Why “normal activities with friends” are such an effective recruiting tool

A day hike could be a great normal activity with friends. (Photo by W. Garth Dowling)

Imagine that you are a parent in a family with no Scouting experience.

You see a flyer for the local pack, inviting anyone interested to visit their next pack meeting on Monday night. Fun – and snacks! – are on the agenda.

When you introduce yourself, everyone is in uniform. You see a lot of adults in beige shirts, assuming most of them are paid professionals. You think, “wow, there’s a lot of staff here tonight. “

Everyone knows exactly what to say and the correct way to raise two fingers up in what you will learn later is called the “Cub sign”.

The reunion sounds like fun, but you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by it all. Then someone hands you a registration form.

Ashley Steigerwald spends a lot of time thinking about such moments. As a Mother Scout, Leader of the Cubs and Communications Chair of the BSA Scout Committee, she spends much of her volunteer time finding ways to introduce Scouting to busy families.

When she learned that her church did not have a Cub pack, she started one, quickly raising it to 60 Cubs in just a year. Instead of recruiting from a local school, she used a method called “Normal Friends Activities”.

A good, normal activity with friends is all that allows young people to go out and have fun. (Photo by Gabe Rogel)

What are normal activities with friends?

Normal Friendship Activities (NFA) are low-pressure group or troop events where units invite non-Scout families to join them for an afternoon or evening of fun.

An NFA can be a hike, a picnic, an ice cream party, a service project, a trip to a local sporting event, or whatever you can imagine.

In NFAs, Scouts and adult volunteers should dress in normal “street” clothes instead of uniforms – a tactic that will help visitors feel more included.

Speaking of which, an NFA should focus on the Boy Scouts (and their families) getting to know each other – not on high pressure recruiting grounds. And be patient. Some families may need a few NFAs before they feel comfortable and ready to join us.

In the Steigerwald pack, past NFAs have included backyard movie nights, picnics and barbecues. By removing recruiting as the main focus, she instead worked on building relationships.

“We got to know them as people, and they got to know us as people,” she says. “And when they joined the unit, they got to know us as leaders. “

NFA helped 219 Troop grow

Mike Matzinger is the Boy Scout Leader for Troop 219, a BSA Girl Scout Troop in North Carolina.

When Troop 219 holds an NFA, Scouts do not congregate in their chartered organization’s church building in uniform to take the Scout Oath and Law and sit together in patrols.

“Instead, we wear our troop t-shirts and meet in the community with one goal: to have fun,” says Matzinger. “And, we refer to ourselves as a fellowship rather than a troop to emphasize that we are an open and welcoming community.”

The NFA technique has been an important part of Troop 219’s membership plan since the troop began in February 2019. Matzinger and his fellow volunteers see it as the main reason their troop grew from six to 35 Scouts during the troop. pandemic.

Normal activities with friends can be offered any month, even in winter. (Photo by Michael Hanson)

Why NFAs Make Sense

  • They are inherently fun and inclusive for everyone, even those with no scouting experience.
  • They are easy to plan and usually at low pressure.
  • They allow families to get to know you and your fellow leaders as people first.
  • They remove items that can be seen as a barrier to membership, such as uniforms.

Let’s talk about uniforms for a moment. Steigerwald is pro-Uniform but believes they should be introduced at the right time.

“The uniform is important,” she says. “Just be careful leading with this, especially with a family that is new to Scouting. “

When a non-Scout parent sees another parent in uniform, they may think, “Wow, they’ve been doing this for 25 years, they know what they’re doing,” Steigerwald says.

“But we had no idea what we were doing. We got it, ”she says. “We have good training. We have good support.

In an NFA, where uniforms are not worn, that non-Scouting parent will see themselves as equal to everyone.

“And because they first knew us as people, they can see each other later in that beige shirt, grab the leadership opportunity,” says Steigerwald.

Good practices for NFAs

  • Maintain monthly NFAs.
  • Have each of your pack or troop families invite three more families to each NFA.
  • Use a multi-channel approach to promote your NFA, such as email, Facebook, SMS, print flyers, and word of mouth.
  • Check with your local council if they host NFAs and invite families in your network to join you.

If you are interested in other new ways to promote Scouting in your local council, check out the free marketing webinars available on Scouting Wire. You will find incredible resources designed to help busy people (like you!) Develop Scouting.

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