Royal Volunteer

One Two Many Roles

<Group of scouting people sat round a fire>

Person 1 – I am am about to get appointed for my new role

Person 2 – well remember it is only two hours a week

Person 3 – Oh yea, but when you have eight roles it never ending

<people stare gloomily into the fire>


I am sure you have all been in that situation where people talk about their roles in scouting.  The same two hours a week joke is push out and mocked by everyone who holds a current role and then the Mosting starts,

  • Well I am not sure what Scout Association is going to do now, I don’t have any room left on my card for my new appointment.
  • You have a night at home wow well this week I am at beavers Monday, cubs Tuesday, scouts Wednesday, district meeting Thursday, explorers Friday, camp Saturday and then Sunday I am on a helping on that training course.
  • Well I could possible help on that weekend but it will be the 5 weekend in a row that I have not been at home.

I am sure you have all hear many more similar comments.

While I accept that we are struggling for leaders and there are a loads of young people on waiting list across the country does one person doing every role with a quarter of their effort and moaning about it make for a good solution.

I have one role and sometimes when I tell people this they look at you like your not doing your bit, because they have 4 or 5 roles. However my logic is that I have one role, a job and a family so I already have to split my time in to thirds. A third to Scouting a third to my job and a third to my family in each one of those thirds I commit 100% of that third to the given party. However if I have four scouting roles then you can only give 25% of your available scouting time to each role.

Now there is nothing to say that the role you have taken on won’t take up 25% of your time for example maybe you are the Explorer Leader and you become a Duke of Edinburgh Assessor well that makes sense, you can manage your time such that when you’re doing your assessor role your Explorers are there being assessed two birds one stone and all that.

Now at this point someone is going to be shouting at the screen “OK clever clogs what your solution to keeping my group running” and the answer is I don’t have one.

I have some suggestions.

  • Flexible Volunteers

The Scouting Association has been on a huge push to highlight the benefit of flexible volunteer the whole campaign with the Duchess of Cambridge has aimed to highlight that it is possible for anyone to find a small amount of time within their schedule to give to scouting.
We need to recognise that not everyone can or wants to have 10 roles and a silver wolf handing round their neck, but they are happy to come along at the start of the evening and collect the subs or run a session on something related to their job. Maybe you can find four parents who are willing to help out one week in four, with a simple rota you have help every meeting.
The key is to understand what help you need and give people exact options, people don’t like vagueness. “I need HELP I am swamped” will scare people off “I am really looking for someone to support me once a month when we do an activity outside” will give you a much better response – I wrote a post here all about asking for help.

  • Parents

Parents are our biggest source of help, after all it is there little darlings that are running round the room hyped on chocolate buttons and causing premature baldness in scout leaders the world over.
Again as mentioned in the item above it is about asking the right questions, when looking for help amongst parents you hope they see the benefits from scouting that their little darlings get but it is worth reminding them, hold a parents evening get them to come down and work as a team with their child to complete a challenge. Camps are usually a great way to get parents involved dad love the idea of going back to nature and event the toughest lawyer dad will be come a different person when you put them in a tent and get them muddy. The will at first always see the benefit to dropping them off and be able to do the shopping without a little person clinging on to your ankles and filling your trolly with stuff you don’t want (It is amazing what you find in a trolly when shopping with a 3 year old but that for another post), however once you have the parents engaged with the group that is when you can ask about further support you might find one or two willing to help. Maybe some will say sorry but I can only help on weekend or camps, or maybe you will get  enough to get a 1 in 4 rota then you would be able to get the support you need and who knows you might find that one of those 4 parents enjoys it so much they start turning up every week.

  • Looking in the right place.

If all else fails you decide to place an advert somewhere looking for help


How you say and where you say it is key. I would suggest looking at a site like Do-it this site is a volunteer recruitment website so half the battle is completed those people who are looking at the site are looking for volunteering position. They want to help out, you just entice them to support you.


who could refuse that.


No matter which option you look at or the many other options available the key is to understand that it is in the way you ask for help, none of these options will work unless

  1. You understand what exactly what help you need and you tell people exactly what help you want.
  2. Your able to let go, once you have given that task to someone else.
  3. Accept that if it is one hour or fifty hours the support they give is valid and useful.

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  • OK here’s my comment, I’ve watered it down to protect the easily offended.

    I believe in Scouting, that many Scouters live in a Scout bubble. There seems to be this belief that the parents MUST help out as leaders or the running of the group. Why? Why should parents have to do this? I have been a leader for around 17 years, the first 9 years I had no children, but today I have a 7 and 8 year old. So I know what it’s like being a leader and being a leader as a parent. As a parent now, I have to give far less to scouting than when I was single, I had loads of time then. Now I have no time, I love being a leader so I make the time. But if I was a parent and wasn’t really keen on being a leader, why should I make time to become one. I know so many parents struggling at the moment just to make ends meet, they don’t have the time, or the money. Many are working so many hours, or live in fear of being made redundant. Until people feel more secure and the economy improves adult recruitment will always be hard. But then this situation has been so ever since scouting began, people just seem to assume its a recent problem.

    My boys also play football for the village team, which takes up a couple of week nights and nearly every Saturday throughout the year. But the football club never once has to recruit parent help, why is this? Maybe parents get more out of football, maybe they are a different ‘type’ of parent to scouting parents. I run the club website and my wife is the club welfare officer, as well as us both being Scouting leaders. (we’re just mad) But looking at my experience in both organisations, FAW and Scouting, FAW is far more relaxed and welcoming. Scouting, and I’m not saying this is the case everywhere is very elitist and territorial. Maybe when Scouter’s wonder why they can’t recruit parents, they should look within. Is the problem the current set up or the current leaders. I know of a few groups I wouldn’t consider joining for a number of reasons.

    • Ben 

      I stand by my comment that support will come and should come from Parents however I believe you have hit the nail on the head. If scout groups can’t recruit parents then maybe they need to look at how they are doing it. 

      There seem to be two way the recruitment process goes. 

      1) Oh you want to help, ok come along next week you can – next week comes and the person asking to help arrives and not given any instructions and find themselves standing on the site all evening, person thinks well if I am not needed I won’t come again. 

      2) Oh you want to help, great here is your uniform and we will invest you next week, and you need to fill out this form and attend these courses and you need to do this and…. and….. and…. so on – it just scares people off. 

      I think Scouting is pushing very hard to change the way we look a volunteers and the idea of the flexible volunteer is key, if your background is as a car Mechanic come along one week a month for 3 month and help use run the mechanics badge and we will do that once a year. I go back to saying understand what help your asking for. 

      I saw a tweet the other day from a member of the Gilwell park team that said 

      “Recruitment tips. Define the role, generate a list of people to ask, ask them, support them. 1 in 4 say yes. #numbersgame”

      it is that define the role bit, that is often forgotten people just scatter gun cry for Help instead of sitting down and thinking what help we actually require and defining exactly what that role is. You said you look after the football website it is a defined role they don’t suddenly ask you to start coaching (in fact I am sure they often shout at you on the sidelines to stop doing it) 

      Thanks for the comment and as always thanks for the support.