Advice to Girl Scout Leaders Both Veteran and New

*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.

Advice to Girl Scout Leaders Both Veteran and New

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!)

Selling Girl Scout cookies should only be done if you have the appropriate support from a dedicated Cookie Mom or Dad.

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

Leaders should take pictures at every meeting so they can create a scrapbook with their girls.

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.

 

5 Ways You Are Making Your Life as a Girl Scout Leader More Difficult Than it Needs to Be

I read about it in all of the Girl Scout groups and forums that I visit. It isn’t even cookie season yet and leaders are stressed and up in arms about girls have have not yet registered, parents who have not paid dues, parents asking for siblings to join the troop on trips, and the every day stress that goes along with planning meetings that you want to make both fun and meaningful.

I have been there, done that, and am so over it! Leaders, some of the stress is avoidable. Here is how.

Here are 5 things that Girl Scout leaders do that make their volunteer positions more difficult than it needs to be. Find out how to correct them so you can enjoy it more!

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Stressing Over Parental Responsibilities

The deadline for Girl Scout registration has come and gone. If a girl’s parents have not registered her yet, then let it go.  Do not take their lack of interest personally; scouting is not for all girls. The time you are meeting might not work out for her with the other activities she is in. Money may be an issue and parents are too proud to ask for help. Whatever the reason, you do not own it.

2. You Are a Softie 

You are not firm with the rules. You need to establish guidelines from the very first meeting or else you are setting yourself for future problems. To avoid stress in the upcoming years, you need to establish rules about:

  • Tagalongs I understand that finding babysitters for siblings can be tough, but the fact is that there is liability involved if you permit Scout siblings along on your trips and at your meetings. They are also a distraction at your meeting. Don’t feel like you have to be “nice” on this issue. Do you want to be sued?

Some leaders permit families to attend family outings, and that is your judgement call. However, they have to pay for their own fees and those of their other children. Outings that are just for Girl Scouts, like camping, should not have anyone who is not a scout or registered adult.

  • Dues  Make your life easy…collect dues at the beginning of the year and be done with it. Use this money for things that all the girls will use during the year. Do not buy uniforms or pay for registration with this money. If a girl does not return, you are out the money. Keep in mind that every activity does not require a fun patch (badges are different) so do not go wild just because you see leaders in Girl Scout Facebook groups showing photos of their daughters’ overfilled vests. It is not a contest.
  • RSVPing to Events  Another issue for leaders is stressing over parents who do not respond by deadlines. BE FIRM! You are wasting your precious energy chasing for money and permission slips. Have a deadline and if it is missed, too bad for the child. Why are you spending this much energy on a child whose own mother and father cannot be bothered to give you the common courtesy of an answer? Establish your rules for responding to requests and stick by them. Have them in writing for parents and post it on each event flyer/email you send all year long. You are not to blame if a girl misses something. Her parents are.

3. You Are Not Asking for Help

Follow these guidelines to avoid Girl Scout leader burnout.

Photo from Pixabay

The fastest way to get burnt out of this volunteer position is to do it all yourself. In the beginning of my leadership, I had a parent volunteer to run each meeting. The second year I had parents also help at meetings since twelve Daisy Scouts needed a lot of help! Initially, my co-leader was helpful but over time that became less and less, despite my requests for her help. By the beginning of my sixth year of leadership (second year Juniors), I knew that I had had enough. I emailed the parents in the fall that this would more than likely be my last year and that someone needed to step up (and someone did). I have been co-leading since then, and I love it. I plan the community service projects and organize them, giving the main leader a break. How I would have loved that! Ask for help when you need it. If you do not get it, then your daughter can always be a Juliette.

4. You Do More Than You Are Comfortable With

Repeat after me. “No, I can’t do that.” “No, my troop is full.” “No, I cannot watch your daughter at the booth sale.” Whatever it is that you do not want to do, you do not have to do it! I realize that some Councils are keeping troops under a certain number as “open”, but you can close the door by leaving and having your daughter be a Juliette. You are a volunteer and never forget that.

5. Too Much Pinterest Pinterest is a great tool for leaders. Remember to take it easy and only do things that are valuable to your troop.

Photo from Pixabay

Are you spending hours pinning adorable ideas that will take even more hours of your time to implement? Keep it simple, sister! Here is one example that I see a lot…Presenting badges and patches to girls. Leaders make such a big deal of presenting things in such a crafty manner…does it matter? Yes, they look adorable and there is an initial “Wow” factor, but now you are expected to do this every. single. time.  Would Juliette Gordon Low be spending time and energy on that or would she be planning a great skill meeting or adventure for her girls?

For the record, my girls received their earned badges and fun patches in envelopes at the end of a meeting. I awarded them as they were earned, since the girls love to wear them on their vests and sashes.

Take control of your time and how you run your troop.

Girl Scout Kaper Chart Resources

*This post contains affiliate links.

Leaders both old and new will need to create a Kaper Chart for their troop. In this blog post, I outlined the various jobs and why it is important to have such a chart. Girls need to be responsible for participating in the running of the meeting, no matter what age they are.

There are only four basic items you need for making a Girl Scout Kaper chart.

Photo from Ivorymix

Here are four basic things you need to make a Kaper chart.

A basic cardboard trifold is all you need to create the perfect Girl Scout Kaper chart.

Trifold Available on Amazon

You will also need Velcro circles.

Velcro circles for your Girl Scout Kaper chart.

Velcro Circles from Amazon

There are a variety of library pocket cards that you can use to adhere the Velcro.

Library pocket cards for Girl Scout kaper chart

These card holders and others are available on Amazon.

Last, you will need note cards for the name of each girl.

Keep it simple when you are making a Girl Scout kaper chart. While it is nice to have a pretty one, it is not necessary to spend your precious time and energy making it. Spend that on the actual meeting!

What jobs do you have on your Kaper chart?

14 Great Girl Scout Facebook Groups Girl Scout Leaders Should Join

Girl Scout leader Facebook groups are a great source of knowledge and support for leaders of all levels.

If you have read any of my blogs over the past few years, you know that I am a huge fan of Babycenter’s Girl Scout Moms forum. Leaders helping leaders is what that group is all about, and I am constantly amazed at how helpful this group of women are.

Another resource that I have found to be invaluable are Girl Scout Facebook groups. There are groups that sell and swap badges, groups for each level, and groups that share how to do Journeys.

Here are some fantastic ones that you should join! Just search for the names list below when you log into Facebook and ask to become a member. Some admins will private message you to ask why you are joining a group just to make sure you are really a leader.

Also, if you are trying to sell your old Girl Scout materials, read each of the groups guidelines so you list your items properly. Each group has it’s own rules.

Here are the best Girl Scout Leader Facebook groups!

Girl Scout Badge Swap

Girl Scout Stuff for Sale/Trade

Fun Patches to Buy and Sell

GS Retired Badges Sell/Trade

Cadette-Senior-Ambassador Advisors

Brownie Leaders

GS Junior Leaders Think Tank

Cadette/Senior & Ambassador Leaders Idea Bazaar

Daisy Girl Scouts

Girl Scout Freebies, Deals and More

Girl Scout Sell/Swap

Girl Scout Journeys

Girl Scout Volunteer Community

Girl Scout Crafting Ideas

Girl Scout Gab

Are you a member of any of these groups or another one that I have not mentioned?

Girl Scout Leader Resources

Taking responsibility for a Girl Scout troop, no matter what age you lead, is a big job. I have been leading my girls since October 2008, and I still have to do a lot of prep work before each and every meeting. As a teacher for the past 28 years, lesson planning comes naturally to me, and I truly enjoy putting all of the elements together to create a meaningful learning experience. I find it a personal challenge to come up with the right activities for our badges, and make sure they are fun and engaging. My younger daughter, whose troop I lead, likes to help me get things together. I just have to make her promise not to tell her friends in school about what we are doing!

Over the years, I have developed a list of resources that I use to plan my meetings. There are books I use and websites I go to whenever I need to jumpstart my brain and find an activity, and I am going to share them with you.

A listing of online Girl Scout leader resources for planning your meetings and activities

Photo from Pixabay

Girl Scout Leader Resources-Books

Books are a hands-on way to get focused and organized for your meeting. They answer many questions that you have about planning and what activities are needed to earn a required badge. They are a resource that you can keep in your Girl Scout leader bag or when you are waiting for practice to end. Keep a pen and sticky notes handy for ideas that come to mind as you are reading.

Daisy Girl Scout Leader-Tips for Running a Successful Troop from Amazon

I updated this book in June 2013 with new chapters and information for those who are beginning their journey as a Girl Scout leader. After receiving numerous emails over the years from Daisy leaders, I wrote this book to help brand new leaders get off on the right foot. From your initial parent contact to starting your first meeting, this guide will start you on your way. It does not discuss the Journeys program.

Games for Girl Scouts

Games for Girl Scouts from Amazon

This is a must have book for all leaders. It has games for girls at all levels of scouting, so it is an investment. You can use it every year.  Mine has been in my leader bag for seven years!

Girl Scout Leader Resources-Websites

The internet has really changed the face of everything, including Girl Scouts. Information is easily shared on the information highway. Here are some of the websites I have used over the years that have helped me a great deal.

All links have been tested and these sites are up and running!

 What Girl Scout resources do you use?