With the new Girl Scout year comes new leaders, ready to help build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place! While you may feel overwhelmed with Journey plans, insurance forms, and trainings, becoming a new leader doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. We’re here to help, and you have just joined a sisterhood of over 750,000 adult members who are ready and willing to assist! Here are some of our favorite tips for new troop leaders:
1. Meet the Parents
Schedule a meeting early in the year where you can register parents upfront as Girl Scout members, set goals and expectations for the years, and learn more about the girls and their families. Find out if any parents have a special skill that would be valuable to share, work at an interesting place fit for a field trip, or has a connection for a great meeting location! The better you get to know your parents the more you will learn about resources available to you and the level of involvement families are expected to have. Start recruiting for volunteer troop roles as soon as possible. Delegate! Delegate! Delegate!
2. Let Girls Take the Lead
Teach girls responsibility by keeping your troop girl-led! At the beginning of the year, gauge your girl’s interest in what kind of activities they’d like to accomplish for the year. Are they drawn to outdoor adventure or STEM enthusiasts? Are there specific skills they’d like to learn or trips they want to go on? Try having the troop vote on their favorite badges, each girl ranking their top three, then assign one girl a badge and a meeting. Each girl will be responsible for presenting their badge and engaging their troop in earning it. This will reign in girl’s attention once they realize what it’s like to lead a group!
3. Take Advantage of In-Person Trainings
Trainings will give you the opportunity to meet in a place where all leaders are in the same position as you – full of questions! This is a great place to bounce ideas off one other, and someone is guaranteed to ask a question you didn’t think of. Whether you need or want to become First Aid & CPR Certified, brush up on your Event Planning, or pick up new Outdoor Skills, you’ll be able to gain advice from both new and seasoned volunteers (and make a new friend or two!).
4. Plan Your Meetings
Meetings can be broken down into parts, divided up between time spent on meetings, journeys, working on patches, fun activities, etc.! Use a Kapers chart or job wheel to divide up meeting responsibilities. One girl can lead the pledge, one for handing out snacks, one leads songs, one helps pass out craft supplies, a few help clean up, etc. Shift every meeting so that everyone gets a turn! Head on over to our Kaper Charts board on Pinterest for inspiration!
5. Utilize the VTK
The Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) is a digital resource that supports troop leaders and co-leaders, making the process of running a troop easier and more efficient. Troop leaders can plan the troop’s calendar year, email parents with one click, access meeting plans and scripts, record meeting attendance and more! Parents will also find it useful for keeping up on what badges or Journeys their Girl Scouts are working on, view troop finances, and more. Check out our 10 VTK Tips for Troops!
6. Master the Uniforms
Is there anything more iconic than a Girl Scout uniform? For over a century, Girl Scouts have proudly worn distinctive uniforms that symbolize the high ideals for which the organization stands. Our gear has changed with the times and can take a little mastering at first. Check out our Guide to Girl Scout Uniforms to get the basics down in no time! Are you a busy mom with no time to sew? Although many patches are iron-on, some might not be so willing to stick. Try out fabric glue materials such as Badge Magic or Liquid Stitch to cut down on time.
7. Prep for Product Sales
Product sales are a great way to fund troop activities and help girls develop five essential skills that will help them be successful throughout their lives. Enlist a helpful parent or two as your Cookie Chair or Fall Product Program Chair right away! Certain programs and badges introduce girls to concepts like financial responsibility and working with customers. Try introducing one before the sales start to get girls more deeply involved and have them thinking about what they are learning during the process!
8. Ask for Help
Girl Scouts have been around for over 100 years, which means someone is guaranteed to have been in your shoes at any point in time! You have a wealth of resources at your fingertips, so don’t be afraid to reach out when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re looking for help from parents, make the ask specific! Instead of “I need help,” try “I need help with snacks at the next meeting” or “I need parent chaperones and drivers for our next field trip.” Recruit teammates for Troop Volunteer Roles early on! Your Service Unit Manager and other members you’ll find at SU meetings are also unlimited resources of information. If you’re looking for assistance from council, we are always here to help! Reach out and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.
9. HAVE FUN!
Remember that Girl Scouts should be fun for both the girls and the volunteers and that nothing would be possible without you! While we are always advocates for having fun with a purpose, it’s okay to plan an activity that is just plain fun. Chances are whatever game, craft, or activity you have planned, the girls will leave it with their relationships strengthened and their self-confidence soaring. On the days you make a mistake, forgive yourself and keep on trekking! And when you’re feeling discouraged, remind yourself of all the good you are doing for your girls, the beauty of being a role model…and why being a Girl Scout volunteer is the best!