When it comes to using technology in Scout Troops, it can be intimidating. Using technology in our Troops can be easier if we remember that we use technology not simply for the sake of technology itself, but because it can help automate tasks and free us to do better things. We can use technology to reduce email overload but technology cannot go on a campout. Now, you can get 3 free templates to automate processes in your Troop.
Troop 719, of which I am currently Scoutmaster, is located in northeast Dallas, Texas. We are a boys-only Troop on the larger size, having between 50 and 60 Scouts every year. As Scoutmaster, I get a lot of email. I noticed many of the emails were in a few key areas. So, I wanted to automate these processes so I would get less email and have time to do more important work with Scouts. In a previous job, I ran an ecommerce company so I am a bit more technical than most people. But with the templates described below, almost anyone can automate a few Troop processes. The main criteria was to automate the processes that got the most email.
Coordinating Drivers to Campouts
As Scoutmaster, I coordinate drivers to campouts. This has been a time-consuming process. I had to keep track via email or Scoutbook who could drive. Sometime people did not tell how many Scouts they could take so I had to follow-up. I was on a mission to figure out how to automate this task. It took a lot of thought and testing to get this automated. One of my goals as that it had to be simple. It had to be simple enough that a non-technical person could do this. It also had to be free or low cost. After a thought and testing, I found a process that worked. My solution was Tally and Zapier, both of which are free. Tally allows you to create attractive forms that have a lot of automation power. Zapier allows you to have 2 systems easily work together. Here is the driving to campout template for you to use.
For this project , the above form could be accessed on any device. Parents were to indicate they could drive to a campout and how many Scouts they could take in their car. I embedded the form on a page on our web site, which is made with WordPress. But, you can send a link or use their URL if you cant embed it on your website. The form only is 4 questions. Responses are available on the Tally web site and sent to a Google Sheets document.
But the best part is that anyone that fills out the form gets an email with their answers and a brief summary on details on the campout. To do this, I used Zapier, which links systems together automatically (Tally with the Troop Email). In this case, everything is free. But, I did have to make some adjustments. Before you begin, do not intimidated with Zapier. You can get a step by step guide telling how to use Zapier to connect Tally with your email system (in our case we use Gmail)
The process begins with a parent filling out the Tally form. Responses are sent to a Google Sheet document. At the same time, responses go to Zapier, which sends parents and email giving general info on the campout. Now, I can see in a single place how many drivers we have and if more are needed. Then, 2 days before the campout I send a detailed email to all drivers. This has greatly reduced back and forth email. The only caveat is that I have to change text in Zapier after each campout, which only takes a few minutes. Also to keep it free, I could only put 1 event per form rather than having a year’s worth of campouts in a single document. So I change the form, which takes 2 minutes, after each campout. This also may be able to be done with Google Forms, but I found Tally to be a better solution.
At one time, a Scout sent me about 15 emails regarding cooking on a campout. In each email, I told him to talk to Cooking Merit Badge Counselor, who approves request to cook on a campout. After this, I wanted to find a way to automate this process. Up to now, we have used Google Forms, which has worked well, but now we want to get more sophisticated by using Tally. Customize and use the Tally template.
In our Troop, Scouts access the form by going to a specific cooking page on the web site. However, you can send a link to the form if you are not able to make a specific page on our site. Scouts complete a Tally form and the responses get sent to a Google Sheets document. Then, an appropriate person gets back to the parents with approval to cook.
Completing a form allowed us to communicate important items and answers questions to eliminate back and forth email. For example, the forms says the troop has condiments, which eliminated a lot of waste. It also helped Scouts that need to cook for first time telling them the troop has pots, pans, stove, charcoal, etc.
Court of Honor
Finally, another tool you should definitely be using is Canva. Canva is a platform that allows you to easily make graphics and similar items. Canva should be on your list of must-use tools. Plus, most of what you need Canva for is free.
With Canva, our Troop saved about $500. The Troop used to have a brochure that was copied and handed out all the Troop’s 3 Court of Honor. The brochure was made in Power Point or Google Slides. Then, it was sent to Office Depot for copies. It cost abour $500 per year for copies. Now, the brochure is done in Canva, saved as PDF and added to the Troop’s web site. Plus, the Canva-made brochure looks better and more modern than the previous brochure. Even if you dont have a website, Canva will provide a link to the brochure which you can send out.
You too can do something similar for your Troop. Canva is full of templates that will fit any brochure you need to produce. Get some ideas or use this template today.https://www.canva.com/design/DAFqIV_Jg-U/P6NIsfJg8nn27HH3tFNHDQ/edit