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Bob’s Blog: Strength in Numbers, and a Note From Washington, D.C.


Strength in numbers – and what great numbers!

We talk a lot about the “Main Thing” and how the Main Thing is about serving more young people with a quality Scouting experience, which in turn will lead to a more sustainable future for our organization.

With that in mind, I am proud to report that our first year of following the principles of the Main Thing is showing positive membership results. We have done remarkably well, and the numbers below tell the story:

  • Retention increased 1.4 percent, from 69.2 percent in 2009 to 70.6 percent. This equates to an average of about 38,000 more youth re-registering annually.
  • 59 percent of our councils had growth in membership in 2011, compared to 53 percent in 2010.
  • Cub Scout membership loss was reduced from 2 percent in 2010 to 1.2 percent in 2011.
  • Boy Scout membership continues to be the shining star. It moved from a loss of 0.6 percent in 2009 to positive growth of 1.2 percent in 2011, the highest percentage increase since 1997. This program is also trending in the right direction, as we saw 0.01 percent growth in 2010.
  • The Venturing program loss was cut in half, from 7.2 percent in 2010 to 3.2 percent in 2011.
  • We made tremendous progress in closing the gap in Exploring, from a loss of 17 percent in 2009 to a loss of only 0.24 percent (279 participants) in 2011.
  • Our Hispanic Initiative progress tells another remarkable story. When we launched this effort four years ago, we had 134,000 Hispanic youth members.  Chairman Ralph de la Vega challenged us at that time to recruit 200,000 Hispanic members by 2011. We met and surpassed that number by ending the year with 204,000. We are getting real traction in our efforts to serve this segment of our population with what the Hispanic Initiative taught us in terms of marketing and messaging to Hispanic parents.

We are seeing some great momentum here. Let’s all take a moment for a hearty slap on the back and fist pump, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to seize the day and carry these accomplishments forward.

I want to thank everyone for their contributions to the success we experienced in our 2011 membership efforts. Your hard work every day with our young people is what pushed our performance higher than anyone’s expectations. As always, it is an honor to work alongside you to serve the youth of America.

Thank you for a marvelous year!

Proud Moments in Our Nation’s Capital

You know, I say this every time about the Scouts who join me for our annual trip to present the BSA’s Report to the Nation: They are nine of the most remarkable young people I’ve ever met! They represent America’s greatest kids.

What was unique about these young people is that four of the nine had saved lives using their Scout skills. Among those in the group proudly wearing his lifesaving medal was Jack Pape from Omaha, Nebraska, who provided first aid to Scouts injured during the tornado at Little Sioux Scout Ranch in 2008 and who gave CPR to a boy pulled from a swimming pool in 2009. I also learned from Jack that his next level of service will be to enter the U.S. Army after graduating from high school in May, training in the specialty of handling unexploded devices. Whew!

It’s always a treat for me to travel with this group of special Scouts through the nation’s capital. Our Report to the Nation carried a great story about our accomplishments for Scouting in 2011, and this terrific videoExternal Link shows last year’s highlights.

One of the many memorable stops was our participation in a live broadcast of the Bill Bennett “Morning in America” radio show, carried on 200 radio stations across the country with an audience of three and a half million people. Four Scouts joined me during the broadcastExternal Link to share their thoughts about how Scouting helps America’s young people be Prepared. For Life.™

In observance of the 100th anniversary of the Eagle Scout Award this year, Congressman Pete Sessions and Senator Ben Nelson hosted a special Gathering of Eagles event in the historic Rayburn House Office Building. What a thrill for our group to meet with members of the House and Senate—many of them Eagle Scouts—who represented just a sampling of the Eagle Scouts among the lawmakers and staff now serving on Capitol Hill.

Alf Tuggle and I also spent two very productive days visiting with almost two dozen members of the House and the Senate, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to witness the bipartisan support for Scouting. It was remarkable and heartwarming to see how our lawmakers could set aside their differences to recognize that Scouting is a good thing.

As our Scouts gathered to depart at the end of that memorable week, it was obvious that they had formed an incredible bond of friendship that will probably last over a lifetime. It was an emotional time for everyone.

One interesting footnote I have to mention is about the host couple, Frank and Karen Ramirez from Colorado. While this trip was a thrill in itself for them, for Frank it was also a moment of coming full circle in Scouting.

Frank is a member of our National Executive Board and one of the founding members of our Hispanic Initiatives Committee, but I also was surprised to learn that he was a Report to the Nation Scout back in 1972! What memories Frank had a chance to relive with this great group of Scouts! It was an awesome opportunity to share this experience with him. He and Karen were dubbed “Mom and Dad America” and did a terrific job hosting our Scouts that week.

As I’ve said before, what a remarkable group of kids!


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