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Convincing volunteers

I am the Cubmaster in our Pack. This is my first year as Cubmaster. I am also the Pinewood Derby Chair, the Blue and Gold Chair, our Pancake Breakfast Chair, the Outdoor Committee Chair, Wolf Den Leader, Assistant AOL Den Leader, Friends of Scouting Chair, and I guess since we don’t have one, probably considered the Assistant Cubmaster as well. I am doing something Cub Scouts related literally every day of the week.
There is a group of 5 of us who run everything. We each hold a handful of positions. We doubled the size of our Pack at a recruitment even last fall and are trying to get some of the new parents involved more.
We’ve approached a handful of parents with specific positions we think they’d be really well suited to, and each and every one of them has demurred because of the amount of work it is to become a volunteer. Hours of training, continual background checks, signed health form, cost of uniforms, and having to then PAY to volunteer are cited as reasons.
I also manage to find time to volunteer at the local food pantry and a local animal shelter. In order to volunteer at these organizations, I just have to let them know I am showing up.
I understand that because of past events, the BSA is trying to protect itself from future lawsuits, but lets be honest. A two hour online video isn’t going to stop a bad person from doing bad things. But why must the organization make it so difficult to volunteer? Do they actively want to discourage parents from partaking? Do they want to force Pack’s to let people slide who don’t want to/can’t get the training done (we have one Den Leader for our AOL’s who has refused to do any of the training he let lapse because it’s his last year)?
If this organization is going to survive, finding a way to keep volunteers is going to have to become a priority. I am running myself ragged and don’t know if I am going to be willing to keep doing all this next year. Activities and outings are going to be dropped. Plans will be scaled back.
What can be done to alleviate some of the barriers to volunteering?! Any ideas?

“One hour a week!”

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As far as paying to volunteer goes… There is nothing that precludes the pack from underwriting that expense in part or in full for the committee members/Cubmasters (and assistants). Just realize that this will eat into the pack budget.

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That sounds like lots of excuses, more than legit reasons… Becoming a registered leader requires YPT training (<1 hour every 2 years) and an initial background check and a re-check every 5 years, and a commitment to give time to the unit. Uniforms are optional, signed health forms are only required for excursions and camp outs up to 72 hours in length (you’re not going to be camping longer than that as a Cub Scout, so Part C isn’t a topic). Health forms are not required to go to a meeting. And, regarding costs, it’s up to your committee whether or not to charge adults to volunteer or not. If you have the budget to do it, I highly recommend paying for your adults’ registrations as a ‘thank you’ for their service.

Now that I’ve responded to that, here’s my advice. Sometimes you have to hoist the black flag and become the bad guy. Call a parent meeting and tell them without adult volunteers, Pack events will be cancelled. Make it brutally clear that there’s no Pancake Breakfast, no Zoo Outing, no whatever if parents don’t start pulling some of the weight. It’s up to the parents to make this a great program for their children; they can do that, or they can let their kids down. (Like I said, this isn’t a friendly meeting, it’s a “help or else” meeting).

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First off, thanks for volunteering! It’s clear that you value serving the youth, and I personally think that people with that commitment are all-too-seldom acknowledged for it. I also agree that a small cadre can’t carry a large unit on their shoulders unless they’re not doing anything else.

I’m not sure what council you’re in, but does your council require that all leaders be fully position-trained in order to register, or is it simply a requirement for YPT every two years? Our council (and nationals AFAIK) only requires YPT. You would have to talk to your council to figure out why they require fully position-training before someone can register and serve in an adult leadership position. That wouldn’t be practical in our council, because of the dearth of opportunities (for example) to complete IOLS for scoutmasters/ASMs. It’s easier at the pack level and for committees, since all (or almost all) of the required training is online now, and in-person training is more frequently available since it’s only a day class.

While I applaud the goal of uniforming, if there is one thing that I would let go first, that would be it. Tell the adults that, at least for the time being, it’s OK to start off with business casual dress, as long as they’re tucked and tidy. Work up to a uniform blouse for the direct contact leaders (DL/ADL,CM/ACM), but don’t sweat the other registered leadership (committee members, etc).

I actually agree that no amount of training prevents all bad actors, but at the same time, I think YPT is a valuable thing. I encouraged (pretty successfully) all of our den parents to take YPT so that we had two adults with YPT at every event, in the days before everything (including meetings) explicitly required two registered leaders 21+, etc, etc. I made the argument that their training helped keep their scout safe, and wasn’t that worth an hour or so on the computer every two years? The idea wasn’t that they were the hazard YPT would be protecting against. Rather, they were helping to protect against outsiders, or even other adults from our unit, who might turn out to be an unexpected hazard.

I don’t believe that they’re making it difficult, per se, but I can see why it could be perceived that way. It does cost money to conduct the background checks, maintain records, etc that is required. So, there will be a cost for adult volunteer leaders. As @kevinwindisch and @SteveCagigas noted, your unit could – as ours does – roll the costs of covering registration fees for volunteer adult leaders into the registration costs for youth participants. I know that can be a sensitive subject, but, as you and the other respondents have noted, without adult leadership, no events will happen. Some adults might be willing and able to pay the costs of their own registration, but that may not be true for everyone. I’m not sure I agree about the health forms not being required for meetings. My understanding is that any time scouts/leaders assemble, we’re technically supposed to have health forms for every registered person on site. I’d suggest checking with your council.

At the risk of sounding uncaring: good! Entirely too many people in too many units think that their registration fees pay for the BabySitters of America to mind their kids. That’s just not the case. Realistically, the unit needs every adult to help out one way or another. It could just be bringing supplies/snacks to the den meeting. It could be helping out as MC at derbies. It could be teaching the scouts a skill at a den or pack meeting. None of those roles requires a uniform, fees, YPT or a background check.

Often, the real objection, no matter what’s stated, is “I’m afraid of looking foolish in front of the kids.” Yeah, we all are. After a while, you discover that the kids are often impressed that you’re willing to look foolish in front of them. My den on more than one occasion got me dancing. Talk about looking foolish… :laughing:

I think the advice you got from @SteveCagigas about laying out the bald facts for the parents is good advice. We did it at the pack level when our previous Cubmaster’s boys bridged over to the troop and he had to be replaced. The pack nearly folded because he had been all things to all people, and nobody wanted that job. We worked out a semi-solution to better distribute responsibility, and got a CM, more ACMs and DLs out of the deal. It was clunky, and was still in its infancy when I bridged over the to troop with my son. We had a similar situation around the same time with our troop, and eventually found someone who was willing to become scoutmaster to keep the troop from folding up. That’s how I ended up being an OA chapter adviser after the previous adviser from a chapter with which I didn’t caucus literally moved, and could no longer serve.

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I agree with what others have said above generally. So, I won’t repeat. I would also add that it often works better to ask someone to do a task than take on a job. For example, instead of asking someone to be an advancement chair, ask them if they’d be willing to shop for awards once a month. You can even ask two people to alternate months. Then, ask them if they’d be willing to print the pocket certificates from the pdf provided by Scoutbook. Then, you may even eventually get to the point of them looking up the PO and advancement reports for themselves. You gradually add on little bits and pieces as they get comfortable. Then, you eventually get to the point where you inform them that they are doing the whole job anyway… or you don’t because it doesn’t matter.

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Some previous discussion/references

Family Scouting

  • BSA Home > Family Scouting, “Cub Scout Program Resources” section
  • Cub Scout Leader Book, 33221, Copyright 2018 Boy Scouts of America, 2018 printing, “Leader and Family Roles and Responsibilities” chapter, p. 49ff; “Parents and Families” section, pp. 68-69

Training

Clothing

Have you ever heard someone say “I wish I could spend more quality time with my kids?”

Well, here it is. It’s called “Cub Scouting” – show up and hang out with your kids. Make a birdhouse. Race a pinewood derby car. Learn to fold the flag, pitch a tent, tie a knot, and cook an egg.

If you are doing everything yourselves, then why should anyone else volunteer?

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I know it’s not the main point of your post, but I wanted to follow up on this bit. You are absolutely correct that the YPT won’t stop a bad person from doing bad things. No amount of training would. But it’s not about that. It’s about enabling bystander intervention. The YPT teaches everyone else what to look out for, what behaviors are expected, what is unacceptable, and what to do when a violation occurs. It’s about everyone else being vigilant and denying the bad person the opportunity to do anything bad.

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First decide if your still interested in leading the pack. We do this for our kids, is your kid having fun still? Look around, could you move your kid to another pack? You really need to understand were you are first, then have your parent meeting. Nothing good happens if your burnt out.

A theory of YPT is that if you do make people do the training, and Scouts cover the pamphlet, and the unit follows all rules, and keep it front and center (do it all) the people who saw Scouts as an easy target will go elsewhere. It puts up a big sign that says “abusers aren’t welcome, we are watching, go away”. The data says they will. It is part of a “defense in-depth” concept. Make us a hard target and most will say “well, maybe another org that doesn’t have their act together will be an easier target”. So, I think a video does make a difference. It doesn’t make the only difference, but it is one point in a multifaceted effort.

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They could pay for *all adult registrations. And this is quite fair to my thinking. Reality is that those of us paying our way are subsidizing the cost for the families without volunteers.

Now, I would also point out that no registration is needed to assist the committee with tasks.

My start point would be to ask for people to help at an event. “Hey, can you help check cars in at Pinewood Derby?” Be sure to thank people for their efforts however small. Take a moment for a round of applause for those helping run the race including (list several task areas).

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It sounds like a small thing, a very slight change in perspective, to change from looking for “volunteers” to looking for “parents”.

“John, since you’re coming anyway, would you be the parent in charge of picking up food for the Pinewood Derby from the supermarket?”

We’re all pretty good at being parents. What’s scary territory is being a “Chair” or “Leader” or “Volunteer”.

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Thank you for your commitment to the youth and families in your Pack. Some techniques that can work for getting people to start to volunteer are:

  • Ask a parent to do a specific small task in a short time frame, rather than an official position. Publicly thank them when they complete it - that encourages them and others to do more. Have a few tasks in mind to ask them to do, so that if they don’t agree to do the first one you ask, you can ask about others. If they reject all requests, they may be a lost cause, but ask them how they would like to help the Pack.
  • Ask them to be part of a team that will be responsible, such as the Blue & Gold committee.
  • Ask individually, ideally with the help of someone they know well. Broadcast requests for help by email or in a group meeting usually do not work.
  • For more ideas, check out the online courses in the BSA Learn Center under Expanded Learning > Succession Planning
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A 2 hour online video isn’t going to keep anyone from volunteering. Our Troop requires more training than what BSA requires, and parents are still joining.

Maybe you’re doing too much for your pack. Stop it. So maybe you’ll go a year without pancakes. Parents who miss activites will step up. Right now, they don’t have to.

All of the discussion has good points. One thing I have seen in unit after unit: in high performing units, a sense of community has been formed by the parents. In this environment, people step up and do things to move the group forward because they want to. If the group stays open and welcoming, and new parents are allowed in, then the unit will continue to florish. If the group closes or one person or a group of people make others feel unwelcome, then the process will stop working.

Work on getting the community working again and most of the problems will disappear. When people want something to happen, it will, so build and environment where they will. Find the people that are naturally charismatic leaders and let them help with it. You won’t be able to do it on your own.

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I changed from asking adults to step up to making each part of the pack program a different den’s task. For example the PWD is a Webelos activity and the B&G is an AoL activity. Certain rank requirements fit well into some Pack activities better than others. The level of responsibility or complexity increases each year from Tiger thru AoL and each rank has an opportunity to see the event they’re going to run before they do it. Also, there are suggested instructions for each event that parents can use to guide them if they so choose. And as cubmaster committee chair, I’m supervising the whole way so marquee events don’t flop.

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part of your problem is your expection of adults in the pack. We have an ‘orentation sheet’ that we use when someone wants to join our group. . ti lists the qualificcations of our current leaders, it talks about our expectdation of uniforms, attendance, costs, dues, den and pack attendance. it also lets the paraents KNOW that they are expected to participate with the den and pack activities. this also includes youth protection training so that they know what is expected from ALL ADULTS. .
if you want to be active in our pack we expect you to do some things. our pack is not a 'drop off the kid or baby sitting place. dbrinton jr mesa, az

First, THANK YOU for serving as a leader. As a Cubmaster for 30+ years and still having FUN! I do believe BSA has made it more difficult for volunteers even though I understand some of the things are necessary. We do have great family support in our pack.

Something I believe that most people miss is the power of inertia. The truth is that some units have plenty of volunteers while others struggle. And… there isn’t a lot of movement from one area to the other. It happens, and mostly toward the lack of volunteers side.

It takes time and effort to increase volunteering. And at least initially you must work hard to lower the threshold to be involved. Start with just being grateful if someone can make reservations for you. Tell them how much you appreciate it and let them deal with it their way.

If you find someone to head up camp cards, let them go at it. Be quick to answer questions and very slow to make suggestions. (Your suggestions may sound like commands.)

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Not every position in the pack must have a registered and trained leader. Your PWD and Pancake Breakfast coordinators can certainly be a volunteer parent. Register your core volunteers, and then farm out the work as smaller tasks as others have suggested.

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