Think of membership in your group as one of a number of "products". It’s obvious we are not realizing the desired results from the efforts of our traditional recruiting methods. We need to look at these methods and be prepared to consider new approaches for attracting new youth/adult members. While there may be perceived risks in any new methods, the risks are even greater if we choose to ignore and resist these needs for change.
The primary focus of our existing groups should be to retain members and to create an environment that will attract new members. These key principles are equally important for retaining existing members and attracting new ones:
• Group meetings should be interesting and fun to attend.
• Group leadership must be dynamic and conduct organized and fun filled programs.
• Projects should accommodate the needs of youths’ interests and abilities.
• New youth/adults should be made to feel welcome.
• Parents be invited to participate in group projects and activities.
• Individual participation and achievement must be appropriately acknowledged.
• The group must create and sustain an environment that enables the youth to grow and to feel better for having attended and participated.
These elements provide a firm foundation on which to grow.
So What Now?
The challenges of membership growth in Scouting can be overcome through an awareness of where we have come from, and appreciation of the factors which can influence the efforts to attract new members.
A New Membership Marketing Approach
The following marketing approach is based upon the proven record of major international marketing corporations who have adopted the principle: "the customer comes first."
The ABC approach uses your group leaders’ talents and skills where they are best suited. It takes advantage of those individuals who have a sales background and enjoy "selling," but it also benefits from your members’ business and personal relationships in a nonthreatening manner.
Dividing Up the Labor
To implement the ABC approach, the responsibilities must be spread among your group members. This will build teamwork and help ensure success. The tasks are divided among three groups, whose jobs are:
A THE GROUP MEMBERS
• To recruit one to three members.
• To plan a well-organized, fun meeting for prospective members.
• To provide appropriate members to serve on a membership growth committee.
B THE MEMBERSHIP TEAM
• To create a growth plan for the group.
• To create a schedule to follow up on prospective members.
• To "close the sale" with the prospective members.
C THE PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS
• To be contacted by a any member.
• To make an informed decision to join the group based on a professional presentation to recruit them.
What attracts buyers to a particular make of automobile? One person may be attracted to a make because of its style, while another finds the car’s handling characteristics appealing. What are the "features" – or benefits – of your group that will attract a prospective member?
As with the automobile, this differs from person to person. Smart companies market their products based on the life-styles and interests of their targeted consumers. To successfully "market" your group:
1. show prospective members that you care about them and
2. discuss these benefits with a potential member?
There are a number of tangible and intangible benefits of scouting membership. When reviewing a prospective member’s profile, the group committee will be able to identify the prospect’s skills, family interests, and recreational interests.
Once the prospect is made aware of the benefits of membership, the individual will seriously consider membership in your group.
Involving Your Members
Many traditional membership campaigns have failed due to lack of involvement and enthusiasm of group members, leaving the chairperson frustrated. No one wants to make the telephone calls. Members don’t feel comfortable talking about making the calls. Of course, whether or not someone joins depends on whether the individual likes what he or she sees at the first few meetings. Programs must be fun, interesting and challenging. Both youth and adult must like what they are going or you will lose them.
Think positive and your group will grow.