Parents and families should be close to your heart. Why?
They are the people that make up the large proportion of your Group Council – the body to which the Executive Committee is responsible.
They are likely to be your first port of call for:
- Funds and fund raising
- Occasional help
- Executive Committee membership
- Taking on leadership roles
It is a common criticism from leaders that “we never see parents”. Firstly, do not beat yourself up. It is not just in scouting, it is a common complaint in the voluntary sector almost everywhere – ask your local school or any other local facility for young people. It is a social issue we have to address.
Do not make it easy for parents to ignore you and certainly do not ignore them. If you can make scouting a normal part of their life then there is a greater chance they may get involved. Consider how your leadership team relates to parents when a new youngster joins (or asks to join) your group.
Do you give parents a welcome pack? Which does just that; welcomes them to the group, explains scouting and what you do and most importantly the role and responsibility of parents.
Do you meet parents on the understanding you are sure they would not send their child to Scouts without meeting all the adults involved? Do they get a personal invitation to their child’s first night, enrolment or going‐up ceremony? Do your parents get to be involved in such ceremonies – not just as observers, but playing a part?
Do you “enrol” the parent and family at the same time as the child? This could take the form of a family membership certificate for example.
Recruiting young people via their parents
In the Colony or Pack there is a greater likelihood that young people join scouting through parental influence. Realising this means you can develop a strategy for recruiting young people by targeting parents.
It means the group has to be visible to parents so they know you exist. You have to market your group where parents are to be found. Some ideas might be local shops, businesses, schools, doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries, libraries, post offices, leisure centres, estate agents’ offices, media and newspapers, your physical presence etc. Make sure parents know how to contact you. Often we make it too difficult for parents to find us.
Churches and schools will usually include details of your group in their newsletter if you ask them to.
Convert parents into adult volunteers
Parents and other family members are a prime source of adult help. They have a vested interest in scouting because their child takes part already. Getting them involved is a subtle art and is an ideal role for someone on your Executive Committee. Where possible, try to appoint a group recruitment champion who can be the person who has a focus on adult recruitment and the necessary skills and personality to meet parents. They would need to have some experience of how scouting works, but it is almost certainly going to be about their personality and not background knowledge that will win a parent for you as a occasional helper or leader.
In fact, talking recruitment is probably the last thing a skilled recruiter will do. They will ensure that parents are naturally involved in the group’s affairs and kept in touch with what the group is doing. This is best done personally rather than at arm’s length or via impersonal letters sent home with the youngsters.
If they feel a positive part of the group they will feel that helping out is more natural. Perhaps a part of your plans will be to make the group ‘Family Friendly’ and ensure they are involved at every opportunity.
Involving parents in scouting friendly activities such as a group camp or sports day where the parents take an active part will also lead to some parents wishing to get involved as leaders.
The Family Pack
Having your child in scouting is a privilege not a right and there is a cost to being a member – not only financially but in terms of time.
Although parents are obvious contenders for group membership you might open this up as wide as possible and make it clear that the opportunity to support the group includes the extended family of grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and so on.
Families need to be aware of your expectations so there is no conflict in what they offer. You might consider a family pack which explains modern scouting and specifically how it works in your group. It is an opportunity then to outline the role of the family in supporting their child through scouting. This could be added to the group’s development plan for implementation.
With access to a computer it should be possible to produce some quite smart looking packs and if it is in a loose‐leaf format it is easy to keep it updated.
A pack might consist of a plastic folder with separate sheets as follows:
- Scouting today
- Aims, method and fundamentals
- The Group’s sections and programmes
- The leadership teams
- Meeting times
- Executive Committee and the Group Council
- The purpose of fund raising, subs and costs
- Group activities
- Safety and security
- DBS checks
- How you can help
Rather than make it too blunt you might touch on how families can help out within each section of the pack.
Successful groups have usually mastered the art of communication with parents and families and realised that anonymous letters do not work and a personalised letter is better. Even better is personal contact by phone or face‐to‐face contact.
Some groups use technology to keep parents informed and updated using email or text messaging where it is appropriate. These are often appreciated as a follow up reminder of something that has been sent out via a letter. You might consider other opportunities such as a group newsletter, flyers, formal invites, posters, a website. Do make sure that these are professional looking, well-constructed, accurate, eye catching, up to date.
Done poorly, they will actually prove detrimental to the Group. Also ensure they are legal and do not put youngsters at risk through the publishing of photos with names or personal details. Check POR for the latest rules governing data protection.
Parents and the DBS checking process
Most families will be reassured to understand the Association’s enhanced procedures regarding checking any adult’s suitability to join scouting.
Explain it to families so they understand the lengths we go to and it will become easier if and when necessary ask them to submit to the same checks. Remember scouting goes further than the law requires because we take our responsibilities for adult recruitment and child safety seriously.