Article contributed by Michael Ramsey, BSA Director of Marketing and Brand Management
As part of the National Service Center’s 2018 fall Cub Scout digital media buy, we learned just how important it is to hold joining events in locations that are familiar to parents. Those marketing efforts, which included recruiting messages delivered via paid search, paid social, and Facebook geofenced events, also provided a detailed look at the performance of different types of joining event locations.
We’ve discussed the highly successful geofencing efforts previously, and we’ve offered insight on how to use geofencing for Scout recruitment in your community. In addition to driving impressive gains of more than 7 percent in new Cub Scout growth for units that geofenced their joining events, those efforts produced data that confirmed what many may have already suspected: the best place to hold a single-unit joining event is at a school.
Schools are typically familiar locations for parents. Often, their child attends the school, and it is close to home and easy to locate. For families that may be unfamiliar with Scouting or unsure of what to expect, the familiarity of the school location helps ease concerns.
Second to schools, the next most successful recruiting events were those where multiple units collectively held a joining event in a public, non-school location. For instance, these units may have held their collective joining event at a community park. While the data didn’t offer specific details on why these multi-unit, centralized joining events did not perform as well as the single-unit events at schools, it is reasonable to believe that families unfamiliar with a location and/or event format may have been less confident about attending such events.
Similarly, events held at religious institutions also drove lower levels of success for Cub Scout recruiting when compared to schools. In fact, statistics showed that events held at schools performed on average 5 percentage points better than events held at religious institutions when looking at new Cub Scouts recruited versus the prior year. Again, the data doesn’t offer specifics on why, but it is possible that families may have assumed that if the event was at a church, they had to be members of that church to join that Cub Scout pack. Or, they may be unfamiliar with the location.
Of course, that isn’t to say Scouting units shouldn’t have regular meetings or hold other activities at religious organizations. Quite the contrary. We rely on religious organizations as valued partners. But when seeking to reach new families who don’t understand the relationship Scouting has with its chartered partners, holding a recruiting event at a church, synagogue, or mosque could be confusing.
Instead, consider hosting the joining event at a familiar location like a school, a community center near where the youth attend school, a library, or a park near where the pack meets. And, of course, the pack should continue to be chartered to its religious organization and hold its regular meetings there, if that’s the case.
Remember: Families who may not be familiar with Scouting will not necessarily understand the chartered organization concept or how units are organized. Everything is a new experience for them, so it is important to invite families to the adventure of Scouting in ways that are easy, familiar, and welcoming.