Woodcraft Folk sometimes sees groups start up, thrive for a few years, and then decline. This can make it feel like a group has a ‘natural lifespan’. However, in reality a group just needs regular maintenance to ensure that it continues to work effectively. As older children leave at the top end of your group’s age range, or progress to the next age group, you need to recruit younger children to maintain the size of the group.
If Woodcraft Folk is well known in your area, you may find word-of-mouth means that you get a steady trickle of new members. If this is the only means by which you recruit new children & families, however, you may find that the makeup of your group is not representative of your local community. If your group can find time to do more to get the word out about Woodcraft Folk, then you will recruit a more diverse range of young members.
You can find examples of publicity materials that you can use to promote your group on the website – there are templates that you can download and customise to print at home, as well as artwork for flyers that you could get printed commercially. Don’t forget that most people won’t sign up after seeing one poster or flyer. Outreach activities that enable you to have conversations with parents/carers, and show off the sort of activities that the group does, will make a bigger impact in your community.
Arranging outreach activities in local schools can provide an opportunity to engage with a large number of potential members. Possible approaches include any or all of the following:
Delivering an assembly about Woodcraft Folk
Running taster sessions after school or during lunchtime
Sending flyers home in book bags
Handing out flyers and speaking to parents at hometime
Getting to speak to the right person (usually the headteacher in a primary school), or getting them to answer your email, is often the hardest part of engaging with a school. There is lots of guidance on school outreach, including sample risk assessments, a template for a letter to the headteacher, and a presentation for use in a school assembly on the website.
Community partners
Sometimes working with another organisation is the best way to reach a particular part of your community. If you have a good working relationship with other local, regional or national organisations, you may be able to ask them to:
Publicise Woodcraft Folk to their members or service users
Put information about our activities in newsletters or on their website
Give you space at a community event to have a stall or run some activities
Working with another organisation may allow you to use their contacts and reach more people. They may have staff or other resources that mean they can get the message out more effectively, or they may have built up trust and rapport with a particular community (e.g. refugees and asylum seekers) that is less likely to respond to outreach activity that is led by Woodcraft Folk alone.
 Organisations that you might link up with could include:
  Advice and support networks for children with additional needs, e.g. National Deaf Children’s Society, SENSE, National Autistic Society
Residents’ or Community Associations
Faith or Cultural Associations
Support networks for refugees and asylum seekers
Gingerbread (supporting single parent families)
New Family Social, and other networks of LGBT parents/carers
You can find out more about Woodcraft Folk’s Inclusion Partnerships to support children with additional needs on our website.
A number of our development projects have had success in recruiting new children & families, and have sometimes built entirely new groups, through outreach activities delivered in public parks and open spaces. This approach is known in Woodcraft Folk as ‘Playout’.
Running Playout activities can provide volunteers with a chance to have a more in-depth conversation with parents & carers about what Woodcraft involves. Holding activities in a public space, you can engage with families who might not be likely to come into contact with Woodcraft Folk otherwise.
Running a successful Playout event takes a degree of planning. Not only will you need to publicise the event in the local community, but you will also need to seek permission for the local authority or landowner. It’s good to give children an idea of what being part of a Woodcraft group will involve by providing and opportunity to try different activities, e.g.:
Active games, making use of the outdoor space (a brightly coloured parachute has visual impact to draw people in)
Co-operative activities, like simple den building or bushcraft activities
Crafts, so children can create something they can take home and remind them of the day.
It’s very important to have something to give families to take away, such as a flyer with details of the groups in the local area, so that they can get in touch. There’s more guidance to help run successful Playout events on the website.