The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is based on three keys—discover, connect, and take action—but it’s not just for your troop. As a Girl Scout leader, you will embark on your own leadership journey as you help girls develop the leadership skills they’ll use to make the world a better place. Here are a few basic concepts that outline what leadership means in Girl Scouting.
Leadership is teaching your Girl Scouts:
As a leader, see yourself as a coach who:
It is important to remember that:
Your responsibilities as a Girl Scout volunteer include:
Depending on the ages of your girls, you might take the lead in guiding the structure and experiences of your troop—from how and when meetings are held to how the troop communicates, from steering girl-led activities to setting financial expectations. You’ll make these decisions collaboratively with your volunteer team or co-leader, as well as with input from the girls and their parents and caregivers.
Use the questions below to guide your conversations with your troop committee volunteers or co-leader before discussing these topics with parents and caregivers.
When will we meet and for how long? How frequently should we schedule troop meetings?
Where will we meet? Your meeting space should be somewhere safe, clean, and secure that allows all girls to participate. Some great meeting space ideas include schools, places of worship, libraries, and community centers. If working with teens, consider meeting at coffee shops, bookstores, or another place they enjoy.
Which components of the uniform will families need to purchase? Which uniform components will the troop provide for each girl?
Will our troop be a single-grade level or facilitated as a multi-level troop with girls of many grade levels combined into one troop? If multi-level, how will we make sure they each get an age-appropriate experience?
How will we keep troop activities and decisions girl-led? Use the Volunteer Toolkit to help you through this process by exploring options for activities and reviewing the meeting plans and resource lists.
How often are we going to communicate with troop families? Which channels will we use to keep families in the loop? Effective communication will help set expectations and clarify parent/ caregiver responsibilities.
Will our troop charge dues, use product program proceeds, and/or charge per activity? How much money will we need to cover supplies and activities? What should our financial plan look like?
What makes a great meeting space? It depends on your troop, but here are a few considerations as you visit potential locations:
Cost. The space should be free to use.
Size. Make sure the space is large enough for the whole group and all planned activities.
Availability. Be sure the space is available for the day and the entire length of time you want to meet.
Resources. Ask if tables and chairs come with the room, and ensure adequate lighting. A bonus would be a cubby to store supplies or a safe outdoor activity space.
Safety. Potential spaces must be safe, secure, clean, adequately ventilated, heated (or cooled, depending on your location), free from hazards, and have at least two well-marked and fully functional exits. Also, be sure first-aid equipment is on hand.
Facilities. Make sure that toilets are sanitary and accessible.
Communication-Friendly. Check for cell reception in the potential space and whether Wi-Fi is available.
Allergen-Free. Ensure that pet dander and other common allergens won’t bother susceptible girls during meetings.
Accessibility. Your space should accommodate girls with disabilities and parents with disabilities who may come to meetings.
Need a few talking points to get the conversation started? Try…
“I’m a Girl Scout volunteer with a group of [number of girls] girls. We’re doing many great things for girls and the community, like [something your group is doing] and [something else your troop is doing]. We’re all about leadership—the kind that girls use in their daily lives and the kind that makes our community better. We’d love to hold our meetings here because [reason why you’d like to meet there].”
Troops are strongly discouraged from meeting in private homes. Why do we not want girls meeting in private residences? In short, Girl Scouts has no control over the facilities, and a private home is not set up to host other people’s children regularly. We want to protect BOTH the Council and the homeowner. If something goes wrong, the homeowner could potentially be legally liable for accidents, injuries, etc., and we do not want to put troop leaders or troop parents in the position. If there are absolutely no other options, contact GSSI for guidance.
IMPORTANT: Volunteers do not sign any agreements. The council, Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana, must review and accept all contracts, building use agreements, etc. Send all requested contracts and agreements to firstname.lastname@example.org for GSSI approved signature.
Stuck and need additional support? Contact your council or your service unit support team for help with a troop meeting place.
If your group or troop can’t meet in person or hold a traditional meeting, there are many ways to bring the power of Girl Scouting home! Meeting virtually can be a fun and engaging option for your troop.
Before setting up a virtual meeting, you’ll want to:
And don't worry if your girls want to use a web or social platform you’re not as familiar with, because you’ll learn alongside them! For more tips on successful virtual meetings, check out Tips, Tools, and Ideas for Planning a Great Virtual Meeting.
The troop size “sweet spot” is large enough to provide an interactive and cooperative learning environment and small enough to encourage individual development. Though the ideal troop size is 12 girls, we recommend that groups be no fewer and no larger than:
A Girl Scout troop/group must have a minimum of five girls and two approved adult volunteers. Be sure to double-check the volunteer-to-girl ratio table below to make sure you have the right number of adults present for group meetings, events, travel, and camping. Adults and girls registering in groups of fewer than five girls and two approved, unrelated adult volunteers, at least one of whom is female, will be registered as individual Girl Scouts to accurately reflect their status and program experience. Individual girls are always welcome to participate in Girl Scout activities and events.
From troop meetings to camping weekends and cookie booths, adult volunteers must always be present to ensure Girl Scouts have fun and stay safe, no matter their grade level. If you are not sure about the number of adults you will need for your activity, the chart below breaks down the minimum number of volunteers needed to supervise a specific number of Girl Scouts; your council may also establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions, so be sure to check with them as you plan your activity.
Here are some examples on utilizing the chart: If you’re meeting with 17 Daisies, you’ll need three volunteers, at least two of whom are unrelated (in other words, you and someone who is not your sister, spouse, parent, or child), and at least one of whom is female. This is determined as follows: for up to 12 Daisies you need two volunteers, and one more volunteer for up to six additional girls. Since you have 17 girls, you need three volunteers (2+1). If, however, you have 17 Cadettes attending a group meeting you need only two unrelated volunteers, at least one of whom is female, since the chart shows that two volunteers can manage up to 25 Cadettes.
In addition to the volunteer-to-girl ratios, please remember that adult volunteers must be at least 18 years old, or the age of majority defined by your state if it is older than 18.
The emotional and physical safety and well-being of Girl Scouts is our top priority. Safety Activity Checkpoints outlines the Safety Standards and Guidelines used in Girl Scouting, which apply to all Girl Scout activities. All volunteers should review the Safety Activity Checkpoints manual when planning activities with girls in order to manage safety and risk in Girl Scout-sanctioned activities.
In Safety Activity Checkpoints, you will find:
Girl Scouts Safety Standards and Guidelines, which apply to all Girl Scout activities, including requirements for adult supervision, permission slips, preparation, field trips and overnight trips, and other vital information.
Activities that are not permitted by Girl Scouts of the USA and actions that girls and volunteers should not take.
Policies surrounding chartered aircraft trips and aviation.
First aid and overall health information.
Standards for well-being and inclusivity along with ways to include Girl Scouts with disabilities and ways to ensure girls’ emotional safety.
Individual safety activity checkpoints for specific activities—such as camping, internet use, and water sports that provide activity-specific safety information.
The document is laid out in three primary sections, Safety Standards and Guidelines, Activities at a Glance, and individual safety activity checkpoint pages.
Girl Scouts’ Activities at a Glance table provides a quick look at the safety standards for that activity with a focus on two critical points to keep in mind when considering and planning activities for your troop:
Individual Safety Activity Checkpoint pages provide
activity-specific safety measures and guidance on the individual
activities that troops and girls may choose to participate in.
You may also reference GSSI’s Age-Appropriate Checklist for Girl Scout Activities.
In the event of an emergency:
Every participant (girl or adult) in Girl Scouting must register and become a member of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). GSUSA membership dues are valid for one year. Membership dues cannot be transferred to another member and are not refundable.
Preregistration for the upcoming membership year occurs in the spring. Girls are encouraged to register early to avoid the fall rush. Early registration allows for uninterrupted receipt of forms and materials from the council, helps girls and councils plan ahead, and gets girls excited about all the great things they want to do as Girl Scouts next year. A Girl Scout’s grade level is determined by the current membership year beginning October 1.
Lifetime membership is available to anyone who accepts the principles and beliefs of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, pays the one-time lifetime membership fee, and is at least 18 years old (or a high school graduate or equivalent). Volunteers with ten or more years of service can become lifetime members at the discounted young alum rate.
Growing your troop is a great way to share the power of the Girl Scout experience and there are many ways to get the word out, like hanging posters at your girl’s school, using social media to reach families in your community, or including your troop in your council’s Opportunity Catalog or Troop Catalog. Contact GSSI at email@example.com for more information about marketing and recruitment materials for adding new girls to your troop.
Girl Scouts is for every girl, and that’s why we embrace girls of all abilities and backgrounds with a specific and positive philosophy of inclusion that benefits everyone. Each girl—regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, physical or cognitive ability, sexual orientation, primary language, or religion—is an equal and valued member of the group, and groups reflect the diversity of the community.
We believe inclusion is an approach and an attitude, rather than a set of guidelines. Inclusion is about belonging, all girls being offered the same opportunities with respect, dignity, and celebration of their unique strengths. It’s about being a sister to every Girl Scout. You’re accepting and inclusive when you:
If you have questions about accommodating an individual girl, please reach out to GSSI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you think about where, when, and how often to meet with your group, consider the needs, resources, safety, and beliefs of all members and potential members. Include the special needs of any members who have disabilities or whose parents or caregivers have disabilities. But please, do not rely on visual cues to inform you of a disability; approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population has a disability—that’s one in five people of every socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and religion.
If you want to find out what a girl with a disability needs to make her Girl Scout experience successful, simply ask her or her parent or caregiver. If you are open and honest, they’ll likely respond in kind, creating an atmosphere that enriches everyone.
It’s important for all girls to be rewarded based on their best efforts—not on the completion of a task. Give any girl the opportunity to do her best and she will! Sometimes that means changing a few rules or approaching an activity in a more creative way. Here are some examples of ways to modify activities:
Invite a girl to complete an activity after she has observed others doing it.
If you are visiting a museum to view a sculpture, find out if a girl who is blind might be given permission to touch the pieces.
If an activity requires running, a girl who is unable to run could be asked to walk or do another physical movement.
Focus on a person’s abilities—on what she can do rather than on what she cannot. In that spirit, use people-first language that puts the person before the disability.
Say . . .
Instead of . . .
She has a learning disability.
She is learning disabled.
She has a developmental delay.
She is mentally retarded; she is slow.
She uses a wheelchair.
She is wheelchair-bound.
When interacting with a girl (or parent/caregiver) with a disability, consider these tips:
When talking to a girl with a disability, speak directly to her, not through a family member or friend.
It’s okay to offer assistance to a girl with a disability but wait until your offer is accepted before you begin to help. Listen closely to any instructions the person may have.
Leaning on a girl’s wheelchair is invading her space and is considered annoying and rude.
When speaking to a girl who is deaf and using an interpreter, speak to the girl, not to the interpreter.
When speaking for more than a few minutes to a girl who uses a wheelchair, place yourself at eye level.
When greeting a girl with a visual disability, always identify yourself and others. You might say, “Hi, it’s Sheryl. Tara is on my right, and Chris is on my left.”
Girls with cognitive disabilities can be registered as closely as possible to their chronological ages. They wear the uniform of that grade level. Make any adaptations for the girl to ongoing activities of the grade level to which the group belongs. Young women with cognitive disorders may choose to retain their girl membership through their twenty-first year, and then move into an adult membership category.
Just as your Girl Scouts rally around each other for support, you will also have a dedicated Girl Scout support team, consisting of council staff and passionate volunteers like you. Your support team, which may be called a service unit at your council, is ready to offer local learning opportunities and advice as well as answer your questions about the Girl Scout program, working with girls, product sales, and much more.
Before you hold your first troop meeting with girls, consider the support and people resources you’ll need to cultivate an energizing troop experience. Parents, friends, family, and other members of the community have their own unique strengths and can provide time, experience, and ideas to a troop, so get them involved from the very beginning as part of your volunteer troop team. This team is made up of troop leaders (like you) and troop committee volunteers.
Your troop committee volunteers are the extra set of eyes, ears, and hands that help the troop safely explore the world around them. Depending on your troop’s needs, they can play a more active role—for instance, someone can step up as a dedicated troop treasurer—or simply provide an occasional helping hand when you need to keep a meeting activity on track.
If a parent or caregiver isn’t sure if they can commit to a committee or co-leader role, encourage them to try volunteering in a smaller capacity that matches their skill set. Just like your young Girl Scouts, once troop parents and caregivers discover they can succeed in their volunteer role, they’ll feel empowered to volunteer again.
From toolkits and guides to regular contact with experienced individuals, you’ll have all the support you need to be a Girl Scout volunteer. Here’s a list of some important resources you’ll want to check out.
The Volunteer Toolkit
The Volunteer Toolkit is a customizable digital planning tool where you can find suggested meeting plans for most badges, access activity guides and badge requirements, track your Girl Scouts’ achievements, and so much more. With inspiring ideas, so you can engage your troop in a mix of activities all year long, it’s the digital planning assistant that will help you power a fun-filled – and organized – Girl Scout year. Be sure to look for helpful icons to identify activity focus areas, like the evergreen icon, which tells you the activity can be taken outside, or the globe icon, which lets you know you can bring a global perspective to the activity. You’ll find the Volunteer Toolkit in the left menu bar under My GS / My Account. The VTK is accessible on any desktop, tablet, or mobile device.
With the Volunteer Toolkit, girls and leaders can explore meeting topics and program activities together and follow the fun as they plan their Girl Scout year. Using the Volunteer Toolkit:
Troop Leaders can:
Parents and Caregivers can:
Additional Tools and Resources
The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting: What does it mean to be a Girl Scout? You’ll find it all in The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting (The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting (CD-AM) and Handbooks (DA-SR). These grade-level-specific binders will break it down for your girls. It’s part handbook, part badge book, and 100 percent fun!
Safety Activity Checkpoints: Safety is paramount in Girl Scouting and Safety Activity Checkpoints contains everything you need to know to help keep your girls safe during a variety of exciting activities outside of their regular Girl Scout troop meetings.
Tips for Troop Leaders: When you’re looking for real-world advice from fellow troop leaders who've been there, this volunteer-to-volunteer resource on the Girl Scouts of the USA website has what you need for a successful troop year.
Girl Scout Volunteers in Your Community: Remember that Girl Scout support team we mentioned? You’ll find them in your service unit! Troops are organized geographically into service units or communities. You’ll find a local network of fellow leaders and administrative volunteers ready to offer tips and advice to help you succeed in your volunteer role. All registered volunteers are welcome to join the GSSI Volunteer Group. (The group is private; members will be approved upon verification of active registered status.)
Customer Care Contacts. Questions? Need help resolving an issue? We’ve got you! Reach out anytime by either clicking on the “Contact Us” form or email email@example.com. During business hours, Monday–Friday, 9:00–5:00 PM Central, you can reach a customer service specialist by calling (812) 421-4970.
Newsletters/Communication. GSSI's e-newsletter is sent monthly to all registered members (or parents/guardians of girls) to the contact email on file with the council. If you are not receiving these emails, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm we have the correct contact information on file. Past editions are also available on our Newsroom page. You can also find news, events, and information on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
We know that when you have the knowledge and skills you need to manage your girls, both you and your troop will thrive. Contact your GSSI to ask about ongoing learning opportunities that will help you grow your skills and confidence.
For the safety of girls and to ensure the quality of the program, all co-leaders are required to complete GSSI’s New Troop Leader Onboarding orientation process. Additional certifications are required for certain activities beyond a regular troop meeting. More information on all of GSSI’s adult learning opportunities can be found at www.girlscouts-gssi.org.
What begins with Girl Scouts speaking up at a troop meeting can go all the way to speaking in front of their city council for a cause they champion—and they will have your support to thank for that. Your volunteer role makes a powerful difference. Thank you for all you do.
Just as you’ll receive support throughout your volunteer experience, when you reach the end of the term you signed up for, you’ll talk with your support team about the positive parts of your experience as well as the challenges you faced, and you’ll discuss whether you want to return to this position or try something new. The end of your troop year, camp season, overseas trip, or series/event session is just the beginning of your next adventure with Girl Scouts!
If you’re ready for more opportunities, be sure to let your council support team know how you’d like to be a part of girls’ lives in the future—whether in the same position or in other, flexible ways. Are you ready to organize a series or event? Take a trip? Work with girls at camp? Work with a troop of girls as a yearlong volunteer? Share your skills at a council office, working behind the scenes? The possibilities are endless and can be tailored to fit your skills and interests.
Volunteer Appreciation Month
Without our passionate and dedicated volunteers, there would be no Girl Scouting. That’s why we celebrate National Volunteer Month every April and turn up the party as we ring in National Girl Scout Leader’s Day on April 22.
Girl Scouts also celebrates National Volunteer Week, which falls on the third day of April. What can we say? We love our volunteers!
The decision by Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to open the Boy Scout program to girls has fundamentally altered the nature of the relationship between BSA and Girl Scouts nationally and locally. Local relationships between BSA and Girl Scout councils that have led to partnerships and joint activities in the past may now create certain risks or challenges for Girl Scouts. For this reason, councils are encouraged to avoid joint recruiting and/or joint participation in community events or activities.
To protect the integrity of the Girl Scout brand and reinforce our programming as unique, girl-only, and best in class, we must ensure that we take care that the activities in which girls participate are exclusive to the Girl Scout program, are safe and girl-led, and are conducted under the appropriate supervision of Girl Scouts.
Protecting Use of Girl Scout Materials
Girl Scout materials are intended for the exclusive use of Girl Scouts and are protected as the intellectual property of Girl Scouts of the USA. Materials include but are not limited to: Girl Scout logo, tag lines, and/or program and badge requirements.
© Copyright 2009–2022 Girl Scouts of the United States of America. All rights reserved. All information and material contained in Girl Scouts’ Volunteer Essentials guide (“Material”) is provided by Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) and is intended to be educational material solely to be used by Girl Scout volunteers and council staff. Reproduction, distribution, compiling, or creating derivative works of any portion of the Material or any use other than noncommercial uses as permitted by copyright law is prohibited, unless explicit, prior authorization by GSUSA in writing was granted. GSUSA reserves its exclusive right in its sole discretion to alter, limit, or discontinue the Material at any time without notice.