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Celebrating our 140th Anniversary

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Our Greatest Ambassadors

Friday 29th July 2022

In my experience there seems to be two main routes to becoming a member of the BB.

The first one is where a young person follows in the footsteps of parents/carers or siblings – families where there has been involvement in the Brigade perhaps over many different generations.

The second route sees the young person as the first in their family to step into the world of the Brigade. What we as an organisation must identify is what triggers those to step through that door for the first time.

Recruitment is of course a perennial challenge with the very nature of our organisation meaning that our membership is always changing as children and young people progress. We face the same challenges we have done for generations, challenges that are not unique to the Brigade.

Each year, significant numbers of Companies grow (indeed some even operate waiting lists), some remain stable in membership whilst there are also those with memberships declining and sadly we see some Companies having to close.

As we look towards the new session our attention once again turns to opportunities that there will undoubtedly be to recruit new members, particularly in the context where children and young people have missed out on so much over the last few years.

Sometimes when it comes to recruitment I think we can fall into the trap of looking for the easy answer.

Perhaps more national advertising or a high-profile celebrity ambassador is just what we need. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t dismiss advertising and backing from famous faces would of course be welcome, I think the real answers are a lot closer to home.

As leaders we do have many different tools at our disposal to support recruitment, including social media, relationships with local schools and the local media. There are some great materials and resources that the Brigade has produced to support this, from short videos that can be shared on your Company’s Facebook page to PowerPoint presentations that are ready to be used at a school assembly, as well as the more basic tools like leaflets, posters and outdoor banners (see here for more information).

Growth versus Recruitment

The Brigade’s five-year strategy, developed from what leaders across the country told us in the Strategic Review in 2019 is focused on quality. As a Trustee, but more importantly as a leader in a Company I passionately believe that we have done and are doing the right thing in terms of this focus.

We know that if we get quality right, success will follow and this is why we have and why we continue to invest in programme and leader development.

I fall into the second of the categories I mentioned at the beginning. My own BB journey first began when I heard friends talking in the school playground about what they had got up to the evening before at Juniors. I had never heard of The Boys’ Brigade – though I wish I had.

The children and young people of the BB family are our greatest ambassadors… they always should be.

If they aren’t, then I’m not sure spending thousands on advertising or having the most famous face in the world shouting about our work would make any difference.

Over the last few years Thomas has encouraged five of his friends to join him at BB. Some of his friends have since brought friends of their own or have encouraged their siblings to join them too. However, Thomas hasn’t just limited himself to just bringing his friends along, with his mum joining the Company as a leader.

“I really enjoy coming to BB and having lots of fun each Thursday night. The more I told my friends about it, the more interested they became. It’s great that we all get to do BB together now.” – Thomas, 11th Northampton

Given the central role our members play in recruitment, bear in mind there is a whole host of ways you can do this. Remember young people, especially those in our uniform, do actually talk to each other… they do have a voice.

Bring a Friend nights or running informal taster sessions for prospective members are great and simple ways to give children and young people (and their parents/carers) a chance to come along and see what the Brigade has to offer them, and perhaps also challenge any preconceptions they may have around what happens.

And don’t forget; young people can be rewarded for their offers with Recruitment Badges!

Faith in Young People

And how do we encourage our members to make the Brigade the talk of the playground? This answer is our programme and the quality of experience we offer.

“People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.” – Mark Zuckerberg

It has never been easier to deliver a high-quality, engaging and retentive programme for all our members. Our new programme is vibrant, varied and adaptable for members of all ages, all interests and all abilities. I have enjoyed using the new resources in my own Company and our own children and young people (who aren’t shy in sharing their opinions!) have remained very engaged each week.

“I introduced my friend Katie to the BB because I really like going myself and enjoy the programme and especially the sports side of it. Katie and I always have a good laugh at BB on a Thursday evening and always enjoy ourselves. The leaders are always prepared to have a fun evening and to let us enjoy ourselves whilst also learning. We also have a lot of fun meeting with the other Companies such as our recent trip to the lighthouse.” – Kaelyn, 1st Rosehearty

It has been said for a long time that we are an organisation that has “faith in young people”. What does this mean in your Company, Battalion or District? To me it is giving opportunities to our members to be leaders in their organisation, whether that be as a NCO, a leader or within the Battalion or District. Of course, there is therefore a duty on us to make these roles accessible and support our young people in developing whatever skills they require to take these steps. Having young people in positions of leadership and trust within our organisation shows our members there is a place for them in the Brigade beyond their time as a young person.

Parents/carers as ambassadors

Parents/Carers and families should be our next best source of recruitment. Parents/carers are more connected than ever. It seems that school WhatsApp or Facebook groups are commonplace, not to mention chatting at the school gates. We should be encouraging the parents/carers of current members to help us recruit members and spread the positive work we are doing. Have you asked them? After all, presumably they wouldn’t bring their own children along if they didn’t believe what we were doing was at the very least a good thing.

Our Parents/Carers Survey last year illustrated just how much they recognise the impact of what we do.

“BB has been the best, most positive, fun and encouraging thing for my child in the last year.”

“BB creates a nurturing environment, a safe place and a place where the children can be happy and relaxed whilst having some fun.”

I didn’t join the BB because I saw a TV advert about BB or was convinced by a celebrity I should try out the nearest Company. It wasn’t a billboard, or a clever slogan that piqued my interest.

I joined the BB for no simpler reason than my friends were there, they were having fun and I wanted to have fun too.

Does it need to be more complicated than that?

As true as it was for me then, and as true as it has been for nearly 140 years, so too is it true today. The key to bringing more young people to this great organisation that we are part of is our young people themselves.

Robert Cunningham
Brigade Trustee, Vice-Chair of Scotland Committee and leader at 4th Carluke

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