I’m pretty new to scouting. I wasn’t a Girl Scout when I was young, but my daughter wanted to join, so I signed up as the troop leader. Because I’m crazy.
Anyway, it turns out that being a Daisy Scout leader – or I’d imagine being a new leader of any level – is the most maddening process ever.
If you’re thinking of jumping aboard the crazy train and taking this mess on, here are some tips for new leaders that I’ve learned over the last few months to help you get started.
1.) Get trained ASAP. Because the trainers will probably flake out and cancel your training at least once. There is basically 3 steps to becoming a leader: Paperwork, online training, face-to-face training.
2.) Know that by training, they don’t actually mean training. You will not learn anything remotely useful during training. There are 5,284 rules in Girl Scouts, none of which are even remotely enforced. Training would be about 1,000 times more useful if they actually trained you on what to do with the kids, not what you can’t do.
3.) Get your bank letter ASAP. It takes a while. Get your bank account set up as soon as humanly possible so you can minimize out of pocket expenses. Put your own dues in first so you have something to work with.
4.) Aim high on dues. Like really high. We did $30 a girl and I’m wishing it was $40. Of the $30, $10.50 per girl has already gone towards petal badges and membership pins. I bought birthday badges out-of-pocket before we had a bank account. Theoretically, I should have $19.50 left per girl for supplies, but not all the girls have paid their dues yet. They still needed patches, pins and supplies for crafts, so the bank account is looking pretty low right now.
On top of that, the parents didn’t get all of the required uniform components, so we’re looking at spending more from troop funds to “finish off” their uniforms.
5.) Over communicate with parents. I can’t say this enough. When I told the parents to get the uniforms and listed out what they needed, I should have also given them a handout and a follow-up email. Perhaps a diagram too. I think we only had 1 parent get EVERYTHING on the uniform. Council didn’t help – the women at the store told parents the troops were responsible for insignia tabs and world trefoil pins which I did not take into account when setting dues, so the parents are expecting another $5.50 worth of uniform items per girl, which brings down our supplies budget even more.
The same communication rule applies to meetings. I don’t care if you meet the 2nd Thursday of every month, parents won’t know when to show up. Give them a handout with meeting dates. Email them. Text them. Post it on your troop’s Facebook page.
6.) Fall in love with Pinterest. If your local council and local troop leaders are as helpful as mine, you’ll have zero help getting started. It’s like getting thrown into the deep end of a pool when you don’t know how to swim. Luckily, some very wonderful troop leaders have put plenty of activity ideas on Pinterest to help you run your meetings smoothly.
7.) Find your happy place. Things will go wrong. Girls won’t show up, parents will have unreasonable demands, the power might go out. There’s a million ways your meetings might not work out the way you think. Be flexible, find your happy place and let it go. If every girl doesn’t earn every petal, that’s not a reason to have a meltdown.
Remember that you’re a volunteer. If the parents don’t like how you’re running the show (you’ll run into this at least once, I guarantee it), you need to hold firm. I had one mother that wanted the meeting date and time changed before her daughter even joined! I told her no – because at the end of the day, I picked a day and time that worked for me and I’m the one volunteering my time, not her.