Congratulations. You volunteered to be a Girl Scout leader. All the other parents are so happy (or relieved) and the girls are dancing around the room in excitement. Everything is awesome. Then as you leave the parking lot you have THE MOMENT. What moment? The “oh what have I gotten myself into” moment. Don’t worry, it’s normal. Every leader has that moment. Take a deep breath, you can do this! And because we’ve all been there, here are six tips from veteran leaders to help you thrive in your new role.
- Meet the Parents– Everything you do during your term as a scout leader may revolve around the girls but they come attached to families who have expectations and resources. So don’t forget about them when you’re just starting out. Schedule a parent meeting where you can find out if the parents of your scouts have a special skill that would be valuable to share. Perhaps someone works at an interesting place that would be a great field trip or has a connection for the perfect meeting location. The better you get to know your parents the more you will learn about resources available to you, the involvement level the family expects to have in the troop, and it’ll help you better understand the girls.
- Form a Team– The most successful troops have a core group of adults that help make the magic possible. Those parents you met? Some of them will make excellent team members. Make sure to make your requests specific, instead of “I need help” say “I need help with snack at our next meeting” or “I need chaperones and drivers for our field trip to the zoo”. It’s much easier to get people to volunteer the first time if they know what they’re volunteering to do. And if they (and their daughter) have fun, they’ll be back for more!
- Use Your Resources– Worried you don’t know enough about Girl Scouts? It’s okay. You aren’t expected to know everything right away. We have resources to help you learn what you need, such as Training (Girl Scouting 101, Lodge and Troop Camp Training, and age level trainings), a Troop Start-Up Guide, and Volunteer Essentials all at your fingertips here. Still have questions? Our customer care staff can help, give them a call at 888-350-5090. Attending your local volunteer meeting is also a great place to learn from other volunteers’ experiences. If you don’t know when that is for your area, ask the community engagement staff at your regional office.
- Be Careful Not to Compare– There will always be another volunteer or troop who look like they have it together all the time. Don’t make the mistake of comparing your troop to theirs. Girl Scouts is not a competition and each troop (and leader) has great moments and epic fails. Even the perfect troop has a story about a day when they set their tents up in a low lying area and an overnight rainstorm flooded the tents. Or the time the leader arrived at a meeting and realized she’d left crucial supplies at her house. Nobody is perfect, so embrace your imperfections, learn from mistakes, and keep moving forward (just as you’d tell the girls to do).
- Involve the Girls- Our organization is girl-led because when girls are given the opportunity to lead amazing things happen. And we all need a little amazing in our lives, right? So get the girls involved in the planning from the beginning and as they grow older and more capable keep handing over more and more of the troop planning, finances, and organization to them. You’ll be surprised what they can accomplish when given opportunities by a leader who believes in them.
- Have Fun– Remember that Girl Scouts should be fun for both the girls and the volunteers. While we are always advocates for having Fun with Purpose and building Leadership, it’s okay to plan an activity that is just fun. Chances are whatever game, craft, or activity the girls take part in they’re going to come out of it with their relationships strengthened and their confidence in themselves boosted.
Feeling better about your decision to volunteer? Are you ready to be the role model she’ll always remember? We certainly hope so. Thank you for stepping up to lead and helping girls build courage, confidence, and character. Together, we’ll make the world a better place!