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Where Do You See Scouting Membership In The Next 5 Years? What Can We Do To Grow The Program?

We haven’t been really active with it in the past due to . . . politics. The local Council sends all the food collected to Gleaners in Detroit, even though there’s a chronically under-funded foodbank located in our district that could really use the help. When it’s been brought up in the past that the local place could really use the help, Council’s response was “That’s nice. Keep sending all the food to Gleaners”.

Nothing against Gleaners, but there are one of many foodbanks, and they don’t serve the communities in our local District.

I was contacted by a Committee Chair today. Her boy and girl troop and another troop both chartered by the American Legion were told that they would no longer charter the troops because of BSA national stance on Black Lives Matter.

A petition has been started. " The Boy Scouts of America took a knee by supporting Black Lives Matter Organization"

Wait for it. There will likely be more troops disbanded by the American Legion charter organizations.
Wait for it, many Explorer posts supported by police and fire departments may be dissolved.
Wait for it, the VFW may stop chartering Boy scout as well.

Members of the Scouting family are welcome to provide input to aid in the assessment. Click here to provide feedback about any of the proposed recommendations.

I wasn’t aware the BSA was supporting the organization of Black Lives Matter. I’ve read the official statement many times:

We condemn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all those who are not named but are equally important. We hear the anguish, feel the heartbreak, and join the country’s resolve to do better.

The Boy Scouts of America stands with Black families and the Black community because we believe that Black Lives Matter. This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address. That is why, as an organization, we commit to:

  • Introducing a specific diversity and inclusion merit badge that will be required for the rank of Eagle Scout. It will build on components within existing merit badges, including the American Cultures and Citizenship in the Community merit badges, which require Scouts to learn about and engage with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action.
  • Reviewing every element of our programs to ensure diversity and inclusion are engrained at every level for participants and volunteers by applying a standard that promotes racial equality and denounces racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice.
  • Requiring diversity and inclusion training for all BSA employees starting July 1 and taking immediate action toward introducing a version for volunteers in the coming months.
  • Conducting a review of property names, events and insignia, in partnership with local councils, to build on and enhance the organization’s nearly 30-year ban on use of the Confederate flag and to ensure that symbols of oppression are not in use today or in the future.

I don’t interpret the conclusion that the BSA is supporting the militant organization of Black Lives Matter. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” came before the Organization as I recall. It’s a generic support of equality that is commonly used right now. It’s not a phrase I use but I get it.

It just seems that no matter what, someone wants to fuss about the BSA. All I can say is that we no longer live in Norman Rockwell’s Americana and the sooner certain people realize that and learn how to operate in the new norm the better people will be.

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I does not matter what you believe or how you interpret the letter, it is what, in this case, how the American Legion has reacted to it.

Membership is going to go down and registration fees are going to go up in 2021, just how far is unknown.

BSA knows this and that is why the recommendations are

  • “Reinvigorate the on-boarding program for new Scout families and members”
  • “Streamline the unit rechartering process.”
  • “Prioritize National BSA strategic communications and marketing”
  • “Establish a national Chief Communications and Marketing Officer”
  • “Create a membership executive position within councils focused on growth and paid on performance”

What I find curious is that this particular American Legion chapter you are speaking of apparently had no problem sponsoring units given the fact that it allows gay leaders, LGBT Scouts and Girls yet racial equality and diversity training seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and decided to kick these kids out in the street.

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The Guide to Safe Scouting is one of the most problematic issues for the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA has a culture of negativity. Don’t do this, Don’t do that, Double Don’t do this. The organization is more focused on “rules” than outcomes. As they look at “churchill” for guidance and want better qualifications for councils, they are heading in 100% the opposite direction of where they should be going - micro councils. The BSA is a hierarchical top down leadership organization. While they are issuing “orders” to the “troops” the rest of the world has changed around them to be more agile and reactive and opportunistic to grow and learn.

In our local council they are shutting down a camp because the “National Council Standards” that include luxury hotels instead of camping cabins are part of “safe Scouting” The local council has so enraged people that they are looking to buy their camp and essentially step out on their own and ignore the council entirely. Top down dictation of programming standards is WWII management philosophy and completely disconnected from where the world is going.

Micro councils at neighborhood levels with a strong digital technology to connect them allow people to act locally and still work nationally. The National Council and their Committee on Committees of Committees is redundant and bloated and out of touch with the grassroots Scouting effort. Until that changes, Scouting will continue to decline because people are disconnected from the leaders. Simplification of the program is a must.

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I agree with much you have said. I am concerned about the recent response to our social issue — Black Lives Matter. I agree in theory, but ALL lives matter. And I still have an issue with the letter that National sent out. Is BSA supporting the IDEA or the organization? They are definitely two different things. The organization (or at least some members) are burning flags, wanting to defund our police, and creating chaos in the name of change. If BSA is supporting that, all I can do is shake my head and walk away.
The BSA organization is also making it very difficult for some families to participate. The added costs are just frustrating. For our Scouts in Crossroads of America Council, the fees have gone up to $78 per Scout and $54 (+/-) for each leader because of a $12 per person insurance bill). Add to that a “first time” $25 fee for a total of $103 for a new kid, not counting the fee for the necessary Akela for Lion kids. And then there was the big push to add girls to the youth program. So now, you have perhaps 3 or 4 members (or more) to pay for? I realize that for some, that isn’t a big deal, but for our area, it is. And recharters are due in November when families are just getting over the hump of school fees and then Christmas. I understand that some may give the opportunity of Scouting as a Christmas gift, but then you also have the costs of uniforms etc. and Summer camp costs are also going to be going up… between my grandkids in Cubs, my husband (the Troop Committee Chair), and I as Troop Scoutmaster, I easily fork out $1000 every year just with registration fees and camp fees for the 4 of us. That isn’t even counting fundraisers and extras…(including uniforms)… on my now even more limited Social Security budget, it is getting cost-prohibitive. My daughter is a single parent who works very hard to make ends meet and we do the child care, to help her out. Scouts has always been a great investment (my husband and son are both Eagles), but money is getting stretched very thinly.
Popcorn sales are way down due to the high cost (who in their right mind will pay $70 for a tin of 37oz of popcorn? Or $25 for a 12 pack of microwave popcorn?) yes, it is a fundraiser, but our troop of scouts are hit by constant fundraisers for school, band, sports, and church. And we have been told that this should be (“will be”) our only fundraiser (according to Council). If we have 25+/- cubs and 30+/- scouts in our county of less than 26,000 residents (not families), how does that work? BSA has become a monster big business and it is going to Sink the ship.i personally think that Lord Baden Powell, Dan Beard, William Boyce, Ernest Thompson Seton, and others would be appalled at what has become of the organization.
You may disagree with me, and that is ok. But unless something changes, the only ones I see left in BSA in 5 years are the ones who have money, the ones who are financed by contributions, and the paid professionals.

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I am the Boy Scout Committee Chair for an American Legion Department (state-level division of the Legion). When the letter came out, I was made aware that this might be an issue at recharter time this year. Supporting the BSA was one of the first things the Legion resolved to do when it was chartered in 1919. I emphasize that when I give presentations on the relationship between the two organizations. I’m going to focus on the good that following the Scout Oath and Law do in developing youth to become good citizens.

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I think BSA missed the boat entirely when choosing how they would support BLM and law enforcement.
Rather than suggesting additional badges that only a portion of scouts may consider (remember, no scout is required to earn Eagle, therefore none of the suggested actions would impact all scouts), councils and troops should have been encouraged to consult with protest leaders and law enforcement as to ways that they could serve in uniform during events. This is nothing new. Scouts performed similar duties during the Women’s Suffrage marches. Rather than having scouts do homework on these issues sometime in the future, have them observe them for themselves this summer and later compare what they’ve observed with their fellow scouts and scoutmasters. Then, in a couple of months solicit ideas from the scouts who’ve volunteered on the ground with marchers and officials. Observe and report is, after all, central to the primary meaning of scout.

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Watch where you tread! This forum is being censored!

I have a complete transcript of this topic and “Diversity and Inclusion MB” topic if any one wants them if and when they are removed.

It is getting to hot in the kitchen for somebody.

david epps

If you are trying to point out that your voice is somehow being squelched …

  1. Your word count is prodigious.
  2. You have not tracked the history of MB development. It is far from linear. It starts with an idea being floated followed by months, if not years, of soliciting opinion, and ultimately ignoring most of those opinions.
  3. This particular topic is about moves that will increase membership. Adding a required merit badge does not do that. For example the addition (return, actually) of Cooking to the required list did nothing to offset membership losses.
  4. After rollout, there is usually a year grace period where scouts can complete their rank using an old required badge list.
  5. Like I said, nobody has to earn Eagle, ever. So although your scouts might be anxious to earn it ASAP, others might find it to be one too many “bookwork” badges.
  6. Who would qualify to counsel the badge? A Klansman could cite that he’s studied diversity and inclusion more than anyone else, and therefore should be a counselor.
  7. I personally would like to see revisions to key requirements to existing MBs, but even that would proceed slowly.

All of that to say that BSA’s top-down pronouncement (which comes off as oh-so-much doublespeak) may produce a D&I badge in due course. It’s effects may range from positive to disastrous.

Beyond my suggestion that BSA encourage scouts to participate in collaboration with marchers and law enforcement, what would be positives changes that could organically lead to successful D&I? A couple of ideas:

  • A “reparations” award for scouters who pay the registration fees and uniform fees of underprivileged youth.
  • A new unit challenge for scouters who help commission a unit in an underserved area.
  • Sistering troops of different ethnic groups at council activities.
  • Scout Sunday recognition for scouts who attend a house of worship with cultural membership different than their own.

We need to get beyond the notion that we can somehow “require” D&I. We need to come to a point where we can situate our scouts in places where they will directly experience it and consequently chart the future course of the nation.

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I’ve reread this thread and there are several interesting ideas to enhance the program which is great once the Scouts are enrolled. How do we get the horses to the water? None of these great ideas are going to mean a lot if kids and parents don’t know about it.

I hate to use the expression "when I was a kid’ but in this case it seems apropos. There was a time when most boys and parents knew about the Boy Scouts and held it in high regard and wanted to be a part of it. Many still do, but not nearly like it was before the internet and social media… I think fewer and fewer parents know much about the program and the boys and girls don’t get the BSA program on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram “alerts”.

As fewer parents participate in Scouting as youths, there will be fewer to pass that experience on to their kids which will continue to shrink membership. This is a trend that needs to change. The BSA really needs to get to the parents to steer their kids in to Scouting early! As it was mentioned, kids have many more activities to entice their entrance and the BSA’s recruiting is antiquated.

I haven’t seen research data, but it’s my strong opinion adult and kids spend far more time on the internet and various gaming consoles than watching TV. Someone mentioned how poor the BSA’s YouTube channel was and that was being kind because it’s a dumpster fire. The BSA has to become extremely aggressive on social media. You can darn sure get an alert from some ambulance chaser wanting to get a piece of the lawsuit action but the only Pro-Scout advertisement I get is from sources I’ve already “liked” or “followed”.

How do you draw attention to the BSA program with so many other distractions? It’s going to take some serious “out of the box” ideas. I’m going to ramble a bit with this example of successful recruiting so bear with me. I’m a huge college football fan. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a successful college football program. Oregon used to be a very mediocre team. One day, they decided to come out with these crazy uniform schemes and it caught the eye of the nation. It’s hard to believe that top athletes would go to a school to wear a certain uniform but darned if it didn’t happen. Those crazy uniforms with a good investment in infrastructure created a program in a remote area (as to a top college program) where some of the nations top athletes want to play…My point is that some of the traditional thinking needs to be brought into this century.

Speaking of uniforms, I think an upgrade wouldn’t hurt. I’ve heard the term “brown-shits” as a pejorative on more than one occasion. Can they be made to look “cooler”? To an over 50 Y/O like me they are comfortable and serviceable, but to a 21st century kid? It’s not the kids in the program I’m speaking to, rather the kids and parents that see the uniform. Does it entice them? The various branches of the military are always changes the uniforms.

Uniforms is just one small part of a much bigger challenge the BSA has to get the type of message out that really touches parents and youths in a way that makes them want to try the program.

I’ve got to stop myself. Here’s my feelings in a nut shell:

image

Agreed!
The classic class A uniform khaki color has been around since 1915. So changing that is probably unwise. But you could add legging stripes to the pants and the same stripe up the seem under the shoulder of the shirt. What did you have in mind??

The scout tee shirts are so plain Jane so those need to be dressed up alot.

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The bear should a real bear in 3D.

Scouting uniforms were sold at Sears and Montgomery Wards. This public exposure of Scouting was a valuable marketing tool. Only scouts go to the scout shops. Scout shops do not reach the consumer. Maybe use Amazon or Kohls or Target or at Academy sports as the more public venue to sale scouting apparel.

  • Scout troops should camp at highly visible state parks where parents with children and youth can see scouting in action.
  • Scouting should have google/Facebook/YouTube/Bing/Yahoo ads which appear when searching for camping and hiking trails and state/national parks.
  • Likewise ads should appear when searching for STEM
  • Of course ads should appear when searching for any of the subject matter of merit badges.
  • When searching for child upbringing/rearing the ad should appear.
  • All councils and troops and packs should place free articles in the community interest section of newspapers at least once per month. Also, many newspapers have a community calendar so announce the scout meeting times and locations. This should be a specific requirement of the communications merit badge.
  • ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY sign and service
  • More products to sale door to door. Popcorn and the price points just don’t cut it! An information card should be distributed when going door to door selling products.
  • Sale Boys Life subscriptions door to door.
  • The discussions.scouting.org forum is open to the public and can be found using search engine. So, place ads for the scouting programs on the website.
  • Send friend requests to all your friends from you pack/troop/crew Facebook page. It is all about networking in today’s culture. Publicize our network by friending all other packs/troops/crews in the council and others nationwide. Likewise councils should network via Facebook.
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I’m not a fashion designer but my thoughts go back to my times in the military. Perhaps keeping the traditional Khaki and olive pants for Scouting functions that do not necessarily put you out in the public and a more formal type of “dress uniform” that is eye candy for Scouts to show off to the public…This is similar to a military utility uniform for “work” and a more form dress uniform for public image…Just a thought.

I actually remember as a boy seeing the Boy Scout display at Sears and how much I wanted to be a scout. The mannequin was all dressed up and spiffy…Thank you for that memory. In additional to those places you listed I would add any place that sells camping gear like BassPro, Dick’s Sporting Goods, etc…All of those places serves as silent recruiters. You are totally correct about the Scout store.

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It’s as if certain elements of BSA have a case of self loathing and fears being seen or heard in public.

  • The BLM letter and lack of personal communication between BSA national and the troops. National and the Troops are never working on the same page.
  • The scout shops are not in stores
  • Camping and hiking and boating only on high-adventure bases and council camps
  • Advertisements no where to be found
  • Very little one-on-one contact with the community and the nation.
  • Scout leaders and scouts do not wear the uniform in and around town
  • What happened to “Do a Good Turn Daily”

I remember selling multiple products door to door all the time, going to Shiloh Military National monument, entering cook offs, running dunk tank at county fair, visiting Meramec cavern, camping at Mont-Saint Bruno National Park, Quebec CA and operating a snack trailer with the troop.

Scouting Wire just made two suggestions how to HELP SPREAD THE WORD!:
How to Use Geofencing for Scout Recruitment
How to Use Social Media to Spread the Word About Scouting

We were proud to be Scouts. We wore the uniform to school, to church, and around town. We wanted it to be known that we would help the little old lady cross the street.

I am becoming more and more disillusioned by the whole mess. Take the proposed recommendations from the Churchill study, they provided no rational for the recommendations. What do they know that we don’t? Given that they spent nearly a year on it, the whole thing is half baked in my opinion.

They were tasked to develop plans on how to optimize the BSA for success. I can answer these questions:

  • Youth Safety: How do we keep young people safe? - You can’t, Scouting is inherently risky. Get rid of most of the rules and leave it up to judgement calls of the adults and scouts.
  • Program: Are the BSA programs aligned with today’s young people? - Of course they aren’t, The programs are stuck in the past and are not congruent.
  • Communications and Marketing: How can National Council improve communication with stakeholders? - That is simple come down from the ivory tower and just talk to us directly! Generals give rousing speeches to their troops.
  • Organizational Structure: Do we have the most effective organizational structure? - No it is not! The organization is too bureaucratic. Cut out the mid level managers. This forum should be private and the six teams of volunteers and professionals working on the plans should participate and start their respective topics for comment from the scouting community.
  • National Council Effectiveness: Are there changes that would make the National Council more effective? - Yes get fresh blood on the national council and at the executive level.
  • Financial Health: How do we build a solid financial path forward? - Reduce prices and anticipate the yearly budgeting requirements of the family! Stop upsetting every bodies apple cart with commitments that are not supported by the rank and file.

If the six teams of volunteers and professionals do not participate here and tell us what they are thinking then I feel I am just talking to a wall and wasting my time.

From what I’ve seen and from what I understand of the rules, a linked troop shouldn’t mean “double the volunteers”. The committee can be the same across the two troops, and if they’re running a coordinated program, the actual work for any committee member should only be trivially more.

The only adult-leader position that can’t be shared across two troops is the scoutmaster, and even in that case the SM of one troop could register as an ASM of the other, and vice versa.

There are two girl troops within easy driving-distance of my home: one is a linked troop with the lowest-numbered boy troop in the District (and probably in the Council!), chartered by a nondenominational church; the other is an all-girl troop, newly established as part of the pilot, chartered by a fraternal organization.

My sons’ troop has looked into setting up a linked girl troop. It’s been discussed at committee with no objections to proceeding, and the SPL once introduced a group of girls to the SM who seemed interested in joining a troop run by the BSA program. However, they never showed up to any other meeting, and our SM also reported that he got push-back from the DE, who would rather grow the established girl troops for now.

It also might be the case that your CO is adding additional requirements for the linked-troop that lead to “double the volunteers”, for example if they say that an adult cannot be the only adult of his or her gender at an event. BSA has no rule preventing a married couple, or two adults of one gender and a third of another gender, or even two opposite-gender unrelated adults from serving as the minimum two leaders at an event.

I grant it’s possible that BSA might allow a CO to charter a truly gender-blind troop at some point, either because the CO believes that’s the right thing to do as a result of its own principles, or because the CO is compelled to do that by state law. But it won’t be because the linked-troop model has too much overhead; if done the way the program already allows, that overhead is minimal.

I think that this is a key distinction for me. If you have two SPLs and two PLCs, then you really have two troop programs, not one coordinated one. The two units could elect to operate as one program, but that begs the question as to who the SPL actually is in the event of a disagreement.

It need not be double the overhead, even if the two units are running non-parallel programs. However, I don’t know that it’s as minimal as implied, if the two SPLs/PLCs are really running their own programs, as opposed to having the same program.

The DE cannot disqualify a new troop as long as the requirements to form a troop are met. Your DE seems to be power hungry and overstepping his/her bounds.

I have a feeling DE’s are getting a lot of pressure from national to recruit as many girls into the program as possible. I spoke to my DE about a month ago and in casual conversation he mentioned how increasing the girls Troops is a priority from national .

Most DEs I know will gladly start a new unit… sometimes at the expense of an existing unit. IMO there is a balance to be struck. While having several options for the scouts is a good thing, I also think it’s better to have two really strong troops than five that flounder.