\ All Things Girl Scouts: What should a NEW leader know? Part 2

September 2, 2016

What should a NEW leader know? Part 2

Girl Scout 

Being a Girl Scout is something you DO, and it is an EXPERIENCE that no girl should miss!

My posts thus far have largely been cultivated from my own on the job training, and gained knowledge, as well as research I have done online and in person.  *I* decided to try something a little bit different.  I created a google form, and asked leaders across the nation to contribute to it.  It had four (4) questions.  They were:
  • What is the #1 thing you wish you knew as a new leader?
  • What kind of leader resources would you find most useful?
  • What is something you want to ask other leaders anonymously?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to note here?
I received over 100 GREAT responses to this and am compiling them for general use for new leaders, seasoned leaders - really any volunteer that is looking for answers. THIS particular post is going to be what new leaders should know - part 1. 

The first season of scouting as a leader can be very hard.  I spent my entire girlhood as a girl scouts, and still was completely unprepared for the politics between moms, with dealing with difficult guardians, with knowing what exactly the service unit or council was there for - a slew of things.  So I want you to know - when you are there, in the trenches, and its not the unicorns and butterflies you imagined, there are many many MANY seasoned leaders out there that are rooting for you, cheering for you, and standing behind you.  We all want you to succeed.

Some answers were repeated time and time again by seasoned leaders, and I will highlight that when discussing those points!  Here is the next couple of items that ALL new leaders should know!
  1. How much I will come to love each of my girls.
    1. I LOVE this sentiment.  There are a lot of really cool parts about scouts - truly.  You get to help mold little minds into wonderful young women, and celebrate all of their achievements with them.  Often times, you meet GREAT mom friends (and I speak from the heart.  The five women I am closest to outside of family in this world are all moms of my current or former scouts.)  But the real jewels are the lovely young women you meet.  They have a way of finding themselves a place in your heart, and sticking there.  Enjoy it!
  2. How to get parents to respond to emails in a timely manner...or at all.
    1. This is one of the great questions of girl scouts.  Communication with parents is almost always a struggle in the beginning, and sometimes even after that.  In a day and age where communication is at our fingertips, and we can text/email/snap/call/facebook/[insert one of many other ways to communicate] almost instantly, it can be INSANELY frustrating trying to foster and preserve a good method of communication with your parents.  
    2. There are a GREAT many of ways to communicate with your parents. 
      1. A private facebook group - This works if you have younger parents who are tech savvy or invested in facebook. 
      2. A google group - This is another option for a group setting where your parents can post questions and interact with you, without feeling forced to be on facebook.
      3. Remind - this is an app that teachers use to communicate with parents - it lets you send out a mass text, but when people respond, the responses only come to you.
      4. Shutterfly - This is a share site that a lot of teams/troops/classrooms use.  You can post reminders, calendars, etc on it.
      5. GroupMe - This is a text app that you can use online or on your phone.  It is basically like a small private chat room or forum.  It allows for direct messaging, as well as being able to share photos and videos.
      6. Rallyhood - Rallyhood is used by a LOT of councils and can be a very effective way to communicate.  You can coordinate calendars, share photos, split up tasks, etc.
      7. Teamapp - This is an app used by many troops and teams.  It is basically a platform that helps you create a smartphone app that works for your group.  You can post schedules, reminders, push notifications, etc.
      8. Scoutlander - This is a very popular tool for both girl scouts and boy scouts.  You can post calendars, blast emails, post photos and more. 
      9. TroopTrack - This is a VERY comprehensive tool.  You can post schedules, rosters, record attendance, communicate and more.  The BIGGEST thing to note with this one is that there is a $100 yearly fee to use it.  It does off a 30 day trial, but it is a hefty fee to utilize this tool.
      10. Email - Snail mail of the 21st century.  Theoretically, everyone should have access to this, and be able to use it.  
    3. I have tried some of these, and my parents are definitely NOT all on the same page.  Facebook worked well with my last troop, but not this one.  Email is something we seem to fail at as a group.  Google groups was to email-y for my parents.  I *think* we are going to try Team App this year - I really like that you can send push notifications, so that's a huge draw for me!

      Have you tried one or more of these? Please share your experience with them in the comments - the more info we share, the more resources we have!
  3. I wish I knew where to start.
    1. Well.  Girlfriend. We all do. This was, hands down, the most common comment for what a new leader should know - where to start.  THANKFULLY - this blog is shaping up to be a great place to start (after your council training.)  There are a lot of GREAT resources here and I post more as I find or create them!  Here is a list of things you may find helpful in your early days:
      1. Sample Parent Letter for the First Meeting
        • A letter to hand out to your parents that will go over all of the ins and outs of girl scouts and your troop.
      2. Code of Conduct
        •  Laying out a code of conduct at the beginning of the year gives everyone a firm set of expectations.
      3. How to Plan Meetings
        • A guide on how to plan meetings, coupled with two free templates for your use!
      4. What should NEW leaders know? Part 1
        • Helpful information for new and seasoned leaders.
    2. There will also be a post soon dedicated to this very topic - keep your eyes peeled!  There will be a post dedicated to this posted to the blog on September 3rd, 2016.
  4. How to set rules, from dues to cookies, and trips, from day one.
    1. This is important.  I don't care HOW you do it - just please please PLEASE do it.  This is something I learned the hard hard HARD way.  When I first became a troop leader, I was SO excited.  I was not given much support from my council in terms of recruiting, but I knew I needed more than just my daughter in my troop.  So I busted my butt to recruit (and there will be a post on this as well in the coming days!)  And in about a month, I had a sweet little troop of about 9 girls.  I didn't have a lot of guidelines.  I was pretty lax.  And here's why.  *I'M* a decent person.  I can read.  I am involved in my kid's life and extracurriculars.  I read emails and due dates.  I'm pretty responsible when it comes to my kids.  So I just assumed (you know what assuming does) that my troop parents and guardians would be similar.

      And halfway into the year, I was at the end of my rope, unsure what to do and how to proceed because I had not given my parents many expectations, and the few I did, I was lenient with.  Some parent's were like me - no issues.  Some were not.  One began to see me as a free sitting service - she went so far as to assume I would watch her child on school holiday without speaking to me.  One failed to let me know about some struggles her child had - and she dropped her girl off at a sleepover without letting me know that her girl had behaviors such as stealing.  And that is a hard thing to deal with when you have no heads up.  One parent demanded that myself and my co leader transport her daughter to meetings because she couldn't drive - she lived 2 blocks away.  One guardian legit got in my face, during a meeting, and raised her voice at me, telling me that she would turn product money in when she wanted, rather than when it was due.  In this time, when you are so excited to plan your year, USE ALL THE RESOURCES YOU HAVE, and be succinct in your expectations - give them clear expectations and be firm, and *most* will automatically just fall into doing it *your way.*  See #3 for resources, and a post dedicated to this will be posted on the blog on September 4th, 2016.
  5. How to actually have meetings.
    1. The best thing to remember here is that there is no one right way to have a meeting.  The FIRST thing you need to do is secure a meeting place.  Sometimes your council can help you with this, but more likely you will be on your own to secure a meeting place.  Here are some places that other leaders have found are great places to meet:
      1. School
      2. Church
      3. Community Center
      4. Some Chik-Fil-A plaecs will allow free use of their meeting rooms
      5. Library
      6. Service Unit or Council center
      7. American Legion Center
      8. Leader's home - many council's discourage this - it's probably best for this to be a last resort. 
    2. The next thing to do is to determine when you are having your meetings, and go through the appropriate channel to obtain proper permission for your troop, then contact your parents.  And get planning!
    3. Meeting planning isn't easy, but it isn't hard.  You can find a great post on the parts of a meeting here, and how to plan your meeting.
  6. That fundraising doesn't truly fund your troop.
    1. This one is specific to your troop.  I am here to tell you, that fundraising can ABSOLUTELY fund your troop, 100% of the time.  I've been a leader 3 years now, and I have not charged my parents dues, nor have I made a habit of reaching into my own pocket.   You DO have to be creative about this though. I will say - the second council I was in, I found this much easier, simply because they provided us with $25 to start our troop.  However, even without start up funds, you be really be successful.  Let me share some of the things we do to offset or alleviate the cost. 
      1. FIRST thing we do each year - We created this as an activity to do as part of our Clover petal, since her standard is using resources wisely.  Here is a breakdown on how exactly we do it, but basically its an at home scavenger hunt.  My co leader and I make a list of the materials we need for the year, or first half of the year, and we give each girl a portion of the list - the list in my example we split 3 ways and then had 9 girls, so each portion of the list went with 3 girls.  That's fine since not every girl will have every item.  This really inspires a sense of respect for the items that your troop has, since many of the girls can remember when the item was personally theirs or their households.  
      2. The next thing I will speak to are the events your troop does.  There are a LOT of awesome events that your council, and service unit will sponsor.  There are a lot of local things you can do - such as scout programs at museums and such.  These things all cost money, and so personally, with a new troop, I do these events in the second half of the year, after fall product sales, OR I speak with the parents and let them know it would be self pay.  That does not mean we don't do events in the first half of the year, though.  We do LOTS of things.  I love to scour the local activity pages - think your tourism sites, trip advisor, local event calendars, and school sponsored activities.  IF YOU NEED HELP OR DIRECTION IN THIS AREA, PLEASE EMAIL ME - I WILL HELP YOU FIND THE APPLICABLE SITES FOR YOUR AREA.  

        Some of the other events we do are tours of local government, police or fire stations, and something I did with my first troop of daisy's - that I loved, they loved, the community loved and parents loved was career day, once a month.

        Career day was with a different female professional in some capacity.  I sat with my girls, and asked them for a list of things they would like to do when they grew up.  These things spanned from check out girl to business owner.  And then I set about finding real women in these positions to speak to my girls.  I have never paid ANYONE to do this, and I basically ask them to spend 45 mins to an hour with my girls, talking to them about their career, the path they took to get there, and answer questions.  The community responds to this in a HUGE way.  And I mean HUGE.  We have seen many professionals over the years, but the most memorable were:
        1. Flight Instructor
          1. This was just cool all around - she was this very empowered, young woman who was in a field that we don't encounter on a regular basis.
        2. Director of Marketing
          1. This was fun because she really related it to a level the girls could understand.
        3. Vet
          1. This was one of THE COOLEST.  There was a female vet that invited us to her clinic.  She had her female assistants stay, and they set up the entire clinic with stuffed animals to simulate real things - an xray, getting weighed, on the surgical table, complete with IV, etc.  They went through and shared information about all parts of being a veterinarian.
        4. Police Canine Officer and her canine partner
          1. Hands down, the coolest woman that came to see us.  She was the first female canine officer in our area and she was so cool lol.  She came in alone, and talked with my girls about her position as an officer, and her path she took to get there.  Then she segued into the department starting a canine department and how she became involved with that.  Then she took like little black walky talky looking thing out and explained that it checked the status of her vehicle - whether it was running, doors were open, the temperature - and told the girls it was to keep her dog safe.  Then she went and got her partner, and did a demo with him.  She only does 2 of these a year, so we were very blessed that she chose to share with us. 
        5. Scientist
          1. *I* thought this one was very cool.  My husband is a scientist, and his superior at the time was female.  She was amazing - she planned experiments, brought supplies, and was a mom as well, so she was very able to get on the girls level.
        6. Kindergarten Teacher
          1. My girls really loved this one because this was one of their teachers - and they thought it was pretty cool to see her outside of school.
        7. Accountant
          1. This was cool because she had a lot of hands on activities for the girls to do.
        8. Judge
          1. The girls enjoyed this, and we got to go to the court house and view the judges chambers.
        9. Council Women
          1. Local politics were not discussed, but the ins and outs of her job as well as how she can promote and encourage and inspire change.
        10. Stay at home mom
          1. I found this particularly interesting.  Some of my parents - moms even, were pretty adamant that this was not a *real* job, and it didn't really have any skills of merit.  However, the girls found it pretty eye opening to see the amount of work, organization, and dedication that went into running a household and raising children.

  7. You cannot please everyone.  There will always be someone who doesn't get the message, and you have to learn to realized that it is there problem - not yours. 
    1. Self explanatory.  But make this part of your mantra. Repeat it often.  Work hard. be dedicated.  Do your best. LET THAT BE ENOUGH.
That's all for today's post.  It is only PART 2 of what leader's should know, and there will be more to come.  Definitely check out PART 1, as well!  I hope, as a new leader, you found this information useful.  I hope more seasoned leaders read along, nodding and also found something useful here.  If you have anything to add, or a different method for any of this, please comment on this thread and SHARE!

Remember - Girls can do anything they set their minds to...especially when given the right opportunities!

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