Leading Troop Volunteers? Here’s What You Need to Know
Reining in excitable Brownies who think glitter would be an amazing addition to your entire meeting space? Enduring a Senior’s eyeroll because, yeah, she already knows that? No biggie, you’ve got this!
So why does the idea of rallying troop families and volunteers for help sound daunting?
Helping hands keep troop matters running smoothly, and as your troop heads into cookie season, that extra support can be the boost your girls need to reach their goals. Not to mention the reinforcement you need to stay focused on the troop.
Just like your girls, your troop volunteers need guidance. If this is your first time leading fellow volunteers, keep these guiding principles in mind.
Understand what you need and clearly communicate it.
As you break down everything you’ll say and do during an activity, pinpoint where you’ll need the most help or where you might bring in someone more knowledgeable. Chances are someone in your troop community will have the skillset you’re looking for.
“Find out what people are willing to contribute,” suggests Melanie Boudreault of Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. “If they are good at or knowledgeable in something, they are more likely to start helping.”
“Having specific tasks to hand off is the best way,” adds Karen Freundlich of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey. “And it’s good to get in this habit, because you’ll wear yourself out if you insist on doing everything yourself.”
If you’re not sure what you need, you can’t expect your volunteers to be either. Which leads us to our next point.
Power your volunteers’ success.
If a volunteer is pitching in for the first time, be patient, positive, and ready to answer questions about what needs to be done; a task might sound straightforward to you, but that may not be the case for everyone.
“Break down the job into pieces, even if one person is willing to be the troop cookie manager and thinks they are going to be OK doing it all,” shares Linda Droege from Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
“If you want something done [in a specific way], print the directions so they can refer to it,” advises Melanie. “I also make sure that the volunteer is OK with what they will be doing days before the event. No one likes surprises, and working with girls can be challenging at times.”
“Check in with your volunteer every once in a while,” suggests Maranda Oliver from Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland. “Make sure they have everything they need, and depending on how long the activity lasts, ask if they need a break, restroom, or otherwise or if they’ve had a chance to eat. Let them know that you care about them as a person.”
Empower your volunteers to find answers or additional help when they need it. If a volunteer is taking the lead as troop cookie manager or another managerial role, share with them other troop volunteers’ contact information as well as your service unit cookie manager’s.
Get comfortable delegating.
“I felt that I could do it faster, more accurately, and with a better emphasis on the Girl Scout Cookie Program piece than any of my co-leaders and adult volunteers,” confesses Linda. “So parents accurately read my attitude as ‘I got this.’”
We understand—relinquishing control can be tough, especially when you know how much your girls are looking forward to an activity. But by delegating tasks to your troop volunteers, you’ll free up the space you need to be the calm, attentive guide who your girls and fellow volunteers need.
Give volunteers the power to run an activity or event in a way that makes them comfortable and achieves the goal. "I always say, ‘This worked for me, but if something is easier for you, feel free to do what you like. This is what has to happen, but however you get there is fine,’” says Linda. “I am the first to let everyone know the better practices that someone else has employed. Now some of my past volunteers are my best trainers and cheerleaders of the newbies.”
And remember that perfection isn’t the goal! “We also remind the girls and volunteers that usually we are the ones who know exactly what is supposed to happen, so most mistakes wouldn’t ever be known,” advises Sheila. “And if they are, it’s no big deal!”
Advise on how to work best with your troop.
If you’re working with volunteers who aren’t familiar with Girl Scouting, remind them that "Girl Scouts is girl-led, and the parents or volunteers do not need to hover over the girls as they complete tasks,” says Trina Floyd of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. “I like to [tell volunteers] about my girls and what to expect, such as behavior or who might need a little extra encouragement.”
Let troop volunteers know that they have extra support if they’re working with older girls. “The [older] girls do some of the bookkeeping and banking, under supervision,” says Linda. “They are the ones to set up cookie booth locations, write thank-you notes to hosts, and publicly acknowledge them on social media.”
Spread the love!
“Pass out accolades during and after with great abandon,” says Linda. ““I give all my volunteers some little thank-you gift at the end of cookie season and public acknowledgement at our troop end-of-year ceremony.”
As you shout-out the troop volunteers and the difference they’ve made, you’ll encourage them to come back and you’ll show your girls how a little gratitude can go a long way!