Exploring Posts & Clubs New Unit Playbook
HOW TO START AN EXPLORING PROGRAM
Exploring is based on a unique and dynamic relationship between youth and the businesses and organizations in their communities. Businesses and community organizations initiate a career specific Exploring program by matching their employees and company resources to the interests of youth in the community. The result is a program of interactive activities that helps youth pursue their special interests, grow confidence, and develop leadership skills. Exploring clubs serve 6th - 8th graders and Exploring posts serve 14 - 20 year-old youth. We work with thousands of local, regional, and national businesses and organizations in hundreds of career fields across the country to deliver the Exploring program.
A program is a group of young adults who have been brought together because of a common interest. A program (or unit - post or club) is made up of people working and playing together, enjoying and learning from one another. A program and its participants share common goals and basic ideals. They move together with the same purpose and commitment. A program is most successful when it meets the needs and interests of its participants. An effective program is the result of close cooperation between youth and adult leaders. If leaders are sensitive to program participants and respond with positive support, program, and activities that Explorers enjoy, success is assured. The program is the vehicle whereby young people will learn character, ethics, career skills and knowledge that will help them become good citizens and productive adults.
Phase 1 RESEARCH
Research is key to developing the Exploring post or club that fits best with local youth. Using career interest data, you will identify those youths interested in specific careers that appeal to them. With that information you will then be able to determine which businesses or organizations would make the best partners and the people who will provide the best support for your post or club.
1. What are local youth interested in?
- Career surveys/school data – You play an integral role in encouraging your local schools to utilize the Learning for Life career interest survey or to share the career interest data they have already obtained about their own students.
- Focus on top 25 student interests – The survey serves as a tool to connect the young person with a respective youth program that matches his or her career interest. So, the more career survey data you have, the more students you will be able to invite to join your program.
2. How many surveys do I need?
- Membership goal X 20 = # surveys needed.
- 10% of those invited will join.
3. Career Interest Surveys
- Share the program, not the survey – The survey is only a tool to connect youth to the program. Talk about what the program offers in terms of what Exploring offers for youth regardless of career field – Career opportunities, leadership experience, life skills, citizenship, and character education. (Also see “What’s in it for Youth?” in the Career Interest Survey Guidebook)
- Talk to the school counselor first; they can connect you with the decision maker.
- Study survey objections – See Career Interest Survey Guidebook.
- ALWAYS share results with school administrators – A continuous dialogue with school administrators builds strong relationships and increases the potential for your post or club’s success.
- Include summary of results with CEOs on sales calls – Hard numbers convey the level of interest in a particular Exploring field and help build a case for an a post or club in a particular career sector.
4. Finding the Businesses
- Every county has law enforcement, fire/EMS, law and government, and health care – Check online county directories.
- Look for other resources in your area that match up with the top results of career interest surveys – Potential partners in everything from aviation to culinary to design businesses may exist in your area. Search online business directories, and local Chamber of Commerce member directories.
- Research current volunteers and parents’ employers to help you get your foot in the door – You may have some great resources closer than you think. Look among your organization members for opportunities to partner with businesses.
- Approach CEOs of businesses, study objections – By understanding the objections, you can develop a strategy to overcome those objections through case studies, survey data and relationship building. Refer to the BSA Sales Model before going on any sales call.
- Ask your local council board members to reach out to business leaders in the career fields you’ve identified from the career survey data and schedule a meeting, to which they should also be included.
5. Cultivation Event
- Large group sales – The purpose of the cultivation event is for executive officers of attending organizations to see that Exploring is a successful youth program, be persuaded to have it in his or her organization, and understand what to do next. The cultivation event’s method is to demonstrate that many organizations have programs or are interested in Exploring.
- Scripts and templates are available to you in the Cultivation Guidebook
- Regional/National Events – Your local Exploring representative has cultivation event templates for scripts, slideshows, and interest cards.
- Well-respected chairperson – The chair of the cultivation event is the key to the event’s drawing power and ultimate success. The Exploring unit committee chair should help the marketing team chair and Exploring staff recruit a top community leader with the necessary prestige and clout. This is essential to success.
Phase 2 LEADERSHIP
The success of any organization depends on those willing to put in time and effort. When establishing a new Exploring program, you’ll need to identify those people with the skills and the willingness to not only get the program up and running, but also to maintain the program and help it flourish. Exploring provides the materials to train those adults you’ve identified to give them the tools they need to be effective leaders. An effective leadership team creates the foundation of a successful post or club.
1. Key Decision Maker
- Makes the commitment on behalf of the organization – You’ll want to be able to provide career survey data to demonstrate the need for the post or club, as well as providing information on the benefits to the organization and the community at large.
- Identifies 6-8 adults to serve on the unit committee – This is important—first because it means you are not alone. You have a group of committed adults to help you. Second, working as a team demonstrates the same kind of leadership you will promote with the youth members in your post or club. It sends the message that the adults in the Exploring program believe in shared leadership and in everyone having an opportunity and a responsibility to be a part of the decision-making process. One of these people will be the post advisor/ club sponsor.
- Set a date for the All In One Program Planning Meeting. All 6-8 adults must be available to attend. This is the most important piece of the new program puzzle. It is important that the CEO invite as many employees as possible. Those who attend – the unit committee members – will plan their program based on the resources of their own business/organization.
- Set a date for open house – Choose a date that gives you a realistic timeframe to prepare a successful event. Also, you’ll want this date to fit in well with other events, either avoiding events that might conflict with your goals or aligning with events that might enhance turnout (back-to-school, overall council recruiting initiatives, etc.)
- Start paperwork (Memorandum of Understanding, New Post/Club Application, Adult Application)
2. Unit Committee
(i.e., the post/club Committee)
- One of the first actions the executive officer has taken after making the commitment to sponsor an Exploring program is to identify and approach key people who will make up the adult leadership team for the post or club. This adult leadership team is referred to as the unit committee.
- Unit committee requirements – Minimum of 4 adults (1 committee chair, 1 Advisor, and 2 or more committee members)
- Club committee requirements – Minimum of 2 adults (1 Sponsor and 1 or more associate Sponsors)
3. Leader Training
- Fully trained after completion of both Youth Protection training and Exploring Leader training modules required for each position
- Training topics include Exploring’s five areas of program emphasis, program and activity planning, roles of adult and youth leaders, developing bylaws and standard operating procedures, and additional resources. Completing these modules will make the planning process flow smoothly and be more effective. (A full list of positions and related training requirements can be found in Chapter 3 of the Exploring Guidebook).
- Training should be completed by each member of the unit committee BEFORE the All In One Program Planning meeting.
4. District or Council Exploring Committee
- The district or council Exploring committee is organized to provide as much marketing, training, service, and program help as possible so that staff and volunteers can devote their time to growth and service. This might be more challenging in councils and districts that serve large geographic areas, but every effort should be made to develop a close working relationship between the unit committee and district or council Exploring leaders.
- District/Council Committee structure: program, fundraising, marketing, and service.
- All Commissioners and service team members should complete the required online training modules before providing service to Exploring programs.
Phase 3 Program
The unit committee will work closely to develop a program based on the career interest surveys so youth can dig into their chosen career field. Adult leaders provide the structure of the post or club, working together to ensure things run smoothly so Explorers will get the most from their experience. While there are plenty of program resources available to you to assist the development of your program, your program is ultimately a reflection of your creativity and your organization’s vision. Most importantly, remember that the foundation of Exploring is providing interactive, hands-on activities for your youth members.
1. Program Planning Meeting
- Check out the All-in-One Program Planning Meeting agenda.
- Complete leader trainings online.
- Brainstorm hands-on activities for program calendar and open house (visit the Exploring Activity Library for ideas) – Do not rule out anything at this point. Something may not be practical, but it may spark an idea of something related that is practical. Discuss and evaluate each idea. Refer to the Career Opportunities Worksheets (Appendix in the Exploring Guidebook).
- Develop initial 3 to 4 month calendar – Set up a calendar of activities (two per month) that best represent the career field of your post or club and its participating organization. Youth members and officers will continue to schedule meetings and activities beyond the three months. When possible, choose activities that are dynamic and action-oriented and that prospective Explorers can physically do.
- Develop bylaws and SOP’s – Your post or club bylaws are the foundation of your program. Ultimately, they provide membership and safety guidelines that will ensure a successful program. Over time your organization should include the youth officers in the development of more comprehensive bylaws and standard operating procedures. Yours can be as detailed or as simple as you deem appropriate for your line of work. You can find sample bylaws in the Appendix of the Exploring Guidebook.
- Prepare post/club committee members for the open house by delegating simple tasks such as mailing invitation letters, making personal phone calls, getting snacks, securing gear for activities, and printing post/club calendar. This creates ownership of the event across your committee.
- Complete paperwork (Memorandum of Understanding, New Post/Club Application, Adult Application) and remember all signatures.
2. TIPS: Hands-on activities
- Limit tours! Limit job shadowing!
- Hands-on activities will entice youth who attend your open house to return to each meeting. Also focus on promoting your open house. Plan fun, interactive, exciting, hands-on activities that demonstrate what the program is all about.
- Hands-on activities should be included in the program calendar, as well as the open house itself. You can facilitate samples of the activities from the brainstorm session at your program planning meeting.
3. Service Team
- Service Team purpose – To start new posts and clubs and assist them with the development, improvement, and growth of their programs
- Make regular visits to coach leaders – A service team to provide regular service visits to posts and clubs, help post and club leaders improve program and solve problems, and renew all programs on time. Use post/club JTE criteria as a guide.
4. Regional and National Events
- Events are a great way to connect with other Explorers and keep up to date on what’s happening in Exploring across the country. Find out more on the events page on www.exploring.org
Phase 4 Participation
This is where the rubber meets the road. After careful planning and coordination, you are ready for your Open House event. Getting the word out effectively ensures a robust turnout for your event. Getting people to show up is only half the equation. Once you have your audience, you want to show them the best of Exploring and a sample of the hands-on activities that make Exploring so valuable. After the open house, it’s time to organize your post or club and set youth participants up for success.
1. Promote Open House
- Utilize career survey results to personally invite youth to an open house.
- Promoting your event via the following channels will assure your open house will enjoy high attendance no matter the type of community or the type of program you are starting. Remember to include all unit committee members in the process. Follow the rule of 7 – a message must reach a person 7 times before it registers!
• Personal letters
• Personal phone calls
• Digital marquees
• Social media
• Council, participating org and school websites / calendars
• School daily announcements
• Posters/fliers in high-traffic areas
• Career/college fair booths
• Organization employees email their own contacts
- Download marketing materials (flyers, social media images, web banners) from the Exploring section of the Exploring Brand Center.
2. Hands-On Activities
- 90% join rate! Notice that the open house agenda includes 45 minutes of hands on activities. This should be the main focus of the youth recruitment event.
3. Youth-Led Program
- You want your program members to take a strong interest in their program activities, so if they have good ideas, the program should be flexible enough to reflect those ideas. The more the youth leaders take responsibility for their own program, the better you are fulfilling your role as an Advisor/Sponsor. You will be conducting two training meetings for the elected officers of your post or club, both of which should take place right after the election (Chapter 3 in the Exploring Guidebook).
• Officers Briefing – Immediately after the election, you and the new officers should schedule the post or club officers briefing. This meeting lasts about two hours and can take place after school, on an evening, on a weekend morning, or whenever it is convenient.
• Youth Officers Seminar – The post or club officers seminar is the main training and planning session for newly elected officers. It is led by the Advisor/Sponsor, the president, and the associate Advisors/Sponsors. A successful seminar provides a clear road map for the coming months and enables the officers to begin assuming leadership of their program.
4. Year-Round Youth Recruitment
- Conduct open house from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, or in February – To keep momentum going, you’ll want to host an open house annually at a minimum. This provides a focal point during the year to promote and recruit.
- Collect career interest data annually – In addition to annual recruiting events, you’ll also want to collect additional career interest data every year. Tying this into your recruiting event is the easiest way to achieve this, but you can also collect information throughout the year via the online career interest survey and by working with school counselors.
- Leverage your Explorers – Explorers are ambassadors for their chosen career and for Exploring as a whole. They should always be on the lookout for opportunities to engage other youth about exploring and share their stories. Peer recommendation is a powerful tool for recruiting.