Every spring and fall, units have Open House events designed to welcome in new Scouts, parents, leaders, and siblings. These new members are greeted with welcome packets, flyers, name tags, food, and lots of laughs and smiles. But what do we do to welcome people above the unit level to attend our meetings, training courses, conferences, and more?
That question became a focus point of one of our largest metro area councils during their strategic all committees meeting a few months ago. The council’s training committee noticed, that in today’s busy world, it is getting harder to get new participants to their courses and training meetings. They got the same group of people to come over and over again, with very few new faces (or as we in religious relationships might say, they kept preaching to the choir).
So one district decided they wanted to test a theory; one mentioned many times by faith groups, if you welcome them in, provide food and a community of learning together, and reach out that welcoming hand…they will come.
Keep in mind, this district has more units than over 50% of councils nationwide, so this can easily be scaled to districts or councils as needed. They held an Open House for their March District Roundtable Meeting. Below are steps they took above and beyond normal meetings, the resources they developed, and tips on doing it better next time (which they plan to do in April for those that missed the March event).
To set the stage, here is this district’s normal monthly plan.
Commissioners in the District mention meeting dates to units during visits, there is a monthly calendar on the council website, social media posts give the date/location details a week ahead, and a newsletter with meeting topics is emailed out three days before the meeting to the Unit Key 3.
Meetings start at 7pm (some people start arriving around 6:40pm) with an announcement session (7:00-7:30), they then break out into Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, and Venturing/Sea Scouting rooms (7:35-8:15), and everyone heads home.
Breakouts are used to discuss Big Rock Topics that units in those programs face (recruitment, retention, rank advancement, summer camp, etc).
Special tables are set-up in the hallway to distribute occasional items like rechartering paperwork, Scouting for Food bags, special training course handouts, etc.
Extra Promotional Work:
These are items that were added special in March.
Social Media event and promotion about meeting details in excess of normal amounts; special notes that newly crossed over parents and leaders were invited for this Open House Event.
Each normal meeting attendee was given the opportunity to put on an Subject Matter Expert sticker (or five) to show new attendees and existing attendees what topics they could provide guidance on outside the meeting time. These stickers were simply mailing labels to attach to their shirts. Click here for sticker template.
Notice was given that a midway of Scouting topics would be open starting at 6:30pm.
Tips for Next Time:
These are a couple things they are looking at adding for the April Roundtable Meeting.
Multiple committees have already committed to having a display table on a different topic for the Midway. Including a religious emblems station, STEM experiment, and volunteer sign-up for the council’s big event this year.
The Venturing/Sea Scouting Breakout has found having a few snacks encourages youth officers of units to attend.
They are creating a Scouting Acronyms Handout for new attendees to help new leaders learn the terms and follow along in conversation.
Photos come from this March Roundtable Open House. Share photos from your event, or ideas your council has used to welcome new members in the comments.