When you mention to your neighbor that you’re a Girl Scout troop leader, there are likely two thoughts that go through their head: “Awesome! I have a cookie connection,” and “Girl Scouts do a lot for our community.”
And while they are right on both counts, it’s that second one—that Girl Scouts do a lot for their communities—that is highlighted this time of year. There is no shortage of good to the done in the world, so as your troop plans their service projects, here are five tips to make it a success.
Make sure it’s girl-led
First and foremost, make sure your service project is girl-led. If you’re working with younger girls, this means asking for their ideas of how they can give back to their community, seeing what ideas they are most passionate about, and helping them choose which one they will take on. For older girls, it means facilitating a discussion. Then, get a conversation going and only jump in to provide guidance to them if needed.
If the girls are choosing the service project, they are invested, and will not only be more excited to participate, but prouder of their accomplishments at the end.
Define your goal(s)
Once your troop has chosen a service project idea, make sure to help the girls set a goal or two. Creating “SMART” goals—ones that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound—are a great way to do this with any age. . This helps set expectations from the start and gives the girls something tangible that they are working toward. When they’ve defined their SMART goal(s), it is that much easier for them to see what they’ve accomplished.
Service projects can have a lot of moving parts, and it can be difficult for a team of girls to participate in every facet of a project. Instead, consider giving each troop member a role that they can oversee. For example, if your troop decides to collect donations for a local food pantry, give one group of girls the task of advertising or delivering empty grocery bags for donations. Give a second group the task of picking up those donations and a third group the task of delivering the donations to the pantry.
If your troop is younger, break down roles into smaller pieces of responsibility. For older girls, hand over the reins and let them manage the project. (It’ll be great practice for earning a highest award!)
Setbacks are teachable moments
There are always a few bumps in the road when coordinating projects, whether it’s a scheduling mishap, a small miscommunication, or not hitting a numerical goal. Rather than letting your troop dwell on what didn’t go right and getting frustrated, reframe the conversation about how they can adjust and move forward. You’ll be teaching them great project management skills they can use in school, college, and beyond.
Celebrate their accomplishments
Taking a moment to celebrate a job well done is always a great way to close out a service project. It doesn’t have to be over the top. A simple high-five or sharing photos from the service project with their families is a great way to honor the girls’ accomplishments.