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Whose responsibility is adult recruitment?

Prompted by a question raised on Escouts, Wayne takes the opportunity to expand upon the importance of adult recruitment and the need for us to build on what we already know, but to think a little differently too.

And the answer is...

The actual question posed by Richard on Escouts was fairly straight forward: 'Should District and County play a much bigger role in adult recruitment?' The answer, as he suggested is of course 'yes', but the same could also be applied to HQ.

The question raises another interesting point, the bottom line of which is that while we could continue to claim to be successful (adult recruitment after all is presently growing at over 3% per anum, significantly better than most other organisations), at this rate we will clearly not make any difference to our joining lists. 

Making a real difference

As Richard observes, we often cite the 6 Step Process as the key to success.  I truly believe that this continues to be the case. All of the evidence we have suggests that personal contact at the coalface, whether Group, District or any other level, remains the most successful means of recruitment. 

Clearly, however, we must be able to do something significantly different to create the right atmosphere and environment for such requests to be more favourably received. 

In some respects my blog of 6 June was along similar lines, explaining my search for 'the game changer'. You will be pleased to know that this is progressing.

So what’s the strategy?

Our recruitment and retention strategy, which has been at the very core of our actions for the past five years or more, has had a number of significant benefits already. Our general brand awareness, through appointments such as Bear and the Duchess of Cambridge, together with our successful external media work, has helped transform the image of Scouting for many people. 

Direct support for local Scouting is available through the brand centre, where you can prepare a number of tools for local use such as posters and signage for meeting places. Vacancy board templates are also available from the brand centre, allowing you to easily promote vacancies in your meeting places specific to your Group.

The new website's 'get involved' process is another step to make the local process more efficient and you can obtain some detailed information through the website

Scouting highlights

I appreciate that this is all very much built upon 'more of the same', so what are we doing to make a real difference?

Over the past year or so we have been undertaking a number of development projects and strategies, funded by the Development Grants Board (DGB) and others across the UK with the intention of collating the lessons learnt and sharing good practice. There are many examples of success across the UK but I believe a few are particularly worthy of highlighting. 

  • Our Greater Manchester initiative, funded by Youth United (HMG) and the DGB, is investing a total of £280,000 to support good local Scouting. Also, development staff overlaid an innovative integrated awareness campaign (advertising, promotional activity, digital and canvassing) that was successfully used to recruit 5,000 volunteer police officers in London.
  • In Speke, the DGB has 100% funded a Merseyside project using a Development Officer fully supported by the local District and a project board. The objective is to test alternative models, more suited to the local community. Initial feedback is great. A similar project funded by Youth United is underway in Bradford and we have already established Scouting in similar communities as well as rural areas.
  • Over the last three years a long-term project has been underway with five Districts. This has focused upon ensuring that there is an effective GSL in each Group. The project is drawing to a close, with the final RAG assessments being undertaken.
  • Early indications show that the project has made a substantial difference. Very few Districts now have GSL vacancies and the vast majority has grown at a rate above the national average. It is intended that work with a further eight Districts will start in April 2013. Nationally, we have increased coverage of GSLs significantly.
  • In Staffordshire, the Grow your Group project was created, which is a resource box for existing Groups. The box includes a wide range of support material including signage for HQ buildings, vacancy and photo boards and ‘train the recruiter’ and ‘engaging with parents’ resources.
  • In Avon and Devon, funding from a local company has enabled the employment of a Development Officer focused upon opening new sections and Groups. In the first six months of the project, seven new sections have been opened, including a new Explorer Scout Unit in a challenging area of Bristol.

The Greater Manchester Initiative is the ‘game changer’ I referred to in my previous blog and the one that possibly holds the greatest potential for significant impact in the way we recruit in the future. We will watch this with interest and roll out lessons learnt from each of these initiatives based on the evidence established.

This is rather longer answer to the initial question perhaps, but I know that there are many other successful projects locally also. It would be great to hear from those of you that have developed similar initiative locally to make the job of recruiting adults easier.





By Chris
on 09/01/2013 12:16

How well is the "Get Involved" process going to work when enquiries go to a county level contact. They are not going to understand what each group needs. Enquiries from the website need to go directly to groups.

What is being done to support groups to recruit adults in areas other than those you highlight? We get little (to no) support from District to recruit adults so we're left to do it alone as a group. We don't have enough adults to keep things running properly which limits time to recruit more which results in even less people to do things.

IMO adult recruitment is the single biggest issue we face as a group yet it's an area we get little practical support. If anything the demands made by District are actually detrimental to adult recruitment.

Hi Chris, much is being done routinely by Counties and Districts etc. to support recruitment in addition to the projects mentioned. In my experience there are also often two sides to each story of "my District does nothing", if you care to email me your Group I'll look into it and be able to comment.

By Ewan Scott
on 09/01/2013 12:27

All great stuff, Wayne, and we need more. As a GSL I recognise that the face to face recruitment simply has to take place at the coalface. It is difficult for remote officers to recruit for a local Group.

However, what would help would be a vastly improved adult PR campaign, nationaly and localy. Just as improving the image of Scouting generally has improved youth recruitment, we need more of the same directed at adults.

We need the market softening up, if you like.

Hi Ewan, agreed and that's certainly what we are working on.

By Jonathan Bloor
on 09/01/2013 15:38

Nice piece as usual Wayne. I think the infrastructure needs to be in place - so would love to hear/read more about the project addressing the need for a strong GSL in each group. As a newish GSL (5 years) I have only recently decided to address the recruitment issues after waiting for District and County to get involved. Help has been forthcoming but it's not ONLY their responsibility but that of every adult in the movement. We're on track to increase from 90 to 150 your members this year as a result of taking things seriously and tackling the obstacles head on SUPPORTED by our District and County teams.
Many thanks Jonathan. I see that Ian MacDonald, the DC of one of the pilot Districts has commented coincidently, and I'm sure he might elaborate for us on the project?

By Ian Macdonald
on 09/01/2013 16:07

Hi Wayne ,

As one of the 5 districts involved in the GSL Project. The effect of focusing the district on recruitment of effective GSLs has been a big plus and I hope it will show in this year's census figures.

Ian Macdonald
District Commissioner
Clitheroe and District Scouts

By Richard Fenton
on 09/01/2013 18:09

Hi Wayne,
Thanks for the reply and it is good to see what is being done.

I can only speak from my own experiences and I think that priorities must change. Adult recruitment must become a top priority for Districts and Counties sooner rather later.

All Groups should have an active GSL the use of Group Contacts must only be temporary and should be time limited that will put pressure on DC's to get sorted. Many Districts organise fantastic events and activities and whilst I applaud everything that is done, these activities do nothing to reduce waiting lists. More Children want to access Scouting than we can provide for and if we grow to meet that demand then the demand will increase. It is a vicious circle but we are not victims of success, we are the success! What I dearly want is that we can offer Scouting to all those that want it.

Too often I am asked at District meetings what my numbers are for my section, I have never yet been asked if I have enough Adults. I have witnessed locally Groups close due to lack of Adults, yet none of us local Leaders were asked to pitch and help if we could; but, I make no criticism of what my District Team did to keep them going because I know they worked exceptionally hard to help those Groups survive. Ultimately though it was the lack of adults that resulted in the closures.

Recently we have been asked to put a development plan forward to District and I know we have identified the need to recruit more adults. I wonder how many Districts have identified the need to recruit more adults to County and just how many Counties have identified the need to recruit more adults? The reality is that every Group, District and County should be identifying Adult recruitment as one of their top priorities, anything else is just failing to plan ahead and that in itself means planning to fail by omission. This is more important than St Georges day, District Camps, sponsors on badges, woggles, uniform or anything else.

There is no quick and simple fix, what we need to do, no have to do is maintain a long term strategy throughout the movement. Whilst I appreciate that the SA is marketing Scouting this appears to be aimed predominately aimed at Young People it must not be left to Leaders and Groups to grow the movement for Adults, we need help.

By Jim Hopkins
on 11/01/2013 19:34

Good piece Wayne.

As a comment for others: as an Area (Welsh County) we do try to assist our districts and groups but unfortunately we cannot help all our groups at once. We have had to prioritise and implement targets and I am sure this is the same for districts and counties across the UK. I suggest that you talk to your district commissioner or county/area commissioner. We are only human, we can't help if we don't know, there may be another group which is much more vocal!

In wales we also have an extremely successful bunch know as development and planning officers who we are able to use in groups to assist the recruitment process.

We do still have recruitment issues in west wales and I am still looking for the best model and approach!

By Eddy
on 14/01/2013 12:01

Good question and good answer. However I believe that there needs to be an ongoing plan involving every one locally. Early in my days as a DC the priority was adult recruitment, just to keep the lights on in several sections across the town. This has been achieved in many Groups by working closely with GSLs and their Executives using various methods. We held recruitment days in the local town, made Scouting more visible locally, advertised in local papers and worked closely with County to develop websites and social media to attract volunteers, finally County have provide hands on support to attract parents. It has been a true team effort. Our attention has now moved to building resilience, giving head room and not relying on meeting minimum numbers of leaders in sections. The principle being that no one section is ever wholly dependent on 1 or 2 leaders. I regularly review the leader situation in all Groups and sections with GSLs and draw up action plans to target and prioritise adult recruitment and succession plans. The key to recruiting adult is that it is a team effort which all Leaders need to play a role in; even section leaders by building rapport with parents. Success is dependent on building relationships and trust and as flagged in recent time ensuring flexibility.Finally recruitment campaigns are a means to kickstart interest, you can never take your eyes off the ball - the situation is dynamic-there's always a need today or tomorrow; there's always a job to be done, every volunteer is vital. You can never have too many.

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