Yes, I know. You’re desperate. If you can’t find a Leader to take on the 1st Anytown unit then it’ll definitely close at the end of the term and dozens of girls, current and future, will miss out. So you’ve drafted a begging letter to the parents of the current members saying as much, and drafted a pleading article for the local paper, with a photo of a group of girls looking sad to go alongside it.
Before you send that letter and submit that article, please, pause for a minute. Mentally step back from the computer. Imagine that you’ve just got back into the house after collecting the kids from Brownies and football practice, they’ll be back downstairs from the bathroom in a minute wanting supper before there is the hassle of getting them washed and into bed at a decent hour, given there’s school tomorrow morning. In the couple of minutes they are upstairs you then open the crumpled note your daughter thrust at you in the car, and it’s that Brownie woman trying to guilt-trip you into taking on even more work than you’ve already got on your plate, or else your daughter and her pals will be so upset.
Imagine that after a long day at work you’ve finally got home, made a hurried dinner, and are collapsed in the armchair skimming through the ‘local rag’, to pass the time while waiting for your TV programme to start.
What is your instant reaction? One thing’s for sure, in most cases it won’t be ‘I’d love to do that, let’s find the contact details and contact them straight away’!
If you are scouting for potential Leaders, then you want to attract them to the hobby. You want to give them reasons to want to volunteer. Good, positive reasons. When did anyone ever join a club for the sole reason that it would close if they didn’t? No, people invariably join a club for what they personally will get out of being a member of that club – facilities, coaching, opportunities, social life. So if you’re going to attract people to join your club, then first you have to work out what positive reasons you can offer them for doing so.
Facilities – so what facilities are there that they can use – can you offer a venue well-suited to the purpose? A hall in sound condition, with adequate heat, light, ventilation and space, suitable furniture, suitable bathroom facilities, ideally some storage for equipment, if possible use of some kitchen facilities? Is there a staff team in place to work with them to help implement each other’s ideas and is there unit equipment to enable the running of a range of activities? Are there a manageable number of girls in the unit? Is the administration in good order with records up-to-date and funds adequate?
Coaching – if someone steps up to join, what coaching will be available to help them develop their skills? Will a mentor be assigned promptly? Are there regular trainings in your area that they can access? Will the experienced Leaders in the area be available to offer advice, help out at occasional meetings and activities, offer opportunities to get residential experience, help them deal with problems or concerns?
What opportunities will this hobby bring? Will there be a chance to gain skills, to gain qualifications or awards, to do extra training or skills development, to visit other units, to attend events, to try activities they might not otherwise get to do? Will it bring a sense of achievement?
What social options are there – are there Leader meetings where people can swap ideas and experiences, do the District or Division have social events, are there special interest clubs that Leaders can join, are there premises which can be accessed?
The other thing to consider is – are you 100% sure that it’s a Leader that you want and that nothing else could possibly do? Might it actually be that an administrator, an accountant, a depot manager or an events organiser would be a realistic solution? A volunteer for a backroom role such as these might free up the Leaders you’ve already got in the District to get on with doing the leading. Someone who is currently working as a helper or Assistant Leader with another unit might be willing to change units or section given the right support. A Young Leader or someone working on DofE might love the chance to get youth leadership training and skills whilst offering a useful pair of hands to the unit, and with nurturing may turn into the adult Leader you wanted anyway. Occasional helpers can be ideal for the weeks when you are shorthanded, or as emergency cover for temporary leader illness or absence, or for Leaders who work rotating shifts. A Unit Helper could take on a specific part of the programme, possibly filling a gap in the skill-set of the other Leaders, possibly supporting a particular Leader.
So, before printing off that letter or sending off that article, put yourself in the position of the person reading it. Does this sound like the sort of opportunity you might like to take up? Have they sold it to you as a great opportunity that you should give serious consideration to? Or would you be more likely to hope that someone else is mug enough to be persuaded to take it on, and save you feeling guilty at turning the page?