Since its very beginning, Scouting has relied on existing Scouts to recruit new members into the program. Thankfully, this has worked pretty well — as Scouting has been around for over 100 years! However, that doesn’t mean troops can take a break when it comes to recruiting new Scouts. 🙂
Of course, you’ll get new Scouts into your troop when they cross over from the Cub program, but this alone likely won’t be enough to keep your troop afloat. For recruitment success, you’ll need new Scouts who may not have completed or even taken part in Cub Scouts, to join your troop.
PS. This article was written by Eagle Scout, Chandler M, and edited by Cole 🙂
A troop open house is the best way to invite new people to discover what Scouting and your troop are all about. You’ve probably experienced your fair share of open houses through school, and holding one for your troop is pretty similar — but hopefully more fun!
In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of holding a troop open house so you can increase your troop’s numbers and help others experience the excitement of Scouts BSA!
What is a Troop Open House?
If you haven’t experienced an open house before, no worries! It’s not a complicated concept and pretty easy to carry out. An open house is when you provide an open invitation for anyone to come visit and learn about whatever your troop’s program is. You’ll often see this used in schools, but it’s also a huge part of Scouting!
When your troop holds an open house, you’re not usually showing your normal activities. Instead, you’ll be giving open house attendees a taste of what Scouting is all about! This includes explaining campouts, rank progression, Scout values, and anything else you feel that people should know.
This is also a great opportunity to introduce people to real Scouts and leaders rather than just letting them read about it in a newsletter. This gives people a more genuine feel for what the Scouting program is all about.
Planning a Troop Open House
Now that you know what an open house is, it’s time to plan one. Hosting a great open house can be extremely beneficial for your troop and might even give you the chance to make some new friends! It can seem complicated at first, but once I walk you through everything, you’ll definitely feel more confident.
There are a few things you need to consider when planning an open house. This includes the who, when, and what of your event. In this section, I’ll provide you with some suggestions, best practices, and fun ideas you can incorporate into your open house as you see fit! 😀
Consider What Events to Run
Before you begin planning when your open house will take place, you need to know what you’re going to be doing during the open house. There are tons of different activities you could run to excite and engage prospective Scouts.
While you may just want to model your open house after a typical meeting, there are other ways to make sure potential Scouts get a true feel for what Scouting is all about.
- Community Campfire
- For your open house, you could host the event outdoors with a Scout-run campfire (check out my tips for running a great campfire ceremony). This adds the outdoors element that many expect from Scouting. You can also incorporate camp meals, s’mores, or other activities into your campfire.
- Skill Instruction
- You want to show what you’ve learned in Scouting so that parents are interested too. This can be something as simple as knots but can get as complex as first aid instruction or even changing a tire.
- Scout Games
- If there is a game that your troop likes to play during meetings, make the open house an opportunity to teach prospective Scouts. You can even check out my article on Troop Games and Meeting Activities for some ideas! Playing a game together can build friendships and make new prospects less apprehensive and more excited about joining.
There are other things that you can add to this list as you see fit, but these should get you started. You want to give a good representation of all the fun and value you get from Scouting to people who haven’t experienced it yet.
Target a Specific Audience
When you are planning your open house, you want to target the right age groups. High schoolers are likely too old to start the program from scratch and second graders are too young to have Scouts BSA on their radar yet.
The best groups to target for your open house are Webelos, fifth graders, and middle schoolers. These age groups are the right age to be able to join Scouts and have enough time to enjoy it while completing every requirement. In terms of age, any youth from ages 10-13 are perfect candidates to become Scouts!
A great way to advertise to this group is to send reminders for your open house to middle and elementary schools that may not have a Scouting charter already. Unsure of how to approach this? Not to worry! We’ll get into how to advertise your open house in a few sections.
Pick a Troop Open House Date
Picking a date is an important step, so be sure to take your time in making a decision. You want to make sure parents have enough time to mark this on their schedules and ensure they can make it. You also want to avoid important days at nearby schools to increase attendance.
Weeknights are usually the best choice, or maybe even your regularly scheduled meeting night. Earlier in the week is better as people tend to have plans on Friday nights. Pick a date at least 3 months in advance to give yourself enough time to plan and advertise your open house.
Pro tip: You may also want to have the open house towards the end of the school year, or around the beginning of a new school year. Summer and Fall are a great time for kids to get involved in new activities and have a lot of fun outdoors before the weather gets cold.
Leaving a good amount of time between choosing a date and when the open house happens will also ensure that current Scouts will be able to attend. You want your troop’s attendance to be extra-high for your open house.
Plan an Outing
If you’re expecting some new Scouts to join after your open house, plan an outing for your troop so these new Scouts can get their first outing in quickly. Most people join Scouting expecting camping trips or other events, so you want to make sure you have something planned to excite them early on.
A great first outing may be a relaxed campout somewhere where Scouts aren’t expected to do any strenuous activity. You want to ease the new Scouts in, not push them to their limits on their first trip! Let them enjoy nature and hang out with other Scouts before they start doing backpacking or canoe trips.
Another good option is to hold a lock-in. Lock-ins are a fun way to let the new Scouts get to know their fellow Scouts before they have to tent, hike, and cook with them. This also allows them to naturally make friends without the pressure of having to coordinate camping duties! 🙂
Spreading The Word About Your Troop Open House
The whole point of holding a troop open house is inviting potential Scouts, so getting the word out is a must! There are a few ways I’d recommend doing this, but one of the most important steps is creating some cornerstone resources with all of your open house info that you can direct interested families to.
I’d recommend either creating a Facebook page or flyer that you can share with any people who want to attend. The flyer should also be in image format so it can be shared via text message or email. In the upcoming section, I’ll be covering what should be included when making your open house flyer, and even giving you some examples!
Example Troop Open House Flyers
A flyer is a great way to advertise your open house and find people interested in learning more about the Scouting program and your troop. A flyer is really simple but can be effective in attracting people who may considered Scouting before.
Here are a couple of flyers that other troops have used for their open houses:
Troop 51’s flyer (source) is a fantastic example as it highlights some of the fun activities that Scouting is all about, as well as giving contact information, a time/date, and a location for the open house. They also give their regular meeting time so parents know whether or not it will conflict with their schedule.
Troop 6’s flyer (source) adds some pictures to show the exciting activities Scouts are able to participate in. They include other details like the where and when, as well as contact information in case a parent has more questions.
These are both great examples of flyers that you could model yours on. They hit all of the key points that Scouting stands for and provide enough information on the where and when. If you know a Scout with good graphic design skills, they might be the perfect person to create a flyer for your troop!
Direct Outreach Options For Troop Open Houses
While a flyer is one of the best ways to get people’s attention, you may need to also send out an email, text, or letter to really grab their interest and get them to commit to attending. This is a much more direct approach but it can be very effective. You could even get your message added to a school newsletter!
For example, you could write something like this in an email:
Subject: Join the Adventure at Troop (your troop #)’s Open House!
Dear (Prospective Member’s Family),
Are you ready for an unforgettable adventure? We invite your family to our troop’s Open House, where the fun and excitement never stops!
Get ready to discover the incredible world of Scouting! Our troop is a close-knit family that loves exploring, learning, and having a blast together. From thrilling camping trips to community service projects that make a difference, we do it all!
At the Open House, you’ll:
- Meet our friendly leaders and amazing Scouts
- Experience the fun activities we enjoy every week
- Learn about the values and skills that shape young leaders
Join us for an informative and action-packed day! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions beforehand — we’re here to help.
Can’t wait to meet you!
Yours in Scouting,
(Your Title/Role in the Troop)
Your email could look different, but this is the general structure you should aim for. You don’t want something too lengthy since they’ll be getting all of that information at the event. Using attention-grabbing language like “action-packed” or “thrilling” is also important to get people invested. 😀
You could also use text messages to get news of your open house out there! If your troop were to hold a flyering event at a middle school, and people noted down their info, you definitely should follow up! You could consider sending a message to the people who were interested like:
Troop Open House Invitations
Hey there! Are you and your child ready for a thrilling adventure? Join us at (your troop)’s Open House! Discover the fun, friendship, and growth that scouting offers! Save the date and location: (Date, time, and location of Open House).
You could even send a few follow-up messages as the open house date approaches! This will be sure to increase attendance even more.
Have any plans for (your open house date)? At our Open House, you’ll get a glimpse of the incredible benefits of Scouting for your child:
— Outdoor Skills: Learn essential survival, camping, and hiking skills.
— Teamwork: Develop valuable teamwork and leadership skills.
— Environmental Stewardship: Foster a love for nature and environmental awareness.
— Character Building: Instill important values like honesty, integrity, and responsibility.
— Exciting Activities: Engage in thrilling challenges and unforgettable experiences!
I really like sending the info across a few messages so that their phone doesn’t cut off any important info. Feel free to use these examples when you craft your own messaging. Gaining awareness for your event is key if you want a big turnout!
Getting People To Join Your Troop
The goal of your open house is to get parents and potential Scouts acquainted with the program and interested in joining your troop. The only issue is that kids may want something different from their parents. At your open house, you’ll have to cater to both of their interests in order to get people on board.
In this section, I’ll go into the various talking points that you should highlight when speaking to each group. It’s important to emphasize these topics so that parents’ concerns are put at ease and potential Scouts can learn the fun of Scouting. These are the reasons Scouts love Scouting and decide to stick with the program!
I touched on this lesson in my BSA Scout Retention article! If you haven’t already read it, that article will be an actionable additional resource to what I’m going to go over in this section. Basically, you’ll learn some of the reasons Scouts join troops, and even invite their friends!
Appealing to Potential Scouts
Potential Scouts may already have some sort of idea of what Scouting is, for better or for worse. Some may think of exciting camping adventures, while others may visualize boring meetings and tedious merit badge work. This all depends on what they’ve heard about Scouting, which can make your job easier or harder!
You want to set exciting but realistic expectations for what happens in Scouting. There’s a lot of fun to be had as a Scout and a lot of potential for exciting adventures, such as Philmont or Sea Base along with your usual Scout summer camps.
When talking to prospective Scouts, here are some highlights that you could touch on:
- Make new friends
- One of my favorite parts of Scouting was all of the friends I made. This was definitely a massive benefit to me as it made camping a lot more enjoyable. In fact, I’m still friends with many of these people today.
- Experience the outdoors
- This is definitely what people expect when coming into Scouting. Emphasize all of the outdoor activities that you have had the chance to participate in, why they’re so enjoyable, and offer a few fun stories from your favorite outings.
- Learn new skills
- Merit badges are closely associated with Scouts and for good reason. Badges allow Scouts to learn new skills and test their knowledge. Tell prospective Scouts about all of the cool skills they can learn and share some of your favorites.
- Being responsible
- Scouting doesn’t just teach skills like first aid and swimming, it also teaches ‘soft skills’ like leadership, responsibility, and communication. Many of these skills that I learned as a Scout have come in handy later in life.
- Future benefits
- I’ve touched on how Scouts has benefitted me and you should do the same during your open house. Talk about how you plan to use what you’ve learned in the future. Maybe even bring in some graduated Scouts to talk about how their Scouting experience impacted their lives.
These points will definitely capture the interest of prospective Scouts. They will get a more realistic view of what Scouting is all about and how it can impact their life. While addressing these points, be open to questions as well — if they are unsure about anything, it will be great for them to see that you know the answers or can point them to someone who does!
Addressing Parents’ Concerns
Parents can sometimes be a hard group to please, but they have good reason to be worried. They may have concerns over safety, interference with other activities, possible Scouting-related expenses, or just the time Scouting will take. After all, they just want the very best for their kids!
All their concerns are valid, and you should address them when explaining Scouting and your troop to parents. You want to put them at ease so that Scouting doesn’t seem daunting, but give them realistic expectations at the same time.
Here are some key points that you should bring up with the parents:
- Scouting is all about safety, and you should express this to the parents. Explain how your troop does safety briefings, the precautions that you take on outings, and answer any questions that parents may have.
- Two Deep Leadership
- You’ll also want to explain how Scouts are always accompanied by two or more chaperones at all times to ensure that they’re safe and not taken advantage of. This is a common concern among parents that needs to be addressed.
- Teaching responsibility
- Get parents on board by explaining how their young ones will learn responsibility, leadership, and other important skills to make them better and more independent people. Explain how these skills have helped past Scouts as well.
- This is another big component of Scouting. Scouting is all about teamwork and comradery and this should be explained to parents.
- Getting outdoors
- Screens like gaming consoles, tablets, and phones are great but everyone could use a break to enjoy the outdoors. This will be a compelling selling point for parents who are interested in getting their children away from technology for a while.
- College Benefits
- Scouting also tends to be an excellent extracurricular that helps Scouts get into their top-choice colleges. Mentioning this point to parents and discussing the relevant success skills Scouts learn, will definitely appeal to the more academics-inclined families!
Again, there are more things you can add to the list! However, these points will definitely earn you some Brownie points (or Cub points! 😉) with interested parents. Getting the parents interested is sometimes more important than it is with potential Scouts!
Encouraging Cub Scouts
The last group that you need to cater to when holding your open house are the Cub Scouts. This group is a little easier than the others as they’re already somewhat involved in the Scouting program, but they’ve yet to make the step up to Scouts BSA just yet.
The main thing you want to express to Cubs is that this is a continuation of their journey. All of the fun that they had as Cubs will be amped up and allow them to go on greater adventures with more freedom.
In my experience, this is when a lot of kids quit. The handholding of Cubs turns some people off to Scouting as a whole, even though Scouts allows for much more freedom. This is something that can definitely highlight during your open house — they will be given many more opportunities to do things on their own as Scouts!
They’re not elementary-school-age anymore once they transition to Scouts. This is a big step and they will take on new responsibilities but have a lot of fun while doing it.
This may be a good time to ask what they liked or disliked about Cubs, and then explain how Scouting will compare to those experiences. Make sure to emphasize that many of their favorite elements will still be there, but some of the drawbacks may disappear!
A troop open house is more than just a welcome event — it’s a gateway for prospective new members into the world of Scouting. Remember, do your best to showcase what your troop offers, from campfires to leadership skills, passion, and fun. With this, you’re prepared to hold an epic troop open house of your own!
Thanks for reading! I hope I provided you with some helpful tips and pointers. If you liked this article, I encourage you to check out some of these others that may help you out even more:
- Earning Tenderfoot Rank: A Scout’s Ultimate Guide
- The Value And Benefits of Scouting (58 Highlights From Scouts)
- BSA Scout Recruiting: A Simple Guide To Growing Your Troop
- Scout Campfire Ceremonies: How To Plan A Fun And Epic Program
- 99 Epic BSA Activities: Scouts Share Their Favorite Troop Adventures
Come back to ScoutSmarts again soon! Here, my goal is to help Scouts lead and succeed, so some of the articles I’ve made should be great resources for new Scouts joining your troop. Feel free to share with them and, until next time, I wish you the best of luck on your adventures!😀