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Managing_Girl_Scout_Troop_Camping

Troop Management

Leadership is more than “being in charge” or having a title; it’s recognizing that you’re part of a team and understanding that team’s needs and interests. 

Your Role as a Volunteer

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is based on three keys—discover, connect, and take action—but it’s not just for the girls! As a Girl Scout leader, you’ll embark on your own leadership journey as you help girls develop the vital leadership skills they’ll use to make the world a better place. The Girl Scout perspective on leadership is permeated with a few basic, but all-important, concepts. 

Leadership is teaching girls:

  • That they can do and be anything!  
  • That they are decision-makers and should own their decisions.  
  • How to live the Girl Scout Law by modeling it for them.

As a leader, see yourself as a coach who:

  • Advises, discusses, and cheers on your troop, not as a teacher with a canned lesson or activity. 
  • Ensures each girl understands and can carry out her responsibilities within the troop.  
  • Encourages girls to build their skills and their ethics.  
  • Gives more responsibilities to the girls as they grow and develop. 

It’s important to remember that:

  • You cannot know everything that the girls might ever want to learn.
  • You’ll explore and learn alongside your girls and grow your confidence in the process.
  • You’re not expected to know everything about Girl Scouting, but you should know where to go for information—and to ask for help when you need it.

Your Responsibilities as a Girl Scout Volunteer
Your responsibilities as a Girl Scout volunteer include:

  • Maintaining active registration as a GSGCNWI volunteer.
  • Understanding and coaching the three keys to leadership that are the basis of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience: discover, connect, and take action.
  • Sharing your knowledge, experience, and skills with a positive and flexible approach.
  • Working in a partnership with girls so that their activities are girl-led and they learn by doing, individually and as a group. You’ll also partner with other volunteers and council staff for support and guidance. 
  • Organizing fun, interactive, girl-led activities that address relevant issues and match girls’ interests and needs.
  • Providing guidance and information regarding Girl Scout group meetings with girls’ families on a regular and ongoing basis through a variety of tools, including email, phone calls, newsletters, blogs, other forms of social media, and any other method you choose.
  • Processing and completing registration forms and other paperwork, such as permission slips.
  • Communicating effectively and delivering clear, organized, and vibrant presentations or information to an individual or the group.
  • Overseeing with honesty, integrity, and careful record keeping the funds that girls raise.
  • Maintaining a close connection to your troop volunteer team as well as your council.
  • Facilitating a safe experience for every girl.

To prepare for your role as leader, visit the Learning Portal to find all required training. 

Planning for Your First Troop Meeting

Depending on the ages of your girls, you might take the lead in guiding the structure and experiences of your troop—from how and when meetings are held to how the troop communicates, from steering girl-led activities to setting financial expectations. You’ll make these decisions collaboratively with your volunteer team or leadership, as well as with input from the girls and their parents and caregivers.

Use these questions to guide your conversation with your troop committee volunteers or leadership before discussing these topics with parents and caregivers.

  • When will we meet and for how long? How frequently should we schedule troop meetings?
  • Where will we meet? Your meeting space should be somewhere safe, clean, and secure that allows all girls to participate. Some great meeting space ideas include schools, places of worship, libraries, and community centers. If working with teens, consider meeting at coffee shops, bookstores, or other places they enjoy.
  • Which components of the uniform will families need to purchase? Which uniform components will the troop provide for each girl?
  • Will our troop be a single grade level or facilitated as a multi-level troop with girls of many grade levels combined into one troop? If multi-level, how will we make sure they each get an age-appropriate experience?
  • How will we keep troop activities and decisions girl-led? Use the Volunteer Toolkit to help you through this process by exploring options for activities and reviewing the meeting plans and resources lists.
  • How often are we going to communicate to troop families? Which channels will we use to keep families in the loop? Effective communication will help set expectations and clarify parent/ caregiver responsibilities.
  • Will our troop charge dues, use product program proceeds, and/or charge per activity? How much money will we need to cover supplies and activities? What should our financial plan look like?

Choosing a Meeting Place
What makes a great meeting space? It depends on your troop, but here are a few considerations as you visit potential spaces:

Cost: The space should be free to use.

Size: Make sure the space is large enough for the whole group and all planned activities.

Availability: Be sure the space is available for the day and the entire length of time you want to meet.

Resources: Ask if tables and chairs come with the room and ensure that the lighting is adequate. A bonus would be a cubby of some sort where you could store supplies or a safe outdoor space for activities.

Safety: Potential spaces must be safe, secure, clean, properly ventilated, heated (or cooled, depending on your location), free from hazards, and have at least two exits that are well marked and fully functional. Also be sure first-aid equipment is on hand.

Facilities: It goes without saying, but make sure that toilets are sanitary and accessible.

Communication-friendly: Check for cell reception in the potential space and whether Wi-Fi is available.

Allergen-free: Ensure that pet dander and other common allergens won’t bother susceptible girls during meetings.

Accessibility: Your space should accommodate girls with disabilities as well as parents with disabilities who may come to meetings.

Need a few talking points to get started? Try:

“I’m a Girl Scout volunteer with a group of [number of girls] girls. We’re doing lots of great things for girls and for the community, like [something your group is doing] and [something else your troop is doing]. We’re all about leadership—the kind that girls use in their daily lives and the kind that makes our community better. We’d love to hold our meetings here because [reason why you’d like to meet there].”

Please review and stay updated with our COVID-19 guidelines, which require all volunteers to take all reasonable precautions to limit potential exposure for girls, volunteers, and families.

Stuck and need additional support? Email us at customercare@girlscoutsGSGCNWI.org, call 1-855-ILOVEGS (855-456-8347) ext. 6313 or chat with us online from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Just click on the Chat Now button!

Virtual Meetings
If your group or troop can’t meet in person or hold a traditional meeting, there are so many ways to bring the power of Girl Scouting home! Meeting virtually can be a fun, engaging option for your troop.

Before setting up a virtual meeting, you’ll want to:

  • Partner with troop families to make sure the girls are safe online.
  • Select a meeting platform that allows families who may not have internet access to call in.
  • Think about logistics: work with the girls to set up ground rules; consider how you’ll incorporate in-person meeting traditions in your virtual space and how you’ll keep the meeting on track.
  • Talk with families on how to keep activities girl-led if your girls will be completing them from home.

And don't worry if your girls want to use a web or social platform you’re not as familiar with, because you’ll learn alongside them!

You’ll also find lots of inspiring badge activities, tips, and a calendar with upcoming virtual programs on our Girl Scouts at Home page.

Troop Leaders, be sure to visit the Learning Portal to find an entire section of Virtual Troop Resources.

Girl Scout Troop Size
The troop size “sweet spot” is large enough to provide an interactive and cooperative learning environment and small enough to encourage individual development. Though the ideal troop size is 12 girls, we recommend that groups be no fewer and no more than: 

  • • Girl Scout Daisies: 5–12 girls
  • • Girl Scout Brownies: 10–20 girls
  • • Girl Scout Juniors 10–25 girls
  • • Girl Scout Cadettes: 5–25 girls
  • • Girl Scout Seniors: 5–30 girls
  • • Girl Scout Ambassadors: 5–30 girls

A Girl Scout troop/group must have at minimum five girls and two approved adult leaders. (Double-check the volunteer-to-girl ratio chart to make sure you’ve got the right amount of coverage for your troop!) Adults and girls registering in groups of fewer than five girls and/or two approved, unrelated adult volunteers, at least one of whom is female, will be registered as individual Girl Scouts to more accurately reflect their status and program experience. Individual girls are always welcome to participate in Girl Scout activities and events.

Registering Girls and Adults in Girl Scouting
Every participant (girl or adult) in Girl Scouting must register and become a member of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). GSUSA membership dues are valid for one year. Membership dues cannot be transferred to another member and are not refundable.  

Preregistration for the upcoming membership year occurs in the spring. Girls are encouraged to register early to avoid the fall rush. Early registration allows for uninterrupted receipt of forms and materials from the council, helps girls and councils plan ahead, and gets girls excited about all the great stuff they want to do as Girl Scouts next year. Girl Scout grade level is determined by the current membership year beginning October 1.

Lifetime membership is available to anyone who accepts the principles and beliefs of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, pays the one-time lifetime membership fee, and is at least 18 years old (or a high school graduate or equivalent).

Welcoming New Girls to Your Troop

Growing your troop is a great way to share the power of the Girl Scout experience and there are many ways to get the word out, like hanging posters at your girls’ schools, using social media to reach families in your community, or including your troop in your council’s Opportunity Catalog or Troop Catalog, which is an online directory of open Girl Scout troops with room for girls and/or volunteers. You can also find recruitment materials on our Recruitment Resource Page.

Girl Scout Champions play a vital role in helping to spread the word about how awesome it is to be a Girl Scout! GS Champions introduce Girl Scouts to new girls and adults within their own communities whether it be hosting local events, sending information to schools, or just bringing flyers and brochures to libraries. GS Champions have the power to educate their community about how both girls and adults can join Girl Scouts in the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana areas!  

We need inspiring volunteers (like you!) to spread the word about joining Girl Scouts to girls and families, and to help place new members in troops.

Contact Martha Sternickle at 224-207-9227  or  msternickle@girlscoutgcnwi.org with any questions.

Creating an Atmosphere of Acceptance and Inclusion

Girl Scouts is for every girl, and that’s why we embrace girls of all abilities and backgrounds with a specific and positive philosophy of inclusion that benefits everyone. Each girl—regardless of her socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, physical or cognitive ability, sexual orientation, primary language, or religion—is an equal and valued member of the group, and groups reflect the diversity of the community.

We believe inclusion is an approach and an attitude, rather than a set of guidelines. Inclusion is about belonging—about all girls being offered the same opportunities with respect, dignity, and celebration of their unique strengths. It’s about being a sister to every Girl Scout! You’re accepting and inclusive when you:

  • Welcome every girl and focus on building community.
  • Emphasize cooperation instead of competition.
  • Provide a safe and socially comfortable environment for girls.
  • Teach respect for, understanding of, and dignity toward all girls and their families.
  • Actively reach out to girls and families who are traditionally excluded or marginalized.
  • Foster a sense of belonging to community as a respected and valued peer.
  • Honor the intrinsic value of each person’s life.

The Basics of Inclusion is a required training for leaders in the Learning Portal.

Whether you're a parent/caregiver or Girl Scout troop leader, offering a safe space for your girl to talk about important issues is vital. Review the resources on our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access page as you navigate discussions.

If you have questions about accommodating an individual girl, email us at customercare@girlscoutsGSGCNWI.org, call 1-855-ILOVEGS (855-456-8347) ext. 6313 or chat with us online from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Just click on the Chat Now button!

As you think about where, when, and how often to meet with your group, consider the needs, resources, safety, and beliefs of all members and potential members. Include the special needs of any members who have disabilities or whose parents or caregivers have disabilities. But, please, don’t rely on visual cues to inform you of a disability: approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population has a disability—that’s one in five people of every socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and religion.

If you want to find out what a girl with a disability needs to make her Girl Scout experience successful, simply ask her or her parent or caregiver. If you are open and honest, they’ll likely respond in kind, creating an atmosphere that enriches everyone.

It’s important for all girls to be rewarded based on their best efforts—not on the completion of a task. Give any girl the opportunity to do her best and she will! Sometimes that means changing a few rules or approaching an activity in a more creative way. Here are some examples of ways to modify activities:

  • Invite a girl to complete an activity after she has observed others doing it.
  • If you are visiting a museum to view sculpture, find out if a girl who is blind might be given permission to touch the pieces.
  • If an activity requires running, a girl who is unable to run could be asked to walk or do another physical movement.

Focus on a person’s abilities—on what she can do rather than on what she cannot. In that spirit, use people-first language that puts the person before the disability.

Say . . . Instead of . . .
She has a learning disability. She is learning disabled.
She has a developmental delay. She is mentally retarded; she is slow.
She uses a wheelchair. She is wheelchair-bound.

When interacting with a girl (or parent/caregiver) with a disability, consider these tips:

  • When talking to a girl with a disability, speak directly to her, not through a family member or friend.
  • It’s okay to offer assistance to a girl with a disability, but wait until your offer is accepted before you begin to help. Listen closely to any instructions the person may have.
  • Leaning on a girl’s wheelchair is invading her space and is considered annoying and rude.
  • When speaking to a girl who is deaf and using an interpreter, speak to the girl, not to the interpreter.
  • When speaking for more than a few minutes to a girl who uses a wheelchair, place yourself at eye level.
  • When greeting a girl with a visual disability, always identify yourself and others. You might say, “Hi, it’s Sheryl. Tara is on my right, and Chris is on my left.”

Registering Girls with Cognitive Disabilities
Girls with cognitive disabilities can be registered as closely as possible to their chronological ages. They wear the uniform of that grade level. Make adaptations as appropriate to ongoing troop activities. Young women with cognitive disorders may choose to retain their girl membership through their eighteenth year and then move into an adult membership category.

Getting Support for Your Troop

It takes a village to lift up the next generation of female leaders, but you won’t do it alone. You can count on a dedicated Girl Scout support team, consisting of council staff and passionate volunteers just like you. Your support team, which may be called a service unit in your council, is ready to offer local learning opportunities and advice as well as answer your questions about the Girl Scout program, working with girls, product sales, and so much more.

Before you hold your first troop meeting with girls, consider the support and people resources you’ll need to cultivate an energizing troop experience. Parents, friends, family, and other members of the community have their own unique strengths and can provide time, experience, and ideas to a troop, so get them involved from the very beginning as part of your volunteer troop team.

This team is made up of troop leaders (like you) and your troop volunteer team, the extra sets of eyes, ears, and hands that help the troop safely explore the world around them. Depending on your troop’s needs, they can play a more active role—for instance, someone can step up as a dedicated troop treasurer—or simply provide an occasional helping hand when you need to keep a meeting’s activity on track.

If a parent or caregiver isn’t sure if they can commit to a leadership role, encourage them to try volunteering in a smaller capacity that matches their skill set. Just like your young Girl Scouts, once troop parents and caregivers discover they can succeed in their volunteer role, they’ll feel empowered to volunteer again.

Troop Management Tools and Resources

From toolkits and guides to regular contact with experienced people, you’ll have all the support you need to be a Girl Scout volunteer. Here’s a list of some important resources you’ll want to check out.

Access training, resources, and VTK video library »
Access the Volunteer Learning Portal »

The Volunteer Toolkit
The Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) is a customizable digital planning tool for troop leaders to conveniently manage their troop year-round and deliver easy, fun troop meetings. Accessible via desktop and mobile devices, the Volunteer Toolkit saves you time and energy all year long, so you can focus on unleashing the G.I.R.L (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ in every girl, ensuring every girl has the opportunities she deserves to build a lifetime of leadership, success, and adventure. 

Girls have more fun when they can shape their own experiences, do hands-on activities, and work together as teams. With the VTK, girls and leaders can explore meeting topics and program activities together, and follow the fun as they plan their Girl Scout year. 

With the Volunteer Toolkit, girls and leaders can explore meeting topics and program activities together and follow the fun as they plan their Girl Scout year. Through the Volunteer Toolkit, troop leaders can: 

  • Plan the troop’s calendar year and meeting schedule. 
  • Email parents/caregivers with one click. 
  • View the troop roster, renew girls’ membership, and update girls' contact information. 
  • View meeting plans for Journeys and badges, including suggested tracks for multi-level groups (K–5 and 6–12). 
  • View meeting plans for troops that are meeting virtually, including badge work more suitable for virtual meeting.
  • Customize meeting agendas to fit your unique troop. 
  • Explore individual meeting plans that show a breakdown of every step, including a list of materials needed, editable time allotments for each activity within a meeting, and printable meeting aids. 
  • Record girls’ attendance at meetings and their badge and Journey achievements. 
  • Add council or custom events to the troop’s calendar. 
  • Submit your troop’s annual finance reports (due annually on June 15)
  • Easily locate both national and local council resources, such as Safety Activity Checkpoints.  

Parents and caregivers can, using the VTK:  

  • View the troop’s meeting schedule and individual meeting plans to stay up to date on the badges and Journeys girls are working on. 
  • Renew their memberships and update their contact information. 
  • View their Girl Scout’s attendance and achievements. 
  • See upcoming events the troop is planning or attending. 
  • Easily locate both national and local council resources, such as the Family Hub. 
  • View the troop’s annual finance reports

Get started by logging into the Volunteer Toolkit!

The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting
What does it mean to be a go-getting Girl Scout? It’s all in The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting. These grade level-specific binders will help you break it down for your girls. It’s part handbook, part badge book, and 100 percent fun!

Daisy
Brownie
Junior
Cadette
Senior
Ambassador

Safety Activity Checkpoints
Safety is paramount in Girl Scouting, and this resource—Safety Activity Checkpoints —contains everything you need to know to help keep your girls safe during a variety of exciting activities outside of their regular Girl Scout troop meetings.

Tips for Troop Leaders
When you’re looking for real-world advice from fellow troop leaders who've been there, this volunteer-to-volunteer resource on the Girl Scouts of the USA website has what you need for a successful troop year.

Girl Scout Volunteers in Your Community
Remember that Girl Scout support team we mentioned? You’ll find them in your service unit! Troops are organized geographically into service units or communities. You’ll find a local network of fellow leaders and administrative volunteers ready to offer tips and advice to help you succeed in your volunteer role.

Customer Care Contact
Our Customer Care team is ready to assist you! We will do our best to answer questions, connect you to specific staff members and help you find important resources. Email us at customercare@girlscoutsGSGCNWI.org, call 1-855-ILOVEGS (855-456-8347) ext. 6313 or chat with us online from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Just click on the Chat Now button!

To inform us of an emergency situation after regular business hours, please call 877-870-5823.

Newsletters/Communication
To stay connected with our council and updated on important news, special events, and experiences for girls of all ages, visit our website.

For more relevant information and updates from GSGCNWI, make sure the email address listed in your MyGS profile is current and that you’re opted in to receiving our emails.

We post member stories, program updates, and pertinent information on the GSGCNWI blog­­–– subscribe to keep up!

Follow Us on Social Media
Stay in touch with the GSGCNWI community by following us social media! Ask us questions, share your Girl Scout stories, and learn all about amazing opportunities and experiences for you AND your girls!

Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn

Taking Advantage of Learning Opportunities

We know that when you have the knowledge and skills you need to manage your girls, both you and your troop will thrive. GSGCNWI offers ongoing learning opportunities that will help you grow your skills and confidence.

Access training and resources on the Volunteer Learning Portal.

Our council is proud to offer online trainings and events that empower volunteers with the knowledge, skills and confidence to deliver fun, safe and meaningful Girl Scout experiences. Visit our website to learn more.

The resources on our Volunteer Resources page will also come in handy during your first Girl Scout year and beyond.

Knowing How Much You’re Appreciated

Whatever your volunteer position, your hard work means the world to girls, to Girl Scouts of the USA, and to us Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. We’re calling on all members of society to help girls reach their full potential, and you’ve answered that call. So thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!

Just as you’ll receive support throughout your volunteering experience, when you reach the end of the term you signed up for, you’ll talk with your support team about the positive parts of your experience as well as the challenges you faced, and you’ll discuss whether you want to return to this position or try something new. The end of your troop year, camp season, overseas trip, or series/event session is just the beginning of your next adventure with Girl Scouts!

If you’re ready for more opportunities to work with girls, be sure to let our council support team know how you’d like to be a part of girls’ lives in the future—whether in the same position or in other, flexible ways. Are you ready to lend your skills virtually? Take a trip? Work with girls at camp? Work with a troop of girls as a yearlong volunteer? Share your skills at a council office, working behind the scenes? The possibilities are endless and can be tailored to fit your skills and interests.

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana has many ways to volunteer: leading a troop, facilitating program events, and more. View current volunteer opportunities on our website.

Volunteer Appreciation Month

Without our passionate and dedicated volunteers, there would be no Girl Scouting. That’s why we celebrate National Volunteer Month every April! And get ready to crank up the party as we ring in National Girl Scout Leader’s Day on April 22.

Girl Scouts also celebrates National Volunteer Week, which falls during the third week of April. What can we say—we love our volunteers!

Girl Scout Participation in Activities with Other Scouting Organizations

The decision by Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to open the Boy Scout program to girls has fundamentally altered the nature of the relationship between BSA and Girl Scouts nationally and locally. Local relationships between BSA and Girl Scout councils that have led to partnerships and joint activities in the past may now create certain risks or challenges for Girl Scouts. For this reason, councils are encouraged to avoid joint recruiting and/or joint participation in community events or activities.

Marketplace Confusion
To protect the integrity of the Girl Scout brand and reinforce our programming as unique, girl-only, and best in class, we must ensure that we take care that the activities in which girls participate are exclusive to the Girl Scout program, are safe and girl-led, and are conducted under the appropriate supervision of Girl Scouts. Participation of Girl Scouts in activities with other scouting organizations creates risks to Girl Scouts.

Protecting Use of Girl Scout Materials
Girl Scout materials are intended for the exclusive use of Girl Scouts and are protected as the intellectual property of Girl Scouts of the USA. Materials include but are not limited to: Girl Scout logo, tag lines, and/or program and badge requirements.