Venturing Leader Specific Training
By Darryl Alder
Feb 19, 2016

Venturing Leader Specific Training Part 6: Annual Program Planning

You can read other parts of this blog series here:

In this post we list the three phases of the annual program planning process, identify the purpose of the Program Capability Inventory (PCI), identify the purpose of the Venturing Activity Interest Survey (AIS) and list the steps of the crew’s annual program planning conference.


Your Annual Crew Program Plan = Satisfied Venturers and Families = A Lifelong Love of Scouting!

 In a previous session, we wrote about the responsibility the Advisor had to the crew officers, but we saved one of the most important responsibilities for last: planning a program. Planning is a discipline that is often ignored or done poorly. Research conducted by Eli Lilly in Indianapolis showed that a common element of strong units is they all have a good annual 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 crew will attract more families and Venturers will stay involved longer.

Your role as a Venturing Advisor is to help your crew officers plan and implement an exciting yearlong program that will attract and retain youth. Explain that there are three phases to the program planning process:

  • Annual program planning preparation
  • Program planning conference
  • Program implementation

While the focus of this post is on the program planning conference, without prior preparation by the crew officers and Advisor, the conference would not be possible. Also, a plan is only a plan until it is implemented. Each adventure and activity decided on must also go through a planning process as well in order to be successful.

You may find watching this slide deck for the Crew Officer’s Orientation helpful:
Crew annual program planning

Preparation Steps

Step 1 — The crew Adviser holds a crew officer briefing immediately after the crew’s annual election and starts the program planning process. The Adviser explains the process, goals, and what each officer needs to do to prepare for the next step.

Crew annual Program PlanningStep 2 — Gather the following key information.

  1. Key school dates, like holidays and exams
  2. Community event dates, like proms, homecoming, graduations
  3. The chartered organization’s key dates
  4. Personal dates that may affect your crew’s activities, such as the Adviser’s anniversary cruise
  5. Key district and council dates
  6. Data from completed Program Capability Inventory Information sheets (PCI) from parents and others who might offer resources
  7. Data from Activity Interest Surveys from each member
  8. Last year’s crew annual plan, if you have one
  9. Crew priorities and goals
  10. Venturers’ advancement records

Step 3 — Following the membership survey, hold the annual crew officers’ seminar, where officers plan the coming year’s program. So you have plenty of uninterrupted time for the process, it is recommended that this be conducted in a retreat setting over a weekend. This could be the most important meeting of the year—do it right!

For support and to add some color to the process, you can use the electronic program planning conference “Guide to the Crew Annual Program Planning Conference.” This narrated, to-the-point presentation takes the crew step by step through the planning process. The result is an annual calendar and plan that all parties agree upon—and a very satisfying process.

The Crew Annual Program Planning Conference

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what keeps Venturers in the program. They like to have fun, do really cool, challenging stuff, go places, and learn things, even though they might not want to admit it. That is what we should help them design, and it doesn’t just happen by chance; it takes planning and preparation.

There are four main steps of the crew’s annual program planning conference. It is the responsibility of the crew Advisor to coach the crew officers through this process.

  1. Gather and evaluate information to set goals
  2. Brainstorm ideas
  3. Discuss and evaluate activity ideas
  4. Select activities for coming year’s program

Allow me to explain these four steps more fully:

Step 1 Gather and evaluate information then the president and/or Advisor can lead a discussion on your crew’s goals for the coming year. Prior to the program planning conference, the crew program vice president will have gathered the completed activity interest surveys from the Venturers and compiled the data into a prioritized list of desired crew interests.

Make a list of program goals on a flipchart or white board and narrow them down to a final record of goals for the year. Then ask: “Do the goals of the crew align with the information gathered on the Program Capability Inventory (PCI) and the Venturing Activity Interest Survey?”

  • Program Capability Inventory (PCI): Each Venturing crew uses resources from its chartered organization, various adults associated with the crew, and consultants from the surrounding community. The PCI is used to track skills or resources available to assist the crew program. The crew committee updates and maintains the PCIs. The crew president, program vice president, and Advisor should review the PCIs before the annual planning conference.
  • Venturing Activity Interest Survey (AIS): Each Venturer should complete the survey and return it to the program vice president prior to the annual planning conference. If this survey is based on your PCI, you’ll be able to support nearly all the program interests suggested by the AIS.

Crew Program PlanningStep 2 Brainstorm ideas of what the crew might do based on your AISs. Write them on a flipchart and remember not to critique the ideas while brainstorming. This is not a time to be judgmental.

The recorder should put all ideas on a flipchart or whiteboard so that the entire group is able to see them. Crew officers are advised to be creative. Also, they should build upon others’ ideas. The essence of this step is to answer, “What could we do?”

Step 3 Discuss and evaluate activity ideas you have developed, The crew officers evaluate the activity ideas in terms of the crew’s activity interest surveys. This is where the program vice president’s prior compilation of the activity interest surveys will be valuable—the officers will already know which activities are most desired. Those brainstorm ideas that were least important based on the crew’s interests may be eliminated.

Once the activity ideas have been evaluated in terms of the crew’s interests, they should again be evaluated in terms of the resources available—the PCIs. Resources will definitely constitute a limitation, but lack of resources should not automatically eliminate an activity from consideration. It may just mean that the crew activity chair will need to expend extra effort in order to find and secure the necessary resources.

Expand your basic program by adding support programs and activities leading toward your big activities or superactivity.

Step 4 Select activities for coming year’s program and draft your plan for members to vote on. The crew officers should also answer:

  • Have we included activities of interest to everyone?
  • Do the activities fit with the crew’s goals?
  • Do the activities fit into the annual program?
  • Have we considered fundraising, service, and recruiting non-members?

Calendar everything, including big activities, meetings, support activities, and all key dates that apply. Lay out the meeting schedule, officer meetings, chosen activities, fundraising events, service projects, and recruiting opportunities on an annual calendar. This is the draft annual plan that forms the foundation for the crew’s year.

Members should vote on the big program ideas, but officers approve the final calendar after members have voted. The crew president and program vice president will then select youth activity chairs and an adult mentor for each event.

Larger crews may choose to pair an experienced Venturer with a newer Venturer as activity co-chairs. Another technique is to ensure the newer Venturers are assigned to the relatively easier activities in order to learn how to plan and manage a crew activity.

It is also very important to publish the calendar of events and distribute it to the Venturers, their families, and the chartered organization representative. Point out that the annual program plan is a living document. The crew officers should review it each month at their crew officers meeting to accommodate necessary changes.

Notes Before You Hold a Conference

Remember before you start the steps listed above, these ground rules will help your conference run better:

  • It is important to respect the views of each other. Listen and don’t interrupt.
  • Keep focused on your task, which is to plan your annual program. Don’t get sidetracked.
  • Write out your ideas so everyone can see them.
  • Be in agreement.

Take good notes throughout the process. After each activity, do a critique/debriefing on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what you can do differently next time. After each step, put the notes in your crew history file. These updates will help during your next planning cycle.

Your plan will be a living, breathing document. For it to have real value, you must follow it, share it with everyone, and review it regularly to see if modifications have to be made. Good luck on another great year and don’t forget: Share your plan and calendar with every Venturing family!


Share that the website has a wealth of program planning tools, including forms, templates, and presentations. These tools will make it easier to create newsletters, revise calendars, keep youth members and families informed, and help youth members manage the crew more effectively and efficiently.

Activity Interest Survey
Use this survey to help develop the crew’s anual program plan of activities.

Activity Planner Sheet
This tool comes in handy for planning a well-organized activity.

Program Capability Inventory
Use this resource to help get more adult volunteers involved with your unit, and to get those who are already involved even more engaged.

Venturing Crew Annual Program Planning Conference
Use this PowerPoint presentation to help guide your crew through its annual program planning conference.


Too many Venturing crews are “one-man bands”—an adult Advisor unable or unwilling to delegate to the crew officers or to other adults. Units operated this way don’t last very long as the leaders tend to burn out.

Constant follow-up is critical to success. When a youth agrees to chair an event, the program vice president should not wait until the planned event to discover that nothing has been done. Canceling events due to poor planning destroys morale in the crew.

It is important that the program vice president follow up regularly with the activity chairs and that the associate Advisor for program follow up regularly with the adult mentor for the youth activity chair.

Take a moment to reflect on this sixth session of training and comment in the section below.

Continue to Venturing Leader Specific Training Part 7: Summary and Wrap-up.

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