Normal Friend Activities for Scouts BSA

Upfront tip: Don’t feel the need to overtly “sell” the program. Instead, just let the new families hang out in a stress-free environment and enjoy this time with their kids.

Imagine you’re a parent in a family with no Scouting experience.

Your son or daughter sees a flier for the local troop, inviting anyone who’s interested to visit their next meeting on Monday night. Fun — and snacks! — are on the agenda.

When you show up, everyone is in uniform. You see lots of adults in tan shirts, assuming most are paid professionals. You think, “wow, there’s a lot of staff here tonight.”

Everyone knows exactly what to say and the right way to raise three fingers aloft in what you later learn is called “the Scout sign.”

The meeting looks fun, but you can’t help but feel a little mystified by it all. That’s when someone hands you a registration form. Overwhelmed yet?

This is why Normal Friend Activities (NFAs) might just the ticket – especially in the spring! (And also any time of year!)

Normal Friend Activities are low-pressure troop events where units invite non-Scouting families to join them for an afternoon or evening of fun.

An NFA might be a hike, a picnic, an ice cream party, a service project, a trip to a local sporting event or anything else you can dream up. Most importantly, your Scouts themselves can help plan the event, because they’re probably the best judges of what will appeal to their peers – and what will just seem lame.

Nobody wants to be lame.

At NFAs, most Scouts and adult volunteers should dress in normal “street” clothes instead of uniforms — a tactic that will help visitors feel more included. (That doesn’t mean some Scout t-shirts wouldn’t be appropriate.)

Speaking of feeling included, the focus of an NFA should be on Scouts (and their families) getting to know one another — not on high-pressure recruiting pitches. And be patient. It might take some families a few NFAs before they feel comfortable and ready to join.

Also, while there are plenty of merit badge activities that can work for an event like this, advancement should not be the main goal. The average family doesn’t know that ranks exist, or what a merit badge is – and they’re just looking for fun activities to do with their kids!


1) Sure, you know what Scouts are all about. But find out what the BSA is telling people so you’ll be on the same page when you meet them!

2) Time and place are important for setting the tone. It’s probably not ideal to pick your usual meeting time and location. Be at an easy to access location and consider when families will be available. And 45 minutes to an hour should be long enough!

3) Provide a fun, hands on experience. Again, think “NFA” a little bit more than “BSA” – keep the activity relevant and representative of what your troop does, but not so in-depth that it confuses potential new members with jargon and methods that could serve as barriers.

4) Let’s all be there! The point of an NFA is to show that this is the kind of things that Scouts and their families do, so the troop really needs to show up. And it shouldn’t be hard, because it’s going to be FUN!

Current parents and their Scouts need to be there so they can talk to prospective parents and Scouts. And current Scouts who recruit a friend who joins can be awarded the Recruiter strip, available from the Council Service Center.

5) Your troop’s youth leadership should make a checklist of who is responsible for various components of the NFA. Just because it’s casual, it’s shouldn’t be disorganized!

6) Do NOT plan on talking about minutia – the difference between the troop and patrols, the intricacies of advancement, horror stories from campouts gone awry, the cost, youth protection and two-deep leadership, girls and boys, and anything else parents might think of – unless they ask.

If they ask, fine – but there’s no need to bombard them.

7) Prepare some flyers or cards with the QR code and instructions for online registration on-hand. Include key info about when and where the troop normally meets, when you’re going to summer camp and dates of any other summer activities so that kids and parents can start to visualize being a part of the fun!

8) If you’re asked about being an adult leader, emphasize the enjoyment you get, the value of time spent supporting kids’ programs, availability of fun adult training, etc. It’s also a good opportunity to talk about why we think youth protection and two-deep leadership are so important.

9) Jaws probably WON’T drop when you mention the cost, especially when you focus on the value and benefits of Scouting upfront. Everything costs more these days! Scouting costs more than what many people remember or may have in their minds, and we recognize that people have to make choices. But when you consider that Scouting is a year-round program with benefits that extend well beyond a Scout’s active years, it’s an investment as smart as any youth sports league or other activity.

How does Scouting compare to other activities, such as youth athletic programs? Here’s a July 2022 article from the Mass Mutual personal finance blog, taking a look at the costs of popular youth sports:

And it’s not just sports. Even high school marching bands may have fees of several hundred dollars!

That said, no potential Scout should miss out on the experience due to financial hardship. If the troop can help financially, that’s great – and the council can help as well. Contact your District Executive for more information.

10) Get familiar with the online registration process at and determine who will be responsible for accepting online applications – usually the Scoutmaster or Committee Chair. This is the fastest and best way to register new Scouts. No cash to handle, no forms to send to the council office!


The approach in spring can be similar to fall, or take its own path. The council can provide flyers if schools are willing to distribute them. (Or to distribute to church families, etc.)

1) For promotion at schools, find out about:

a) Procedures for submitting announcement and flyers to be sent home. How many copies of flyers are needed in each grade level? Can they be sent home in backpacks? Your District Executive can provide flyers with information about your troop’s joining event and Scouts BSA in general – at no cost – if schools are willing to distribute them. Talk to your DE about getting them printed!

b) Providing information electronically for school emails or newsletters. Putting a few posters by drinking fountains and a yard sign by the school pick-up/drop-off location. Your DE can provide yard signs and posters, too!

c) How about providing a video to be shown during lunch or other times, or a message for the school marquee?

• Out Here It’s Just Us
• Join Scouts BSA

2) Ask each of your troop families to invite three other families to your NFA.

3) Don’t forget to use a multichannel approach to promoting your NFA! Consider:
• How youth want to be communicated with
• How families want to be communicated with

So go beyond flyers and include such things as email, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, text messages and word of mouth. (Hint: You won’t find the kids on Facebook!)

See the appendix for more great recruitment readiness ideas developed by the Grand Canyon Council!


Remember, this is supposed to be FUN! So keep the following in mind:

1) Scouts and adult volunteers should dress in normal “street” clothes instead of uniforms — a tactic that can help visitors feel more included. At an NFA, where uniforms aren’t worn, that non-Scouting parent will see themselves as equal to everyone else.

2) Refreshments? You bet!

3) Make sure everyone gets the flyers or cards with the QR code and instructions for online registration. But keep in mind that the focus of an NFA should be on potential Scouts (and their families) getting to know the troop — not on high-pressure recruiting pitches.
4) Be patient. It might take some families a few NFAs (yes, you might want to do a few of these!) before they feel comfortable and ready to join.

5) Be happy to see people you don’t even know! Encourage the Scouts (and their parents, too) to welcome people as they arrive.

6) If there are two program elements you should promote, it’s Scouts BSA Summer Camp and… Scouts BSA Summer Camp!

Remember: No need to recite too much history or details that everyone will forget on the way home anyway!


Thank everyone in the troop who helped make it a great night, especially the Scouts!

Follow up with every family who came, mainly to thank them for coming, but also ask if they have any other questions.

If they registered, let them know what’s next – first troop meeting, summer camp plans, etc. If they didn’t register, that’s fine. Encourage them to come back again – and if you have another event scheduled, let them know.

Hey – That was FUN!

Sure was! Consider holding at least one NFA in June, July and August.

Families who miss one event can come to another, and your entire troop will enjoy the chance to get together and have fun in a casual manner. At this point, recruiting and troop program planning can begin to merge – and almost every troop activity can become a potential entry point for new Scout and their families.