Scouting Forums

Recruiting leaders

What does everyone do about leader recruitment in their cubscout program? I think I am going to have to shut down my pack due to lack of leaders soon.

That is an unfortunate very real concern. For us we have been pretty lucky from a Den Leader aspect, but getting help at the committee level has been challenging.

We make volunteer announcements at almost every pack meeting as well as put info in our newsletter about upcoming vacancies. e.g. “Hey did you sell popcorn? Wasn’t that great? Our popcorn kernel is retiring next year and we really need help…”

We also try to get one person from each new group to help out in some way. A couple years ago we had a really strong group of volunteers who stepped up all at the same time, but then they all retired together when their scouts aged out. So now we focus on getting a den leader and some other helper (BnG Chair, Camp Chair, etc.) at the beginning of each school year.

Also we were surprised at how many parents thought we were all paid professionals running the program. By hitting them early and constantly reminding parents we have been lucky to keep having 2-3 new volunteers every year.

So I guess long story short, be vocal about the need for volunteers but don’t bemoan it. Talk it up and show how rewarding it is. Also point out how much the scouts want to see their parents volunteer. They don’t want to be dropped off. They want to see their mom or dad leading the den, running the sign in table etc.

Most of the time, broad announcements and mass emails don’t attract many volunteers. It usually works best to start small. Ask one person specifically to lead one activity and build from there.

I’ve also found an interesting thing recently: I ask parents individually who they think would be a good den leader, and inevitably, someone volunteers. It’s usually the person that others recommended, too. Note: I do this after months of rotating meeting leadership.

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Jacob is right. “Hey, anyone wanna volunteer for a year to lead a Cub Scout Den?” is a near-guaranteed way to get zero response.

This isn’t the million-dollar question, it’s the gazillion-dollar question. Here’s some tips that hopefully will help (and it’s no guarantee):

  1. Recruit an Assistant Den Leader first.. It’s a lot easier for someone to say “Yes, I’ll be the den leader” when they have an assistant. And remember, there’s no rule that I can find that says that you can only have one Assistant Den Leader per den.

  2. Recruit Den Chiefs. Now it’s even easier for someone to say “yes” if you have one or two assistants and one or two Den Chiefs to do most of the work.

  3. Have a plan. In my case, I started in Tiger and led pretty much every type of den meeting. I saved all the information and plans, so I can say “I have the year all planned out for you, we just need someone to show up and supervise.”

  4. Family Pack. Our pack sticks to the rule of “no drop-offs” of scouts, at least one parent or trusted adult has to stay. Since they are already going to be there, why wouldn’t they supervise?

  5. "I wish I could spend more quality time with my kids." We hear that all the time… well, here it is: Cub Scouts. Quality time like no other. We have the program already created. All you have to do is come invest that time with your kids doing things they like to do.

  6. Be specific. When we ask someone to be a “Den Leader” they probably have in their mind what they think that is, and it’s very likely wrong. In our pack, a Den Leader is someone who shows up a little early, has reviewed the teaching material and supervises the activity. They wear a uniform, and tell the Cubmaster how it went. If they want to create their own plan, they are welcome to do so (and sometimes they do). We do also want them to complete some online video training to understand how things work and do their best to attend at least 4 Roundtable sessions a year (more if they can). We also want to know if they can’t make it to a meeting so we can work around it. That’s it. People are far more likely to say “yes” to something specific than something open-ended like “Be a Den Leader… whatever that is!”

  1. Recognition. Help the Den Leaders get the Den Leader Square Knot award for their uniform. We also give out the Den Leader Award medal (it’s like five or six bucks).

That should help a lot. It won’t do the trick 100% of the time, but it’s a good start.


Grandparents are also a good resource. Especially grandparents who were leaders for their kids and want more grandkid time.

Hi, Eric,

One thing that has worked for the pack my son was in was to sit the new Tiger den parents down and ask them to talk about their previous experiences with scouting (BSA, GSUSA, etc) and their goals for getting their scout involved in Cub Scouts. That usually identifies the likeliest targets for Den Leaders and ADLs. Then, let the parents talk among themselves about who’s going to be the DL and the ADLs. That’s how I ended up out den leader for five years of Cub Scouts, and transitioned to an ASM once my son bridged to the troop. Almost all of our ASMs and our Scoutmaster have all come in on roughly the same trajectory. My ADL has stayed on as an ASM, and many of our committee members “bridged over” to the troop when their scouts did. There’s no reason this couldn’t work at every den level, if you’re having trouble getting parents to step up.

If you tell them “The pack may fold if y’all don’t help lead,” you may not get much response. If you take a smaller group of parents that are more closely connected, like the den, my experience has been that you are more likely get one or two people in each group to step up. Then, if there are some people who say things like “I can bring snacks, but I can’t plan every meeting,”, those are your committee members, and you get them on board to do “intermittent” tasks (verifying medical forms and registrations, making a scout shop run for advancement items, planning Blue & Gold,etc).

Our biggest issue at the pack level was actually recruiting a Cubmaster. We had an awesome CM when I started, who was at every event and heavily involved in running each of them. I don’t want to denigrate this level of commitment, because I think it’s laudable. However, I think this set an unrealistic vision of what the CM had to do and nobody felt like they could fill those shoes. Once we got a leader who decided to fill his own shoes instead, I think that the expectations became more realistic. I know that the immediate past CM had trouble finding his own replacement, so it’s likely still the same issue of getting time commitment from folks.

Thanks for the advice everyone. I took over as Cubmaster last year. For the last 6 years the pack had been being led by one family essentially and they needed out they were burnt out. I quickly realized why. I have tried most of these suggestions including open invites to everyone. I have recently went so far as to ask the school to ask for help over the newsletter. Not sure what the answer is currently.

How big is your pack, Eric? How many leaders do you need?

ETA: I realized that could be read as combative once I posted it. The intent was to get a scope of the problem (e.g. my pack was 90 kids and 5-6 dens).

Technically if you just use den leaders and cubmaster no assistants you need 6 5 at minimum. That’s everyone. I got around 30 kids. It’s not overwhelming until you have leaders at the beginning of the year and have a plan where everyone will get done and than leaders start bailing on you.

Bleargh. Yeah, having leaders ditch you is a real pain. The only backstop I’ve found for that is having assistants, but that roughly doubles the number of volunteers you need.

How are the other parents in the unit feeling about the leaders ditching? Have you discussed with them the possibility that the pack will fold if you don’t get more adult leaders? Some people are really just that oblivious and might not have contemplated that possibility.

The other parents were questioning me on why their kids weren’t having meetings. That’s why I took over another den. I have mentioned the possibility that we will have to fold and no one really said anything

Have you tried something like this:

  1. Come up with a plan for the next few den meetings.
  2. Explain that you are also a parent and a volunteer (some people think that den/pack leaders are paid, but we are all volunteers), and that you need their assistance.
  3. Pick a parent (plus a backup) and tell them that they are in charge of the den meeting on date “X”. Walk them through the requirements for that meeting and make sure that they understand they don’t always have to do every single requirement (when it says do “X” of “Y” requirements). Walk them through the plan for that meeting.
  4. Repeat for other parents in the den.
  5. After every parent has had at least one turn, talk to the parents again.
  6. Once they realize that it isn’t that difficult or time consuming (most don’t understand what’s involved), maybe 1-3 of them will step up as Den Leader and Assistant Den Leaders. “If you want your kids to have den meetings, then we need 1-3 of you to lead the meetings…”

It’s not foolproof or anything, but it might work.

You could even modify @JenniferOlinger’s #3 to make a copy of one meeting from the den leader guide and have them do exactly what it says. They don’t have to come up with all of their own ideas.

I have used the Yardstick Story. The last two years to get parents interested in helping. After our roundup at the elementary school to recruit, the first meeting we have is a kickoff meeting with the parents. Den leaders take the Scouts out to play “get to know you” games, and the Cubmaster talks with parents about the pack and how it works. When he finished, I would do the Yardstick Story. If you modify it to add your personal experiences, it goes over quite well. Each time, we have had several people sign up as Assistant Den Leaders or Committee Members. If not an actual position, they stepped up to say they wanted to help in a non-leadership role. Those are the ones we put over event planning and slowly work them to a leadership role.

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I recently lead a Pack parent meeting which was basically a request for more parents to step up and volunteer. We had just had a change of cubmaster and committee chair (I’m the new CC) and are coming off a year of poor youth recruitment. While the cubmaster and den leaders led games etc outside I presented a PowerPoint to the parents and included a game of my own to make it fun.
I started by having all the parents fold paper hats out of newspaper and put them on. Then I divided them into “dens” and asked for one volunteer from each den to stand up. The volunteers represented the den leader. Then I had all the members of the den put their hats on the “den leader”. This illustrated that the den leaders often end up taking on all the work of the pack.
I then presented the power post which outlined how pack leadership is organized. A lot of parents don’t know there is a structure to the pack. Also I showed how parent involvement is needed at various levels… at home with the scout, in the den at den meetings, and at the pack level helping with all the different activities.
Then I showed a list of all the leadership roles on our pack and how many of them are filled by all the same people. I went through each of the positions and explained what they do highlighting the open positions. (Assistant cubmaster, Camping chair, advancement chair, etc).
Along the way I emphasized that we are all here because of the youth. Lastly I gave an abbreviated form of the yardstick talk. And I fielded questions.
We have since had volunteers for 5 of our open or soon-to-be-open positions. This was a much better response than the generic, “hey, we need someone to be the equipment chair” type of announcements we had been making at pack meetings all year long.

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Have you checked with your Unit Commissioner for help? With 30 Cub Scouts, there is no reason to fold the unit.

Is there a troop in the area you can tap for help? Den Chiefs? Leaders? Committee Members?

You have a big pack. Instead of asking for volunteers, assess which parents may be suitable leaders then approach them individually.

Eric, I’ve been where you are now. (And still am to some degree).
1st- get help from unit commissioner. If you don’t have one, reach out to district commissioner to have one assigned.
2nd- How are you doing on recruitment of new scouts? Remember, the bigger the recruitment the bigger the parent pool to choose from for new leaders.
3rd- take the mystery out of cub leadership when speaking with parents. Many parents just don’t know how the program works.
4th- maybe it’s time for a health checkup of the unit. The folks in your district should be there to help support your unit.
5th- there may not be too much your not doing. Sometimes the demographics of the area speak volumes. My town is small and is the 3rd poorest town in council. Many cub families struggle wth the "ugly"part of life. Scouting seems to thrive in more affluent communities.
–The idea in a previous post from Heather is awesome. Try it. I’m going to.
Good luck and keep your chin up. Scouters don’t give up. They improvise, adapt and overcome! Also, this leadership recruiting difficulty occurs everywhere. It’s not just you.

Remember sometimes the threat of the pack shutting down also brings in people. We needed a new Cubmaster, and after three months I was just honest. I told our parents we wouldn’t have a pack next year if someone wouldn’t step up.

I had a volunteer that night.