What Can You Do to Improve Unit Retention?

As we transition from virtual Scouting to in-person activities, we asked a few veteran Scouters if they had any tricks for fostering unit retention.

Tops on their list was “keep it simple, make it fun.” 

How, you make ask?

Advancement is one key element, and when it’s fun the Scouts are barely aware advancement is happening.  Some helpful resources include Troop Program FeaturesThe Scout Handbook, and the Fieldbook.  The key is “fun.”  Focusing solely on advancement may be an unintended deterrent.

It’s important to let the Scouts choose their activities.  Try to tailor troop activities to the Scouts interests.  Be available to offer assistance if your Scouts “hit a wall.”  Try to avoid the Scouts getting into a rut by repeatedly doing the same activities.  Tradition is important, but avoid overdoing things.

Try taking a familiar activity (for instance, a weekend campout) and applying a “new twist.”  Taking a queue from the popular TV shows Survivor or Chopped, challenge the Scouts to create mini-competitions to “earn” certain perks for the weekend: earning a cake or cobbler for winning a competition, or sleeping in a tent vs. under a tarp.  Cooking competitions are always a popular inter-patrol event

Other highly recommended games include the Snapper Fishing Game - A Lashing Activity (at scoutermom.com) and A-Frame Transport Race (at troopresources.scouting.org). Both of these games can be modified to adjust the degree of difficulty to fit your particular unit.

One unit leader shared that they “expect” their Scouts will be involved in the unit until they are 18.  They meet regularly with the older Scouts about what types of activities are available to them, including attending the national high adventure bases.  They also remind the older Scouts that when they turn 18, they themselves will become Scout leaders, and that they are always welcome at the weekly troop meetings.

Another veteran leader emphasized that applying the appropriate amount of adult leadership is key.  Conflict occurs with “lack of knowledge, lack of insight, or lack of courage” (Anna Maravelas).  Instruct the skill, monitor attention levels, and explain why the skill is important for them to master.  Transferring leadership responsibilities to the youth fosters respect.  This increases unit retention, and the Scouts tell their friends that “Scouting is cool.” 

Encourage your Scouts to invite some friends.  Even one friend joining a unit can keep a Scout interested and involved.

Our Scouters also emphasized that employing praise is important.  Give lots of high fives, knuckles, and kudos, and stay engaged with the youth.

And, don’t go it alone.  Enlist the help of other leaders and parents.  Use their unique talents to bring fun ideas to your unit activities.  One of our veteran leaders even uses their spouse as a key asset in drumming up fun activities.

This article was written and submitted by Council Communications Committee Member, Jeff Pastir

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What Can You Do to Improve Unit Retention?