This year, after being told that my 6-year old daughter may not be able to be a Daisy because of a lack of parental volunteers, I stepped up to lead a Girl Scout troop.
Now keep in mind that, in addition to having two children, a husband, a house, a full-time job, a part-time podcast, and other assorted writing gigs, I knew nothing about Girl Scouts. I didn’t even know WHAT a Daisy was (it’s for girls in grades K & 1, before they become Brownies) or what was involved in running a troop.
There is a certain amount of freedom to taking charge of something when you know nothing about it, and people are just grateful that you are helping out. In my case, I decided to take some of the lessons and tools from my job and apply them to our troop – get organized, set a schedule, delegate responsibility and set expectations.
So, for those who have asked, how I have time to run Girl Scouts, this is what I did:
Research, research, research – While the web sites for the Girl Scouts and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts were a good place to start, I found great information, organization tips and activity ideas on web sites developed by troops throughout the country. (See links at the end of this post for some of my favorite). These sites helped me get up to speed quickly and start to form some ideas for how we could be organized.
Recruit – I knew that I would not be able to organize every activity and every meeting, so it was essential that I find some like-minded mommies to join my troop. Through a friend I met my co-leader, then also identified three other moms to serve as treasurer and “facilities coordinator” (meaning she is in charge of finding our meeting space); cookie mom and International Day mom. Each was selected because I knew they were busy and willing to share the load. But note, I didn’t fill our troop – I still left room for 7 other children to join the troop.
I also was lucky enough to find a local teenager and experienced Girl Scout who was interested in helping at each meeting (great for community service & college applications).
Plan – We decided we were going to meet the first and third Tuesdays of the month, in the evening so those of us with jobs could make meeting. With a list of activities and petals we were going complete, I set the schedule for the WHOLE YEAR. (See “Delegation” below for why this is important). Turns out we only had time for 15 meetings, which certainly seemed manageable when put down on paper.
Centralize – After evaluating a few options, I decided to use Basecamp, a project management site I use for clients, to organize our troop. Before I even had a troop list I loaded in all the meeting dates and special events, as well as documents and activity ideas I had discovered online.
Agenda – Leading up to the first meeting, I created an agenda and handouts, outlining important information about Daisies, the uniform, the troop, the budget, and the year. (Download it here). I also created a couple of activity sheets for the girls including name tags and and song sheets which our teen helper used while the grownups met.
Delegate – During our first meeting, while the kids got to know each other and learned the Girl Scout song, pledge and promise, the adult representatives (not just moms here) and I talked about the year to come. Number one item was my request that each a family organize at least one meeting activity, as well as come up with an idea for one activity we could do outside of our normally scheduled times.
One week later, each family selected a meeting with our teen helper and my co-leader and I taking two to fill out the schedule. Within Basecamp I assigned responsibilities to all the families, in part so they would automatically receive an e-mail reminder when their meeting approached.
We’re only getting started with our new troop, and I’m sure there will be bumps in the road. But as I said at our first meeting, my goal is for the girls to have fun and for none of the adults to describe their experience as a “nightmare.”
Now . . . Does anybody want to buy a cookie?