Your child simply said the words “I want to join scouts,” and before you know it, you’ve been asked to take the reigns and be the scout leader. Welcome to the club! Here are 25 tips to get you on your way to becoming a successful scout leader.
Get to know your scouts – Everything you do during your term as a scout leader revolves around the kiddos, so get to know them. Do you have an athletic group or more academic? Are they service-minded or more into camping? Ready for a hands-on project or more interested in observing? Knowing the personality of the group will help you plan activities to better serve them.
Get to know the parents – Do the parents of your scouts have a special skill that would be valuable to share? Perhaps someone works at an interesting place that would be a great field trip. The better you get to know your parents, the more you will learn about hidden talents and resources available to you.
Form a committee – Your strength lies in enlisting the help of others. By forming a committee you will know who your core group of parent volunteers are and be able to reach out to them quickly and easily for assistance throughout the year.
Location, location, location – Where you decide to hold your meetings can make or break the group. It must be convenient for scouts’ parents, weather proof, big enough for the kids to run around and preferably somewhere with bathrooms. Ideas include school, church, rec center, club house, etc. Even your own home, if you are so brave.
Put it on the calendar – Put all of your meetings and as many of your field trips as you can on the calendar up front at the beginning of the year, so you won’t have take polls about which dates are better for people. People will plan ahead and attendance will be better overall.
Plan your meetings – Don’t wait until the last minute. Plan your meetings in advance. Try to think in chunks of two or three meetings at a time, that way you can have connecting themes if you like.
Coordinate your meeting volunteers with an online sign up. SAMPLE
Fun, Funner, Funnest – Organize your meetings so that the most fun activity is still to come. Start with scout business, then move on to your planned activity (fun), next a game (more fun) and finally snacks (most fun). This way your scouts always have something to look forward to.
Digital docs – Minimize waste and keep important docs at your fingertips with Google Docs. By using Google Docs you can keep roosters up to date and accessible from a smart phone on the go. Bonus, never forget your meeting notes at home, using Google Docs allows you to pull them up anywhere.
Sign ‘em up – Lose the old-school clipboard sign-up sheet. SignUpGenius is the new way to organize your volunteers. Your volunteers will appreciate being able to sign up when it’s convenient. Bonus, SignUpGenius will send reminders so you don’t have to.
Organize your next scouting event with an online sign up. SAMPLE
Share the moment – Parents are a sucker for pictures of their kiddos. Photo sharing sites make it a breeze to share pictures. Take it a step further and create an online photobook so parents can order a copy of your masterpiece.
Think outside the cookie box – Traditional scout fundraisers are a tradition because they work, but sometimes that’s not enough. Need to raise just a bit more in a hurry? Try a carwash or walk-a-thon. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Keep tabs on volunteers – Can’t remember who is supposed to take over at the cookie booth? With the use of an online sign up you can access your sign up anywhere and know who’s supposed to be where and when. When volunteers sign up, you can even request they include a phone number so you have the information at your fingertips if you need it.
Reach for the stars – Why are you fundraising? Before you begin any fundraiser, explain to everyone what you are hoping to accomplish. Do you need $100 for a camping trip or $1,000 to visit the Capitol? Tell them, show them, and everyone will be more successful.
Praise & Reward – By rewarding scouts at achievable levels, you will encourage them to sell, sell, sell. Start with small goals and build to the big rewards. If everyone sells 10 boxes of cookies or 10 popcorn tins, you could have an ice cream social at your next meeting. Cost = $15, benefit = huge.
Organize all of your cookie booth sales with an online sign up. SAMPLE
Brainstorm – Remember that committee you created? If you are feeling in a rut, reach out and brainstorm ideas to mix things up. Remember it is for their kids and they want to help!
Mix it up – Nothing changes the mood like a change in scenery. If you always meet at the school, get outside and try meeting in the park. Hey, if the new location doesn’t work, it will make you appreciate the old one even more.
Review goals & accomplishments – Look back at the goals you set for your troop or pack and check off your accomplishments. A review might even spark an idea based on what you have left to accomplish.
Relax and have fun – Remember scouting is not meant to be stressful. Enjoy the adventure with the group you have come to know and appreciate.
Jennifer Burg is a flip-flop wearing, Gator-loving, picture-taking, deal-hunting Florida gal. As an overachieving mom of two awesome daughters, making to-do lists helps her remain calm and (somewhat) organized. When she's not planning events and party sign-ups, you can find her blogging at www.TheSuburbanMom.com.