Starting Your New Troop-Tips From Veteran Leaders
You’re on your way. You’ve followed our 6 tips for new leaders as best you could and you’re starting to plan the year with your girls and your team of committed adults. Now for that next important question. How are we going to pay for all of this stuff? The troop needs markers, crayons, paper supplies, craft supplies, and so much more. What about their books and uniforms-should the troop or parents buy them? Insignia and badges? The questions and supply lists go on and on and while we promise that Fall Product and Cookie Sales will soon be a big help, your troop needs a plan for the basics now.
We hear you and we’ve got some great tips from volunteers who’ve done it. So take a deep breath, scroll through, and learn from Girl Scout volunteers who survived their first year without breaking the bank as they advise you how to make it all work on a shoestring budget.
- Ask for donations. You can send a basic supply list to troop parents and ask them to donate items to the troop (glue, scissors, crayons, markers) or even specific needs for crafts like extra fabric, pony beads, or things of that nature to help get you started. Encourage parents to pass it to their friends and family members or businesses that they have personal ties to in your area to widen the reach.
- Make uniforms optional! The minimum Girl Scout uniform is the membership pin. While sashes, vests, and insignia are iconic (and adorable) many troops allow parents to choose if they want to buy their daughter a sash or a vest and the basic insignia (including the pin) for their first year. For trips and activities some troops buy/make Girl Scout t-shirts to make spotting their girls easier in large groups. After your first year, revisit this with your girls and parents, show them the costs, and see if they want to use troop funds from product sales to purchase uniforms or save those funds for activities, supplies, and badges.
- Explore your community. There are free programs in most communities if you just know where to look or who to ask. Will the firehouse let your troop tour them as they work on their Safety Award? Does the local park have nature programs for children that can help with the Bugs badge? Seasoned troop leaders in the area are a great resource for finding these gems, so connect with them at a Service Unit meeting or on the GSWO Volunteer Support page to find fun (free) things in your area for your first activities.
- Agree on troop dues. Troop dues are a specific sum that parents or the girls themselves contribute to the troop. They are entirely optional and each troop chooses to have dues and what those dues will be. Talk with your troop (parents and girls) and make an agreement about what dues will be collected and what they’ll be used for so that everyone is on the same page and has ownership of the decision. It can be as simple as collecting $1 per meeting from every girl or asking for a specific amount from each family at the beginning of the troop year (usually between $20-40). One troop that charged $40 in dues every year had a Mother state at their meeting “where else do we get an entire year of activities and good lessons for only $55 ($15 membership, $40 dues)?”
- Share ownership of troop finances. When parents and girls are included in the troop’s finances and understand the income/expenses of the troop, they make better decisions about spending. So let parents/girls know how much badges cost, the amount the troop will make off each cookie box sold, and that if their daughter signs up for the Spookwalk event but doesn’t attend the troop is not refunded the registration fee. The more they know, the better choices everyone can make, and the easier it will be to handle the troop’s finances.
- Borrow key resources (or go digital). Before you buy every girl her very own Daisy Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting ask around. Is there a copy in the local library or at the Girl Scout center you can borrow? Would a bridging Brownie troop let you borrow/have their Daisy 3 Cheers for Animals Journey Adult Guide? Can you access the needed information digitally through the Volunteer Toolkit? While we cherish our Junior Girl Guide from when we were 10, buying all of the books can quickly deplete a first year troop account. If a girl wants one, send her to the council shop to buy her very own.
Does this help with first year money-worries? We hope so! If a member of the troop has financial barriers, remember Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we want every girl to be able to find her wow with us. We offer financial assistance for membership as well as for camps and program events because money should never be what stops a girl from finding her courage, growing her confidence, and building her character!