Engaging Girl Scouts and Families
By meeting your girls where they are, you’ll help them develop the leadership skills they’ll use now and as they grow.
Your most important role as a Girl Scout volunteer is to be excited about everything this opportunity affords you: a chance to help girls succeed, play a critical role in their lives, and watch them blossom! In this section, you’ll learn all about your role and responsibilities as a Girl Scout volunteer.
Volunteering for Girl Scouts will be one of the most satisfying and gratifying things you will ever do. For information on the steps you’ll want to follow to become a volunteer and the different roles that you’ll want to consider, go to: Becoming a Volunteer (pdf)
Girl Scouts of Northern California is governed by the policies of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) as stated in the Blue Book of Basic Documents 2019 edition. The Volunteer Policy has been adopted by GSNorCal’s Board of Directors. The goal of the Girl Scouts of Northern California is to provide beneficial and safe program for girls.
GSUSA and GSNorCal have launched The Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit (VTK) which is a comprehensive digital tool accessible on your computer, smartphone and/or tablet that is the primary support resource for troop leaders. This valuable resource is designed to save you time so you can manage your troop year with the girls and have more time to do the things that you imagined when you volunteered: changing girls’ lives through amazing experiences!
Through the Volunteer Toolkit, troop leaders can:
Parents and caregivers can:
For an indepth breakdown of the Volunteer Toolkit, go to: Volunteer Toolkit (PDF)
Girl Scouts strives to provide you with the necessary information to successfully manage your group of girls, and to let you know how and where you can get additional information on certain topics when you want to learn more. Volunteer Learning is offered in a variety of ways, to best meet your unique learning styles: written resources, face-to-face learning, interactive online learning—and additional methods are being developed and tested all the time!
GSNorCal provides hundreds of events throughout Northern California each year, many of which contain an Adult Training Component. Take a look through GSNorCal's Activity Finder to discover endless opportunities for fun, learning, and adventure. We have something for everyone; troops, individual girls, and yes, adults too! www.gsnorcal.org/forms
Participate in a series, a one-time event, or explore our travel opportunities. For info, visit the Activity Finder on our website: www.gsnorcal.org/events
In addition to the online and in-person courses and learning events, GSNorCal also offers the following support for volunteers:
Check out this handy 5 step table on getting your new troop started.
Whatever your volunteer position, your hard work means the world to girls, to your council staff, and to Girl Scouts of the USA. We’re calling on all members of society to help girls reach their full potential, and you’ve answered that call. So, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
Just as you’ll receive support throughout your volunteering 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 Scouting!
If you’re ready for more opportunities to work with girls, be sure to let the GSNorCal 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 year-long 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.
Adult Recognition in GSNorCal
Visit the council website at www.gsnorcal.org/en/for-volunteers/recognition-and-awards.html or visit the GSNorCal Recognition Pinterest Board for ideas on how to recognize your volunteers, find the nomination forms for national, council, or service unit awards for adults, and more info. Do you have a special volunteer who deserves recognition? Download the National and Council Adult Recognitions Packet or the Service Unit Adult Recognitions Packet from the council website: www.gsnorcal.org/forms
Volunteer Appreciation Month
Volunteer Appreciation Month - The month of April is set aside especially for you. Girl Scouts pay tribute to the volunteers who help girls make the world a better place.
The month centers on the long-standing National Girl Scout Leaders' Day (April 22). In addition, Girl Scouts also celebrates Volunteers Make a Difference Week, in conjunction with Make a Difference Day, which takes place during the weekend in autumn that we set our clocks back.
Recognizing the Volunteers Who Help You
See our website www.gsnorcal.org/en/for-volunteers/recognition-and-awards.html for some ideas to recognize the people who help you.
Conflicts and disagreements are an inevitable part of life, but if handled constructively, they show girls that they can overcome their differences, exercise diplomacy, and improve their communication and relationships. Respecting others and being a sister to every Girl Scout means that shouting, verbal abuse, or physical confrontations are never warranted and cannot be tolerated in the Girl Scout environment.
When a conflict arises between girls or a girl and a volunteer, get those involved to sit down together and talk calmly and in a nonjudgmental manner. (Each party may need some time—a few days or a week—to calm down before being able to do this.) Talking in this way might feel uncomfortable and difficult now, but it lays the groundwork for working well together in the future. Whatever you do, do not spread your complaint around to others—that won’t help the situation and causes only embarrassment and anger.
If a conflict persists, be sure you explain the matter to your volunteer support team. If the supervisor cannot resolve the issues satisfactorily (or if the problem involves the supervisor), the issue can be taken to the next level of supervision and, ultimately, to your council if you need extra help.
It’s an amazing feeling when your girls put their trust in you—and when they do, they may come to you with some of the issues they face, such as bullying, peer pressure, dating, athletic and academic performance, and more. Some of these issues may be considered sensitive by families, and they may have opinions or input about how, and whether, Girl Scouts should cover these topics with their girl.
Girl Scouts welcomes and serves girls and families from a wide spectrum of faiths and cultures. When girls wish to participate in discussions or activities that could be considered sensitive—even for some—put the topic on hold until you have spoken with parents and received guidance from your council.
When Girl Scout activities involve sensitive issues, your role is that of a caring adult volunteer who can help girls acquire skills and knowledge in a supportive atmosphere, not someone who advocates a particular position.
GSUSA does not take a position or develop materials on issues relating to human sexuality, birth control, or abortion. We feel our role is to help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives. We believe parents and caregivers, along with schools and faith communities, are the primary sources of information on these topics.
Parents/guardians make all decisions regarding their girl’s participation in Girl Scout program that may be of a sensitive nature. As a volunteer leader, you must get written parental permission for any locally planned program offering that could be considered sensitive. Included on the permission form should be the topic of the activity, any specific content that might create controversy, and any action steps the girls will take when the activity is complete. Be sure to have a form for each girl, and keep the forms on hand in case a problem arises. For activities not sponsored by Girl Scouts, find out in advance (from organizers or other volunteers who may be familiar with the content) what will be presented, and follow your council’s guidelines for obtaining written permission.
There may be times when you worry about the health and well-being of girls in your group. Alcohol, drugs, sex, bullying, abuse, depression, and eating disorders are some of the issues girls may encounter. You are on the frontlines of girls’ lives, and you are in a unique position to identify a situation in which a girl may need help. If you believe a girl is at risk of hurting herself or others, your role is to promptly bring that information to her parent/caregiver or the council so she can get the expert assistance she needs. Your concern about a girl’s well-being and safety is taken seriously, and your council will guide you in addressing these concerns.
Here are a few signs that could indicate a girl needs expert help:
· Marked changes in behavior or personality (for example, unusual moodiness, aggressiveness, or sensitivity)
· Declining academic performance and/or inability to concentrate
· Withdrawal from school, family activities, or friendships
· Fatigue, apathy, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
· Sleep disturbances
· Increased secretiveness
· Deterioration in appearance and personal hygiene
· Eating extremes, unexplained weight loss, distorted body image
· Tendency toward perfectionism
· Giving away prized possessions; preoccupation with the subject of death
· Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, burns, or fractures
· Avoidance of eye contact or physical contact
· Excessive fearfulness or distrust of adults
· Abusive behavior toward other children, especially younger ones
Our roles, as stewards of the Girl Scouts mission, demand that we—all Board and Committee members, volunteers, and employees (henceforth to be called in this policy “volunteers and employees”)—uphold the public trust and act in an ethical manner. These ethical values include integrity, openness, honesty, accountability, fairness, respect, and responsibility.
Girl Scouts of Northern California (GSNorCal) has established a Code of Conduct which requires the highest business standards and personal behavior in all matters regarding the Council, including finance, governance, fundraising, mission operations, legal matters, equal opportunity and employment. We are committed to maintaining a positive, ethical environment for all members, volunteers, parents/caregivers, community partners, employees and supporters.
This Whistleblower Policy works in addition to and in support of GSNorCal’s Code of Conduct, Volunteer Policy, unlawful harassment and discrimination policies, “open door policy” and/or any other grievance procedure, risk and safety policy, anti-child abuse policy, and any applicable state and federal laws governing whistleblowing applicable to nonprofit and charitable organizations. Volunteers and employees are expected to comply with all applicable policies and the law.
Full Whistleblower Policy for Girl Scouts of Northern California (PDF)
Anonymous Whistleblower Hotline
If anyone wants to report a serious concern related to the Council and is not sure who to report to or who wants to report anonymously, that person may use a confidential third party automated telephone and email service which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
Suggested information to include when reporting a concern:
You want your Girl Scouts to have fun, be inspired, take risks, and learn about themselves and the world—that’s why you’re a Girl Scout troop leader or troop volunteer! Parents and caregivers want the same thing for their girls but getting families to pitch in and play an active role in the troop while also enhancing the experience for their own girl and themselves can be tricky for many volunteers. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Girl Scouting provides the best opportunities for girls when families step up and play an active part in the troop. Without meaningful support from parents and caregivers, it’s difficult for a troop to be all it can be. Plus, girls feel a special sense of pride when their families take part and show interest in the things they’re doing!
What Is a Parent and Caregiver Meeting?
It’s the first meeting you have to start each troop year—whether you’re a new or returning troop. It’s valuable for all troops.
Why Hold a Meeting?
After hosting your first Girl Meeting, continue Kicking off each year with a parent and caregiver meeting to set the troop up for success. Sharing what the girls would like to get accomplished this year, outlining clear expectations, building a team, and engaging parents in the Girl Scout experience is a great way to start off on the right foot. When parents are involved, leaders have support, the troop has a plan, and girls benefit!
The meeting helps:
· Families understand what Girl Scouting can do for their girl.
· Families and leaders identify ways they’ll work as a team to support the troop.
· Families and leaders agree about what the troop pays for and what families pay for individually.
· You fill key troop positions—you never know which parent will make an awesome assistant leader or troop cookie manager.
· Families know how the troop will communicate things like upcoming events or schedule changes.
· Families learn about uniforms, books, and other important basics.
Check out our step-by-step guide and “Parents & Caregivers Meeting Outline” on the Volunteer Toolkit. This 60–90-minute meeting will make all the difference in the year ahead.
Another meeting you don’t want to miss is the Cookie Program Girl & Family Meeting in the Volunteer Toolkit. Just like the parent and caregiver meeting at the beginning of the year, this meeting is your chance to share what girls gain through the cookie program, outline expectations, and find the support you need for a successful cookie season. The cookie program is a team effort and you’ll want to get families on board!
For even more tips on working with troop families, check out Girl Scouts’ Tips for Troop Leaders hub.
Make the Ask(s)
The main reason people don’t take action is because they were never asked to in the first place. That’s why hearing one out of three Girl Scout parents say no one communicated expectations around involvement with their girl’s troop is so troubling. Parents may have many talents, but they’re certainly not mind readers! If you’re nervous about getting turned down, don’t be. Sure, a few parents might be unable to lend a hand, but the helpers you do get will be worth their weight in gold. And just because someone wasn’t available a month or two ago doesn’t mean they won’t be free to help now. Loop back, follow up, and ask again!
Make Sense of “Why"
Explain that not only does the whole troop benefit with extra help from parents and other caregivers, but also that girls feel a special sense of pride in seeing their own family member step up and take a leadership role. Getting involved can strengthen the family bond and is a meaningful way to show daughters that they are a priority in their parents’ lives.
Make It Quick and Easy
Everybody’s got a full plate these days, so instead of starting conversations with a list of tasks or responsibilities that parents and other caregivers could take on (which can be intimidating!), ask how much time each week they might be able to dedicate to the troop, then go from there. For instance, if a troop mom or dad has 15 minutes each week to spare, they could organize and manage the calendar for troop snacks and carpools. If a grandparent has one to two hours, they could assist with leading the troop through a specific badge on a topic they’re already comfortable with. For more ways parents and other caregivers can help out when faced with a tricky schedule, check out the Family Resources tab in the Volunteer Toolkit.
Make Family Part of the Formula
While Girl Scout programming is always focused on the girls themselves, it’s important and helpful to open up a few events to their families throughout the year. Inviting the whole crew to celebrate her accomplishments in Girl Scouting—whether at a holiday open house, a bridging ceremony, or a fun “reverse meeting” where girls take the role of leaders and guide the adults, including caregivers, through an activity—will help parents better understand the value of Girl Scouts and they’ll be more likely to invest their time and talents in the troop.
That said, there’s no need to wait for one of these special events to engage families in their girls’ Girl Scout lives! Keep communication lines open throughout the year—either through your troop’s social media page, personal emails, or in-person chats—to keep parents in the loop on what the girls are doing and learning during each meeting. Encourage them to let their daughters “be the experts” at home, explaining or teaching the new skills they’ve learned. You can get everyone in on the fun and keep Girl Scouts strong at home by sharing the family badge guides in the Volunteer Toolkit.
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