What’s the magic number? If we’re talking about the average size of a successful troop, then that number is eight to twelve girls. Research conducted by Girl Scouts of the USA shows that this is the “sweet spot” for a good-sized troop. As troop leaders, thinking about how many girls you’d like to have in your troop can be a bit of an afterthought. Between organizing regular troop meetings, sending Doodle polls about when to head to camp, and tallying up cookie orders, this seemingly small detail can be easily overlooked. But troop size is important—seasoned leaders keep troop size in mind during big-picture planning because it factors into the vitality and sustainability of a troop for many years to come. Let’s look into the whys and hows of growing your troop.
A Numbers Game
After collecting data and feedback from a national survey sent to troop leaders, GSUSA reported that troops with eight to twelve girls had the most success in a given Girl Scout year. Why? This group size is small enough to enable girls to form deep relationships, but not so small that troop meetings end up as glorified playdates if a few girls can’t make it to that month’s meeting. It’s also large enough to give girls the opportunity to learn how to work cooperatively and with different personalities, but not so large that meetings and events devolve into chaos.
If you’re a first-time troop leader, your first instinct might be to err on the side of caution and cap your troop at a more manageable number, like five or six girls. I get this! Last year was my first year as a Daisy troop leader, and our troop only had three girls. That seems more doable, I thought. But between illnesses and scheduling conflicts, we only had one meeting with all three girls in attendance. With more girls, you have a buffer—even if some girls can’t attend, you still have enough to hold a robust troop meeting. This year, our troop merged with another troop at our elementary school, and we now have nine Daisies. I can already see that the girls are benefitting more from this true group experience. Everyone still receives individual attention, but the girls have also become more self-sufficient and more likely to practice leadership skills when the volunteer-to-girl ratio isn’t so unbalanced, i.e. two adults to three girls.
That being said, of course you can have a troop with more than eight to twelve girls! Larger troops will require more support from additional volunteers—this isn’t just for your own sanity, it’s also to keep in line with Safety-Wise volunteer-to-girl ratios. If a larger troop sounds like something up your alley, we have a few tips and tricks for leading one.
Open Up Your Troop
It’s never too late to welcome more girls into your troop! Families who didn’t express interest at the beginning of the year, or were simply too busy to sign up, might be looking for a home for their Girl Scout now. Make sure your troop is listed in our online troop catalog so that families can find you as they weigh options for their girl (The more details you can provide in your troop description, the better!). Check out our expansion resources, like printable invites and fliers, that you can use to spread the word about your troop. Connect with your service unit’s recruiter or manager to let them know that you’re open to new girls.
As more girls join your troop, use ice breakers to introduce new girls to your established troop and remind everyone of the line in the Promise: Be a sister to every Girl Scout (Especially when that sister is at her first Girl Scout meeting!). And whatever your troop size, it’s always a good idea to have some trusty group management techniques at the ready, and different ways to ask for help from families.
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Daisy troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!).