- Part 1: Getting Started
- Part 2: Pack Committee Organization
- Part 3: Planning Your Pack’s Annual Program Budget
- Part 5: Unit Leadership Enhancements
In this post we will explain the importance of annual program planning, list the steps required to plan a full year of fun activities and adventures, recognize the need to finalize plans as events approach and show ways to share the annual plan with pack families.
One of the most important functions of the pack committee relates to planning the pack program. In this portion of a committee meeting, pack leaders and committee members look one to three months ahead to ensure upcoming pack events are on schedule and next month’s activities are fine-tuned.
Most packs plan a full program year each August, so the schedule for your pack should already be set. However, as part of the monthly pack committee meeting, upcoming events and pack meeting plans are fine-tuned.
Pack Program Planning
- An annual pack program planning meeting should be held when local school and church calendars are made available (and before you start the fall recruiting process). At this meeting, the major pack activities are determined and dates are set. Den leaders should also present their schedules of den adventures and coordinate with the pack calendar.
- The committee meets monthly to review plans for upcoming pack meetings.
Pack Meeting Plans contain information and resources based on themes related to the Scout Oath and Scout Law that will make planning a successful pack meeting easy. (Additional resources are available at roundtables and at the Voice of Scouting blog.)
Annual Program Planning
Your Pack’s Annual Program Plan = Satisfied Cub Scouts and Families = A Lifelong Love of Scouting!
The pack’s annual program plan and planning conference, of course, is one of the key elements of all successful packs and a solid indicator of a potentially successful year. In fact, research done by Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, Indiana, showed that a common element of strong packs is they all have a good annual pack program planned a year in advance that is then shared with all families in the form of a calendar. The important result of a shared annual program calendar is that your pack will attract more families, and Cub Scouts will stay for a long time.
Just as an aside, the other two key elements of successful packs identified in that study were training and having the right leader to start with.
Here is how a pack program planning conference works. A month or two before the scheduled face-to-face conference, the committee chair and Cubmaster gather the following information:
- Key school dates
- Community event dates
- Your chartered organization’s dates
- Personal dates that may affect your pack’s activities such as the Cubmaster’s anniversary cruise
- District and council dates
- Collected Family Talent Survey sheets from all parents
- Last year’s pack annual plan if you have one
- All pack committee members
- All den leaders
- All pack/den aids and den chiefs (optional)
- Chartered organization representative
- Your unit commissioner (optional)
- Anyone else you think might be helpful, such as other parents
If you choose, you can use a new electronic program planning conference guide for a pack to add some color to the process. A narrated PowerPoint presentation, which takes the pack step-by-step through the planning process, can be found by clicking here. The result is an annual calendar and plan that all parties agree upon.
Here’s a quick rundown of the steps.
Before you start the planning process: Explain to the group the importance of annual program planning, why you are doing it, and the rules for the process during this meeting.
Step 1: This part is easy. Just take the dates you collected and put them into your pack’s master calendar—including den meeting dates—either on a hard copy or by plugging the information into an electronic calendar on a computer. (Click here for the Pack_Calendar Template [2015-2016]).*Note: The worksheets are protected without a password to allow changes only in certain cells and prevent mistakes. To learn how to change those protected cells in your version of Microsoft Excel®
Step 2: Before you begin completing your master calendar with things you want to do, review what the pack did last year. Jot down what you come up with on a flip chart or dry erase board. Ask yourself questions like, what events went well, what events didn’t go so well? Did we earn the National Summertime Pack Award? The Journey to Excellence Award? How did we do with den and pack attendance? Did we participate in Cub Scout day camp or family camp? Did we sell popcorn?
Use the Stop, Start and Continue evaluation method by asking what you should discontinue doing, what you need to begin and what must be kept in your program. Ask as many questions as you need to, but don’t spend too much time on this, this just quick review to help guide what you might want to keep, replace, or improve.
Step 3: Do some brainstorming on activities your pack might want to do in addition to den and pack meetings. This could be things such as a blue and gold banquet, pinewood derby, family picnic, first-aid training, pet show, and so on. Remember the brainstorming rule, which is anybody can suggest anything without critique or criticism. Feedback and analysis come later, after all the ideas have been captured. Once you have a list of things your dens and pack might want to do, start prioritizing the list. Is a particular activity something for dens or the pack as a whole? Could the activity be incorporated into a den or pack meeting? And so on.
Take a vote on which activities to include on the den and pack meeting schedule, then add the activities to your calendar.
Step 4: By now, the calendar should be taking shape. It should include school and community dates, holidays, some personal conflict dates, den and pack meetings, additional den and pack activities, and district and council dates. The next step is to assign the person who will be responsible for each event, as well as den responsibilities at pack meetings. This would include names, like “Bob Smith” will be the chair for the blue and gold banquet.
If you are really ambitious, you can even put in event details such as, “Bob will send invitation and assignments to each family by January 1,” and, “By November 1, we will get confirmation from the school we can use the cafeteria.” Remember that good planning and preparation will lead to more happy families. Some of this might have to come after your program planning conference, if you choose activities now and have to recruit chairs later. However, if you know you will be doing some activities again such as your blue and gold banquet, you might already have a commitment from “Bob” by the time the program planning conference happens.
Step 5: You’re almost finished. The final step is to review your annual plan to ensure you have captured everything you and your families want to do in the upcoming year. Once you feel comfortable, publish or email your annual plan to each family. A reminder that not everyone has an email account, so be sure your distribution reaches all families. They will feel much more a part of your pack and be able to plan their own family calendar with the pack’s calendar in hand. Sharing the annual plan with your families could be the most important step in retaining your Scouts and building tenure, so don’t shortcut this one.
Step 6: Annual program planning is an ongoing process. Review the plan each month at your pack leaders’ meeting to make sure you are still on track, to recruit chairs and other help, you participate in important meetings, or to make assignments or changes as needed.
A great pack program plan leads to a great pack and den program, which leads to Cub Scouts and their families staying and growing in Scouting.
Good luck! You are taking a big step toward being a great pack!
Most families signed up to join Cub Scouting to have fun, be active, and experience new things. Here is just some of them:
- Blue and Gold Banquets—Most Cub Scouts celebrate Scouting Anniversary Week in February with a “birthday party” called the blue and gold banquet. In nearly all packs, the blue and gold banquet is the highlight of the year. It brings families together for an afternoon or evening of fun and cheer. It’s often the pack meeting for February.
- Cub Scout Camping—Camping takes you on exciting adventures into the natural world. You’ll learn to live with others in the out-of-doors. You’ll learn to be a good citizen of the outdoors. • Day Camps—Day camp lasts for one day to five days. It’s for Tiger, Wolf, and Bear Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts. Day camps are held during the day or early evening. Campers do not stay overnight.
• Resident Camps (not offered in our Council)—At resident camps, Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts camp overnight. Every year, the resident camp has a different theme and different adventures. Examples of themes are Sea Adventure, Space Adventure, Athletes, Knights, Circus Big Top, American Indian Heritage, Folklore, and the World Around Us.
• Webelos Den Overnight (Offered in our Council as Parent and Son Campouts)—Webelos dens go on overnight campouts. Each Webelos Scout camps with his parent or guardian. The campers learn the basics of Boy Scout camping under the direction of the Webelos den leader. Sometimes, leaders from a Boy Scout troop may join you. Webelos dens also have joint overnight campouts with a Boy Scout troop. Each Webelos Scout has a parent or guardian with him on these joint campouts, too.
• Council-Organized Family Camps—Family camps are overnight camps for more than one Cub Scout pack. You may hear these events called “parent-pal weekends” or “adventure weekends.” Each Cub Scout and Webelos Scout camps with a parent or guardian.
• Pack Overnighters (not authorized other than as Father and Son Campouts)—Packs on their own can hold overnight campouts for the families in the pack. Cub Scouts’ brothers and sisters can go on these pack overnighters. In most cases, each Scout will camp with a parent or guardian. Every young camper is responsible to a specific adult. Stress that in order to hold a pack overnight campout, an adult trained in BALOO (Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation) must plan and attend the campout.
- Cub Scout Derbies—Racing in a Cub Scout derby is great fun. You’ll get to design your racing vehicle, work with a parent to build it, and see it perform on race day. Win or lose, you’ll take pride in having done your best. When you race in a Cub Scout derby, you learn craft skills, the rules of fair play, and good sportsmanship—things you will remember all your life. The main types of derbies are the pinewood derby, raingutter regatta, space derby, and Cubmobile derby.
- Outings and Field Trips—“Outing” is a big part of Scouting. Cub Scouts get out and about with many kinds of outdoor fun. Excursions and field trips provide some of the most exciting parts of Scouting. Cub Scouts enjoy many outdoor experiences as they participate in the variety of activities that can be held outside, such as field trips, hikes, nature and conservation experiences, and outdoor games. Boys enjoy visiting museums, business establishments, parks, and other attractions. Here are some suggestions:
• Hikes—A hike is a journey on foot, usually with a purpose, a route, and a destination. Dens will have several opportunities for taking hikes related to adventure requirements.
• Games and Sports—Outdoor games and sports provide opportunities for teaching boys skills of good sportsmanship, including following rules, taking turns and sharing, getting along with others, and fair play. They provide the opportunity for every Cub Scout to learn the basic skills of a sport, game, or competition while learning good sportsmanship and habits of personal fitness in an environment where participation and doing one’s best are more important than winning.
• Service Projects—Doing service projects together is one way that Cub Scouts keep their promise “to help other people.” While a Scout should do his best to help other people every day, a group service project is a bigger way to help people. While you’re giving service, you’re learning to work together with others to do something that’s good for your community.
• District and Council Activities—Your local council or district office may schedule activities in which all the packs in your area are invited to participate. Some examples are Cub Scout day camps, Scoutoramas, Scouting EXPOs, conservation projects, outdoor Cub Scout field days, Cub Scout circuses, and district summer softball leagues.
• District or Council Scouting Shows—A Scouting show is a gala event held in a council or district to demonstrate to the general public the ways in which Scouting serves youth in the community. Participating in a Scouting show also helps boys and their families see that they are part of a total Scouting program.
Recap by saying that some of the best things about Cub Scouting are the activities you get to do; Cub Scouting means “doing.” There are many tried-and-true activities, but packs can also use their imagination and resources to come up with new ones and remember to consult the Guide to Safe Scouting and Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities.
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. He has been a Pack Committee Chair, Cubmaster and Den Leader in two different LDS Ward Packs.