Recently, one of our readers asked for suggestions on how to get Cub Scout parents more involved in helping. That is something that many packs struggle with. How do we get parents to help out so that the burden isn't all on the den leaders or committee members?
We all are busy, but I'm a big believer that we make time for what's important to us. Scouting isn't like soccer or baseball where we're on the sidelines cheering our sons on. Cub Scouting is hands on. Whether you're helping them learn how to tie knots or showing them how to use a hammer or teaching them how to cook their own breakfast, parents will definitely need to be involved.
I did some research and found 14 ideas that may be helpful. Not all of the suggestions will be appropriate for your pack or den, but I hope that some of these will be beneficial for you.
1. Explain the benefits. The number one thing that we need to stress to parents is that they will get to interact with their boys in a way that they wouldn't otherwise. A great (albeit a bit guilt-laden) appeal you can use with your parents is the Adding Machine Tape Demonstration. I like this because it drives home the point that we really don't have a lot of time with our boys before they're off to live their own lives.
2. Set expectations. In our pack, we tell all new families (and remind the current ones) that Cub Scouting is a family event. It is run by volunteers, and we need every family to participate in order to make it successful. We expect each family to volunteer in some way during the year.
3. Ask personally. While talking to or emailing your entire pack is efficient, it's pretty easy for everyone to have the “someone else will volunteer” attitude. Personal appeals usually work better. Asking an individual to do a specific job makes it a lot harder for them to say no! Start with the pack approach, then talk to parents individually for any jobs that aren't filled yet.
4. Start early. When the boys are Tigers, parents must attend with them, so use this opportunity to get them involved. For example, ask a parent to lead the gathering activity for a particular meeting. When you first arrive, ask a parent to help you get everything set up. One mom of a Tiger said she couldn't be the leader, but she would plan all of the Go-See-Its. We told my Tiger families that they would each be responsible for leading one meeting.
5. Break up jobs. No one wants to be the “fund-raising committee chairman”, but they might be willing to coordinate popcorn sales or organize the lemonade stand at the local festival. Splitting up responsibilities could allow some parents to get involved who might not otherwise be able to.
6. Share roles. Dens can have co-leaders who take turns with the meetings. One leader is responsible for one meeting; the other is responsible for the next meeting. My husband is the den leader for our Webelos 2's den, and I'm the assistant leader. I plan the meetings, and he runs them.
7. Know your parents. You may find out that one parent is reserved and introverted. Don't ask that person to lead a meeting or head up a committee. Instead, ask him if he would be responsible for keeping track of advancement and awards for your den. Jobs that are more “behind-the-scenes” will be better suited for this type of parent. Leading songs or teaching skits are good jobs for the parents who are outgoing. Matching the job with the parent's personality will make them feel more comfortable accepting the job.
8. Discover talents. Many packs have parents fill out a talent sheet similar to this one. It's a lot easier to ask someone who is an avid tennis player to teach your Webelos how to play than to ask a person who has never played tennis before. Parents will have hobbies and interests that you never expected.
9. Have clear expectations. People want to know what they're getting into before they agree to do something. We all know what it's like to be told “all you have to do is…” only to find out later that there's a lot more to it than that.
10. Define responsibilities for your specific pack or den. It's easy to simply point someone to a generic position description online, but that might not be how your pack operates. For example, your secretary may be the one who is responsible for any required tour permits, but that isn't on the generic pack secretary job description provided by BSA. Ensure that the job description matches the pack's expectations.
11. Provide training. While the BSA required training is good, it isn't enough, especially for new den leaders. Your pack should have additional, practical training. Parents who have never been involved in Scouting are especially hesitant to volunteer. We owe it to our boys and our parents to ensure they are spending their volunteer time actually planning activities–not researching what goes into a den meeting.
12. Plan den meetings. Planning is now easier than ever, thanks to the new Cub Scout Den Leader guides! If your pack can afford it, purchase one of the leader guides for each rank. They can be passed down at the end of the year.
13. Mentor new leaders. New leaders need to know there's help available. A casual “call me if you need anything” isn't good enough. The Cubmaster, Committee Chairperson or an experienced Den Leader should run the first two meetings for the new den leader so that she can get the hang of the meetings. At a minimum, they should attend the first den meetings with the new leader. After that, call or email the new leader to ask what questions they have.
14. Use drastic measures. In my research for this article, I discovered one Scouter's extreme method. He says, “I have always promoted the ‘if-the-program-is-important,-here's-what-needs-to-be-done' approach. … I never had to cajole, beg, plead, guilt, people into doing something they didn't think all that important.” Here's how it works:
At a pack meeting, have an individual sign up sheet for each event/activity during the year. Ask parents to sign up as they come in the building. After the meeting starts, collect the sign up sheets. Pick up a sheet that doesn't have a volunteer and hold it up. Say, “here's the fall camporee flyer, who wants to take charge?” If no one raises their hand, crumple up the paper and throw it in the trash. Move on to the next sheet with no volunteers.
I like the concept but not necessarily the approach. I'm not sure I would crumple the paper and throw it away. I would, however, say that since we can't get a volunteer, we'll need to cancel the event. “It was so popular with the boys last year, and I hate that we aren't going to be able to do it this year” would be my approach.
What other ideas do you have for encouraging parents to help out? Leave a comment below!
Yours in Scouting,
P.S. If this article gave you some ideas to help with recruiting parent volunteers, sign up below for more Cub Scout suggestions!