The Del-Mar-Va Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) serves 9,700 youths throughout the peninsula, but it’s aiming for more. Last month the council announced a strategic plan to increase membership in the venerable program through new branding efforts and structured community partnerships.
“The new strategic plan is about delivering a great program to families in a changing world,” said Scout Executive Jason Pierce. “The world looks a lot different now.”
“Charting a New Path” is a five-year initiative to develop leadership; grow membership, particularly in underserved areas; rebrand the message; ensure a quality program at each unit; and measure outcomes. The goal is to serve every family in every community either through direct program participation or through the impact of local scouting events.
“The theme we heard from our listening sessions was that we need scouting more today than ever,” said Lynn Jones, council board president. For the council, that meant changing the delivery of the program without compromising its core values of leadership and character development.
“It used to be that you were either a scout or you were in Little League,” said Jones. “But now you have so many more choices.”
Effectively competing with those choices means offering more STEM and technology-based programs. Research data used to build the strategic plan revealed that kids and parents buy into a different value proposition when it comes to scouting, according to Pierce.
“A second-grader wants to go fishing or build a pinewood derby car, not get his character developed,” explained Pierce. “What a parent wants is for them to be a leader, better public speaker.”
Studies of the national BSA program reveal strong brand recognition, according to Pierce, who said many view the Scouts as just an outdoor extracurricular activity. “We’re much more than an outdoor program,” he said.
Bucking a national trend that shows decreasing membership, the Del-Mar-Va council has experienced four consecutive years of growth. Still, Pierce said the organization serves just 9 percent of the total available market.
The council has identified underserved communities on the Delmarva Peninsula that it will target for new programs. But serving every community isn’t relegated to increasing troops. Jones said the “serving every community” models means impacting communities through service projects.
In Wilmington, the BSA serves more than 500 kids at 13 different sites, including East Side Charter School and the Latin American Community Center.
According to Pierce, 20 percent of BSA’s funding comes from the business community, most through event sponsorships.
The Del-Mar-Va Council partners with 18 different exploring programs that serve 526 young men and women through the Delmarva Peninsula, including partnerships with Delaware police and fire departments; Christiana Care Health System and Bay Health Medical Center; and the Navy Junior ROTC program at Seaford High School.
Research data was culled from six listening sessions with parents, volunteers and community leaders, as well as two years of survey data, an environmental scan report and a charter partner survey.
Over the next several months, the council will refine the plan through workshops and develop outcomes and objectives. The complete strategic plan will be presented and approved by the Executive Board in September.
“The methodology of delivering scouting to young people is tried and true over 100 years but if we don’t change the delivery we’re missing a huge opportunity,” said Pierce.