Community Service and Take Action Projects: What’s the Difference? Girl Scouts

Community Service and Take Action Projects: What’s the Difference?

Completing service projects through Girl Scouts.


The girls in your troop are eager to find ways to better their community, especially when it comes to paying it forward during the holidays. Giving back is always in season at Girl Scouts, so encourage your girls to harness that spirit of goodwill and bring their charitable intentions to life!

As they look for meaningful ways to contribute to their community, you can help sharpen their problem-solving skills and expand their definition of philanthropy by discussing community service and Take Action projects.

Community service projects make the world a better place right now. Whether your girls engage in a short-term community service project, like collecting toys for kids who live in shelters, or a long-term or recurring project, like weekly volunteer shifts at a soup kitchen, their work fills an immediate need in the community.

Take Action projects—also called service learning—take community service to the next level. Though the girls still identify areas in which they’d like to help their communities, a Take Action project addresses the root of an issue and creates a lasting effect. “We stress the sustainability of the Take Action projects,” explains Silvia La Falce, a Girl Scout Ambassador troop leader in the Greater Chicago area. “How will this continue to work after you have finished doing your part, as opposed to a service project that could be repeated several times but would end after the girls' involvement with it ends.”

Both projects serve important needs, but at different levels. And if your troop members want to pursue their Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award, they’ll need to understand the kinds of projects that qualify.

Depending on your girls’ ages, you might need to clarify the differences between the two projects. “It is always helpful to have some examples,” says Lara Cordeiro, an Ambassador troop leader in Western Ohio. “A community service project could be asking for donations for a food bank, while a Take Action project would be setting up a program where you can get schools, people, or companies to regularly donate to the food bank and perhaps teach them about hunger.”

“At the beginning, girls tend to think more in terms of service projects, because that is what they are used to being involved with,” says Silvia. “They probably participated in food drives, book collections, and other service projects, and it might be hard, especially for younger girls, to think of other options. They might think that repeating a service project several times will make it sustainable. A good way of clarifying the difference could be to ask them, ‘What will happen with this project once you are done doing your part? How will it continue to help? How can you involve others in the community so that your project continues to deliver?’”

And if your younger girls are having difficulty understanding the difference, don’t worry! “The importance is not the meaning of or difference between the tasks but that the girls find the need and work towards filling it,” says Kara Johnson, a Girl Scout Brownie troop leader in Western Ohio. “I want them to understand the importance of helping others in our community—that is the main goal.”

Helping Your Girls Find Inspiration

Your troop’s community service or Take Action project should, of course, be girl-led; that is, your girls should decide on the project and take the necessary steps to bring it to life, but depending on their ages, you may need to help them hone their vision.

“We try to brainstorm as a group, starting with general interests and focusing on possible projects related to each topic, especially with the younger girls,” explains Silvia. “Start by looking at what issues they are more interested in—animals, children, literacy, the environment, or hunger, for instance—and generate a couple of ideas for each. Pretty soon, there are topics that seem to get most of the attention and ideas, and it becomes easier to focus on just that issue and develop a project.”

“For Journey Take Action projects, it is easy for the girls to get inspiration from what they learned in the Journey,” says Lara. “The older the girls are, the less guiding you need to do and the easier it can be.”

Some additional brainstorming methods could include:

  • Asking the girls to look to their school, their town’s Main Street, or their favorite local park. Where can they make a difference?
  • Asking the girls about stories they’re following in the news. How can they help people who live thousands of miles away? Similarly, ask the girls how an international story might translate locally.
  • Reaching out to local Senior or Ambassador troops (or connecting with your council) and asking any Gold Award Girl Scouts to speak with your girls about their projects.

“The key is to guide them while not giving them your ideas but letting them come to conclusions on their own,” says Lara. “While their project may not be what you envisioned for them, if they came up with it, it is theirs. I've seen my girls do amazing things that I would never have thought of!"

Encourage your girls to learn more about the cause they're excited about—this may entail doing research as a team or meeting with someone involved in that issue, such as a volunteer coordinator at your local humane society, to get more information. If your troop decides to pursue a Take Action project, use our volunteer Take Action guide to simplify the planning stages.

Get Inspired by Our Volunteer Experts!

Community service

“One of my favorite community service projects began when our community maintenance manager called up our troop leader and said we have a donated trailer—one used to cook food for local festivals—and you need to do something with it. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day our community has a lights festival with decorations that dance to music, and on the weekends, the trailer is set up for us and the girls to hand out hot chocolate and collect food donations for the local pantry. The girls have so much fun singing and dancing along with the light displays!”
—Eileen Ryan, troop leader, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana

Take Action

“When our girls were Juniors, they became aware of the large amount of waste generated by juice pouches . . . so the girls decided to start a juice pouch recycling program at the school. They talked to the principal and the custodian, prepared and decorated a trash bin with a slot just large enough for juice pouches to keep in the cafeteria, and wrote letters to all teachers with information about the project. For the first year of the program, they took turns each week to empty the bin and prepare the [recycling], but they also got the commitment of the younger troops at the school that as they each reached fifth grade, they would be the ones in charge of continuing the program. It was a proud moment, several years later, when they met a younger troop at [a] swim party in which pouches were being recycled, and one of the younger girls commented, ‘We recycle these at my school, too.’”
—Silvia La Falce, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana

By helping your girls find meaningful ways to give back, you also help them understand what it really means to live by the Girl Scout Law! Our volunteer experts will continue to share stories of guiding their girls through community service and Take Action projects.