A Recipe for Success

"Once upon a time, there was a man who was hungry and had nothing but an ordinary small stone" starts an old fable, one that speaks directly to the state of membership retention and development. Weary from his long journey, the wanderer came upon a small village where he hoped to find shelter, nourishment, and companionship. There, however, the wanderer found that the villagers were also hungry, a harsh summer having destroyed their crops.

But the wanderer--noble hearted, sworn to charity, and ever resourceful--told the villagers, "I have a magic stone that will feed you all. But for the magic to work, I need your help. First, place an enormous kettle filled with water in the center of town. Then, go to your homes and bring whatever you can; a single carrot, a chicken bone, a parsnip, a bit of potato. I will place my magic stone in the pot and each of you will do the same with what you bring. The magic of the stone will make enough soup to feed us all."

The villagers did as they were told, each bringing to the kettle what they had; a stalk of celery, a sprig of parsley, an onion. The wanderer added his stone to the kettle. A fire was lit, and in time the villagers saw that it was as the wanderer had promised. There was enough soup to feed them all.

How does the tale of stone soup apply to Scouting membership?

First, several membership committees are passionately concerned about the well-being of those around them. They are working diligently to discover the ingredients to a successful recipe for membership gains.

Second, the villagers, without knowing it, already had what they needed to take care of themselves; they just needed a catalyst, a "magic" stone, to draw it out. For Scouting, that catalyst can be the Provincial Office or your own district/region council, membership committee, media campaigns, or simply an ongoing commitment to a Groups activities and the involvement of both family and community. Certainly there have been membership losses, as indicated in the past, but that trend has slowed in some areas (is yourís one?) because hard workings membership committees throughout the province have persevered and found the skills and talents with which they can address the issue of membership.

Finally, the end of the fable is symbolic of all that it means to be a Scouting member: coming together as a team striving toward a goal of higher membership.

Publicity and Public Relations

One of the most important ingredients that a Group can bring to the membership kettle, is publicity. "Publicity is our best recruiting tool," "We have so much good to offer, but we havenít been telling anyone about it. We need to blow our own horn."

To combat the problem, some districts/regions used posters, bumper stickers, signboards on the local bus transit system, radio spots, billboard messages and other forms of advertising.

For some districts/regions, a media campaign might appear too expensive to mount, but there are ways to offset the costs. For every signboard the district/region purchases, the transit system may match it with another signboard.

Understandably, not every district/region can conduct a media campaign on such a grand scale, but there are still many ways for a them to blow their horn. Public relations is the key. In smaller towns there should be almost no reason not to build a rapport with local editors.Make sure your activities appear in the local newspaper every week. And keeping the community informed about a Groups activities and programs is the heart of a successful membership campaign. When they [the people in the community] find out about your successful program and that youíre having fun doing it, they will get involved. No matter the size of a Group, a good publicity program is critical to reaching potential members. "You need to make the program fit your Group. You have to tailor the membership drive to fit your needs."

Community Involvement

The magic of stone soup began when the wanderer encouraged the villagers to work together, uniting for the good of the community. When a Group focuses on its own community involvement, new membership increases and lapsation decreases. One of the main reasons contributed to successfully recruiting new members is community involvement. Bringing the community into the Groups activities also increases the membership. One of the reasons some groups are so successful in attracting new members is because they are involved with their community.

Open houses have been successful in attracting new members. These open houses give a Group the opportunity to bring the community into the Group, meet its Scouters, learn more about the Group and its activities and inquire about the process of becoming a new member.

Family Involvement

Just as getting the entire village involved was necessary for the making of stone soup, getting the involvement of the entire family is important if membership is to grow. To increase membership, "concentrate much more deeply into family involvement." In an era when two incomes are a necessity for many households and it is difficult for parents to spend as much time as they'd like with their children, it is crucial for Groups to develop activities and camps involving the entire family. Creating a Group that is a "wholesome place to have a good time" is one of the ways of swelling your membership ranks. The Groupís strong programs, events and activities, camps creates an excellent avenue for young families to do things together. Groups are successful in attracting new members when they offer something for younger families.

A Strong Membership Management Team

Teamwork is one of the most significant ingredients for the membership recipe. The fable's stone soup wasn't made with vegetables and chicken bones as much as it was made through the villagers' coming together under the direction of the wanderer. That holds true for the Scouting as well. Membership committees should work together as a team under the supervision of a chair. This ensures that all functions of the Group are represented on the membership committee. The Group is then capable of addressing any issues pertaining to membership.

A Group's membership management team should be a whirlwind of constant activity, dealing with everything from reinstatement to new membership. Groups accountable for the status of their membership. "Accountability is the key". It's this sense of accountability that will cut your losses. Remember the slogan, "Not on my Watch".

Finding the Magic

At the end of the tale of the stone soup, the real magic was discovered--the inventiveness and imagination of the wanderer and the benevolence of the villagers. The magic of the stone soup wasn't in the stone, it was in the encouragement and leadership of the wanderer and in the villagers bringing what they had to the kettle for the benefit of everyone.

Successful membership growth is about that, too: working together to bring new members. With enthusiasm and good teamwork, we can all move forward to exemplify the aims and principles of the Scouts Canada.

What can you bring to the kettle?

Reproduced for Scoutscan.com by permission of Scouter Douglas Moore - Nova Scotia