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Blog | 09 January 2020

Seeing the big picture – why being seen in the right places is helping us attract new volunteers


From Birmingham to Brighton, Sunderland to Southampton, and London to Liverpool, Scouts appeared on hundreds of advertising screens across the UK over Christmas. Our Head of Volunteering, Donna Bennett, and Head of Volunteer Journey, Jack Caine, explain how these are part of a wider strategy to recruit more volunteers and support local Scouts.

It’s not every day you see a ten-foot Scout on your way into a department store, or our iconic branding while waiting at a bus stop. But that’s exactly what happened up and down the country over the last two weeks, thanks to a helping hand from media company Clear Channel.

One key part of our Skills for Life plan is to make Scouts more visible and better understood in our communities – both locally and nationally. When parents and others really understand that we’re helping young people and volunteers gain skills for life, they’re much more likely to get involved.

That’s why we were excited when an opportunity arose to create some digital advertising over the Christmas and new year period in some high-profile locations around the country. For us, what was most impressive was that they were seen in places where there was huge ‘foot-fall’ (in other words, lots of people), including major shopping malls like Meadowhall, the Trafford and Arndale Centres, as well as numerous busy high streets and major transport routes. The campaign helped get our skills for life message in front of well over a million people.

Working in partnership

The ads were made possible through Clear Channel, a media company that specialises in this sort of ‘Out of Home’ advertising, who also happen to believe in our ability to inspire young people to become the doers and give it a goers of the future. They donated space that wasn’t booked by clients and offered it to us as a charity doing some valuable work in local areas. Clear Channel had already supported us with some space in London to promote Scouts in 2019 with our ads: ‘You look like a role model’ and were happy to extend the partnership.

Richard Bon is Clear Channel’s Managing Director and proud father to Henry, a Scout at 47th Epping. He says, ‘Scouts has played an enormous part in shaping the lives of many of our staff and their children, as well as hundreds of communities that we proudly operate in. The organisation’s aspirations to arm as many young people as possible, from all walks of life, with Skills for Life is something we wholly support and believe in. Clear Channel has made a bold commitment to be both a platform for brands and a platform for good, and this campaign truly harnesses the power of advertising to benefit society today.’

This is new territory for us, but it’s part of an approach where we’re not afraid to think differently, work in partnership, try new things, and most importantly, support local Scouts with their recruitment and growth.

Two designs were featured in this trial. The first was a broad awareness ad, featuring a young boy taking part in an adventurous activity with the message: ‘Scouts made me a doer and a give it a goer. Made me take a deep breath, ignore the butterflies and go for it.’ It was a great showcase for our new brand and particularly our new way of talking about ourselves.

The second was a call for volunteers to support us on a flexible basis: ‘Calling all tea-makers, tidy uppers, activity planners and helpers for as little or as much time as you can spare.’ It was a simple, realistic ask with a clear call to action.

An agile approach

This is a good example of what we call an agile approach – working quickly and flexibly together within a strategic framework to maximise on an opportunity. But although we had to work fast when the space became available, we made sure volunteer managers were briefed before they appeared. We knew they’d be seen widely and didn’t want them to come as a surprise.

We’ve also been careful with the messaging. We’re working closely with 40 specific areas to support them with their adult recruitment. It was around these areas that Clear Channel identified their sites within a short drive, and we made a direct volunteering ask for those screens. They’re areas where we knew that there are systems and people in place to receive enquiries from parents and potential volunteers. This is part of a coordinated, joined up effort to support these groups, adding to a mix that includes targeted social media, training, webinars and tailored support from the Scouts Brand Centre.  

More support

Of course every group, district or county is at different stages in their development, and has different needs and challenges. Some are actively recruiting and are well set up to receive enquiries, while others are still planning.

If we’re to attract 10,000 more volunteers by 2023 then we need to be ready to take opportunities, and continue to be seen and heard in our communities. Remember, we have some great print and digital resources available on the Scouts Brand Centre for you to use when you’re ready to recruit. We’ll be adding the designs used in the ads to the brand centre, and you can already find similar designs which can be adapted for your local area.

We also have a wide range of materials to help you grow Scouts on our new website. From ready-made campaigns like the Four Week Challenge to organising family rotas, it’s all ready to go.

A welcome boost

I don’t know about you, but there was something incredibly inspiring and motivating about seeing Scouts in such a positive light in such prominent places. We’re such a key part of our nation’s cultural life and this was public recognition of the work we do.

It made us incredibly proud to see these, and we were so pleased that members were sharing images of the ads on social media and sharing that sense of pride.

Measuring success

Of course, we’ll be looking closely at what impact this has on volunteering enquiries and what patterns emerge. We’ll also be considering how this sort of promotion compares with our social media campaigning – and how the two can work effectively together.

Looking ahead, we’ll share more news about similar opportunities as they arise. For now, I hope you agree that this is a welcome boost for us as we head into 2020. It’s a reminder of the brilliant work you do, and well-deserved public recognition for your work.

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