One Two Many Roles

bonfire surrounded with green grass field

<group of scouting people sat round a fire>

Person A – I am about to get apointed for my new role

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

Person C – Oh yea, but when you have eight roles it is 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 pushed out and mocked by everyone who holds a current role. 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 helping on that training course.
  • Well I could possible help on that weekend. However, it will be the 5 weekend in a row that I have not been at home.

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

While I accept we are struggling for leaders and there are young people on the 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. 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 scouting role, a job and a family. I already have to split my time into 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. If I have four scouting roles then you can only give 25% of your available scouting time to each role.

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. 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’s 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 10 roles and a silver wolf handing round their neck. 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 at 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 are our biggest source of help. After all, it is their little darlings that are running around the room hyped on chocolate buttons and causing premature baldness in scout leaders the world over.
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 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. Dads love the idea of going back to nature and even the toughest lawyer dad will become a different person when you put them in a tent and get them muddy. 

They will always first always see the benefit of dropping them off and be able to do the shopping without a little person clinging to your ankles. It is amazing what you find in your trolly when shopping with a 3 year old, but that is 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 weekends or camps, or maybe you will get enough to get a 1 in 4 rota. Now you 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 positions. 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.
Blogger(atempting), Project Manager - Job, Scouting - Hobby, and most importantly Dad and Husband For more information


  1. Ben
    16 March, 2012

    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.

    1. Kiff
      16 March, 2012


      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. 

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