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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. Here’s how you’ll do that with your troop! 

Your Role as a Volunteer

Without you, the volunteer, Girl Scouting could not happen in western Ohio. THANK YOU for volunteering and investing your time and energy into girls! Your interests and life experiences make you the perfect person to partner with girls, create a safe environment where girls can work together, and each girl can achieve her highest aspirations. Have no doubt: YOU, as a Girl Scout volunteer, are helping girls make a lasting impact on the world.

Girl Scout volunteers have an important responsibility to be excited about everything this opportunity affords you:  a chance to help girls succeed, play a critical role in their lives, and watch them blossom! You also want to be someone who enjoys the activities you’ll be embarking on with the girls—whether you’re volunteering at a camp, working with girls who are traveling, or partnering with girls on a short-term series on a topic that interests you.

As a Girl Scout volunteer, you’ll serve as a partner and role model to girls. You’ll also work closely with a co-volunteer, because two adults must be present at all times when working with girls, and at least one of those volunteers must be female and not related to the other adult. Men can serve as troop volunteers, but an adult female who is not related to the male volunteer must be present at all times. Only in cases of emergency is a girl to be alone with only one volunteer. Remember to also check the adult- to-girl ratios in the ‘Safety’ section in this resource. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and eligible to be an adult member.

Your Responsibilities
Regardless of your volunteer position, all volunteers share the following responsibilities:

  • Accepting and applying the Girl Scout Promise and Law
  • Maintaining your membership with Girl Scouts
  • Facilitating a safe experience for girls
  • Implementing the three program processes and foundational Girl Scouts program
  • Facilitating and partnering with other volunteers, caregivers, and staff to ensure a positive, safe experience for all girls and adults
  • Sharing your knowledge, experience, and skills with an appropriate, positive, and flexible approach
  • Working in partnership with girls so that their activities are girl-led, allow them to learn by doing, and allow for cooperative (group) learning; you’ll also partner with other volunteers and council staff for support and guidance
  • Understanding the Three Keys to Leadership that are the basis of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience: Discover, Connect, and Take Action
  • Overseeing troop funds with honesty, integrity, and careful record-keeping
  • Maintaining a close connection to your service unit support team and council support team
  • Understanding and following all Girl Scouts of Western Ohio and GSUSA volunteer policies and procedures
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. This includes 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 co-leader, as well as with input from the girls and their caregivers.

Use these questions to guide your conversation with your troop committee volunteers or co-leader before discussing these topics with 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 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? Selecting a designated meeting time is at the discretion of you and your co-volunteer(s). If you choose to meet regularly, you will need to decide what day and times work best for the girls, for you, for your co-volunteer(s), and for other adults who will be presenting or mentoring. Will you meet once per week, twice a month, or once a month? Is after-school best for the girls? If yes, can your co-volunteer(s) meet at that time, or will meetings work better in the evenings or on the weekends?

Where to meet can be a bit trickier: A meeting place needs to provide a safe, clean, and secure environment that allows for the participation of all girls. You might consider using meeting rooms at schools, libraries, houses of worship, community buildings, childcare facilities, or local businesses. For teens, you can also rotate meetings at coffee shops, bookstores, and other places that girls enjoy spending time. 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].”

Stuck and need additional support? Contact your council or your service unit support team for help with a troop meeting place. 

The use of private homes and non-public places for meetings and events is discouraged and should rarely occur. Contact Customer Care with any questions. Girl Scouts wants to ensure girls, adults, and assets are always safe and protected. Functions held at private homes and residences are not protected under Girl Scouts insurance, and the organization is not liable for any damage to private property. Girl Scouts encourages the use of public spaces covered by insurance and that have properly outlined safety measures in place in case of emergencies that are in accordance with local and state laws.  

Request for Certificate of Insurance
When reserving a facility, including a troop meeting space, or in developing program plans with community organizations, volunteers may be asked to provide a certificate of insurance to verify Girl Scout liability insurance coverage. Volunteers may submit the Request for Certificate of Insurance form. Certificates will be mailed/faxed directly to the location within two weeks.

If a program provider or other organization requires the signing of a Hold Harmless Agreement, a copy of it will be requested and reviewed by one or more of the following: program and partnership manager, director of regional services, or director of program and partnerships.

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 volunteers. 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 (or three for CSA) 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. There must be two troop leaders registered with each troop.

Multi-Level Troops
We do know that some troops are multi-level and therefore activities need to be age appropriate for each level and we recommend breaking the girls into their different age levels during troop meetings. This will sometimes require more adult volunteers to help manage the different groups. Please contact your staff support person for more ideas and support around multi-level troops.

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.

Girl Scouts is working to translate many of its publications into Spanish. Over time, Girl Scouts will continue to identify members' needs and produce resources to support those needs, including translating publications into additional languages and formats.

Transgender and Non-Binary Youth

Girl Scouts is a single-gender, girl-only centered youth programming environment serving girl youth. Girl Scouts of Western Ohio is committed to inclusion and strives to provide a safe and welcoming environment for transgender girls and their families. This is made possible through partnership and clear expectations between Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, volunteers, and the child and their family.

Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.

Girl Scouts welcomes all adult volunteers and has developed appropriate safeguards regarding roles and responsibilities to ensure that girls receive proper supervision and support.

Inclusion for Individuals with Disabilities
As you think about where, when, and how often to meet with your group, you will find yourself considering the needs, resources, safety, and beliefs of all members and potential members. As you do this, include the special needs of any members who have disabilities, or whose caregivers have disabilities. With this in mind, 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—and many can be ‘unseen’.

As a volunteer, your interactions with girls present an opportunity to improve the way society views girls (and their caregivers) with disabilities. The focus is on a person’s abilities—on what she can do rather than on what she cannot.

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 caregiver. If you are open and honest, it’s likely they will 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 sculptures, 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.
When interacting with a girl with a disability, consider these final tips:
  • Speak directly to her, not through a caregiver 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 (in a normal voice) 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 should be registered as closely as possible to their chronological ages and wear the uniform of that grade level. Make any adaptations for the girl to ongoing activities of the grade level to which the group belongs. Young women with cognitive disorders may choose to retain their girl membership through their 21st year, and then move into an adult membership category.

 

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.

The Volunteer Toolkit 
The Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) is a customizable digital planning tool for troop leaders and co-leaders to easily manage their troop year-round and deliver easy, fun troop meetings. Accessible via desktop and mobile devices, the VTK saves you time and energy all year long, so that you can focus on building the skills in every girl, ensuring she has every opportunity 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. 

Through the Volunteer Toolkit, troop leaders can: 

  • Plan the troop’s calendar year and meeting schedule. 
  • Email 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). 
  • 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 troop’s finance reports (depending on the council’s process). 
  • Easily locate both national and local council resources, such as Safety Activity Checkpoints.  

Caregivers can:  

  • View the troop’s meeting schedule and individual meeting plans to stay up to date on the badges and Journeys they 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 finance report.

Get started by visiting MyGS.

Rallyhood
Meet other Girl Scout volunteers from across western Ohio and southeastern Indiana on Rallyhood, our all-in-one communication and collaboration platform! Get fast answers and feedback from council staff and other volunteers! 

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! 

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, called Tips for Troop Leaders 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. 

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 will now expose our membership enrollment and brand to risks. This may mean that the relationship between a council and its BSA counterpart should fundamentally change.

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. Confusion is in the marketplace regarding the relationship between Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts by the expansion of Boy Scouts to include girls in their programs. Girl Scout participation in Boy Scout activities will increase that confusion and will contribute to the misperception that Girl Scouts has merged, or is somehow interchangable, with Boy Scouts.

Brand
Associating with organizations who do not have a similar brand history, program portfolio, and track record for safety dillutes and tarnishes our brand, and allows Boy Scouts to leverage the reputation of Girl Scouts for their own purposes.


 

 

© Copyright 2009–2020 Girl Scouts of the United States of America. All rights reserved. All information and material contained in Girl Scouts’ Volunteer Essentials guide (“Material”) is provided by Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) and is intended to be educational material solely to be used by Girl Scout volunteers and council staff. Reproduction, distribution, compiling, or creating derivative works of any portion of the Material, or any other use besides noncommercial use as permitted by copyright law, is prohibited unless GSUSA’s explicit, prior authorization is granted in writing. GSUSA reserves the exclusive right in its sole discretion to alter, limit, or discontinue the Material at any time without notice.