After listening to feedback from youth and parents, North Florida Council changed the way it conducted sign-up nights by eliminating uniforms at sign-up events, moving to a station-to-station Join Scouting night format rather than presentation style, and giving every new family a complete packet of unit information as well as great a first Scouting experience at a shooting sports day. While implementing the changes was challenging because it went against tradition, the council saw a 18 percent increase in fall Cub Scout recruiting over the previous year.
Research on their Cub Scout audiences commissioned by the North Florida Council told them that there were significant barriers to joining.
- People were unfamiliar with the program.
- People were confused by the true cost.
- Families misunderstood the time commitment.
The council also learned that they weren’t meeting expectations:
- The promise of activities was not fulfilled.
- Meetings were disorganized.
- People perceived that Scouting wasn’t important.
The research also confirmed that:
- Boys were interested in joining.
- Moms do have the final say, but dads are heavy influencers.
- Prior Scouting experience was a major factor in joining.
To address these issues, council leadership challenged closely held belief about sign-up nights and changed the experience:
- Focused on education: Focused on education at the sign-up night, rather than selling, with the idea that the people who were coming to the event were, in most cases, already committed to joining.
- They eliminated the jargon: For instance, they stopped using the word “roundup,” aka “the R word.” They had learned that the term was confusing to parents. “What is a roundup? Do I need a horse?” The name was changed to a “sign-up” event.
- No more uniforms at sign-ups: Uniforms created an us-vs. them mentality and a barrier to
joining. Instead they went with a less intimidating golf shirt and a name tag that included the
person’s name and the title of “parent,” followed by their Scouting position, such as Cubmaster.
- Changed the sign-up event itself: The council moved to a station-to-station/Open house-style process, more like a sports sign-up event. No more presenter style. This new process took only 20-30 minutes.
- Stopped recruiting leaders at joining night events: Leaders were recruited before sign-up events. By the time they were through the stations, parents had signed up, paid, and had a complete packet of unit information including key dates, times, calendar, and a handbook.
- A great first experience: The council also included a free shooting sports days. (Similar to a council offering a fishing day, rocket day, or STEM event.) This meant guaranteeing a fun, exciting outdoor experience almost immediately upon joining.
We committed to no longer invite new Scouting families to join poor “Scouting restaurants.”
-Kelvin Williams, Scout executive, Griffin, Georgia
Former North Florida Council staff member Kelvin William said, “We committed to no longer invite new Scouting Families to join poor ‘Scouting restaurants.’ Sears said that idea became their mantra.
If you go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, you don’t go back, said Sears. We were committed to making sure they were delivering a great experience to new Scouts and families.”
Sears said the change took a lot of effort because it challenged long-standing ways of how things had been done. Another change was that the council printed each unit’s sign-up night packages – contact information, budget, and calendar. To make sure they were delivering a great experience, these pieces had to be in place before the sign-up event.
As a result of these efforts, the council saw an 18 percent increase in fall Cub Scout recruiting over the previous year.
Is your council communicating well with your Scouting alumni?