Scouting in Sweden Draws More Members Despite the Pandemic
Last year was a record year in terms of membership growth for Scouterna, The Guides and Scouts of Sweden. The organization has succeeded in adapting to the new reality through offering innovative educational opportunities throughout the health crisis. The result is uplifting: a significant positive attention leading to more new members.
Some local Scout groups have grown with over 100 % while the national growth rate has been at 4,14%,equalling an increase of more than 8 new Scouts per day. One game changer has been the positive retention rate: fewer Scouts have left. Compared to a regular year, Scouterna has retained 2% more members this year.
Adapting instead of cancelling
Undoubtedly, the biggest factor for this increased popularity, has been the organisation’s crisis management approach: Adaptation over Cancellation. Throughout the crisis, the whole organization has worked to adapt its planned activities to new formats. Although restrictions and recommendations have impacted most aspects in society, Swedish schools have remained open, and the authorities have emphasized the importance of activities for children and youth in general.
Local Scout groups have maintained weekly meetings and have come up with new, innovative ways to meet while keeping safe, either outdoors or online. Only larger camps and events had to be postponed. We have collectively decided and proven that the spare time activities that we offer are important and relevant, especially in times of a crisis. Members have demonstrated a great deal of resilience and solidarity throughout the challenging times and the crisis seems to have made the movement even stronger.
Efficient internal & external communication strategy
Ever since the Covid-19 outbreak, Scouterna has acted fast and constantly provided up-to date information to members about how to keep safe while Scouting and how to follow the authorities’ recommendations. We shared tips on how to adapt activities and staff acquired better digital skills and tools to offer support, workshops and inspirational talks to Scout leaders and local groups.
Our capacity to quickly adapt has drawn some media attention, both locally and nationally. Whilst many other activities for children were being cancelled, the Scouts had a packed activity agenda. This made us newsworthy and inspiring to the general public.
Throughout 2020, Scouterna disseminated its news to journalists via 14 press releases. By end of the year, the Guides and Scouts of Sweden were featured in 994 newspaper articles with a potential reach of 713 million according to our annual public relations report. The most frequently used key word of these articles was “children” and the most frequent topics were “leadership” and “togetherness”.
Similarly, the Guides and Scouts of Sweden were mentioned in 7311 social media posts with a potential reach of 14,8 million. Over 62% of the posts were on Facebook, 27% on Twitter and 9% on different blogs. The most frequently used key words were “meaningful spare time”, “children”, “Christmas present of the year” and “new Scouts”.
An innovative approach to fundraising
Every year, in the early days of May, hundreds of public bonfires bring Swedes together to welcome Spring. Many of these gatherings are organized by local Scout groups as a way to raise funds and gain visibility. Last year all bonfires were cancelled which resulted in a significant loss of profits.
Scouterna decided to help by creating digital bonfire events. Video livestreams were made available from bonfires across the country so that people could join from the comfort of their home, buy digital hot-dogs and logs for the fire. The campaign was picked up by one of the television networks in a live broadcast and the raised funds were handed to local Scout groups in need.
The power of appreciation
Scouting has continued to thrive despite the pandemic, thanks to all the great leaders out there. At the end of this very challenging year, Scouterna wanted to show its gratitude to all those amazing people who have kept the Scouting spirit alive. This was done by investing in a good value advertising space in national newspapers around Christmas time to publish a public Thank You to all Scout leaders. We also used the space to encourage people to sign up and become Scout leaders or make a donation.
Fully embracing the outdoorsy brand
The pandemic has boosted a “reconnecting with the outdoors” trend. This has positively affected the image of Scouting in Sweden. Scouterna has already been very well known in the country with as many as 99% of the population knowing about the organization and associating it with outdoor activities.
However, the brand has for many years not been associated with words such as “modern” or even “relevant”. The current positive shift in public perception is very interesting to follow. We are curious to see the results from our next poll, to find out how the perception of the brand might have changed for both members and non-members post pandemic.
Judging from a comment by a news anchor in a recent television interview with a young Scout and our Secretary General, it looks like being a Scout is no longer considered “geeky”.
We are working proactively with public relations to come up with our own newsworthy stories to share with journalists. Now that the outdoor world has gained more and more popularity, we have a fantastic opportunity to make people grow curious about Scouting and come try it out!