!

During the recruiting process, you’ll need to show both the prospective scout and their parents the value of Scouting.

The problem is, kids and their parents often care about different things…

So, what do prospective scouts care about (typically kids ages 10-13)? How does that differ from what their parents care about? This is why you must know your audience! Obviously, everyone is different but, from my own experiences and research, here are a few general rules of thumb to keep in mind when recruiting scouts vs ‘recruiting’ their parents:

Prospective Scouts

Potential Scouts: Typically between the ages of 10 and 13. Often, most drawn to high-adventure activities and surviving in the outdoors.

  • Interested in exploring the outdoors and participating in fun events.
  • Excited to make new friends and join a tight-knit group.
  • Wants to take on new responsibilities to build skills and confidence.
  • Looking for a ‘cool’ and fun activity that could benefit them in the future (might also consider sports or a club).
  • Interested in current trends (like Minecraft, Fortnite, etc) and learning Scouting skills for those reasons (In my troop, we did a zombie apocalypse survival activity to learn E.Prep!)

Parents of Prospective Scouts

Parents: Mainly looking out for red flags (unsafe, too time-consuming). Wants what’s best for their kid.

  • Wants their child to join an activity for the longer-term (sports is an option).
  • Likely doesn’t want to commit to a bunch of additional responsibilities (yet).
  • Looking for an activity that their child can enjoy, grow within, and use to their advantage in the future (usually for college apps).
  • Wants to be sure their kid will be safe and treated well by their peers.
  • Wants Scouting not to interfere with academics or take up too much of their kid’s time.
  • Possibly would like their child to develop a family and community-oriented perspective as they grow into their teens.

So, how can we use the perspectives of both potential scouts and their parents to make sure your troop’s messaging is on point? It’s simple: just make sure both of their needs are talked about and accounted for!

  • Scouts want exciting adventuring opportunities with their friends.
  • Parents want their kids to be safe, have fun, and learn useful skills for their future.

Make sure to reinforce both of these points continually throughout your recruiting process. I’d recommend getting prospective scouts onboard first, and then ‘recruiting’ their parents. If a kid feels forced into Scouting by their parents, it’ll be much harder for your troop to retain them.

Here’s how it’ll work in action: To get kids interested, explain all of the fun adventure activities that your troop does, first. During a troop open house, hold activities that are fun for the kids, before talking about leadership or safety. As an example, if you’re showing a video, lead with one like this (0:41):

After you capture the attention of potential recruits and get them to start imagining themselves in Scouting, only then should you try to convince their parents. The video (3:01) below does a good job of speaking to the parents of scouts (and the scouts themselves, after the 1:30 mark):

Notice how the second video had a pretty different tone from the first? Fun/friends and safety/opportunities are the two bases you’ll need to cover so that both potential scouts and their parents get on board with the idea of joining Scouting. Remember to address the major concerns of both parents and prospective scouts, and I promise your recruiting efforts will become more successful! šŸ™‚

Now, It’s time to learn 3 tested and proven methods of recruiting scouts, that you can begin using to quickly start seeing new, smiling faces in your troop! Method #3 is especially effective, but each one should be used for a successful, well-rounded recruitment process. Let’s get started!

The 3 Best Methods For Recruiting Scouts:

Before we dive into the methods of recruiting, there are a few things I need for you to keep in mind (sorry, I know this preamble is taking forever, but these points are super important! šŸ˜› ):

  • To have the most success possible, you’ll need to appoint someone to be in charge of your recruiting process. Having someone (or a small team) to spearhead your recruitment efforts is critical, as decisiveness around events and following-up with prospects is key.
    • This committee member will be in charge of: Following up with prospective scouts, finalizing flyers for your troop to distribute, coordinating your troop’s recruitment strategy, and more.
    • I’d recommend keeping a spreadsheet of prospective scouts that didn’t join right away, and kindly following up with them every few months. In sales, it’s usually the 5th or 6th offer people take advantage of!
  • There’s no easy way to recruit a lot of scouts at one time. This means you’ll need a well-thought-out, ongoing process to continue bringing new scouts into your troop.
  • When recruiting scouts, I’d urge you to focus more on quality over quantity. Make your recruiting materials realistic, and avoid stretching the truth or sugarcoating things in order to get someone to join. Scout retention is everything!
  • Even the best recruitment efforts will fail if the scouts in your troop don’t seem welcoming toward new members. It’s crucial to impress on your scouts the benefits of having new members join, so they’ll be extra enthusiastic and friendly.
  • It’s extremely difficult to recruit scouts by just bringing them to meetings (unless you’re using method 3!). Make sure to plan fun programs so that your prospects can get a full taste of Scouting before making their decision.
  • Try to take great photos during your troop’s events. Having exciting Scouting photos to use during open houses or send at a moment’s notice to prospective families is a great way to get them interested, even when your events aren’t running!

Make sure to keep each of these points in mind, as they could actually make or break your recruiting efforts! Remember, recruiting isn’t just about getting more scouts to show up for your meetings, it’s an organized process to show your community the best your troop has to offer (and hopefully get them to want in).

Just a small disclaimer before we get started: These methods worked wonders in my troop and Kevin’s, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be perfect for your troop, too.

I’d encourage you to pair these strategies with your existing recruiting program, and not try to replace what you’re currently doing right away. Once you see a method that’s really working, double down on it! Improving on each iteration is by far the best way to recruit and retain scouts for the long run!

Now, let’s start actually learning some recruiting methods! These first 2 methods can be held a few times each year, and take some work to pull off. However, the third method requires little prep, and was practically the only method of recruiting that my troop ever needed! Use these 3 tactics in combination, and you might even have too many scouts in your troop. šŸ˜‰

1. Bridge Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts 

If you have a sizable Cub Scout pack, bridging Webelos over is probably the most reliable way to ensure a steady stream of new scouts to your troop. However, you might be missing out on a big percentage of new scouts from your pack if you haven’t been using the following tips:

  1. Make sure ALL of your Den Chiefs are model scouts. A great Den Chief should be looked up to by the cub scouts they work with, and inspire them to take the next step of becoming a BSA Scout.
    • Ensure the pack leader understands the importance of your Den Chief and encourages them to participate in pack activities. A Den Chief should have frequent opportunities to serve as a friend and role model to the Cub Scouts.
    • Encourage your Den Chief to speak with the parents of scouts thinking of crossing over. Pack parents also want to be reassured about the same concerns (academics, time, safety, etc).
  2. Give Cub Scouts and Webelos the opportunity to see troop activities during a few joint events, before crossing over.
    • By giving scouts from the pack a chance to see what Scouting is all about (in a safe, supportive environment) they’ll be eager to cross over right away and participate in even more awesome activities!
    • Also, setting expectations is important, as some Cub Scouts can be unprepared to join a scout-led troop.
  3. Follow up with Cub Scouts who’ve aged out, but haven’t crossed over right away. Sometimes, a young person needs to feel wanted before going out of their way to join your troop.
    • If anything, try to simply find out why they haven’t moved up. What are they concerned about, that’s stopping them from taking the next step?

This tactic is pretty self-explanatory, so I’ll keep this section short. Just be sure to make the scouts from the pack feel like your troop wants them to join. The most effective way to do this is with a great Den Chief! By following these three tips, you’ll maximize the number of scouts that cross over from the pack!

2. School Presentations and Troop Open Houses

While bridging scouts over from your local pack is one of the easiest ways to get new scouts into your troop, the method isn’t always 100% reliable. That’s why it’s important for your troop to recruit kids that are unfamiliar with Scouting as well! Holding open houses and presentations are a great way to introduce potential members and their families to Scouting!

If you’re hoping to recruit a lot of scouts sooner rather than later, a troop open house will be your best bet!

I’ll provide a brief explanation in this section, but if you’re interested in holding an open house of your own, I’d encourage you to read the BSA’s 5-part open house process.

According to BSA best practices, the ‘open house’ recruiting method most often involves members of your troop visiting elementary school functions to explain Scouting to fifth and sixth graders. Afterward, you’ll invite everyone to an open house event hosted by your troop!

To put things simply, during a school presentation a few members of your troop will either man a booth or speak about the basics of Scouting. During this time, they should highlight the high adventure activities that Scouting offers, as well as the real-world benefits available to Eagle Scouts.

After explaining what Scouting is all about during a school presentation, you should distribute flyers so that the interested kids can tell their parents and attend your troop’s open house. There are 3 important things to have on your flyers and other promotional materials:

  1. The details around your troop open house (where, when, what’s happening).
  2. Clear information about what they’ll doing during your troop open house.
    • If your troop will be providing food for visitors (which is always a good idea) make sure to also note that on your flyer.
  3. If possible, include a phone number, QR code, or link that directs them to RSVP for the event ahead of time.
    • I’d recommend getting them to join a Facebook event page for the open house, or having them fill out a Google form with their contact info.
    • If you want to go the extra mile, individually message everyone who registers and thank them for coming. If they seem interested, offer a little more info about Scouting and your experience with the troop.
    • Sending a reminder out a day before the event will also significantly raise attendance!

Open houses should be used to highlight all of the fun activities and exciting opportunities that your troop offers. Since your open house should be a reflection of your own troop, I’ll leave the creative decisions up to you! However, be sure to use what we learned earlier in this article, and speak to both the parents’ and potential scouts’ needs, alike. šŸ™‚

One thing I’d recommend though is to have both younger scouts and older scouts in attendance who can talk about their experiences and answer any questions the audience might have. Having scouts around the same age as your visitors will help them to begin picturing themselves in your troop!

This article is already getting pretty long, so I’ll leave the details on how to run a great troop open house for another time. To set up a troop open house of your own, you should check out the BSA’s Open House section on their site for more info!

3. Scout-to-Scout Recruiting

If your troop can master peer-to-peer recruiting, there’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll never have membership issues again! However, this method is trickier than it sounds. Read closely because, in this section, I’ll be giving you the inside scoop on how best to encourage scout-to-scout recruiting in your troop!

When I was a scout, I earned my “Recruiter” patch because I’d always be trying to bring friends to fun Scouting activities. Some even joined and remained active scouts until they aged out!

In this section, I’ll explain how to encourage more scouts in your troop to act like how I did, and invite all their friends to your Scouting events!

When it comes to peer-to-peer recruiting, the first thing to keep in mind is that scouts won’t invite their friends to something that they, themselves, don’t enjoy. The biggest thing you can do to encourage peer recruitment is to make your troop and its program as awesome as possible! Here are a few tips for that:

  1. Hold an adult-organized high adventure activity once every few months (like rock climbing, rafting, paintball, etc). Encourage scouts to invite their unaffiliated friends and just have fun.
    • While I think most troops should be scout-led, there’s definitely a place in Scouting for an occasional high adventure activity that’s planned by the adults.
    • The first troop I visited when I was 11 held a paintballing and camping high adventure activity that was open to the public. I still remember that fun event to this day!
  2. Create a general troop FAQ flyer/webpage/letter that every scout can easily access and share with interested friends.
    • Having recruitment materials that potential scouts can pass on to their parents will help tons of young people that are on the fence about Scouting to take action!
    • This info should include answers to common questions that prospective scouts ask, as well as an invitation to attend your troop’s next meeting.
  3. Normalize peer-to-peer recruiting.
    • Tracking the numbers and having an award or prize for the scout(s) who can recruit the most members is a great way to encourage your whole troop to invite their friends to Scouting functions!
    • I’ve heard about some troops even holding a pizza party for the patrol who can recruit the most members by the end of each term.
  4. Help your scouts build strong communication skills. Plenty of scouts might feel awkward inviting their friends to Scouting activities. That shyness can be overcome!
    • Give all scouts opportunities to speak and lead. Just a little experience goes a long way toward becoming more assertive (and inviting your friends to events!).
    • If your troop hasn’t tried this yet, I’d recommend reviewing the Communication merit badge as a meeting idea. This will get them started in the right direction and, Communication is an Eagle-required badge anyway!

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, I earned my “Recruiter” patch when I was a scout. You and the scouts in your troop can earn it too! To learn more tips for peer-to-peer recruiting, as well as how to earn your “Recruiter” patch, watch the informative video (10:07) by Eagle Scout Mac Guzman, below:

That’s all there really is to peer-to-peer recruiting! Get these points right, and the scouts in your troop will be doing most of the recruiting work for you — all throughout the year! šŸ™‚

Remember, strive to create a troop atmosphere that’s accepting and encouraging of all scouts. I’m being blunt here, but a troop that doesn’t create a great experience for its scouts will always struggle with membership. However, once you create a nourishing troop environment, scouts will feel like they’re doing their friends a favor by inviting them in!

Unconventional But Effective Tips For Recruiting Boy Scouts:

Sorry, I know this article has gotten super long, but I’ve tried my best to cut it down to size and pack it full of valuable content!! In this final section, I want to give you a few last-minute tips for making your recruiting efforts more successful:

  1. Hold most of your troop’s recruitment efforts a few weeks before and a few weeks after sport team tryouts.
    • If someone trying out for a team doesn’t get in, checking out Scouting will be their next logical option if you’ve gotten them interested ahead of time!
    • Typically, this will mean recruiting 3 times a year over the course of about a month. Pretty reasonable, right?
  2. Wearing the full Scouting uniform, hold community service events in public, well-trafficked areas. During those events, have flyers and free snacks to pass out to any interested kids and families!
    • It’s best to hold these events nearby to where your troop meetings are held. This way, if any young people are interested, the commute to meetings won’t be an issue!
    • In my troop, we’d often help local schools plant vegetation, and also passed out water during races. This led to us becoming known as a helpful group within our community!
  3. Try to fully understand the Scouting program and what it offers.
    • Scouting has something that practically every kid is looking for, whether that’s friendships, outdoor skills, merit badge learning opportunities, or a chance at leadership.
    • Try to think of how Scouting is best suited to each type of person that’s considering joining your troop.
  4. Be respectful but persistent when trying to recruit a new scout and their family. Make sure to follow up.
    • Continually extending a friendly invitation, without pressuring or guilting them, is one of the most successful ways of recruiting new scouts.
  5. Keep adapting your approach by doing more of what’s working.
    • Thinking about your recruitment efforts from the perspective of a scientist will help you to create a more effective system over time!
    • For more info and tips for scout recruiting, check out the awesome 26-page recruiting guide put out by the Northern Lights council!
  6. Once your troop has decided upon a plan for recruiting and retaining scouts, try to implement it as soon as possible.
    • Recruitment isn’t an exact science. Taking action is the most important key to success, so get started ASAP!
  7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your current scouts come first. šŸ™‚
    • Some recruiting seasons will be slow, and that’s fine. The most important thing is to make sure that your current scouts are growing and having fun!

Conclusion

Recruiting scouts into your troop may seem difficult at first but, by putting these 3 simple methods into action, your troop will have a steady flow of new, enthusiastic scouts in no time. I hope you’ve found my article to be helpful, and wish you the best of luck in your recruiting efforts!

As mentioned earlier, recruiting scouts is only half of the equation. Iā€™d encourage you to also check out my article on Scout Retention to learn 3 simple, tested methods for bringing new scouts into your troop!

If you’ve already seen that article, you might want to also check out my Guide to Keeping Scouts (Of All Ages) Motivated. Having these tips in mind will help both your retention and recruiting efforts!

Wow, that was a lot of in-depth info. Great work making it to the end of this article (I know it was a long one)! If you want to revamp your troop’s recruiting efforts, I’d highly encourage sharing this article with your SPL, Scoutmaster, or committee head. At this point, you should be a scout recruiting expert, so now it’s time to put that knowledge into practice! šŸ™‚

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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