Here’s how to do that with your troop.
Girl Scout badges covering topics like civic engagement, healthy living, and communication skills help Girl Scouts grow in confidence as they develop the skills to lead their best life.
Whether by exercising and staying healthy, developing strong relationships with family and peers, advocating on behalf of others, protecting our environment, or exploring careers that can truly change the world for the better, girls:
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 troop committee (or volunteer team) or co-leader, as well as with input from the girls and their parents and caregivers. Your first-year troop support specialist will be in contact with you to assist you with planning your first meeting.
Use the questions below to guide your conversations with your troop committee volunteers or co-leader before discussing these topics with parents and caregivers.
What makes a great meeting space? It depends on your troop, but here are a few considerations as you visit potential locations:
Need a few talking points to get the conversation started? Try…
"I'm a Girl Scout volunteer with a group of girls. We're doing lots of great things for girls and for 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]."
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.
A Girl Scout troop/group must have a minimum of three girls from three different families and two unrelated, 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 three 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're 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.
The emotional and physical safety and well-being of Girl Scouts are our top priority. The Safety Activity Checkpoints outline Girl Scouting safety standards and guidelines that apply to all Girl Scout activities. When planning girl activities, every volunteer should review the Safety Activity Checkpoints in order to manage safety and risk in Girl Scout-sanctioned activities.
For current COVID-19 guidelines, please see GSSEM's Safety Activity Checkpoints at www.gssem.org/safety.
In Safety Activity Checkpoints, you'll find:
The document is laid out in three primary sections, Safety Standards and Guidelines, Activities at a Glance, and Individual Safety Activity Checkpoint pages.
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 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 the MyGS Troop Catalog.
To advertise your troop's open girl spots in the MyGS Troop Catalog, please email the Customer Care team at email@example.com. For information and marketing materials to assist with recruiting new girls to your troop, please email the Recruitment team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you're ready to accept new members to your troop, check out the Welcoming New Girl Scouts Short & Snappy on gsLearn, which offers some great, thoughtful ways to make them feel at home.
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 the Member Support team at email@example.com. We also recommend completing the Ability Enrichment Training available on gsLearn to learn how to welcome Girl Scouts of all abilities.
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:
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.
When interacting with a girl (or parent/caregiver) with a disability, consider these tips:
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'll also have a dedicated Girl Scout support team, consisting of GSSEM staff and passionate volunteers like you. Your community and service unit volunteers are also available 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 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 parents and caregivers discover they can succeed in their volunteer role, they'll feel empowered to volunteer again.
We recommend using the Ways to Help the Troop form to collect information from parents or caregivers about how they can contribute to troop operations.
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.
With the Volunteer Toolkit (VTK), 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:
You and your girls will thrive when you have the knowledge and skills you need to manage your troop. GSSEM has learning opportunities that will help you grow your skills and confidence. The Volunteer Experience team holds live webinars and in-person training opportunities that help volunteers explore the many facets of being a troop leader. Visit the Live Sessions tab on gsLearn to register for webinars and in-person training sessions.
gsLearn houses all of GSSEM's online sessions. Most of which—called Short & Snappies—are under 15 minutes long and provide a quick overview of specific Girl Scout topics. We also provide online, deep-dive courses for topics like getting started as a Girl Scout volunteer, program grade levels, and highest awards.
GSSEM requires all new troop leaders and co-leaders to complete Troop Leader Orientation and at least one Grade-Level Essentials training.* Troop Leader Orientation should be completed prior to their troop's first meeting, and Grade-Level Essentials should be completed within two months of starting the troop.
* If you're leading a multi-level troop, we recommend completing a Grade-Level Essentials training for every level of Girl Scouting present in your troop.
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'll 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 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, please email the Member Support team at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us 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.
GSSEM spotlights volunteers in our GirlTalk blog, showcasing their exemplary leadership. If you'd like to spotlight a volunteer, please visit www.gssem.org/spotlight to access the Volunteer Spotlight Nomination Form.
Do you know an amazing volunteer who goes above and beyond? If so, please nominate them for one of the five Volunteer National Awards! Honorees are invited to the annual Volunteer National Awards banquet held in the spring. The Volunteer National Awards nomination form may be found at www.gssem.org/volawards. The Volunteer Experience team can also help you identify thoughtful ways to informally recognize volunteers. For more information on formal and informal recognitions, check out the Volunteer Recognition Information Packet.
Please also join us at one of the Volunteer Experience team's mixer events to connect with volunteers in your area. Check the event list for dates and upcoming opportunities.
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.
All appointed volunteers participating in the Girl Scout movement shall meet GSUSA and Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) membership requirements, be registered as a member of GSUSA (annual or lifetime membership), and shall agree to abide by the policies and principles of GSUSA and Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan.
Membership dues are $25 per year for both girls and adults. For information on registration please visit www.gssem.org/join.
Financial Assistance is available for membership and program resources for girl members whose families meet GSSEM's income eligibility requirements. Girls receiving financial aid are required to participate in the Cookie Program. Girls will be issued a MyGS Kit certificate and/or program certificate (depending on the completed FA form). The MyGS Kit certificate should be used for program resources and uniform components. The program certificate should be used for GSSEM council events or community events.
For more information, please see the Financial Aid Application form at www.gssem.org/fa.
Customer Care is here to assist volunteers and parents in navigating the registration process. For general customer service needs and technical assistance, please reach out to Customer Care at email@example.com or 800-482-6734. Customer Care is available Monday–Friday, 8:30 AM–5:00 PM.
GSSEM staff and volunteers must be mindful to not inadvertently cause a volunteer to become liable for payment of taxes by offering taxable benefits to a volunteer.
The U.S. Department of Labor generally defines a volunteer as an individual who donates his or her services, usually on a part-time basis, for charitable objectives, and without the expectation of receiving compensation. Compensation is generally defined as pay or another tangible benefit that is tied to an individual's productivity or hours worked. Compensation does not include reimbursement for an individual's expenses incurred while volunteering, reasonable benefits, or nominal fees.
Everyone—both staff and volunteers—should be very careful when designing volunteer reward and recognition programs to ensure that the program is not providing what the IRS determines is income or another tangible benefit that is tied to productivity or hours worked.
The following examples help illustrate when volunteer benefits may cross the line to become compensation, thereby risking a reclassification of a volunteer's status and thereby triggering the need for the volunteer to pay income taxes on the benefit:
Ex: Reimbursements, reasonable benefits, nominal fees
Ex: Potential compensation and tax liability
|The Council pays for an onsite babysitter during a meeting or event to care for the children of any individuals who volunteer at that meeting. The babysitter's services are available at and during that meeting or event regardless of how frequently or how long an individual has volunteered.||The Council provides each volunteer with coupons for one hour of a babysitter's services per hour of time volunteered. These coupons can be used at any time, even during times when the individual is not volunteering for Girl Scouts.|
|A volunteer signs up to drive girls to a camping event and later turns in an expense report to be reimbursed using the current IRS volunteer mileage rate for her actual mileage.||The Council is finding it hard to get qualified drivers for an upcoming camp event, so it advertises that each driver who signs up will receive a $50 gas card, regardless of the miles they drive.|
|For Volunteer Appreciation Week in April, the Council emails all volunteers a 10% discount coupon for the Council's shop.||The Council advertises that all candidates who sign up to be troop leaders will get a 50% discount for their daughters at summer camp.|
|A troop leader agrees to come in for a Saturday to take part in a focus group to help the Council assess the service-delivery needs in her region. Afterward, the Council gives her a thank-you card and a $5 Starbucks gift card for her extra effort.||The Council designates $1,000 to give to each day camp organizer as a stipend to ensure all positions are filled.|
Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization. There shall be no discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, marital or socioeconomic status, disability, or age. In addition, to ensure full equality of opportunity in all operations and activities of the organization, affirmative action policies and procedures shall be utilized in the recruitment, selection, training, placement, and recognition of volunteers. Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan is committed to having its membership reflect the diversity of population groups within its jurisdiction.
Volunteers are required to conduct themselves in a professional manner, keeping in mind that adult volunteers serve as role models to the girls they serve. This conduct will be reflected in appropriate dress, language, and conduct. Dress, grooming, and personal cleanliness standards contribute to the morale of girls and other volunteers and affect the image that Girl Scouts present to members and the community. Volunteers will serve to the best of their ability, but not beyond their capabilities. Confidentiality must be maintained at all times in order to protect the dignity and rights of individuals. Violation of confidentiality may be a cause for release from duties.
GSSEM is committed to an environment in which volunteer and staff relationships are characterized by dignity, courtesy, respect, and equitable treatment and an environment free of all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is defined as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." Sexual harassment is a form of illegal discrimination on the basis of an individual's gender. It frequently involves an expression of sexual conduct that seeks to exploit a relationship in which there is an imbalance of power (e.g., supervisor/ subordinate). It can also occur where there is a perception of power among or between colleagues or between individuals with no formal business relationship.
No volunteer, man or woman, may sexually harass another volunteer, employee, or Girl Scout member of the same or opposite sex, and may not advocate, solicit, or promote a particular personal lifestyle or sexual orientation.
Any volunteer who believes she/he has been the subject of sexual harassment should report the incident(s) to either her/his Troop Support staff and/or Chief Executive Officer.
Retaliation against anyone who has reported an allegation of sexual harassment is expressly prohibited and, if it occurs, will be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including release.
At Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, staff and volunteers have a particular responsibility to girl and adult members. Therefore, if a volunteer witnesses behaviors or relationships that could be potentially detrimental or developmentally inappropriate, volunteers are required to report immediately the behavior/relationship to Member Support staff or the GSSEM Chief Executive Officer.
Any adult engaging in behavior threatening the health or welfare of girls will be released from acting in an official Girl Scout capacity. Threatening behavior may include—but is not limited to—neglect, physical abuse, withholding of food, lack of supervision, emotional maltreatment including verbal, physical or sexual abuse, abuse of prescription or illegal drugs, use of alcohol, or careless management of firearms.
As you know, the Michigan Child Protection Law contains provisions requiring the confidentiality of information "in reports and records made as provided" in the Act.
Further, the Child Protection Law requires that the "identity of a reporting person is confidential subject to disclosure only with the consent of that person or by judicial process." To the extent you might make any disclosure that identifies the person reporting the alleged abuse, you not only place the complainant child in danger, but you also place the reporting person in danger of retaliation.
Violation of this confidentiality requirement is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $100.00 or both. Additionally, a person breaching the confidentiality requirement is subject to civil liability for damages proximately caused by the dissemination.
Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan paid staff is required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Volunteers are not specifically named as mandated reporters under the law, but are strongly urged as citizens to report suspected child abuse or neglect by caregivers to the Department of Health and Human Services or any law enforcement agency.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services staff and law enforcement officers are required by law to preserve the confidentiality of the citizen reporter, so citizens can make anonymous reports. Contact Central Intake at 1-855-444-3911 to report abuse and neglect at any time 24 hours per day. Volunteers who suspect child abuse or neglect but are not comfortable or are unsure about reporting it should contact GSSEM Member Support staff. Department of Health and Human Services staff are trained in evaluating such situations and your report will not necessarily result in immediate action, but may often result in services being provided to keep the family intact.
Volunteers may not use tobacco, consume alcohol, or use illegal drugs in the presence of girl members or while engaged in any official Girl Scout duty or function. Possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages, illegal substances, or use of tobacco shall not be allowed at Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan offices or on Council property at any time for any reason by any person (whether staff or volunteer, outside groups, members or non-members) prior to, or during Girl Scout activities.
Use of weapons such as handguns, shotguns, rifles, pellet guns, knives, or other objects used with the intent of causing harm, injury, death, etc are not permitted at any Girl Scout activity or on any property owned or leased by GSSEM. There are two exceptions: law enforcement personnel who are required to carry their weapons while on or off duty, and Council-approved, program-related activities. For approval for these types of activities, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2009–2023 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.