*Originally published in Spring 2014, with a fall 2017 update.
After six years of leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, I have made the decision to step down from my role. Juggling various part-time jobs, a family, a home and other volunteer activities leaves me no time to devote to this role that I have filled for so long. I am now going to be a co-leader, a role with significantly few responsibilities.
As I reflect upon my years as a leader, I would like to offer my advice and words of wisdom to those who are new to the role or are contemplating their own future with the organization.
Photo in Public Domain
Whatever Your Co-leader and You Decide to Do, Get It in Writing
This is an essential piece of life advice that I wish I had known when I first started as a leader. I get everything in writing when it comes to my business, but when it came time to start a troop with a friend, the thought did not even cross my mind.
But it should have.
If one of you agrees to do the petals and badges and the other person the Journeys, or if one of you is the outdoor activity leader and the other is the indoor leader, get it in writing. Just send a friendly email saying something like…
I enjoyed planning the year’s activities with you today. I am so happy to be doing the Journeys program while you are leading the indoor badges. Which badge are we going to be working on first? Please let me know.
A time stamped email is the perfect reminder to the person who cannot remember what she promised to do years earlier. You can remind her in a friendly manner by resending the email exchange. With her agreement in writing, there is no denying what she promised to do…even if it is from four years ago.
Get More Registered Volunteers
When my troop was younger, I only had three registered volunteers-my co-leader,my treasurer and myself. While moms were happy to volunteer when the girls were younger, as they got older, they were harder to come by when I needed them. If a parent actually registers, it is a bigger commitment to the troop than just “let me know if you need help”. Girls also like to know that their mom is an “official” volunteer.
You Have More Vested in the Troop Than Anyone Else
Be Like Elsa and “Let it Go”
I have a “no fail” attitude with everything that I do in my life. I do not drop the ball or try to pin the blame on others. So as time went on and I had to handle more responsibilities, I just did. My daughter loved being a Girl Scout and there was no way I was going to do anything other than give her the best experience ever.
In the past, when girls did not complete assignments or hand in paperwork in time, I used to hound parents for them to finish and get it in to me. But over time, I realized that while my daughter was into scouting, these were not my daughters. If it was important to them, then it would get done. If a child missed a deadline and therefore could not attend an event, that was not my fault, but that of her parents.
As Princess Elsa sang in Frozen, I “Let It Go”. I can only be concerned with one child, and that is my daughter.
I only sold cookies once with my troop and it was so stressful because my Cookie Mom was not the most reliable person for the job (even though she volunteered and was initially excited to do this for her daughter and the troop!)
Photo by Hannah Gold
Because I had to do everything, I knew that selling Girl Scout cookies had to be taken off the table if I were to keep my sanity. The girls wanted to sell, but with no one stepping up to help out, I was not going to be one of those leaders who did all the fundraising and all the meeting planning. I had a life beyond my leader commitments, and with all of the Girl Scout cookie drama and stress that takes place year after year, I decided this was one thing I was not going to do.
You do not have to sell cookies, do the QSP fundraiser, do a Journey or anything extra that you do not wish to do. While there are requirements and leader training that must be done, everything else is extra.
Take Lots of Pictures at Every Meeting
Photo by Hannah Gold
One of the best ideas my co-leader had in our early years was to make a scrapbook. Since we had no troop money at that time, it had to be done on the cheap. With a clear-view Avery binder and inserts, along with cheap Dollar Store stickers and clearance stationary, we began our scrap booking adventure.
Years later, the girls love to look through their album and reminisce about their younger years.
It is never too late to start a perpetual scrapbook. Not only does it create great memories, but it is also worth at least two meetings-one in the early winter and one at the end of the year. No planning for you!
I really enjoyed my six years as a main Girl Scout leader. I wish I had known some of these things when I first began my journey, but I look at it all as a learning experience. Hopefully, you can learn from my journey and make your time as a leader a wonderful one for the girls whom you lead.
For the past three years I have been an active and hands-on co-leader, something I wish I had when I was the 01 Troop leader. During our first year as Cadettes, we retained 11 of our 12 girls. They stayed on to see what scouting with a new leader would be like. Meetings were held once a month in a different location, and we worked on a Journey and on the Marketing badge.
With an experienced, dedicated Cookie Mom (her daughter joined my troop during the last year of my leadership), they sold cookies. The new leader got camping certified and so did another mom, so the girls were excited to go camping in the fall.
While we did go camping, it was only with the five girls who remained.
And we are fine with that. This core group is dedicated to scouting.
Each parent has a role in our troop so that the leader does not have to do it all. We have the leader, the Cookie Mom (also a co-leader), one mom who is camping certified, one who is the Treasurer and myself, a co-leader and the community service co-ordinator. I also plan and run meetings when the leader is too busy with real life.
Our goal is to keep our troop together. One woman cannot do it and not get burned out. Now, as we enter our tenth year together as Girl Scout Seniors, we are down to four girls. It is our goal to keep them together until 12th grade, as it will look great on their college applications to have been doing community service and activities for their entire time they were in school.