Story contributed by David Rico “Rico,” Southern Region – Membership Growth Coach

As professionals, we face many challenges to meet our membership goals. While many pros have developed processes in the past, it’s a good idea to revisit those processes from time to time to stay current. Having a solid plan will help you to exceed your membership numbers, but most importantly, deliver the promise to youth in our communities. We are in a very competitive world where we need to adapt to the changes in our society. This article will help you strategize and develop a plan that works for you and your district in our ever-changing world.

Where Do I Start?

As part of the process, we must do our homework and research. Take advantage of your access to social media, social networks, and the internet. Take the time to better understand your school districts and their leadership, including superintendents, board members, and principals.

Prepare a “School Night Fact Sheet” showcasing Scouting’s benefits, the purpose of the school night, Scouting highlights, and expectations. As part of the expectations, include Scout Talks (emphasize it will take approx. 5 mins), promotional materials, and highlight how posters should be placed in high-traffic areas.

Building and Maintaining Relationships with Superintendents

In an ideal world, you would have access to your superintendents. The reality is, not everyone has that privilege. Our recommendation is for you to utilize your resources to create the bridge between Scouting and the school system. Research and identify volunteers who have connections with the school system to open doors.

“The executive must help themselves by inviting a volunteer to make the connection with the superintendents of each school district to assist the recruitment process during the initial phases,” shared Taylor Neal, district executive at the Yocona Area Council.

If you have access to multiple school districts and superintendents, prioritize how you will connect with them. While preparing for your visit, think about making it a win-win situation. Consider highlighting the service benefits that many schools with Scouting youth experience.

During your official visit, it would be a great idea to start by sharing any impacting local Scouting stories to break the ice. Discuss the “School Night Fact Sheet,”upcoming events, or give them a token of appreciation.

Throughout your interaction, ask if they will be willing to create a one-year support letter. A one-year support letter ensures that you will have access during the fall and spring recruitment campaigns (share any samples from other districts if available). In addition, ask if they will be willing to share via e-mail with their principals. Finally, ask if you can get a few minutes to address the principals face to face during one of the principals’ meetings. After the meeting, send follow-up notes thanking them and letting them know the next steps.

School Principals Visits

Again, start the process of visiting principals by doing your research.

“Before conducting a principal visit, I always consult the websites of my schools prior to the visit because it is pretty common for the principals to change from year to year, but even then, the site may not yet be updated,” explained Austin Abee, district executive at the Yocona Area Council. “Calling ahead to schedule an appointment and speaking with an administrative assistant can help to confirm this, so you know ahead of time who you’ll be speaking with.” 

“Knowing how each school works best with Scout Talks from previous years and the total number of all youth can be provided by the administrative assistant in advance of the meeting in order to discuss how each youth talk will be conducted,” added Taylor Neal, district executive at the Yocona Area Council. “This takes some heat off the principal and lets them know you are serious about limiting classroom disruption. We also encourage steering them away from lunchroom talks, because even a 5-minute interruption is very likely and that takes away from class time.” 

When meeting with principals, never assume they know the process. You are the expert! Guide them throughout the process to ensure that you both get the most out of it. Don’t forget to highlight the benefits to the school and share with them any impactful stories to kick off the meeting.

Keep the meeting short and to the point, share with them information on the local unit(s), and highlight any past service projects, especially those that benefitted local schools. If possible, have a letter of support from the superintendent and the School Night Fact Sheet.

Once you explain the process, find out if there is a possibility to promote the Scouting night on their website, Facebook page, marquee sign(s), parents school text message system, and any other methods of communication available. Don’t forget to recap at the end of the meeting to ensure you are both on the same page.

“All in all, my goal is to come away with the principal feeling like Scouting is a worthy effort and any special requirements we may need or ask for are worth it,” said Jeremy Twachtman, district executive at the Greater Tampa Bay Area Council.

Best Practices

  • It is recommended to visit with superintendents before summer.
  • It is recommended to set up appointments before the summer and conduct visits during the summer when principals have more time to and fewer distractions.
  • It would be ideal to create a principal development event to capture the interest of as many principals as possible. According to Trey Smith, district director of the South Plains Council, they host a breakfast for the principals. During the event they feed them, give them a mug, and report their success of the prior year.
  • Build rapport with the gatekeepers (administrative assistants) and principals. Bring items like popcorn, camp cards, promotional items, etc. “It is important to have a good working relationship with the office staff because they will be the ones to ensure your fliers are distributed and posters hung up in the fall. They also control access to the principal,” shared Austin Abee, district executive of the Yocona Area Council.

Scouting Wire would like to thank David Rico for contributing this story.

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