Scouts Canada has done some research on membership, such as a study by Angus Reid in 1998 (see McLaughlin 1998). Previous work has focused on the level of the individual, asking questions about why the individual left Scouting or about individual's attitudes towards Scouting. The present study takes a different approach. The major unit of analysis is the Scout troop, not the individual Scout. This study will identify some of what differs between troops with high levels of membership retention and those with low levels.
Information was gathered in three ways. Troop meetings were unobtrusively observed. Of greatest interest was any ritual activities (such as flag break and reciting the Scout Promise), the use of uniforms, how much time was allocated to different activities, and how leadership was shared by the Scouters. General qualitative observations were also recorded.
The Scouters were asked to provide information about the troop. Scouters helped me to fill in a calendar of their activities between September 1999 and August 2000. Next they were asked a few questions about their program, the use of uniforms, and recruitment and retention activities. Last, Scouters were asked about their troop's membership. They were given a list of Scouts registered with the troop during the 1999/2000 year and asked about their current status. Scouters were asked where new members had come from. Once the information was collected, the list of names and the data were separated to protect privacy.
Scouters were given a written questionnaire which included questions about their training, knowledge about Scouting, and some attitude questions. Responses for a given troop were aggregated to create troop-level data.
The data were analysed with percentage retention of members between 1999/2000 and 2000/01 as the primary dependent variable. The study was conducted during the first part of 2001, so the conditions during 1999/2000 were not observed. It is reasonable to assume, for the purposes of an exploratory study, that what was observed in 2001 is similar to what happened during 1999/2000. A future study employing longitudinal methodology would not rely on this assumption and would avoid the potential problem of poor recall on the part of the Scouters.