By: Randi Havlak, Membership Development Executive for San Angelo
The start of the school year is a busy time for troop leaders. Before you hold your first troop meeting with girls, consider the support and resources you’ll need throughout the year. Parents, friends, family, and other members of the community can provide time, experience, and ideas to a troop, so get them involved from the very beginning as part of your volunteer troop team for the year. This team is made up of troop leaders (like you) and other troop volunteers.
Building (or continuing to engage) your troop team starts with inviting the caregivers of the girls in your troop to be part of the process. An annual Caregiver Support Meeting allows you to set expectations for what the troop will be doing and explain how caregivers will be involved. This sample meeting agenda will help you prepare for a successful meeting. Start off by defining your goal for the meeting and be ready to tell your story. Show the adults in your troop the larger purpose of Girl Scouts and how it can add to their family’s life. This allows you to inspire caregivers to help you out when needed.
On the day of your Caregiver Support Meeting, personally welcome all parents and guardians as they arrive – this helps everyone get to know you. Have participants sign in and provide their contact info on the sign-in sheet. To set the tone for the meeting, also have caregivers wear a name tag, as this helps participants get to know each other and to build trust and familiarity among the group. Be sure to introduce your co-leaders and other adults who have already volunteered to help lead the troop. You can also plan an activity for parents/guardians to introduce themselves to one another.
To help caregivers understand how they can be involved, provide defined, purposeful tasks for which they can volunteer – example roles can range from leading badge work or community service projects to becoming the Fall Product Coordinator or Cookie Coordinator. As makes sense, you can divide tasks between a cohort group. For example, the Troop Cookie Coordinator role can be split between a couple of people so that peer groups can form. People like doing things with others and this helps them feel more connected to the troop. Personally approach caregivers to ask them to help with these specific troop tasks and have a sign-up sheet ready at your parent meeting. Did you know that when you ask someone directly for support, studies show that 85% of people will volunteer to help? Don’t be afraid to ask for support!
“I assign roles to adults at troop meetings so people aren’t just sitting around. Also, I like to share the fun of planning meetings by involving adults with being in charge of certain portions of badge work or another chunk of activity that they can lead,” said Camille Yale from Troop 5130.
“Three times a year, I put out a four-month calendar of meeting dates and ask that families sign up to help. I rarely have an empty date. We calculate how many adults will be necessary for the meeting or event. If we don’t get the number of adults needed, the event is cancelled. After just one event cancellation, the girls apply pressure so that it does not happen again,” said a Girl Scout troop leader.
“My six-year experience as a leader and service unit team member has taught me that parents do want to be involved. Ask them – personally – to be a part of the troop. Remember that parents are not psychic. Ask what they are interested in and see if you can incorporate those interests into your troop’s activities,” said another Girl Scout troop leader.
Ultimately, people want a purpose when they volunteer and like to see their time as valuable like any other asset they have. Most of us are motivated by peers and see our lives, work, volunteering, activism, and personal lives as the whole puzzle picture not separate pieces.
Creating a Troop Leader/Caregiver Agreement is helpful to hold parents and guardians accountable to their role on the troop team and living up to shared expectations for the group. You can have caregivers pair up and use a template to help guide the development of their agreement. Have the groups report out and see what the most common expectations or plans they can agree on. Below are some easy steps you can follow.
Step 1: Discuss and Decide
- Dream – In a perfect world what will their Girl Scouts to get out of the program?
- Develop – Brainstorm ways to help reach the dream
- Discuss – Collaborate and remain realistic on the expectations
Step 2: Evaluate and Edit
- Is it necessary? – Marie Kondo-it, will it spark joy to execute or will it be a chore
- Is it fair and reasonable? – Again, remain realistic to time commitments and expectations
- Is it clearly understood by all? – Make sure everyone is on the same page and don’t let things get lost in translation
Step 3: Publish and Parade
- Refer to it often – when expectations aren’t being met, refer back to the agreement
- Post it and make it public – Out of sight, out of mind! Keeping it at the forefront will help
- Review annually – This will help the troop evaluate what works well for the troop
Ideally, you will have more volunteers by the end of the meeting. If caregivers can’t commit to larger volunteer roles, they can become “Troop Friends and Family” members who can help when you need an extra set of hands for activities. Often adults start in a Troop Friends and Family role if they want to be involved but aren’t sure they can commit to a committee or leader role.
Don’t forget! All adults volunteering with the troop – in little or small roles – must become Girl Scout members and must pass a criminal background check (CBC) and be approved. Interested volunteers should be guided to the Join or Volunteer buttons at www.gsctx.org.
Above everything, parents love people who love their kids! Investing in the girls and finding positive things to say to caregivers about their girls works like a piggy bank. The more troop leaders put into the bank by getting to know the family and learning to invest in the girl, the more the caregiver will step up and contribute in meaningful ways.
We hope these tips help you engage more parents and guardians in your troop to help the girls experience all of the wonderful things Girl Scouts has to offer. Now you’re ready for a great year and we can’t wait to hear all of the amazing things your Girl Scout troop will accomplish. We’re here to help! You can visit our Volunteer Resource page for more information and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help.