By Kat Rourke
Many volunteers become leaders because they have a daughter interested in Girl Scouts. Or maybe they value the lifelong friendships and life skills that girls gain as Girl Scouts. New leaders can feel overwhelmed and under-prepared as they start their troops, but they want to do it right!
We want to guide new leaders through the steps of starting a troop and provide some helpful hints for a successful start to the Girl Scout year. First, all adult volunteers with the troop must complete an application and pass a background check, which council provides at no cost to the volunteers. Second, attend new leader orientation. This training covers the basic paperwork and policies and can give you some good insight on where to start. Third, recruit a co-leader. Ask parents of other interested girls; talk with co-workers or professional organizations in which you belong. Church groups, retirees and recent graduates, as well as under or unemployed adults can be great troop helpers.
Once you have squared away troop leadership, you’ll receive a Girl Scout troop number, start the troop bank account (with three signers) and plan where and when you will have your troop meetings. Common places to meet are the school library or cafeteria, community rooms, meeting rooms at colleges, local businesses, or the local library. Connect with other troop leaders in your local service unit as they are great resources and support. Make sure you are engaged and do your best to attend the monthly service unit meetings. You’ll meet other new and experienced leaders as well as gain knowledge and learn about important updates and information that is vital to your troop.
Ask the school if you can distribute flyers so girls and their parents can come to an informational meeting to join the troop. Many schools allow this, but for the ones that don’t, there are other options. Submit information to the school or district newsletter, a teacher blog, or school Facebook page. Attend PTA/PTO meetings and promote your troop and have your daughter tell her friends! Girls recruiting girls is a wonderful tool. At your informational meeting you will want to lay down expectations of the parent support you need. Be Specific! Most parents don’t know how they can help and will be happy to help if they know how they can help.
Plan out a structure for your meetings, and you can always make adjustments if things don’t quite pan out how you thought it would. Having a packet of extra activities that you can fall back on if you have extra time can be life lines, so always have a backup! At your new leader orientation you will be provided with some sample sessions for meetings, but you can also pick other leader’s brains or be creative and come up with something totally different. Customize your Girl Scout meetings to best suit your Girl Scout troop. As a new leader, you will have a learning curve figuring out what works best for your girls. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your troop parent’s, your service unit, your Membership Marketing Specialist, and other council staff are all great resources. We are here to support you and answer any questions you may have. Have a wonderful Girl Scout year!