Does your Girl Scout troop have a ton of dedicated volunteers? Do you have a waiting list of adults who want to chaperone the next field trip or pick up supplies for the next meeting? Do you have to invent jobs because you have so many parents itching to get in on the troop action? (Official paper towel roll collector, anyone?) For most troops, chances are this probably isn’t the case. If you’re finding yourself worried that you don’t have enough support and can’t do it alone (and you shouldn’t have to!), read on. We’ve got some tips to help you out.
It Takes a Village
When I led my daughter’s Girl Scout troop, I was one of those parents who jumped in feet first, handling much of the troop business myself. It was super fun! But, also super draining. Once I realized that I needed help, I reached out to our troop parents and made a new plan. We now have three troop leaders, two cookie volunteers, one treasurer, and many parents who help as needed. Sharing the load helped prevent leader burn-out, and engaged more family members with our troop, which is going strong in its fifth year. A win-win for everyone!
- Remind your families that Girl Scouts can’t happen without volunteers. If adults in the troop can’t step up to lead a meeting or field trip, the girls will miss out on those experiences.
- Girl Scouts is girl-led, but adults are the ones who teach this to girls. When girls have a dedicated support network of troop adults who are always there to supervise, guide, and cheer them on, they see role models living out the Girl Scout mission, Promise, and Law.
Hold a family meeting to figure out what obstacles are preventing your families from volunteering with the troop, and see if there are ways to get around these barriers. Each Girl Scout troop is different! Put your heads together to find ways that your families can create a system that works for the unique needs of your troop.
- Is childcare for younger siblings during troop meetings getting in the way of parents volunteering? Consider forming a childcare co-op where some parents care for the younger siblings and other parents help with the troop during meetings and events.
- Are busy schedules clogging the volunteer pool? Maybe your adults would prefer to sign up for all the troop meetings for an entire month and then pass the baton to others. Review your calendars and see what openings you can find together.
- Do you have some interested volunteers who don’t feel comfortable leading group activities? Put them in charge of preparing supplies or making field trip reservations. There are volunteer needs that fit everyone’s talents (and comfort levels)!
- Remember, any adult (registered and background checked) can volunteer with your troop. If you’re having trouble convincing parents to volunteer, try widening your search to grandparents, other relatives, friends, and neighbors.
Ask, Ask, Ask
It’s easy for your troop families to assume that everything’s fine if no one ever asks them to step up and help. You may be surprised at how many parents are just waiting to be asked!
- Set up a regular system for communicating like text messages, emails, or a closed group on social media (like on Facebook). If families are aware of what’s happening in the troop, they’ll be more likely to chip in and help. Update your families about badges their girls are earning, upcoming field trips, etc., and how many volunteers you’ll need to make these activities happen.
- Be specific with your ask. Some parents will balk if you request volunteers (“Help with what?”), but will say “Yes!” to a specific task (“Can you pick up snacks for our meeting next week?”).
Being a troop leader is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have—and we want you to be in Girl Scouts for the long run! Behind every leader is a great team. You are not alone! It can take a little time and effort to find that team, but in the end, it’s all worth it.
Catherine Mandle – Catherine is a Volunteer Resource Specialist at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She was a Girl Scout as a child, has been a Girl Scout troop leader, and now mentors her daughter on her Girl Scout Juliette path. She has dual bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in anthropology and American Indian studies. Catherine has two children with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and food allergies. She loves to knit, and camps and hikes with her family as often as possible.