Recruiting Leaders

Turning Parents into Helpers, and Helpers into Leaders

Packs Need Adult Leaders – Most Need More. Yes, a fully functioning Cub Scout Pack must have the following: (1) a Cubmaster, (2) Den Leaders for each den (of 6 to 8 Scouts in the same grade), (3) a Chartered Organization Representative, (4) a Committee Chair, (5) several Committee Members performing key support functions, and, ideally, (6) Assistants for Cubmasters and Den Leaders. 

  • Many Packs don’t have all those roles filled with engaged active leaders.
  • Or some Packs have enough now, but if there is a big influx of new Scouts, a Pack that used to have 45 Scouts with 6 Den Leaders and now has 90 Scouts may need 6 more Den Leaders and more help overall.

Recruiting More Leaders may be the hardest Recruiting Step in our list of:

  1. Make a Calendar of Fun Activities and Pack Program
  2. Let People Know – Promote Your Pack Program!, followed right on by
  3. Recruit More Leaders and Helpers, and
  4. Grow your School and Community Presence, leading to
  5. Sign-Up Events: School Sign-Up Night and Fun Joining Events Too!

Do You Want – Or Do You Need – More Parent Involvement?  There is no single “magic wand” to wave that will solve the struggle to turn Parents into Helpers and Leaders.  If you get a lot of youth to sign up you need even more adults to deliver the program.  While you may not have a single “magic wand”, you have a lot of arrows in your quiver.

  • Most Packs benefit from constant leader recruitment activities. All Pack leaders and helpers benefit if you keep your eyes open for how parents might help.
      • Planning your Calendar of Fun Activities?  Keep an eye on who shows interest.
      • Sharing that Pack Activities Plan?  Engage those who show interest in events.
    • The bad news: not enough are really eager to “be the Leader” without the right request.
      • A “group question” of “who wants to be den leaders” usually doesn’t turn up enough volunteers, and maybe not the right ones.
    • The good news:  most parents are “willing to help”, but they worry about taking on too big a job and not having enough help from others.
      • Current leaders should find ways to help turn Parents into Helpers.
      • As parents get engaged, find ways to turn those Parent Helpers into Leaders.
      • Showing that most of the parents in a Den are willing to help can free one of them to be willing to lead those helpers.
      • Having “co-leaders” is a good approach too (just be sure someone steps up to coordinate everyone).
        • An optimal "co-leader" approach is to have the team include someone from each family.  (It takes a village, right?)
        • Then they may decide who will take the lead on each Adventure (meeting) or other activity.
        • Or what team of "co-leaders" will take the lead. 
  • 2020 Update: The other good news (if there can be any good news coming out of Covid-19):  Den Leader might be an easier job now if you do it right with "family-led" Adventures. Packs that promote a Plan "B" Program of Family-Led Activities -- giving parents and other caring adults the tools to lead Cub Scout Adventures with their Scouts -- will be giving "on the job" training to a new generation of parents who can not only help but will need to be leaders of their Scouts.
    • And the job of the Den Leader can be different -- and for some, easier. 
    • No longer must "the Den Leader lead everything".  (That's really not the way it should be anyway.)
    • Instead, the Den Leader can lead the parents, by sharing with parents resources for parents to lead their own Scouts.  That's a skill set that will often be easier for some -- especially those who due to work could not "make the meetings" before -- but will put a premium on communication skills with other parents.
    • Spoiler Alert:  When those parents who've done "parent-led" Adventures return to in-person Adventures, they will have some leadership skills that can be put to use -- creating the ideal environment of group leader for all Scouts in the Den and Pack.]
  • Celebrate your helpers as “Heroes” because they are!
    • When you recognize and applaud your helpers, their kids will be so proud.
    • That will help parents turn from helpers into Leaders!
    • 2020 Update: When you're doing a Plan "B" Program of Family-Led Activities, recognize every parent who is "getting it done" for their Scouts – do it live by Zoom, emails, Pack newsletters and eBlasts.]

Cub Scouting is a Family Program – Parents Need to Participate Too. 

Especially in Cub Scouting, you have to make that clear from Day One: Dens and Packs need every family to participate in leadership, sharing the fun and sharing the effort too.

  • Only a very small Pack can operate with just a couple of people leading the Scouts.
    • Even that’s both hard on the couple of leaders and not fair to the youth, because the Scouts need to see their parents as leaders too, being heroes to all the kids.
    • The best gift for a Scout is: Get Their Parents Involved.
      • Never do for Parents what Parents can do themselves for their own Scouts.
      • That will help us build “Stronger Families Through Scouting”.
  • A Better Approach is “Every Parent Helps and Every Parent Leads – This is a Family Program"
    • It’s only fair that they know that from the start that every parent helps, and many hands make light work.
  • But ... how do you get people to say “yes, I’ll help” ... and then “yes, I’ll be a leader!”
  • A key to recruiting helpers and leaders is:

Did you ask? and did you ask a question that they can answer “Yes” to?


Turn Parents into Helpers, and Then Helpers into Leaders

Most people, when asked to “be” the Den Leader or Cubmaster or Committee Chair, will say “no”, or “I can’t do all that” or “no, I don’t know what that involves“.

  • Don’t ask people (right away) to be Den Leader or Cubmaster or Committee Chair – unless you really know they can say “yes” and do it well – because that role will seem too hard for most people.
    • Instead, get to know them and ask how they’d like to help.
    • Once you get to know them, you can give them suggestions about the right leadership role for them.
    • Do encourage general “Committee Member” registration because the more parents who take “Youth Protection Training”, the better for them and the better for your Pack.
  • When you do ask, ask one individual for specific help with a small task, and build on that.
    • You will have some people say, “I can lead games” or “I can organize trips” or “I can lead songs” or “I can help build stuff”.
  • Get people to say “yes” to leading activities, leading games, organizing trips, and building stuff, and you’ll have the leader corps your den needs.
    • They say “many hands make light work”.
    • To get there, break down the “big roles” into “little jobs” that are “light work”.
    • Then, if “many hands” each take on a “little job”, it all gets done!
  • If you want someone to say “OK, I’ll be the Den Leader", you might get that response if other parts of the job get split up into “light work” because:
    • Susie and Sam will bring snacks
    • Gary and Gerri will do games
    • Andy and Amy will do advancement records
    • Rita and Richard will do recognition
    • Arthur and Ariana will collect applications.
  • If you ask “a group” for volunteers, each individual may think “not me”.  They may think that you meant to ask “somebody else” – so when you ask, also ask each individual one on one for something they can do.

Start with a “Little Task Ask”

Ask an individual for “Help with This” (something specific, so they realize “oh I can do that task”).

If you have a group of parents at a Den level, but no den leader, if you ask one parent to “be the den leader”, they will likely say “no”.

  • However, if you ask “can you help lead a small part of a simple den meeting”, many will say “yes” if they get specific instructions.
  • You can provide them with instructions if you have a meeting plan.
  • See the notes above about how Den Leader might be an easier job now if you do it with "family-led" Adventures under a Plan "B" Program of Family-Led Activities.

Maybe as a breakout from a casual Pack Picnic done as a “back to school” joining event, you can create “scavenger hunt” lists for Den level groups to hunt – you’ll need to create the lists and instructions based on your locale, and share with enough parents to get them engaged.

Consider how your Fun Event around Sign Up Night could use some help:

  • Doing a swimming event?  Maybe set up some parents to do some simple instruction in water skills or water safety (maybe something from handbook adventures, like Tiger “Floats and Boats”, Wolf “Spirit of the Water”, Bear “Salmon Run” or Webelos “Aquanaut”).
  • To help with that as you try to find out which parent can be a Den Leader, see the First Bobcat Adventure Plan found on the Sign-Up Events page.
    • That plan is full of one “Little Task Ask” after another and could be used at “breakout” gatherings at early Pack Fun Activities.
      • One parent can lead an opening of the Scout Law
      • Another can lead the “Talk Time” discussion of a Den Name.
      • Another can lead a “Code of Conduct” chat.
      • More can instruct and test on the Bobcat Rank elements.
      • Another can be a Game Leader.
      • Maybe you’ll do some family information scrapbook pages.
    • Asking one parent to lead it all can be “too much”, but slicing and dicing the activity like this allows every parent to “lead a little”, and some will realize they can “lead a lot”.
    • This can be guided by another current or former leader, as a mentor who helps the team of new parents succeed.
  • For parents who “like” Scouting, but are not yet ready to “lead” Scouting, another “little task ask” might be joining a team of parents as New Member Coordinators to welcome families at events.

Activities and Asking for Help and Leadership.  Use the steps of “Make a Calendar of Fun Activities and Pack Program” and “Promote Your Pack Program!“ to find helpers and leaders.

  • When you tell a family about the Pack Activities you’ve dreamed up, you’re likely to get a positive response:
    • You might hear “I love that place” or “I always wanted to go there”.
    • Maybe: “here’s something else we can do”.
  • When you hear that, be like a fisherman: “set the hook” – find out more about what they like and why.  Depending on the parent, you might find yourself with someone who can:
    • Be your assistant at the event.
    • Or organize part of the event.
    • Or maybe even organize it all and step up to be a leader hero.
  • Repeat this step every time a new family shows interest or attends an event.  Keep on the lookout for how to turn parents into helpers and helpers into leaders.

Know Your Target, Personally.

For key roles like “Den Leader” and “the next Cubmaster”, if you ask “a group” for volunteers, each individual may think “not me”. They may think that you meant to ask “somebody else” – so when you ask, also ask each individual one on one for something they can do.

  • When you do ask personally, it’s easier to find the right role for the parent.
    • It’s harder for the parent to say “no”, because if you’re in a one on one talk, you can find something for the parent to help with.
  • For key jobs, ask “two on one” or more:
    • As you confirm your engaged leaders, have more than one of you target your next key prospective leaders to “join the team” because “we need you”.
    • Eventually your team of one or two can become a team of ten or twenty.

Also, consider this:  Maybe Less is More.  A pack that is swamped with new kids but short on leaders may find it difficult to do the old-style full “perfect pack” plan of weekly den meetings plus a monthly "classic"  pack meeting.    (Did you know?  Dens don’t have to have weekly events, and Packs don’t need to do monthly pack meetings – “activities” are often more popular.)

  • Maybe “less is more”.
    • It may be possible for a smaller group of leaders to start with a reduced schedule, and grow as Scouts and Parents find what you do exciting and appealing, and helpers and leaders emerge.
    • Whatever the size of your leadership team, you don’t want your leaders to burn out.
  • A recommendation is that if you don’t have enough Den Leaders, engaged and ready to go with enough helpers, leading dens of about 8 Scouts of the same age (not more than 10): maybe don’t attempt to have Den Meetings for those Dens right away.
  • 2020 Update:  Good News: if you do "family-led" Adventures under a Plan "B" Program of Family-Led Activities, you won't have a mess of people and chaos -- you'll have families doing Adventures at home.  (Yes, they might have a mess and chaos, but it will be a level of mess and chaos comfortable to them).  As a Den or Pack Leader, you just need to give those families the resources to do family-led Adventures.]
  • And you have great options, like Do Easy Fun Family Pack Activities, not Den Meetings.
    • For dens that don’t have enough Den Leaders, engaged and ready to go, leading dens of about 8 Scouts of the same age (not more than 10), postpone den meetings for those dens until you get leaders for right-sized dens, and those leaders are engaged and ready.
    • While you wait, have “easy” Den or Pack Activities like pot luck picnic nights, or weekend fun events like swimming or fishing or short fun hikes or visit a nature center, and during those events have “The ‘We Need a Den Leader’ Talk” with parents.
    • Dens that have engaged leaders ready to go and the right size den can have Den Meetings (Adventures), and be the example!?
  • For Some Packs, You Need to Know When to Say “When”:
    • If you’re going to be a Pack with only a couple of engaged Youth Facing Leaders, don’t recruit more than the 15 or so Scouts you can actually lead.
      • Not unless you also get the necessary able and engaged adult leaders to support more Scouts.
    • If you only have enough adult leaders to serve 15 Scouts, don’t disappoint new families by acting like you can handle 30 or 50 or 70 or more.
    • Maybe your District Professional will need to work on creating another Pack to serve the youth who would like to do Scouting at your school.
    • Maybe the “message” at any Sign-Up Night needs to be that able and engaged adult leaders must sign up and commit to getting trained in order to start any Den or Pack activities.
    • 2020 Update:  Again, Good News: if you do "family-led" Adventures under a Plan "B" Program of Family-Led Activities, this won't be as much of an issue -- you can give families the tools to lead their own Adventures, and it should be easier for most leaders to give lots of parents those tools than to lead lots of Scouts at one time.

The Importance of Patience.

If you are a committed leader you have to be patient as you recruit helpers and develop leaders from the parent ranks.

  • That means some things won’t be done as well as you might do them.
  • But if you want to develop parents into helpers, and helpers into leaders, there will be struggles on the way – but that’s how these new leaders will learn.
  • When you do grow, and let a new den leader lead a den, the goal shouldn’t be just “do it like I did it”, but let that parent do it using their strengths and resources.
    • If you are a friend and counselor and enable the parent to be successful in their own way, you’re helping that den and family succeed in Cub Scouting.
    • If you put too many limits on the parent, and hold them back, they are not going to be happy helping. 
  • 2020 Update:  Another bit of Good News: if you do "family-led" Adventures under a Plan "B" Program of Family-Led Activities and are leading parents, not Scouts, and talking to parents during the process -- you'll have a better chance to develop them as leaders of their own Scouts, and maybe also of the Den or Pack.

So have patience and be helpful, friendly, courteous and kind to all your parents and let them “do their best”.

By popular demand, or because it is necessary because adult recruiting is hard, the next page is all about “Nuts and Bolts of Leader Recruiting and Organizing”.  This will help you find ways to get parents involved and split up the jobs of your Den and Pack into “light work” that “many hands” can lift.

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