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How to Start a Girl Scout Troop

Parents and community members make a key difference in the lives of girls by guiding them through the Girl Scout experience!

At Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI), we want leading a troop to be a great time, which is why we'll support you every step of the way.

Why Start A Girl Scout Troop?

It's simple. Today, perhaps more than ever, girls need unique and rewarding life experiences to help them grow to be confident, courageous, resilient adults in a complicated world. 

By volunteering to be a positive adult role model and life coach in girls’ lives, you can make a lasting impact.

That’s the secret to our success. We believe in girls and what they can do, and we surround them with caring adults who help them learn to value themselves and others, and take action to make their world a better place.

What Do I Need to Know to Get Started?

Let’s set the record straight with some basic facts about being a Girl Scout troop leader.

  • Any adult, male or female, age 18 and older may volunteer as a troop leader. You do not have to be a parent; you can be an aunt, uncle, grandparent, college student, or retired professional who wants to give back by mentoring girls.

  • Girl Scouting has contemporary content, ample resources, and fun events in place to give you options for troop activities. Our guiding principle is that girls need to be part of the process of selecting what those activities are.

    Adults who understand our emphasis on girl-led decision making, and who are flexible and patient as they work with the girls, have the greatest levels of satisfaction with their experiences as a troop leader. And the girls do, too!

  • Make it fun! Yes, we want you to have fun, too. Ask friends and neighbors to join you. The more support you have, the more fun you will have.

  • We provide convenient, online trainings to fit your schedule. 

  • We also provide online activity plans so you don't have to spend hours preparing for a meeting. It’s all there for you.

  • The frequency and day/time of your troop meetings is up to you. If you work full-time and juggle family commitments, you can certainly still be a troop leader. Just set expectations upfront with the girls and their parents. 

Our staff are here when you need us because we are grateful for your involvement. Call, email, or visit us when you have questions. We have lots of great ideas and tips for working with girls at every grade level!

Common Questions About Leading Girl Scouts

Now that you have agreed to be a troop leader, you likely have questions. Here are a few of the most frequent questions we hear:

How much time will I need?

Being a troop leader can fit with anyone’s schedule. We recommend that troops meet twice per month, and you can choose the meeting day, time, place, and frequency.

Current leaders report spending about four hours preparing for and leading each meeting, though a growing library of online resources make it easier now for busy adults to plan troop activities.

What if I don’t know anything about Girl Scouting?

Honestly, there is no prerequisite. You do not have to be a Girl Scout alumna to volunteer as a troop leader. All you need is the desire to affect change in girls lives – and maybe you'll change your own in the process! You will learn everything you need to know along the way. And, don’t forget that you’ll also have a co-leader who will bring complementary skills and experiences to share.

We do not measure the success of a Girl Scout experience in terms of how many badges are earned. If the girls are smiling, making friends, learning new skills, and trying four to five different types of experiences throughout the year (providing service to others, earning badges, taking trips, exploring the outdoors, etc.), then you are doing a great job! 

What support or help is available?
  • Assistant Leaders: Each troop has at least two unrelated leaders, so other adults will be volunteering with you. It’s certainly fun when you invite another parent or friend you already know to serve with you, or we will help connect you with an Assistant Leader.

  • Training: We provide online, in-person, and on-demand trainings you can fit into your schedule!

  • Online Activity Plans: We provide detailed, online activity plans in our Volunteer ToolKit (VTK) so you don't have to spend hours preparing for a meeting. It’s all there for you.

  • Dedicated Support Teams: As a troop leader, you’ll have access to our dedicated volunteer support and troop support teams for guidance whenever you need it, as well as a robust social media network.
How much will it cost me?

Let’s start with the basics. Every member (girl and adult) pays a national membership fee of $25. Financial assistance is available for those who may consider that amount a hardship. 

Beyond that, every troop has the flexibility to decide how to build and spend their troop treasury to support the range of activities the girls would like to do. 

Here’s what we recommend:

  • Schedule a parent meeting before you schedule your first troop meeting. Explain that the troop has a variety of ways to build up its funds to support its activities throughout the year. Ask for their support.

  • Some troop leaders ask every girls’ family to contribute a reasonable amount of “start-up money” at the beginning of the year that is deposited into the troop’s bank account. That dollar amount might range from $10 - $50 per family. This will give the troop leader some financial resources to use to purchase program activity supplies, badges, snacks, and more at the beginning of the year.

  • Girls learn real-world business skills when they earn most of the troop’s treasury themselves. They can earn dollars for the troop when they participate in our fall product and Girl Scout Cookie programs. For each item the girls sell, the troop receives a portion of the proceeds. Most troops build the majority of their activity money through their participation in the Girl Scout Cookie program.

  • The troop can make its own decisions about whether parents buy the girls’ uniform components (which are optional, but a source of great pride for girls), purchase the badges the girls earn, and offset the costs of more elaborate trips and outings. Typically, younger girl troops earn and spend less than those in middle school and high school.

  • Money should never be the reason that a girl cannot participate in Girl Scouts. In addition to earning their own money for the troop through the fall product and Girl Scout Cookie programs, GSGCNWI offers financial assistance for girls’ membership, badges, and activities in situations where a family is unable to do so.

Start Your Troop In 7 Easy Steps! 

 Register yourself as a Girl Scout!

You'll need to become a member of Girl Scouts by registering online then successfully completing a background check.

During the registration process, first check for open troop leader positions near you. If you don’t see what you are looking for or would like to start your own troop, click “UNSURE” and indicate that you are interested in starting your own troop in the comments section and see Step 4 below!

The background check process typically takes a few days. While you wait, you can start reviewing the online resources available to you.

Once you’ve registered as a member and are linked to a troop with a leadership position, you’ll gain access to our online Volunteer Toolkit (VTK), event and program resource listings, and much more! 

 Ask your friends to help! 

When you ask a friend or neighbor to join you, you already have great chemistry. That makes leading a troop more fun. Together, you'll need to decide on a meeting location, meeting frequency (day and start time), start date, and what grade level (or levels!) your troop will include. 

A troop needs at least two unrelated, background-checked adults (one of whom must be female) to get started, and most leaders also look for additional volunteers to help throughout the year.

Troops can have more than two leaders, and they typically have additional volunteers to help with the Girl Scout Cookie Program, fall product program, and to assist with snacks, field trips, and other activities. 

Parents/guardians of other girls in your troop are great people to ask to help right from the beginning, although adults from the community might love this opportunity, too. We can help you recruit volunteers for your troop, but people tend to have the most fun with adults they already know in real life. 

 Pick a day, time, and location for troop meetings. 

Start thinking right away about where and when your troop will meet. Contact potential venues now as you complete your Girl Scout registration, background check, and onboarding process.  

Keep in mind: 

Most troops meet twice per month, but you should choose a schedule that works best for you. 

Your meeting space needs to be a safe, clean, and secure environment that allows all girls to participate. Good options include: 

  • Schools 

  • Libraries 

  • Places of worship 

  • Community centers and buildings 

  • Local businesses 

 Set up your new troop. 

Fill out the New Troop Request form to notify us about your interest in starting a new troop. 

 Spread the word! 

It’s never too early to start talking about your new Girl Scout troop. Even while you finish the preliminary details, you can talk to your friends, neighbors, and other families in the community about your plans. The more girls you welcome to your troop, the more adults you will have available to help. An optimal size troop is about 12 girls on average. Use our  Recruitment Resources to help you find girls to fill your troop. 

In addition to your word-of-mouth efforts, any open girl or volunteer spots will be listed in our online Opportunity Catalog so other parents seeking troops for their daughters can sign them up for your openings. 

Our staff will work closely with you to help support the formation of your new troop! 

 Get ready for your first troop meeting. 

Once you receive confirmation of your approval to lead a troop, you'll have the opportunity to attend a welcome session with a staff member or local volunteer who will help you get started on the right foot!

You can also purchase a copy of the Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting, and review meeting plans by visiting the Volunteer Toolkit

 Stay in touch. 

Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter to stay connected to council events and network with other awesome volunteers. 

You are ready to hold your first meeting!