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Best Practices: Developing High-Performing Units

In 2009, the BSA introduced a new methodology that focused on the retention of units. This was greatly needed to address the growing national concern of only one out of every three new units organized surviving into their second year. The research results were staggering, with a 67 percent dropped-unit rate and only a 33 percent retention rate in the life span of a new unit. And, with every dropped unit, there were countless disappointed families and severed community relationships.

A national new-unit organization/retention task force was developed to review the root causes of dropped units and to build a workable plan that could be used by all councils, no matter what economic conditions existed in their communities. Thus, the Unit Retention Guide (now called the Unit Performance Guide) was developed with a focus on building and organizing all new units into active and sustainable high-performing units. It condensed the process from 12 steps to four key pillars.

Changing the BSA’s long-term history of organizing new units too quickly to a new concept of sustaining high-performing units would require councils to embrace a new methodology of “No Unit Before Its Time.” For this new-unit process to work, it had to be slowed down, be strategically planned, be executed with discipline, involve more volunteers, and, most important, contain a successful retention plan.

As a result, the BSA tested, piloted, and approved the new methodology found in the Unit Performance Guide that utilizes best practices from councils that have been successful in the Journey to Excellence. It will be a continuous improvement process with updates and revisions online as needed. These concepts were also taught to new district executives at the Center for Professional Development as the standard for new-unit retention. Some pilot results include:

  • Of the pilot councils, 78 percent find the Unit Performance Guide methodology process effective.
  • On average, pilot councils had 18.8 percent fewer dropped units, while nonpilot councils averaged 14.5 percent.
  • Pilot councils had a 33.3 percent higher success rate in retention.

High-Performing Council and District Best Practices—Unit Performance Guide

1)    The district executive, new-unit commissioner, and new-unit organizer work together to organize new units. Volunteer-driven, professionally guided. Professionals should not have to do it alone anymore.

2)    A new-unit commissioner is assigned at the very start of the new-unit organization process. Once the unit is organized, that commissioner serves the unit for three years to help it become a high-performing unit.

3)    Organize every new unit with at least 10 youth (two dens or patrols or a crew of 10) and five adults (non-LDS). This also supports the JTE requirement to increase youth market share/retention.

4)    Develop the unit Key 3 concept. The unit leader, committee chair, and chartered organization representative meet together monthly. The assigned new-unit commissioner serves as the advisor to the meeting.

5)    Focus on organizing the full Scouting family—pack, troop, and crew—in faith-based or community groups.

To access the Unit Performance Guide, visit www.scouting.org/membershipExternal Link and click on “New Unit Development.”

It also is available in PDF format (English, No. 522-025; English/Spanish, No. 522-026); in EPUB file for iPhone, iPad, Nook, and Android devices; and in MOBI file for Kindle.

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