Recruiting Scout Parents
Excited leaders from Pack 112, Brownville, Maine.

11 Steps for Recruiting Scout Parents

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“How do I get the parents in my den to help out?” might be the most common question I see from the people I know running Cub Scout packs. It’s also the most important, by far. Packs that are getting enough help tend to run a great program, which in turn helps you keep the scouts you have, and helps you recruit new ones. So, here are a few things to remember when you’re recruiting scout parents to be volunteers in your pack.

1. Let them see you having fun

Ever read Tom Sawyer? Remember how Tom got his friends to whitewash the picket fence. He made the job seem enjoyable. The difference for you is that you’re not actually asking people to do your work for you – but to do a job that will provide a better program and experience for their kids.

Let them see you enjoying what you’re doing. The one common element I can think of in big packs and troops out there is that the leaders are having fun. People like to have fun. Those are the teams that people want to be on. They like laughing and joking. Be that group. By the time you actually get around to asking for help, it’s going to be a lot easier to do so.

Volunteering is something that you get to do, not that you have to do. It’s something you get to do to help your kids – the most important things in your life. I know that in my time working with scouts, I’ve had a blast, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

Be Kermit, not Eeyore.

eeyore photo

We love Eeyore, but he’s not a good role model for recruiters.Photo by HarshLight

2. Be the Pack People Want to Volunteer In

This may sound like the chicken or the egg, but it’s really not. Run the best possible program you can with what you have. Start by making sure your current leaders you have been trained. Get trained yourself. Follow the program in the literature. It works.

Run aggressive programs. Go places. Do things – even if you think they’re a little bit above what your current resources allow. Don’t be afraid to ask your district for help in doing this. See if the other packs around you can do joint events if need be. But do a great program for kids, and people will want to join you.

And also…

Don’t cancel meetings or events unless of disaster. Unless it’s not safe to get to the meeting – find some way to make your meeting happen. People need to know that they can count on your pack. Disappointed kids stop showing up, and parents are the ones who have to explain a canceled meeting to them.

3. Thank the Volunteers You Already Have

Make sure that you’re publicly thanking the helpers you already have. Pretty much everyone likes to be recognized for the good work that they do. Letting the parents in your pack see that you’re grateful for the help you already get will plant the seeds in their mind. Put it in their mind that they might be the one being thanked someday.

Aside from the BSA’s leader awards, there are lots of other creative ways of thanking leaders.


4. Don’t Rush it, but Rather, Lay the Foundation for the Ask

Yes, I’ve heard the stories where a heroic scout leader getting in front of the room, telling a gripping story, and coming out with all the volunteers the pack could possibly need. I’ve done it, and I’ve seen others do it, but it’s risky.

You could wind up with the wrong people in the wrong jobs – or two, you could wind up with a volunteer who feels like they’ve been coerced into the job. Furthermore, you’re much more likely to get the wrong person in the wrong job if you haven’t taken the time to get to know them first. Den Leader may be the most important job in Scouting – so why would you trust it to the first person who doesn’t say no?

When you recruit new scouts, you should absolutely include a few expectations. Not an immediate ask, but rather a laying of ground rules. Something along the lines of “Our pack works much better the more help we get,” and “Everybody here has some talent that can help us provide a great program for your kids.”

And most importantly, tell them why you personally volunteer. Whatever your reason is, share it. Whether it’s to spend quality time with your kids before they grow up, to give back to the program that helped you, or just because it’s fun, let them know what your heartfelt motivation is.

But I’d discourage the hostage mentality. Yes, we need volunteers to run a good program. But “volunteer or else” isn’t the best long-term strategy to get committed volunteers.

 

5. Build the Relationship!

This is the key to recruiting scout parents or anyone at all. So I gave it a big subheading and changed the color – because it’s the most important one – by far. It’s the key to everything. Get to know people’s names. What do they do for a living? Learn what they’re interested in. What makes them laugh? What color eyes do they have? Do they have hobbies the kids would like? Where are they from? Where did they go to school? Do they have a Scouting history? Do your homework on them. Get to know them.

Building the relationship will make everything else easier. Whatever you’re going to ask for later will be made much easier if you’ve established a rapport first. This will also help you learn what they’re good at. What skills do they have? Do they have a dynamic personality, and are great with kids? Maybe they could be a good Den Leader or Cubmaster. Are they good with numbers and accounting? What about public relations? Are they very organized? This sort of person might be a better fit for your committee. By the time you’re ready to ask them to serve in a position, you’ll be able to ask them to serve in the position that’s right for them. You want the right person for the right job.

By the time you’re ready to make the ask, the relationship you’ve built will make you much more likely to get the “yes” you’re looking for.

 

6. Don’t Say No For Anyone

This one’s tricky. Sometimes it goes against human nature. If you think someone’s perfect for the job, but don’t think they’ll accept it, ask anyway!

The worst thing that will happen will be that they’ll say no. It’s very unlikely that they’ll hit you. More than likely, they’ll be honored that you asked. If they say no, take their no graciously, as it usually doesn’t mean “never”, it means “not now”, or “I don’t want to do that job, but I might like to do something else.”

In the words of my podcast guest Dave Parry, “Bless and release.”

It’s also a possibility that they might know someone else who’d be great at the job, and they may well be willing to help you recruit that person.

 

7. You’re Not Asking for You

You’re asking for them.

cub scouts photo

Photo by GraceFamily

 

8. Make Individual Asks

Now that you’ve built the relationship, you’re going to make an individual ask. You’re going to go in with a specific job description for what you want the person to actually do. Feel free to customize the national job description down to the four or five things you really need them to do.

Personalize the ask to them. Find a place where they’re comfortable, be it their home, favorite restaurant, or a campout, and make the ask there. If there’s a specific person in the pack they can’t say no to, have them help you in the ask meeting.

 

9. Don’t Downplay the Job

The temptation when recruiting scout parents is to undersell the importance of the job you’re asking them to do. But every job in Scouting is important in some ways. Because if the job isn’t important, why are you asking them?

It’s easy to think that if you pretend like you’re not asking them for that much, they’ll be more likely to say yes. But are a couple of huge problems with that:

  1. “If the job isn’t that important, why are you asking me?”
  2. When the job does turn out to be more difficult than you let on, you’re going to have lost their trust.

 

10. Let Them Know What Support Exists

Get to know all the training courses that exist for their position, and let them know about them. Let them know about roundtables. Tell them about BALOO, OWL, and Wood Badge. Let them know that there are leader guides to help them every step of the way. They don’t have to write the program themselves. Show them Scouting Magazine, Bryan on Scouting, and maybe even share my website with them. Help them create a my.scouting account.

Have a card with the names, emails and phone numbers of the people on the unit and district level that they can call for help.

Don’t let them think that they have to make the program up on their own.


11. Follow Up

Visit a few of their meetings. Call them on the phone from time-to-time. Catch up with them over a cup of coffee. Buy them lunch. See how things are going on a regular basis. Be encouraging. Be there to answer questions. You don’t want to leave them out there by themselves. That’s a great way to burn a volunteer. Not only will they never help you again, but they’ll tell their friends, and they won’t help you either.

Make sure they’re spreading a positive message about volunteering.

Any tips I missed for Recruiting Scout Parents?

Let me know in the comments below, and than you for reading.

 

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