Cub Scout Retention
"I like to think of a man trying to boys to come under good influence as a fisherman wishful to catch fish. If a fisherman baits his hook with the kind of food that he likes himself, it is probable that he will not catch many- certainly no the shy, game kind fish. He therefore uses as bait the food that the fish likes. So with boys; if you try to preach to them what you consider elevating matter, you won't catch them. The only way is to hold out something that really attracts and interests them."
Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of Scouting
The First Three Months in Tiger Cubs
Here's a National Scouting statistic: within the first three months of joining Tiger Cubs, we will lose 50% of the boys.
Why? Here are two reasons. For starters, there is no second chance at a first impression. If a Cub Pack is disorganized and poorly run, both the boys and their parents will run far away from the Pack! Second, the program can be boring and irrelevant. We have contacted departing parents and boys to ask why they left. "Simple," they say, "It was boring, irrelecant, and disorganized."
So what can be done to stop this loss? Start memorizing these three words: Program, Program, and Program. Here are some more ideas given to us by those who are beating the odds and retaining their Tigers.
1. Understand that one of the most important positions in all of Scouting is the Tiger Den Leader. Don't change Tiger leadership every year with a new adult. Find someone with a heart for Tigers and do what you can to keep that person in that position. An experienced, consistent leader keeps the boys coming back. Ideally, this person would commit for three years. During the third year an assistant would be selected to apprentice or "shadow" the leaders and would then become the next leader, who would serve for three years.
2. Great planning makes for a great program! Planning for the Pack should be in May. Use lots of parents.
3. The Tiger program must be fun and crazy, geared for first grade boys. Integrate goofy stuff and never take yourself too seriously.
4. "Hands on" activities should be used liberally. When something tangible can leave the meeting, it adds a new level of enthusiasm. Something as simple as a refrigerator magnet works wonders.
5. Create and print a Pack calendar. Hand it out to parents and include the Pack rules.
6. Make Tiger Cubs a part of the whole Cub Scouting experience. Tigers should be just as much as part of the pack as the Wolves, Bears, and Webelos. Tigers should be at every Pack meeting and recognized for their accomplishments.
7. Begin "when" language righ away. This is a reoccuring theme which must be emphasized throughout a boy's Scouting experience. Begin saying to the Tigers, "Now when you become a Wolf," or "When you become a Bear," or "When you become a Webelo." No "ifs."
8. A good Tiger recruiting process begins in the spring. Sponsor an Open House shortly before school is out for Kindergarten boys and their parents. Create a colorful brochure just for Tigers, with information for parents as well.
9. Implement a summer Tiger program. Two or three good summer programs for the Tigers gets the boys interested and involved. This could include: family picnics, day camp visits, rocket day, etc.
10. Recruit Tiger leaders in the spring and let them in on planning sessions.
11. Leaders must build relationships with parents. They must be “people persons” and talk to parents. If parents aren’t welcomed and don’t enjoy being a part of the Pack in some way, their boys won’t stay. This is true in every level of Scouting as well.
12. High-five every boy as he arrives at a meeting.
13. Learn each boy’s name quickly and use it. Learn parents’ names as well.
14. Have the Tigers wear the Cub Scout blue shirt right away.
15. Present the boys with their Tiger neckerchief in front of the entire Pack at the first opportunity. Make it a big occasion.
16. Have a table set up at a school's open house. Ask the principal, far in advance (they come back to work in early August), for permission to do this. Have lots of brochures about the Pack and have BSA literature available.
17. Talk with a first grade teacher to try and understand six and seven year old boys. Understand their learning styles and their likes and dislikes.
18. Put “Join Cub Scouts” yard signs in the yard of the charter organization. Stock up by getting new ones each year because they can blow away or get stolen.
19. Get a “Join Cub Scouts” message on the church or school sign every year the week before the Rally Night. Most churches would do this if someone just asked.
20. At least one parent is involved with a school’s PTA. Submit a paragraph about joining Scouts in the PTA’s monthly newsletter. Remind them they can join at any time, not just on the Rally Night.
21. Get a bulletin board at the charter organization and update it monthly with lots of photos and information.
22. Never arm-twist parents into being Den Leaders at a Rally Night. Instead, look for extra help for an event or two and ease them into leadership.
23. Have parents fill out a “Family Talent Survey” early on to know their strengths and interests.
The First Two Months as a Wolf Cub
Remember that national statistic that tells us within the first three months of joining Tiger Cubs we can lose 50% of the boys? Of the 50% that stay in Tigers to become Wolves, we can lose half again if the program is boring, irrelevant, and disorganized. That means there is great potential to lose 75% of the boys in less than 15 months. No wonder only about 3% of the boys who join Boy Scouting make it to Eagle. We lose them! So what can you do to keep your boys in Wolves and then on to Bears?
1. Remember that a great Bear Den begins with a great Wolf Den. A great Wolf Den begins with a great Tiger Den.
2. Try not to change the Wolf and Bear leadership each year. Sure, have parents serve as assistants but try to keep the same Wolf and Bear Den Leaders for at least three years. Consistency is a big factor.
3. Never underestimate the power of good planning.
4. Keep the boys interested and advancing. There are so many things to work on in Cub Scouting. Make the advancement lots of fun and very crazy. Like with Tigers, keep integrating goofy ideas and never take yourself too seriously. Remember the three words: program, program, program. Boys like doing and hate listening!
5. Keep the "when" language going. No "ifs" like "If you become a Webelo" or "If you become a Boy Scout." That is a negative, self-fulfilling prophecy. It's "When you become a Webelo" and "When you become a Boy Scout."
6. Implement a summer Wolf and Bear program. See that it includes Day Camp and more.
7. Keep building relationships with parents. Keep being a “people person” and talk to parents. Know the parents by name.
8. Create a Pack email list to send out announcements every week with reminders about upcoming events. Many boys at this age already have their own email addresses. Include them and their parents.
9. In the spring, start to recruit parents to take over for those who may be leaving in the fall.
10. Track attendance. If a boy misses two weeks in a row and you don’t know why, make a phone call, send an email, or write a note letting him know he was missed. The sooner the better.
11. Select a totem for your Pack. Something that brings everyone together or has some symbolic meaning that everyone can understand. Have that totem visible at meetings and create a graphic of it to include on all publications.
12. Remember that the best Packs and Troops have a high ratio of active adults to boys. Your best ratio is one adult for every three boys.
13. Look to the local Scout Shop for Program helps.
The First Camping Experience
One of the keys words to remember in retaining Scouts is ACT.
Advancement, Camping, Training
Boys who have successful advancement experiences will stay in. Boys who have enjoyable camping experiences will stay in. Leaders who are well trained will keep the boys involved. For many boys, the first camp out will be their first time away from home. Even if mom or dad is there, it will still be a new experience filled with some wonder and some fear. It must be fun and it must make so much of an impression on a boy that he will want to go on many more camping experiences. Here’s some ideas to make that happen:
1. Have an information night a week or two before the campout at a Pack meeting. Get a digital projector and show pictures of previous campouts or show a scrapbook with photos. You do keep a history of the Pack, correct? Pass out a packing list to parents and include the leaders’ names and phone numbers for questions. Take lots of time for questions and answers from parents.
2. Reserve a cabin for two nights and make it an option to stay one or both nights.
3. Reserve the camp’s council ring for a big camp fire. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Plan it out with lots of songs, goofy things, and smores. Light the campfire in an impressive way. Make memories.
4. Don’t give the boys hot chocolate before bed. The sugar will pump them up and they won’t sleep. They may also have to get up to find the scary latrine in the middle of the night.
5. Once the boys are in their bunks, stoke the fire and play a CD of Native American music. You could also read them a story, a long story filled with adventure. But, not scary! This can comfort those who may be scared and give the whole group something to listen to as they fall asleep.
6. Attend the Council Cub Adventure Weekend. Everything is planned for you.
7. Have each boy build his own big tin can camp stove and have him cook his supper on it at camp.
8. Find things for each parent to do on a campout. If parents are bored or feel like they are not wanted, you’ll lose them. You need to get them involved, which will keep the boys involved as well.
9. When a Cub Scout shows up for his first campout, present him with his own hiking stick. These can be easily made. Use different wooden brands or other ways to mark each event on the hiking stick.
10. Impress on the older boys that they must make the younger boys feel welcomed.
11. Always have a Plan B and Plan C. Many first campouts have been ruined by a cold rainy day with boys cooped up in a cabin with nothing to do. Sometimes, its even better to postpone an event rather than create a negative experience.
The Move to Webelos
More than two-thirds of the Webelos Scouts who begin the Webelos program in the 4th grade will not be a part of the program by the beginning of the 5th grade. So, getting a boy into Webelos is one thing, keeping him in the program is another. He’s in fourth or fifth grade and beginning to get active in things besides Scouting. Here are some ideas, offered by those who are retaining their Webelos, to keep boys interested in the program:
1. Make the move to Webelos a big event. Let boys change from the Cub Scout blue shirt to the Boy Scout tan shirt right away. Present new Webelos with blue shoulder loops for the tan shirt and talk about the coming day when those blue loops change to green when they become Boy Scouts.
2. Keep the Webelos involved in the Pack. Don’t separate them all the time. Meet as a total unit.
3. Allow the second year Webelos to immediately become a Patrol and attend some Troop meetings. Alternate weeks between the Troop and Pack so boys aren’t out two nights a week.
4. Never underestimate the power of a good Den Chief. A Boy Scout who gives up a second night a week to help a Cub Pack is a great gift. These boys are “secret weapons” in the process of moving Webelos into Boy Scouting. They develop positive relationships with the younger boys and become the Webelos’ liaison to Boy Scouting.
5. Take “Webelos to Scout Transition” training at the University of Scouting.
6. Develop communication with a Troop and allow that Troop to communicate with the Pack. The Troop should become involved with the Pack. A Boy Scout liaison on a Pack Committee and vice versa is a good idea. A good Charter Organization Representative should initiate this communication between Scouting groups in the same organization. Units need to exchange yearly calendars as well.
7. An ideal situation would be that the Pack and the Troop both meet on the same night in the same place. That makes it very easy for the Webelos to visit the Troop. It is also good for the parents because they get used to the same night for meetings. Parents with a boy in both the Troop and the Pack appreciate the “one-stop shopping,” thus not having to go to two different places or on two different nights.
8. A good Troop realizes that its success depends on the success of a good Pack.
9. Give a list of second year Webelos to the Scoutmaster along with their parents, addresses, phone, and email. The Scoutmaster can contact the Webelos.
10. Remember that it is in Webelos that the world of outdoor Scouting begins to open up. The Webelos are able to camp and go on other outdoor activities. So, camp and go!
11. At the end of the Webelos program, the boys should have a “taste” for what Boy Scouting is about and have a head start in proceeding through the Boy Scout program.
12. The Webelo Leaders should think of themselves as guides that lead the boys through the transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Leaders keep the boys' interests going in the direction of Boy Scouts by playing more of a supportive role than a directive role.
13. Help Webelos become more involved in planning the program for the den. They will learn simple leadership skills.
14. Investigate using the Denner position. This is like the Patrol Leader in Boy Scouts. The Webelos Denner is a Webelos Scout who has been elected by his Den for a short term of office, usually three to six months. His responsibilities are determined by the Webelos Den Leader and might include such things as leading ceremonies, preparing equipment, setting up the meeting room, greeting new boys and helping them get acquainted.