New Cub Roundtable Commissioner
Rebuilding Your Cub Scout Roundtable
Congratulations on your new job!
First things first:
Is Roundtable attendance low? That's the problem, right? Well, it is "a" problem, but it is the result, not the cause. You must first identify the cause of low attendance. Some possible causes are location, time and content. It is probably "content". We call that "program".
Don't be in a hurry to seek a lot of attendance growth until you have the program under control. If leaders come and don't have a good experience, it will be harder to get them to return after the problems are resolved. Once program is under control, then really start working on the attendance.
Most Cub Roundtables follow the Roundtable Planning Guide format. It has program outlines that sync with the monthly Cub Scout themes. It suggests 3 break-out sessions, so you need to recruit 3 leaders for those sessions. (I suggest that you recruit for a 1 year term... easier to get that commitment from them, and easier to break it off if they don't fit your style.) The usual break-outs are Den Leaders, Webelos Leaders and Pack Administration.
You should avoid leading a break-out session... you need to be able to wander around and observe the break-out session leaders. (This management technique is called "Management by wandering around.")
As soon as possible, recruit 3 more to work with the first three (2 deep in each position.) It is a good idea to consult with the first 3 regarding people you would recruit to work with them.
As your break-out session leaders come on board, it is time to start seriously working to build attendance.
LM34244 - (Annual) Cub Scout Roundtable Planning Guide
LM33013 - Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner and Staff Basic Training Manual
Now, to back up a bit... Training is probably a problem for you at this time. You, your DE, and your new recruits can "self train" using the Cub Scout Roundtable Basic Training Manual or piggy back on another district's training efforts. Perhaps your Council Commissioner has training plans and organization already in place.
Sign up for the next "Train the Trainer" (TTT) conference in/near your council. With the discontinuance of Cub Scout Trainer Wood Badge, TTT is being expanded to fill the gap. So, even if you have done TTT before, it will be worthwhile for you to do again if it is done using the new (c. 2000) syllabus.
If you can swing it, get an invitation to Philmont Training Center's Cub Roundtable Conference. Lead time is an issue, since invitations for these summer events go out in the winter. Your DE can help get this invitation.
But, what do you do between Now and Then?
Do you and your staff know what a "good" roundtable should look like? Feel like?
- Leaders get ideas for their pack and den programs.
- Leaders feel it is a worthwhile expenditure of their time.
- Leaders get info on "what is going on in the district."
- Leaders have fun.
- Leaders "feel good" about having attended.
Some thoughts about the "general session":
- Not everything that happens there will be of interest to everyone. This means that everything in the general session should be kept short and sweet. If it isn't of interest to some, that's okay, because within a few minutes you will be on to something that will be.
I ran by a "5 minute rule" A item had better be awfully important if it were to take more than 5 minutes to complete that segment of the general session. (This includes the D.E.'s 3 minutes!!! Yup! You're the boss at RT. If you need a "Gong Show hook" to keep the DE in line, then make one! And use it! Just to keep the DE on your side, make sure he/she knows the rules and knows what to expect.)
- Everything that happens in the "general session" should have the rough spots filed off before it gets "on stage." That is not a time for a staff member to "cold read" a ceremony! You may need to counsel your staff if you feel the attendees were "short changed" because the preparation was inadequate.
- Spread the activities in the general session among the break-out session leaders, and others, if you recruit some for that purpose. Usually, the break-out session leaders will want the additional exposure that comes from having a part in the general session. If you play your cards right, you can greet everyone as they arrive, give the welcome at the start of the meeting, dismiss them to break-outs, and give the CM minute at the end.
From time to time, your DE will have some very important stuff to tell the folks that will take more than the allotted 3 to 5 minutes. That just can't be allowed to happen. Ask that he/she bring hand-outs of the announcements, and keep the oral stuff to a bare minimum.
There may also be other information dispersion activities that take a half hour or so, but is of interest to only a portion of the attendees. Here is how we resolved that problem:
Almost every Cub Roundtable meeting is preceded by what we call "Early Bird." It could be for basic training, popcorn kickoff, District Pinewood Derby rules instruction, Youth Protection Training, Fall Roundup training, ...Subjects are planned months in advance. Early Bird is optional. It starts 1 hour prior to RT, using one of the break-out session's areas.
From time to time, others will ask to make an announcement during your RT. You get to preview the announcement, even ask for the script of the announcement and, then, permit or decline as you feel appropriate. In any case, keep your "hook" handy, and don't be shy about using it.
Planning your RT:
A monthly meeting with your staff is the best way to do this. I suggest that you come prepared with a "proposed" agenda for the RT with blanks for "who will do what" with copies for everyone. Allow input, changes, etc. , but you make the final decision on content. Parcel out all the work. You can rough plan two months out, and fine tune the next meeting... gather copies of the "hand-outs" for copying. Whether you meet after RT or on a separate day is up to you... usually folks are too keyed up to do any serious planning immediately after RT, so how about the following Sunday evening?
Some ways to build attendance:
Promotion gets them there the first time. Good program gets them to return.
- Announcements / Promos at Basic Leader Training. Make sure they have a Map and Invitation.
- Monthly Call-Around. Quick-hit phone calls to one key person from each pack. Perhaps your staff can use the Service Center's WATS lines. Ask your DE.
- Item in your Council / District newsletter. What happened at the last RT... What's coming at the next one.
- Invite your district's Unit Commissioners to attend, and ask them to encourage their pack's leaders to attend. (Talk to your District Commissioner about this one.)
Financing your RT:
Try to have only one place that attendees are asked to "drop cash." For us, it is the $1 donation asked for the 40 page Monthly Theme Books. For others it is the "Coffee Kitty." If you're lucky, there will be more in the Council/District budget than enough to but 2 copies of the Planning Guide. (That's what our budget is!) Your finance goal is to keep the RT program from being a financial burden on you and your staff and "break even."
Before very long, you should start setting some goals. You might talk to your District Commissioner about this. He/She may want some information / statistics from your RT. Typical wants include Number of packs in attendance, Number of leaders in attendance, staffing level, Number of leaders in each break-out session. These are pretty typical measures of growth and success. Your goals may center around these measures, too.
- Who is your boss? Whom do you have to satisfy to keep you job? What do you have to do to satisfy him/her? In most districts, the CRTC reports to the District Commissioner and is part of the "Unit Service" function. Good, open dialogue with that boss will be valuable to you. He/she may not be able to tell you how to improve your RT, but they may be able to bring resources to bear that you couldn't otherwise get.
- Who are your resources? Besides the DCmr, DE, and staff you might find someone from years past who would "re-up" for some special assignment.
An example of this is someone to put together a monthly theme book of 30 to 60 pages of theme-related information that can be made available during RT. In our RT, my wife provides that service. She has collected a closet full of POW WOW books and each month she scours through them to flush out ideas that are worth sharing with the leaders in the district. Some other leaders have connections that help with photocopying the theme books.
Another example of this is someone or a group to be responsible for decorations at the RT meetings. This could be old timers, or it could be people who you want to evaluate as potential staff members. Or it could be folks who just cant take on the staff job, but want to help anyway. If you tackle something like this, you might want to have several such groups at work on decorations, so that none are overworked.
- As you RT starts to grow, consider adding more break-out sessions. Some possibilities are:
- Divide Den Leaders into Wolf Leaders and Bear Leaders.
- Divide Webelos Leaders into 1st and 2nd year Webelos Leaders.
- Provide a Break-out session for Tiger Parents.
- Provide a Break-out for Den Chiefs (we do this a bit differently... the Den Chiefs meet with the general session for a few minutes, then go off for Den chief Break-out, then they join the Den Leaders break-out, and then back to the general session.
- Divide Pack Administration into CM/AC and CC/MC groups.
The rationale for dividing is to better meet the needs of the participants... If dividing would not do that, then don't divide. DL often have a lot of hands-on stuff. Large groups there can be a problem.
- Your relationship with the DE will be one of the most important in the success of the RT. The DE is your window into most Council functions. A good, open working relationship will be valuable. Keep the needs of RT first. But be as obliging as you can without sacrificing the integrity of the RT. It will make things a little more difficult for the DE, but if he/she understands where you're coming from and why, they will probably work with you. Assess your DE's experience. Some have been around for quite a while. That doesn't mean they know everything, but it does suggest that you hear them out when they have suggestions. Others (we get a lot of these) are new hires, and we get to help train them!
- Who are the other CRTC's in your council? How about a visit to their RT meetings? What you would see there isn't necessarily "gospel", but certainly they can provide you with some ideas.
- Assess your present RT meeting location. Does it have enough room for your general session? Can everyone see what is going on at the front? Are there separated areas for the break-out sessions, so that the Pack Admin types can learn to lead songs and make a lot of noise without interfering with an Ethics in Action reflection over in the Webelos Leader's area? Is your location "centrally located" with respect to those who should be attending? This is a big issue in a district like mine where it takes 2 hours to drive across it. Is the parking convenient and safe? Since the meetings are most likely in the evening hours, would a lone female Den Leader feel comfortable coming to the meeting? (I always urge folks to come "like bananas... in bunches!" but that is not a solution for a meeting area in a "high-risk" location.)
Latest update: 8/10/97, 6/25/2000.
Copyright 1997 © by Stan Pope. All rights reserved.