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Seeking advice for a new and overly enthusiastic cubmaster

Even though it may be underused while you are still there, your successor will likely appreciate once you are gone. After three years in the CM role, I still occasionally reference something in the document my predecessor put together.

If you become committee chair it could help return some balance to tasks that fall on the CM vs the committee. My pack, as I suspect is the case with many, has always had a number of tasks that should technically belong to the committee but fall to the CM because they are the most committed. I’ve considered becoming CC, also, when I’m done as CM in another two years. But I’d only do so if the new CM is fully comfortable with that. They don’t need to feel like I’m looking over their shoulder at everything they do. It needs to be their program. It’s a balance, and with the right people, I’m sure it can work.

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@jacobfetzer, as a committee member or committee chair, I will not overstay my welcome. But yes, one of the reasons I would do this is because I didn’t have much of a committee, and would definitely like the new CM to be able to focus just on CM duties and not the business of running the pack!

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“You’ve got too many pack events” is a cry that falls on a deaf ear to me. If it’s too much, just don’t go to everything.

Never let someone else’s lack of enthusiasm and energy drain your enthusiasm and energy.

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There are two legitimate reasons for saying there are two many events:

  1. You need two registered leaders at every events, including one female if you have female youth. If you can’t guarantee that, you have a problem.

  2. If your spouse complains you’re never home or not getting the kids to their non-scouting activities.

Otherwise, as @PaulMcDonald said, they can pick and choose what to attend.

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There has been so much good advice given here!!! When I became Cubmaster I got a pack of 40 scouts and were now around 75. I did a lot, but I had a great foundation set for me and a lot of that foundation is heard in others advice. I can only summarize…

  1. Go to Wood Badge. It’ll help you formalize a vision for your pack to work towards
  2. More is better!!! With that, set the expectation that people can pick and choose things to do. If you’re offering a ton of activities don’t make people expect they need to attend everything. My pack’s expectations are that you go to as many den & pack meetings as you can even if you can’t do all of them. We also offer hikes & other activities every month and camping 2 times a year and a winter indoor overnight. But don’t loose sight that FUN is what drives the program. Ask your scouts who’s having fun! I promise you that doing less is not on the kids wish list.
  3. Continuous adult recruitment. Every pack meeting or so remind people, politely, that it’s the adults who make this work. And DO NOT forget that actual 1:1 ask for help are the #1 way to get people to step up. The direct ask, which is in you training, is definitely a must. I know everyone hates it, but I have never seen it fail unless you didn’t really think through the needs as well as the person you’re asking (it’s assuming you’ve done the do diligence of understanding the target persons life). Also, I try and refrain from targeting 1st year parents until at least 60% through the year. Let them ferment a bit before roasting them :wink:
  4. Wood Badge or not, plan for continuity… The next Cubmaster might not do it your way, but 80% of what you “have” to do is the same. Make sure it’s all documented somewhere or that you promise to stick around for 6 months after wards. I prefer the document method because even if you stay on, the next guy might not. When things are cyclical and documented it’s easier for the next guy to TWEAK the program and make it his. This is important because the next guy will never fill your shoes. He can’t… he had to fill his own. My scouting mentor (my prior Cubmaster) is still my mentor and I had huge shoes to fill. I did my best and made my own shoes and it worked and the pack was better for it. I expect to try and some day fill Frank’s shoes as scout master. They are even bigger than ever!
  5. REWARD YOUR ADULTS!!! The longer I stay in the program the more I see this as a must. 80% will say its a waste, but the reality is people like recognition. Reward your adults. Our pack has moved to 2 “Adult Only” evenings. One in the fall and one in the late spring. Its a way to reward parents and also do a meet and greet for new adult’s to the pack (we coordinate it so it’s after spring & fall recruitment).
  6. Find and recruit like minded adults. Many Hands Make For Lite Work. And friends make it fun!
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Forming, storming, norming, performing. I am in the same boat. I am a new adult volunteer and commitee member. I try to float ideas mid month and feel I sometimes I get ignored. But our troop is successful. I temper my enthusiasm and talk to the scouts. If the Scouts want it and the idea is sound. The COR 3 must follow.

Great advice, and I’m a huge fan of #2 above. We use the model of a “Buffet” – if you go to a buffet, don’t take a full serving of everything: you’ll get sick! Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

At our pack, we “over-schedule” on purpose.

The single hardest thing in Cub Scouts is finding an hour where the leader, the Cub Scout, and someone in the Cub Scout’s house who can drive can all meet.

So we create lots of opportunities. We meet weekly plus additional activities and have about 60% attendance. But it’s a different 60% every time because schedules are what they are–and we had 100% of our Cubs advance in rank, 100% of eligible cubs earned a Nova, and 70% of eligible cubs earned a Supernova. So everyone is “active” and just not 100%.

Meet weekly: If a family misses, then it’s two weeks between meetings. If you meet twice a month and a family misses, they have lost an entire month of program. If you meet monthly and a family misses, you’ve lost two months of program.

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Just keep telling yourself “It’s all about the kids.” We do this to put on a fun, inspiring, educational, character-building program for the children in our Pack and/or Den strictly within the precepts of the Scouting program. How the parents and/or Adult Leaders perceive it is nearly irrelevant.

That said, as a practical matter you have a lot of influence over the program as Cubmaster. But without the support of your Committee Chair it’s going to be difficult to move forward. I would suggest a conversation with your Chartered Organization Rep and Committee Chair to be sure you are all on the same page.

I’m assuming that the Scouts in your Den are on board with how you do things. If that’s the case, perhaps you can recruit parents from your Den to take leadership positions on the Committee and they will take a like-minded approach. Likewise, with you as Cubmaster, new Scouts that join the Pack this fall and thereafter will only know Cub Scouts as you present it, so you can probably set the bar higher and then get parents of new Scouts who are on board with your vision to take leadership positions.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but if you are putting together a better program, the Scouts and their families will be attracted to it, appreciate it, and support it.

Good luck, and thanks for all you do for Scouting!

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Build the experience that you want for your own children. If the rest of the group decides to RSVP through E-vite or Scoutbook then good. If not who cares! Recruit new parents. I have found that 1 in 10 parents care enough about their own kids to really participate in my program. It’s all a numbers game. Be patient. Once people hear how much fun you and your kids had they will start showing up. If they don’t show up, then you will be the one with your kid on the baseball field or at the school on veterans day doing the flag ceremony in front of hundreds of families…

When I took over as Cubmaster Pack 801 I had the same issue. The prior Cubmaster lost 60% of our scouts leaving me with 20 people who were either already volunteers or not interested in volunteering… And definitely not interested in doing more.

At that time I decided to focus on recruiting and aging out the old guard. I introduced Scoutbook (before scoutbook was free) and had pushback. I introduced a summertime program and was told none of the leaders were coming. I increased camping from 2x per year to 4x per year and was told that Den leaders might not make it. I told everyone that we were going to be selling popcorn at locations, to which the cries of “We tried that before and failed miserably” rang out from the crowd. I recruited and recruited and recruited…

Now, 3 years later, my Den leaders couldn’t live without Scoutbook. People cancel their vacations to come to my summertime events (Waterslides, iFly indoor skydiving, neon bowling, etc). Everyone goes camping… Because I plan it and its fun! We sold $20K worth of popcorn and now every scout is free to every event and parents can use their scout’s funds to pay for their dues!

Make good scouting happen and remember it’s fun with a purpose.

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I had a copy of the JTE rubric at our yearly planning meeting last month and people’s reaction was more or less “We always get gold, we’re fine for JTE”. I made sure to pick some activities we hadn’t been doing, like a conservation themed service project and summer activities, so we could boost our score there. While I personally get fixated on awards, achievements, badges, etc. in scouts, games, etc., it’s easy to step back and say “This isn’t about the ribbon, it’s about having a better program.”

Awesome, I’ll suggest it for one of our summer activities next year. Our pack does a winter overnighter each year and we did the USS New Jersey 3 or 4 years ago I think. This year we did the Lancaster Science Center and it was a lot of fun. We had the whole place to ourselves and it was very affordable compared to Uss New Jersey, Adventure Aquarium, Franklin Institute, etc.

Thanks! I’m currently straddling the “shotgun vs rifle” approach (asking a group vs asking a specific person) for filling an open den leader position. I have enough time that I’m trying the “shotgun” approach first, hoping to be pleasantly surprised, but not expecting results. Then I’ll move to the “rifle” approach by asking a specific person. There are some other positions the pack hasn’t used before that I hope to fill as well, thing like New Member Coordinator, committee secretary, advancement chair, etc. When I asked why we didn’t have them before I was told “They’re only for big packs.” I also like the “it’s only as good as we make it” sentiment. We haven’t had many (any?) parent-centered meetings to talk about stuff like that, even brief ones at pack meetings, and I hope to start having those as well.

While I logically recognize I can’t change everything at once, and I know which things I’d like to change first, it’s still been hard for me to just take a deep breath and say “ok, let’s keep doing that the same way… for now” I’m hoping that the early changes we’re making will help build enthusiasm and increase parent involvement. That should improve the program, which should in turn build more enthusiasm and involvement, which should … hopefully!

Haha, it sounds like we have a lot in common! Before I even started as Cubmaster last month I’ve been thinking about 3 years from now when my kids crossover. A lot of what I’m trying to do is institutional because I don’t want it to be on me, or any other person, I want it to be on the pack.

For example, we haven’t had regularly schedule committee meetings and when we did meet it was at someone’s office or house. I put regular monthly committee meetings on the pack calendar this year, and I’m trying to find a place that’s not my house to have them.

Another thing I’m trying to do is set up a document repository. I want our pack to have it’s own memory, I don’t want it to rely on the memory of people that come and go. We have no “pack library” physical or digital. My current idea is to use GSuite for Nonprofits for lots of stuff, including as a digital pack library. I went through the hoops with Google/Techsoup and our Council to prove our non-profit status, and now I have it all setup. I know a lot of packs make gmail accounts like Pack123@gmail.com, but with GSuite for Nonprofits we have our own pack organization. I have cubmaster@pack577.org and we can make as many accounts as we want, so comittechair@pack577.org, treasurer@pack577.org, etc. all their own Google accounts that are centrally managed by our pack. We can make group emails like everyone@pack577.org, den1@pack577.org, committee@pack577.org, etc. Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I’m planning on using Google Drive to store all our pack documents. If I wanted any documents from the past, I’d have to contact the previous people and hope they still have them. With this I’m hoping to set it up so each den leader, committee member, cubmaster, etc. can store documents there that will be easily searchable and available to everyone in the future. I want to use Google Photos’ shared photo albums as well to share pictures and videos from everyone. Oh boy, I rambled. Sorry.

That’s not even one I’m getting yet! I haven’t really introduced new/additional events yet, I just want to do a better job at the ones we already do. I see a lot of people here and in that giant facebook group talk about having multiple pack events each month and families kind of pick and choose which to attend ala carte style. That seems years away for me, but I’d love to be in a spot where we’re having that conversation!

I’m attending Wood Badge next month and I’m stoked for that. “Continuous adult recruitment” would be a great goal for us, since I can only recall two instances of adult recruitment in 2 years. Last year the popcorn chair asked for volunteers to take over for him, and two people stepped up, then last month I asked for a volunteer to take over for our departing treasurer, and we had someone volunteer. So we’re batting 1000%, but we’ve only asked twice! lol. When asking someone to volunteer I once heard the advice “Always have 2 things you’re going to ask for. If they say no to the first, they’ll say yes to the second. I’ve never had someone answer no twice in a row.” haha I’ll have to keep that in mind with the few specific asks I plan on making.

Although, when doing my due diligence I don’t think I’ve thought enough about their personal life. I mostly thought about their previous involvement, enthusiasm, personality, how much fun their kid seems to be having, etc. I guess I don’t know everyone in the pack as well as I’d like to. We don’t have as much of a “close knit” feeling as we could. We need more time for the parents to get to know each other I think.

I’ll have to think about how our pack could have some “adult only” evenings like your pack. I was planning on doing an informal get together for new parents, something our pack hasn’t done, after recruitment. What do you do for your adult only evenings?

Yea, finding time really does seem to be one of the hardest things. Previously most dens met on Thursdays and we had our pack meetings on Tuesdays. I suggested changing pack meetings to Thursdays, so scouts would just be “Thursday” and not “Thursday and sometimes Tuesday”. Every parent in the pack that replied said they’d prefer Thursdays. So we’ve simplified our schedule a bit. Communication was also an issue sometimes. Signups/reminders for events would go out without much notice, etc. I’m hoping to not only communicate more myself, but we’re starting to use Scoutbook this year and I plan on having it send automated event reminders.

I do that a lot! I know how much scouting meant to me as a kid and I want to provide an awesome program so the kids in the pack can get the same things out of scouting that I have. Reminding myself that “it’s all about the kids” is also how I try to keep myself focused and how I prioritize things.

We have a new committee chair this year as well. He was assistant cub master last year and we get along well. I think we’re on the same page, I just have the luxury of having more freetime than him. He travels a lot for work, but I think committee chair is a good fit for him. Our chartered org rep however I don’t know, literally. I’ve never met them and they seem to be very hands-off. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s because they want to be or if we as a pack just haven’t included them. The new chair knows them and has reached out for some signatures recently, so hopefully we can improve that relationship if it needs it.

Yes, people in my den are awesome. I’ve gotten lots of nice comments from them and they’ve even given me gifts and cards. It’s very sweet, so I’m assuming they’re all on board. One time a parent had me tearing up. I won’t go into too much detail but after joining he had a few experiences with the pack before the den and he didn’t like them. He was going to find another pack, but then they started going to den meetings and him and his son loved it so they stayed. Another time a parent in the den was talking to her friend about how great our den was and how much her son loved it. She didn’t know her friend was also friend of my wifes. It was very flattering and heart warming to hear the feedback that way. I was planning on leaning on people in my den to help at the pack level too, but I haven’t really needed to! One of them answered a pack-wide call and volunteered to be pack treasurer since the previous one’s son crossed over!

I’ve had that exact thought about new parents / scouts this year. They will only know the program provided this year, so I’m hoping to make it lots of fun for them so they start enthusiastic and only grow from there.

That’s great advice! We’re having a pack hike and geocaching this weekend and there are 5 scouts in the pack signed up, 2 are my own kids. Rather than getting upset at the low turnout, I’m excited everyone will have more time to try and find the geocaches. We’ll be able to stop and observe things on the trail easier, we might move faster than I planned allowing us to go a little further and do an extra cache that’s nearby.

I’m really glad that your pack ended up loving Scoutbook! I started using the free family account a year and a half ago to use my son as a proxy for my den to track advancement. I proposed using it last summer, but the announcement it would become free came out and our pack decided to push it back until January until it was free. Then when it became free I tried using it for everyone in my den, but for reasons I don’t want to get into, I ended up not even having access to both my kids, let alone access to my whole den. Well, I’m an admin in Scoutbook now and all our events are in there and I have my email drafted to go out to everyone in the pack soon inviting them to use Scoutbook. I don’t think I’ll get buy-in from the other den leader, but the new den-leader(s) this year I hope to just present it as fact. This is part of the program, it’s how you track advancement and rsvp to events. The benefits seem so obvious to me, but people are resistant. We’re having the same conversation with the new trails-end app as well. The benefits seem to obvious to me, but everyone else feels paper is easier/better… I don’t know.

I’m really glad to read about your success with summer events, campaign, and popcorn too. I’ve recently been in touch with the iFLY near us! It looks like so much fun and I know my kids will love it! Hopefully there won’t be much resistance to that idea.

Our adult only events are typically at a local park lodge (nice facility) but we have talked about doing it at an adult leaders house. The pack supplies finger foods, music (amp & mp3 player) & water/lemonade. It’s byob for adult drinks.

One add on I’ve been toying with is seeing if I can get some older scouts (I am also an ASM at a troop my older boys belong to) to volunteer to do group babysitting to support the event.

Also with respect to not always knowing families private lives… I was thinking more of newer families and those parents who seem to avoid being seen (very introverted).

I’m glad to see your getting some great advice & that you don’t seem too overwhelmed with it.

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Hm, you’ve given me an idea. Our high school has a babysitting night a couple times a year where you can drop your kids off at the high school gym for a small fee and there’s activities for 2-3 hours. It’s usually a Friday night in the fall/winter. I wonder how successful we’d be if we planned an adult only outing at a restaurant or something. It might be too rushed. Either way, you’ve definitely got me thinking!

BSA has two programs that you can use:

For Scouts, Venturers and Sea Scouts being is den chief is a position of responsibility, not just a baby sitting job.

post created: 2019-07-18

For example, one pack meeting I planned for the coming year I’m calling “Fort Night”. The plan is to collect a ton of blankets and socks to donate, but have some fun first. I want to use rope to make 2 giant blanket forts in the gym we meet in and then have a “snow ball” fight using the balled socks.

You should check before doing this. Our pack used to do the “snowball fight” with socks and then donate them, but we were told by our local shelter that they only accepted donations of unopened packages of socks. I will say the snowball fight is a lot of fun. We would divide the room up with a no-man’s-land in between (marked with ropes) and the kids would gather on either side. The end of the evening had all the leaders march through the middle while the kids pelted us with the sock balls. It’s not for everyone though. We had a couple Tigers get too scared at it so we had a different activity for them to do if they did not want to do the snowball fight.

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I didn’t read all the replies but here is some food for thought. When I took over as Cub Master our Pack wasn’t very active and I was chomping at the bit to do more. I quickly learn to add things slowly and allow them to develop with in the Pack. First I started by adding summer events. The whole Pack might not show up but those that do, you get to know better. Then more conservation projects. I also ramped up recruitment which scared me because I had to quickly find leaders. We went from a 15-20 scout Pack to a 40-56 scout Pack. During recruitment we had had close to 80.
I created relationships with in the community which really help change the vibe of the whole Pack.
I will say having the Troop run the Derby is a good thing, it keeps ties to the Troop, if as a Pack you step away to much it can hurt crossover. Maybe share the event and have the Pack do decorations and build days.
As for Blue and Gold I would first create a parent based committee for it. Then let them make it happen. Try to keep that expectation of your parents.
Keep it up!!

Karl

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Is it possible they’re viewing it as you’re ‘pushing’ the kids? Maybe just do a little research on advancement pace and recruitment and how it’s done elsewhere, and present to them how your efforts to accomplish these goals is in line with that. I was sort of the opposite - I tread lightly so as not to step on toes. But at the end of the day you have to look out for your own so do what you feel is right. Just try to bring everyone else along with you. Good luck!!

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Solid advice! Since I’m imagining it’d be easy enough for people to buy new socks to donate, I was going to ask for used sheets, blankets, towels, etc. since they’re more expensive to buy. Anything that could be used to make a giant blanket fort. My plan was to try and find a shelter that would take the socks and maybe an animal shelter that could use the blankets/towels and wouldn’t care they’re used. I have “Fort Night” on the calendar for November, so hopefully I’ll be able to find some places that could use what we collect before then.

Wow, 15-20 to 80! What was the time between those numbers? I’m hoping to grow the pack, but even my general pie-in-the-sky expectations don’t imagine it going to 80. That’s huge! When I mentioned the derby, I didn’t mean to imply I had an issue with the troop running it. I was using it as an example of the pack thinking it couldn’t do something, when it easily could.

I don’t think anyone in our den feels that way. I do think the pack “treads lightly” as well. I feel like ideas that require scouts or parents to put in more time or effort have been dismissed quickly for being impolite or impractical or something. Get a parent to use Scoutbook? Not a good idea, parents already have so many apps on their phone. Ask for help with a recruitment event? No, the parents already have to go to a den meeting that month. It’s raining for the hike, when should we reschedule it? We should just cancel it, the kids are busy in school this month.

When I was a Roundtabe Commissioner, I started a “NonScout night” dinner at a local restaurant every June because we don’t typically meet in July and numbers were always low in June.
It was a time for Leaders and spouses in the District to just get together and hang out, get to know each other outside of a Scout meeting. I think it builds a stronger team and gives us a time to just relax and have fun. No uniforms, so if they want an adult beverage it’s ok.
HUGE SUCCESS!!! They still do it every year and draw a huge attendance.

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Our June Roundtable was a BBQ in a local park. Activity uniforms were requested. People did not bring non-Scouter spouses. Youth were welcome, and I brought my daughter who was just finishing up her Tiger year, but there were no other youth her age. The OA chapter, which usually meets at the same time as the Roundtable, participated in the event.

It was a fun social event, and I think it was a great chance for many who have never been to a Roundtable before to get their feet wet. Alas, most of the faces in attendance were familiar ones.

I think of the video game when I see fort night (Fortnite). You probably want to be sure everyone is clear what you are doing. Giant forts sound fun, but you don’t want scouts showing up expecting to play video games.

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