Understanding the role that Scouters play in achieving Group growth is essential to launching your own journey of growth within your Group. As we all know, Scouters are the backbone of our organization; their time and commitment to youth and Scouting is the foundation for any growth. For the 1st Central Surrey Scout Group, they have always recognized the important role Scouters play in allowing their Group to grow and positively impact the lives of youth. Their commitment to not just their youth, but Volunteers as well, has helped them grow the Scouting Movement within their community. We took a moment to catch up with Group Commissioner, Spring Stanley, to discuss Volunteer support, retention, growth, Canadian Path and how creating a sense of community, belonging and appreciation can go the distance.
“I think our Volunteers enjoy themselves, or else they wouldn’t come back each year,” stated Scouter Spring. She elaborated by saying, “a lot of what we do is try to make things easy for families, especially our Volunteers with families. Many of our Scouters are parents with multiple youth in different Sections, so we meet at the same day, at the same time, with all of our Sections. It helps our Volunteer parents by making planning, for at least one evening, easy.” For the 1st Central Surrey Scout Group, Volunteer happiness equates to retention for the following Scouting Year. Each and every year their Volunteers return, along with their Scouting youth and new members.
While the Group focuses on parent retention and satisfaction, they also have another important group to focus on, their Scouting youth.
We always try to do what the youth want… a lot of outdoor activities, camping and just fun things! We are focused on the Canadian Path now and it really reinforces what we have always done, which is youth-led.
Scouter Spring went on to explain how their Group’s programming is planned. “We are an inclusive Group. We modify the program to meet our children’s needs. We’ve had children that were deaf, autistic, had Tourette Syndrome and ADHD; we make the program work for them and the other children. The key is finding something that engages everyone; an idea that all the children like. The youth come up with the idea and together we select the right one for the Group.” With the Group’s inclusive programming, Scouter Spring sees more and more youth wanting to join every year because they have heard of other youth and parents having fun adventures.
“There is never a waiting list to join our Group. If we get full, we always talk to the parent of the youth wanting to join and say that they are welcome to join as a Scouter so their youth can participate. This is how we get a lot of our Scouters,” clarifies Scouter Spring. For the 1st Surrey Scouting Group, it’s about ensuring that any youth who wants to join Scouting can. The Group also takes quick action when there is a new youth member or parent wanting to join the Group. “Whenever a ticket comes through the help desk, if I can’t get back right away, our Area Support Manager (ASM), Vicki Banus, gets back to them right away to make the first contact.” For the Group, prompt communications is imperative to new youth registering; any lag time between the first email and registration can result in a new youth not joining their Group. For Scouter Spring, communication is critical to growth, but she also believes it’s not just important for growth but retention as well.
“We communicate with parents and youth all the time,” stated Scouter Spring. “We email parents to keep them engaged in what we are doing with the youth. It keeps them involved or gets them coming to events. Communications is really a BIG thing for growth.” Keeping parents interested in their youth’s activities is important for to the Group, but also keeping youth engaged throughout the year is paramount for retention with the Group. At the end of each year, before summer, the Group asks the youth what they would like to do next year. “Starting our planning in advance gives the youth something to look forward to the following year and they’ll want to come back. We also host a ‘thank-you’ barbeque at the end of each year for our Volunteers and youth. It really creates a sense of community and that we are all one large Scouting family. We really just have fun together.”
Scouter Spring and the 1st Central Surrey Scout Group are an exemplary Group when it comes to inclusiveness, retention and creating a sense of community. It is no wonder that they are currently mentoring a new Group in their Area to help get them set up for the new Scouting Year. And as we all begin to ramp up for the new Scouting Year, take a moment to reflect upon the Scouter Spring’s words and perhaps think of how you can grow your Group this year.