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Celebrating our 140th Anniversary

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Raise the Bar

Wednesday 22nd May 2019

We’re Looking for Real & Sustained Growth!

Our focus as an organisation continues to be how we can raise the quality of experience for children and young people in membership. We launched the ‘Raise the Bar’ campaign at the start of the session seeking to inspire all levels of the Brigade to consider a number of challenges which we believe will improve our work with and for young people. To raise the bar means to do something better than before. This doesn’t imply that we are doing things poorly, but simply asks us all to step back and reflect on a range of issues, challenging us all to be the best that we can be. It’s been exciting to see how Companies as well as Battalions and Districts have got involved.

Whether you have taken on a single challenge or completed all 10 then you will have done something to raise the bar in your local area and that’s what it is all about. The Raise the Bar campaign will continue into next session to allow us all to carry on working towards our target and through the challenges.

In this issue we share more about two challenges ‘Set a target number per section’ and also ‘Look at Fees’.


Set a target number per section

The Challenge: When did you last consider what your target numbers were?

Consider realistic numbers based on your constraints (meeting space, volunteers, etc) and also whether you need to focus on specific age groups.

Raise the Bar is very much about improving the quality of our work and not just focussing on numerical growth. Providing a quality programme is much more important than just increasing numbers. However, to provide a successful and high-quality programme you do need minimum numbers of young people This challenge questions the numbers and asks us to consider the number of children and young people in each section.

Before considering setting a target, it would be useful to review numbers in each section over the past 3 to 5 years. Have numbers gone up, down or remained constant? Did you instinctively know this or has the exercise brought some surprises? Are there any trends or patterns which can be linked to changes in the local community? Is there anything which stands out to you?

The Boys’ Brigade has been getting smaller. There are fewer Companies and the average size of a Company (the number of young people in the group) has also reduced.

Often when we are busy just getting on with running our programmes and working with children & young people, we can find that numbers have changed quite dramatically, but it’s not something we have become conscious of as the change has been gradual, perhaps over a few years. Often if we reduce by just one member we consider numbers have remained constant, but if we do that for a number of years the cumulative effect is very telling. If every Company went down by one, then we have lost over 1300 members Brigade wide. One of the aims of this challenge is not to just set a target, but to also understand the maximum capacity for each age group and be able to identify both positive and negative change. As well as setting targets to grow we also need to know where our limits are and where we need to stop and think again – potentially put a waiting list in place.

We’ve set a limit of 40 young people for both our Anchors and Juniors age groups and, unfortunately, that means we have to keep some boys on a waiting list. The maximum of 40 is based primarily on safety (thinking about the size of our facilities and the number of leaders we have) but also we feel 40 means we have the space and time to build qualitative relationships with each of the young people; relationships that allows us to properly support them and nurture development.
Andrew McCaldon, 35th Liverpool

If our experience tells us that real and sustained growth will only be achieved through focussing on the quality of our work, we need to make sure that our focus remains on improving the quality of experience and does not just become a recruitment exercise.


11 is the average size of a section.

So, what is a realistic target number for each section within the Company? Well, there is no specific answer to that, and it will be different for each and every Company. You may find it useful to be considering two different numbers. Firstly, what is the maximum capacity for each section and secondly set a target number that you would then strive to achieve within a set time frame.

We set a target number of 24 boys in Anchors and have taken our numbers from 5 to 21 in a year. To get to this we did have some obstacles to overcome, one of these was staffing and we are pleased to have welcomed two Leaders to the team. We believe this increase in numbers has all been possible by being well organised, planning ahead and getting to know the children and parents as well as by offering a wider programme of activities including offering trips and visits from paramedics, police and guide dogs. From this we have found that the boys and their parents are telling other boys how much fun they have at Anchors and that has been key to our success in reaching our target. Now to retain the boys, we need to ensure to keep our Leaders enthusiastic and passionate, always willing to go that extra mile!
Jim McCulloch, 1st Neilston

What you need to consider…

To be able to put a target number in place, the two most critical factors to consider are the number of staff you have available and the size and layout of the premises you meet in.

In some Companies all age groups meet on the same night. This can have both positive and negative effects. It can allow for greater flexibility with staff and aid transfer between sections, but it might limit the space you can use especially at the crossover periods when an age group may have to use a small room. Does the night(s) you meet enable or restrict sectional numbers and is i something you might review? Staffing levels are vital, not just to deliver a varied programme, but to ensure quality time can be spent with the young people. Consider setting a target number based on your current staffing levels, and when an additional staff member is recruited, then the target number can be increased. The target number should be reviewed annually and always be flexible, as circumstances change.

We were struggling for numbers in both the Anchors and Juniors age groups at one point, neither section had sufficient numbers to run separately and so we made the decision to merge these age groups. We also committed as a staff team to spend more time on improving the quality of the programme, we spent more time planning together and set a target that by the end of the session we would have at least 10 members in each age group. So as a staff team we worked hard, we ran some friends’ nights and found boys came along, stayed and joined and then brought their friends along. Numbers went up and we soon found ourselves adjusting the programme so the two different age groups although meeting at the same time started slowly moving off to do their own activities. Eventually we moved the Juniors programme back to start later and to go on slightly longer than the Anchors and increased our target to 15 and then increased that again a few months later to 20 in each age group. We found that doing things differently really worked for us and setting a target was helpful in enthusing our staff team and turning our Company around. I would say if combining age groups, only do this as a short-term solution.
Chris Norman, 10th Enfield


Look at Fees –

The Challenge: Consider value for money vs what it costs to run the Company.

Have you looked at income and expenditure? What is reasonable to charge the children and young people? What additional resources do we need and how can we go about getting these?

Have you ever asked yourself whether the work of your BB Company provides value for money? You have perhaps never thought of it like this before, but in modern society, it appears that everything has a monetary value, and the service which The Boys’ Brigade provision to young people can also be viewed in this way. So, what value for money does our work provide and how would you measure it? Everyone is looking for a bargain, and to get the best value for their money, but people have also learnt the value of quality products, and the demand for quality is increasing. Are we ‘selling’ our programme short and not charging enough?

Often people are shocked by the low level of subscriptions charged by BB Companies, particularly when comparing to other groups and activities young people pay to attend. Do you know what other activities children and young people in your Company do during the week and how they compare? Did you know local football, karate and other sports clubs often charge £5+ for a weekly session? Perhaps you could do some research to see what other groups operating from the same meeting space and other local venues charge?

My son went along to BB for the first time the other week and I was a little taken back by the fees. Not that they were too expensive, but exactly the opposite, I expected to pay more. After enquiring about the fees, I was told they were £1 a week for his age group (6 years old). Wow I thought… as he came home not just having had an amazing time during the 75-minute session, but he had made a puppet, had a drink, a biscuit and there was an activity taking place at the weekend he could go along to and all I was expected to pay was £1 for that week. In comparison I am paying £6 a week for him to go football training and pay equivalent amounts (and more) for other activities. It is great that the cost is so low, but I think they should be charging more than this – it is worth a lot more!
Anonymous Parent, Doncaster

Successful BB Companies require sufficient funds, to run activities, purchase equipment, provide badges and so on. However, if we are not careful, at times leaders can find themselves running a fundraising programme, rather than an activity led programme. An alternative may be to find a parent, Church member or member of the local community who may be willing to take on the responsibilities of fundraising, but who does not necessarily want to get involved with the weekly programme with children and young people, freeing up the time for BB leaders to focus on building relationships and delivering the programme.


Are you still charging the same weekly subscription that you were 5 or 10 years ago?


  • Review the subscriptions charged and increase by small amounts regularly. Inflation is a constant, and there is no reason why you weekly fees should not be increased to at least keep up with inflation.
  • Subscriptions should be set based on your planned expenditure, taking into consideration other income you may receive.
  • Encourage payment to be made termly or even annually. This can also help to increase commitment and regular attendance and ensures you are not out of pocket if you have prepared an activity and a young person does not turn up.
  • Offer financial assistance to those that need it, whilst those that can afford it pay a more realistic subscription.
  • Encourage the use of OBM for the payment of fees. It is much easier to handle, parents get easy reminders, and the leaders do not have to deal with cash.
  • If the money is not going to come in from subscriptions consider where is it going to come from?The development of a strong group identity

Check out our resource ‘Value for Money’ which provides further advice and support on looking at fees and delivering value for money at: boys-brigade.org.uk/bb-gazette/a-boys-brigade-company- value-for-money/

So, good luck and remember we are all in this together and there to support each other, so please get in touch with other Companies, speak to Leaders in your Battalion/District and get in touch with Regional/UK & RoI Headquarters about the challenges we each face.

We would love to hear what you are getting up to and would encourage you to share your thoughts and stories on social media using #RaiseTheBarBB.

Find out more about Raise the Bar and find support and ideas to help you take on the challenges at leaders.boys-brigade.org.uk/raisethebar.htm

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