Shunkah-Mahneetuis a small lodge in a council dominated by LDS Church chartered troops of approximately 22,000 youth. The lodge only has about 50 dues paid members. At least that was the picture before the lodge implemented new mailing program to boost membership.
Unit elections are a particular challenge for this lodge, and unfortunately all too few happen. So they tend to rely heavily on summer camp elections instead. Within the LDS community, the OA is a significant challenge, Shunkah-Mahneetu is working hard though to change that with the implementation of SURGE, a program that addresses some of the concerns that LDS Church members have in joining the Order of the Arrow. Below is the roadmap of how the South Fork chapter reversed their membership slide and grew relations with local units.
As a Chapter Adviser for two districts, Christopher Parrett started the process by reaching out to every Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster in his districts with a direct mailing of a brochure about the Order of the Arrow and a letter of introduction asking for the opportunity to visit their troop and stage a unit election. This ensured that all the scoutmasters in the two districts knew of the OA, and felt reached out to.
Another brochure was produced, this time aimed at the newly elected youth. The chapter hand delivered these to each boy after they have been called out at summer camp. South Fork Chapter “adopted” one of the three council summer camps. The chapter made the drive up to camp each Thursday afternoon to help staff the callout and support the summer camp, growing council relations. Each week, different youth from the chapter were chosen to go to share the responsibility across the whole chapter over the six weeks of summer camp giving everyone an opportunity to serve.
At the conclusion of the Callout Ceremony just before the newly elected were dismissed, the chapter made a point of impressing upon them that they were now candidates of the OA, and strongly encouraged them to come and attend a chapter meeting before their Induction. They found that their retention and ordeal completion rate improved greatly if they could get the new boys into the chapter and start forming relationships with the other Arrowmen before they showed up for their ordeal.
A week prior to their ordeal weekend (Shunkah-Mahneetu does three ordeals a year) an invitation/reminder is mailed out to each candidate. This is sent out in a highly decorated envelope with the intent to garner the candidates full attention and interest.
Email invitations go out with links to Pre-Register for the upcoming event.
The last and final step of this process is the phone tree. Brought together by the lure of pizza, youth Arrowmen from the chapter gather together for a time of fun and fellowship as well as work as they hit the phones. The boys call each candidate and personally invite them to attend, giving it a personal touch. Now, the South Fork chapter makes up 31% of the lodge’s youth members despite it being the lodge’s newest chapter.