The main goal of a Girl Scout troop leader should be to give each girl a memorable and positive Scouting experience. You should be prepared to provide a nurturing, learning environment where girls can grow, express themselves and become productive young women. Leading a Girl Scout troop is not a commitment that can be taken lightly. There are many rules and guidelines that a Girl Scout leader must adhere to and an even greater number of details you'll need to take into consideration if you are to lead effectively.
Contact the Girl Scout Council in your area and they will put you in touch with your local Service Unit Manager. You'll be required to complete basic leader training and pass a simple examination. You'll also need to take courses and become certified in community first aid and CPR, unless you choose a co-leader that already holds those certifications.
Decide where and when you will hold your troop meetings. New troops generally start up at the beginning of the school year. You can hold your meetings at the local school, a church, lodge or hall. But the absolute best place to hold your meetings is at your own home. You won't need to haul materials and supplies back and forth to another meeting place. Over time you will amass an unbelievable amount of troop paraphernalia. You can set up an area in your basement or garage that is dedicated to Girl Scouts. Leave everything in place and it will be ready for the girls at every meeting. In time, your Girl Scout troop will come to think of their meeting place as a home away from home, so try to make that place special and just for them.
Ultimately, the meeting time you choose needs to suit your schedule, however, set a firm day and time and don't veer from it unless there is a dire emergency. Keep in mind that girls may have prior commitments on weekends and after school. Also respect the family dinner hour and try to pick a time that won't interfere. An hour or ninety minute meeting on a weekday evening will probably suit everyone.
Put the Girl Scout troop first. Being a Girl Scout leader is extremely rewarding on many different levels. Make sure that you don't "make it all about you". It's all about the individual girl and the troop as a whole. Perhaps you are a troop leader because you have a daughter that wanted to join Girl Scouts, which is the case with the majority of troop leaders. One thing you should remember: Never let your daughter decide what the entire troop will do - where they will go or what badges they will work on. If you consistently follow your daughter's lead, the entire troop will pick up on it and may come to resent your daughter and possibly even you. Try not to show favorites and treat every girl equally and individually. You don't have to have a daughter in your Girl Scout Troop in order to be a leader. You don't even have to have children at all.
Don't conduct personal business or take personal phone calls during your meetings unless it's an emergency. Inform your family and friends that your weekly Girl Scout troop meeting is sacred to you and to refrain from interrupting.
Keep your meeting formats consistent so your Girl Scout troop will know what to expect each week. Give the girls a few minutes to greet each other and get settled in. Start your meeting with a quick ceremony. For instance: two girls can bring in the American flag and the troop flag, followed by reciting the Girl Scout Promise. You may also recite the Pledge of Allegiance at this time. Sing one of the Girl Scout songs - there are dozens to choose from.
Take a few minutes to conduct troop business. Have one girl pass around the dues box while another girl takes attendance. Discuss upcoming troop and Service Unit events. Let the girls decide which events to take part in.
Take a break and have a snack and let the girls socialize. Girl Scouts generally take turns bringing a simple treat for the entire troop. Invariably a girl will forget to bring the snack, so have back-up treats available just in case.
Work on Girl Scout Badges. Several times a year, let the troop choose a few badges they want to work on in the upcoming months. Make sure that each girl has a say in the matter. What is of interest to one girl may not interest another. Use your meetings to assist the girls with required badge activities. Also, encourage girls to work on badges at home, on their own - especially if it's a badge that only she is interested in earning.
Create a monthly or quarterly troop newsletter. Use this medium to keep parents informed of upcoming events and what their daughters are accomplishing within the troop. Let the girls get involved by submitting pictures or writing short articles pertaining to Girl Scouting.
Keep meticulous records on the financial activities of the troop. Never, under any circumstance, use troop funds for personal use. Selling Girl Scout Cookies is generally the biggest troop money-maker and it's a tradition that every Girl Scout should have an opportunity to experience.
Check out venues in advance. To avoid confusion and headaches, make a dry run to see how long it takes to travel to your destination. Check to see if there are any rules or requirements that may interfere with your plans. Find out where the restrooms and dining facilities are located.
Be aware, at all times, of where each troop member is and what she is doing. Each girl's safety and well-being should be at the top of your list of priorities. Have each girl choose a partner and conduct a buddy check often. Give each set of buddies an interesting or funny name that the girls will like calling out when asked.
Get parents involved. If a parent has a unique skill, invite them to your troop meeting to talk about their craft and teach it to the girls. Invite parents along to assist you at Girl Scout events, outings and camping trips. Present choral events, plays, or skits at a "Parent Night". Periodically hand out a list of supplies that your troop would like to have; such as a propane camping stove, cooking utensils, or art and craft supplies. You will be pleased by how many parents donate items that your troop really needs.
Watch the behavior of each girl in the troop. Make sure all members are participating in troop activities. Give each girl an opportunity to take on a leadership role within the troop. Periodically talk to each girl, one-on-one, and really listen to what she has to say about her Girl Scout experience. Ask her for input and suggestions on growing a better troop. Try your best to accommodate the needs of every girl.
Attend your local Service Unit meeting each month. As a leader, you will find these meetings invaluable to you. There you will learn of upcoming Service Unit events and will be apprised of GSUSA news and rule changes. It's also a perfect opportunity to socialize with other Girl Scout leaders and exchange thoughts, ideas and success stories.
Finally, follow all the rules and guidelines contained in the Girl Scout Leader Manual. Adhere to all rules and suggestions offered by Girl Scuts of the USA, your local Council and Service Unit.