One of the biggest barriers to providing scouting as widely as we would like is the lack of adult volunteers. Recruitment of new volunteers is, therefore, a hot topic in scouting. It is not realistic to believe that your district, county or national headquarters will be able to solve your recruitment problems, but there is support available to help you at each level.
As volunteers yourself, you and the other adults in your group are best placed to recruit new volunteers: you understand the group’s needs and dynamics; you know the people locally and they know you. Recruitment needs to be approached in a professional and flexible manner in order to achieve success. Below we hope to provide you with some thought provoking ideas.
Step 1 – Identify the role
First, you need to identify exactly what roles you need to fill. If you are intend to promote the roles outside of scouting, be mindful that people may not understand some of the titles and most definitely the acronyms we use and therefore won’t understand what a role involves, for example, for a Cub Scout Leader, think about what that person actually does.
Sample wording could be as follows.
- The role we are trying to fill needs someone to:
- manage and lead a team of volunteer adults to run the Cub Pack for 8 to 10½ year-olds
- help organise and coordinate:
- craft activities
- outdoor activities
- communicate with parents
- ensure the safety of the young people you work with
- ensure effective administration of the Cub section.
These parts of the Cub Scout Leader’s role do not necessarily have to be performed by the same person. They could be effectively taken on as part of a team. As lifestyles have changed over time, so has the way people volunteer. By understanding that demands on people’s time have increased, you can understand their need to volunteer in a more flexible way. By breaking down roles into smaller, shared roles carried out by a team, and asking people to commit to a small part of a role for a set period of time, you are more likely to get them to say ‘yes’ to volunteering.
Some ideas for alternative roles
Often when recruiting new adults as volunteers in the group, we think about the traditional leadership roles. However, there are a number of smaller roles that can be recruited to cover duties that are usually left to the Section Leaders or the Executive Committee. By recruiting to fill these smaller roles, the leaders and executive committees will be free to deliver the programme and manage the group. Smaller roles are also easier to fill as they are often more flexible and defined than a Section Leader role. Here are some ideas for smaller roles you may like to recruit.
The Group Quartermaster is responsible for keeping the inventory or group equipment up to date and ensuring that the Group Executive Committee provides adequate insurance. They can also deal with the day-to-day upkeep, repair and booking in and out of equipment, which will free up the leaders’ time.
Local media publicity can be very influential for members of the public. The best way to generate positive coverage for your Scout Group is to contact our County Media Development Manager Isabelle Mills who will be happy to help you. This relationship could be specifically managed by one designated person.
A headquarters manager can help to maintain the group meeting place – a bit of a handyman who can change light bulbs and perhaps be around during the day to grant access to workmen and other visitors. They could also be responsible for bookings, cleaning and grounds maintenance. This could be an example of where you can break a role down in to smaller, more manageable tasks.
Have you got a minibus? If so, someone to keep on top of the maintenance and care of it would be very useful. Is there a local garage store it and maintain it for you? Have you asked them?
Is there someone who could keep the badge records for you? You can hand over a copy of your programme and attendance records and they can work out which badges/challenges have been completed. They could order in badges for you too.
Do you have any parents who work for large organisations such as high street banks or insurance companies? Many of these large companies do matched funding for charities their employees are involved with. The parent does not need to take on a specific role in Scouting, they usually just have to take part in the fundraising activity.
Are any of your parents involved in marketing, public relations or sales? The skills involved in these jobs mean that these people may be able to help you to engage and enthuse potential volunteers.
Parents chat to each other in the school playground while they wait for their children to come out of school. This is a great opportunity for your group by simply asking them to spread the word about your Scout Group and the opportunities for young people to join in the fun. By asking a few parents (at different schools), to take on this role and providing them with some well-designed leaflets about your group you will be able to regularly promote your group.
Scout Active Support Units
A Group Scout Active Support Unit is a great way for adults to volunteer flexibly to support your group. The Unit could have a specific function or it could provide general support when required. For more information, please see www.scouts.org.uk/activesupport
Section Assistant Section
Assistants provide invaluable support to our leaders. Regularly attending or working as part of a rota for meetings, they help by collecting the weekly subs or by making refreshments and helping run games and tidy away which means that the leaders have more time to deliver the programme to the young people.
Step 2 – Identify skills
A common reason for not volunteering is that the adult asked does not believe they have the skills to do what they see leaders doing. It is important to remind people that they may have skills that are useful to a particular aspect of running the group or section. For example, someone with knowledge of accountancy can use their skills on a fundraising committee. Knowing the skills you want for the role you are recruiting can help in finding the right person for the role.
When thinking about our Cub Scout Leader, the following skills might be identified as desirable:
- excellent communication skills with children and adults
- methodical approach
- initiative and practical skills, or the ability to learn them.
The sort of skills will vary according to who you already have in place. If you already have a section leader with fantastic camping and outdoors skills, someone who is comfortable in craft and quieter activities would be a good balance. You will probably identify types of people who have groups of these skills, for example pre-school leaders often make really good beaver scout leaders, but remember that, just because someone has a role-specific skill, it does not mean that they will want to volunteer using it.
Step 3 – Active recruitment
Once you know the roles that you want to fill and the sort of people you are looking for to fill them, the next step is to actively recruit people. There are lots of ways to do this, below are just some ideas.
Did you know that 40 to 45% of our new volunteers across the country are parents of children involved in our scout groups or of the children waiting to join scouting? Engaging with parents of the young people in your Group will help you to encourage parents to get involved, and provide you with a new source of volunteers!
Engaging parents of a new child to the group should start early, setting the expectation that parents will be involved throughout their child’s time in scouting. There are a number of ways to engage and involve parents in your group including:
- give new parents a copy of our parent pack. It is designed to answer frequently asked questions and welcome them into scouting.
- ask parents if they’d like to stay for the first meeting their child attends, so they can see what we do and get used to how a meeting works.
- talk to the parents to find out more about their career, skills, hobbies and availability; listen to what they say and offer them opportunities to be involved where you think they might be interested. For example, a parent who works in the catering industry might be willing to help with delivering the healthy eating badge for Cubs.
- get parents involved with a parent rota, give out a copy of the programme and ask each parent to sign up to help at one meeting a term.
- invite parents to join the group on camp – parents are more likely to volunteer long-term after a residential experience. The resource ‘Using camps to recruit parents’ is full of excellent information and hints to help you with this. See www.scouts.org.uk/involvingparents
Magazines, newsletters and websites
With modern technology, any of these options would be fine. To attract volunteers and funding, the materials need to look professional. You can use The Scout Association’s Brand Centre to create on-brand materials, including newsletters and recruitment posters. See www.scouts.org.uk/brand
When creating an advertisement for a volunteer role, you should first think clearly about the message you want to get across, write your advertisement to express it, and ask several people to read it before it goes out so that you know that it reads well. It is important that you communicate the success of our organisation; people will not want to join if they think your group is failing. ‘The Cub Pack will close if we don’t get anyone’ really doesn’t work as a long-term strategy. Think where you will place the advertisement to attract the right type of person for the role. If you are looking to attract under-30s, find a club newsletter or website that targets the same age group. Our County Development Service can help you and can provide successful wording an advice.
This is a method that works well, especially for executive members. Invite members of the local community who have a wide range of contacts. For example, a doctors’ or dentists’ receptionist, the local newsagent, school crossing attendant, chip shop owner, head teacher, and so on.
Be creative and invite a good cross-section of the community. Send out personal invitations asking for two hours of their time. Make sure that you get across that you are not asking them to volunteer, but that you just want their help and advice (Our County Development Service can help you and can provide successful wording and advice). Provide refreshments and make sure that the venue is nice and comfortable. If the Scout meeting place is draughty and cold, find a professional location somewhere else (not someone’s home).
Outline to your assembled group the roles you are trying to fill and the skills required. Then ask if anyone knows who fits the bill. Explain that we are a professional association with checking procedures, induction and training and that the people they suggest will be treated well. Suggest where some of these people could be found. For example, pre-school leaders can make excellent Beaver Scout Leaders. Make sure you collect the names and contact details of the people suggested and thank the group for their time.
Remember to consider all options and try not to shoehorn people into a role that is not right for them. It is important that a volunteer gets what they want from scouting, as well as helping to serve the needs of the group. If the list you have does not highlight a potential suitable person for the ‘Scout Leader’s role’, but identifies three potential people for ‘Cubs’, perhaps now is the time to concentrate on strengthening the Cub Pack and put the Scout Troop on hold for a bit longer. Using new recruits in a role that is most suited to them will bring them more enjoyment and encourage them to stay.
Position an information stand in a prominent and popular public space, such as a shopping centre or local library, or in conjunction with a local event, school fete or public meeting. Your District will probably have some display banners you can borrow and leaflets are available from the Information Centre for a small cost.
When putting up an information stand, think about how it looks. Use the resources available from the Brand Centre to help develop the right impression.
Do you have the resources to man the stand? If it is manned, who are you going to use? Explorers and younger adult leaders might be best choice for this. It is important to have an ongoing activity as part of your stand so you can keep children busy while you talk to their parents.
Some ideas are:
- balloon modelling;
- face painting;
- a craft activity;
- a competition where you take names and addresses.
Some competition ideas are:
- How many knots can you tie with sweetie laces?
- How fast can you put up our tent?
- How high can you build a tower using marshmallows and spaghetti?
Make sure you allow adults to participate as well as their children. If you have a large event locally, think about bidding for the use of the Mobile Display Unit. It may be too big a project to manage as a Group, but District or County could support you. Ask your local Assistant District Commissioner or Assistant County Commissioner or a Local Development Officer if they can help you with a public stand.
If you are looking to recruit whole sections and the people to run them, going into schools to do assemblies and taster sessions can be effective. Run a bright and fun assembly targeted at a specific age group with some games and activities. Give each child an invitation to one or a series of taster sessions stating that they need to bring an adult with them.
On these evenings run a programme similar to a section meeting for the age group you are trying to recruit. As part of these sessions, have an activity where children are separated from adults and while children do a fun activity, adults have an information session on Scouting, how much fun it is for children and underlining how professional the association is. At the end of the session, you could give the young people a goody bag and the parents an information pack including Disclosure forms. Make it clear to adults that this is a strong project with lots of support from the association; however, we do need adults to run it locally. Be clear that they won’t just be left to get on with it but will have someone there with them for a whole term to help with planning and delivering section meetings.
Step 4 – Ask them
This is probably the most important step in your recruitment process and one that we are notoriously bad at. It is important that when asking a volunteer you are honest about what you are asking them to do, how much of their time they will need to commit, what extra training they will need to complete. Assure them that they will be joining a team of people who all have the same goals – providing scouting’s life changing adventure to young people.
You will need to think about who is the best person to do the asking; it may not be you. Work out how and where you will ask them, different people and roles will require different approaches. What happens if they say ‘maybe’? They may want to think about it and do some research or speak to their family. Take some literature with you about the group and about scouting. Offer to let them have some thinking time and arrange a date when you will get in touch with them again. Make sure you follow up as agreed and stay positive. What if they say ‘no’? Again, don’t worry. Thank them for their time and ask them to bear you in mind if their circumstances change. If they say ‘yes’ you can move on to their welcome and induction.
Step 5 – Agree a role
Now that they have said yes you need to agree a role description with them. This covers: the role title
- an outline of the role
- who they will be responsible for
- who they will be responsible to
- who their main contacts will be
- any requirements of the role
- their main tasks.
There may be other considerations such as:
- where and when the tasks need doing?
- where and when you want the role done?
- what help the person will get?
- what equipment and facilities are available?
- how much it will cost in time and money?
- how long you want the person to do the role?
This part of the process can often be forgotten, but it is an essential part, particularly when it comes to retaining volunteers. Research has shown that volunteers are more likely to get involved, and stay involved, if they have a clear understanding of their role, how long they will carry it out for, and the support they will receive.
It is important to discuss with your new leader or supporter whether they can carry out all of the tasks you have highlighted, or whether some need to be taken on by another person. Be flexible, and willing to tailor the role to that individual; that way they are likely to be happier.
You can either write your own role description using the template below or you can edit one of the generic role descriptions that are available to download from the member’s resources area on www.scouts.org.uk
Step 6 – Welcome and induction
Congratulations! After what seems like forever, it appears that the flyer at the playground, pestering parents, the web site advert and cajoling your members to be on their best behaviour during prospective leader visits have finally paid off; your new leader has turned up for their first section meeting.
But the work has just begun...
Welcome and induction is an important part of the process and can sometimes be overlooked. It’s important that you make your new volunteer feel welcome, valued and part of the team and by following a few simple steps you can. See our welcome and induction pages for an in-depth look.