After the Rally . . .

Can we all just take a moment and be thankful that GSUSA and all of our local Councils are now able to register girls and adults online?  I can remember the stacks and stacks of paper registrations I had to deal with as a Placement Specialist the year before it went live in my Council.  At least 5″ of quadruplicate forms.  And then each new Troop Leader was handed a stack at least 1/2″ thick.

But it’s not that way anymore.  However, even with online registration, Troop formation is still not an automatic thing.  Unless your Service Unit/Community manages to get all of their new Troops formed at Rallies, then the Registrar and Placement Specialist will have some work to do after the Rally sorting girls into new and existing Troops.

One of the main goals for any Placement Specialist or Registrar or Recruiter (whichever your area uses) is – believe it or not – to place EVERY GIRL in a Troop.  If we had our way, every girl who wanted to be a Girl Scout who be placed in a Troop.  The problem comes in the forms of well meaning parents and Troop Leaders.

Parents whose daughter has to be in THIS Troop, because well, those girls have been friends forever and their Troop sounded like they had so much fun last year, and of course I can’t be the Troop Leader for a new Troop.  *sigh*

Troop Leaders who will take girls from THIS elementary, but not THAT one.  Troop Leaders who say their Troop is closed until their best friend’s daughter wants to join.  Troop Leaders who think they can only handle 6 Brownies in their Troop.  Troop Leaders who are finished after Juniors, but their girls would really like to continue on to Cadettes. *sigh*

How to be kind to your Placement Specialist as a Parent

  • Be very clear on the days and and times when your girl will be available for Troop Meetings.  These can range from once a month to once a week, depending on the Troop.
  • Be very clear on how flexible you are.
  • Know whether you want your girl in a single level or multi-level Troop.  Here’s a post which compares them.
  • Know how you want to volunteer to help your Girl Scout’s Troop.  In my Community, girls with guardian who volunteer at Rally Night get placed before girls whose guardians are “too busy” to help in any way.  Girls whose guardian volunteers to be Troop Leader get first dibs, of course.
  • Understand that the older your girl is, the harder it will be to place her.  As Troops get older, they start closing to newcomers because they have started planning bigger activities, that require bigger budgets.  It is not fair to accept new girls halfway through saving for that big trip – not to the girls who have already been working towards their goal.
  • Give the Placement Specialist a method of contacting you that you will actually check and respond to.  If she/he is going to go through the effort of trying to find a home for your girl, the least you can do is take the effort to respond to her.  They are not going to spam your main email account.  They don’t have time for that nonsense.

If you’ve been a Registrar/Recruitment Specialist/Placement Specialist/Whatever your area calls the person who places girls into Troops, what other words of wisdom would you give new Girl Scout parents/volunteers?


Some Rally Night Ideas

In case your Service Unit/Community hasn’t quite gotten started on planning your Rally Night, or you will be doing more than one, here’s a list of ideas that worked in the past for our Community:

Before the Rally

  • Advertise!  Flyers at every school you serve, lawn signs, banners, posters, whatever your schools and neighborhoods will let you get away with!
  • See if you can have a table at your school’s Open House or Meet the Teacher Night.  Some of our schools allow it, some don’t.  Or maybe even just a couple of Older Girls in uniform handing out flyers.
  • Get every EXISTING Troop to fill out a form showing whether they are open, what volunteer positions they need filled, what levels they are, when and where they meet, etc.  The online tools will give you some of this information, but knowing what the Troop is asking for helps you fill those holes effectively.

At the Rally

  • Our Community tries to make this an adult event, rather than one for the girls.  But children always show up, so be prepared for that – even if the flyers all say don’t bring the kids!  It’s better to prepare for the kids to come, than to turn away potential Girl Scouts and volunteers because you didn’t get a Cadette Troop to come do some work on a Babysitting Badge by playing with the kids that show up.  Or those High School girls who always seem to need service hours for one group or another.  This can be used toward the Service to Girl Scouting Bar, too!
  • Have displays as the parents walk in the doors.  Uniforms, Girl Guides, scrapbooks, everything!  Parents don’t know what they are signing up for besides cookies, camping, and college applications.  SHOW THEM.
  • Have a sign in sheet right by the entrance.  That way your Placement Specialist can cross-reference people who showed up versus people who registered.  And maybe send the ones who came but did not register an email a few weeks later, checking to see if they were sure they didn’t want to register – especially if the specialist ha some holes to fill in the Troops.
  • Have one of your Ambassadors, or a Senior, speak to the crowd.  Give her the experience of talking before a crowd, give them the experience of seeing what poised young ladies our muddy campers become.  Have the girl talk about why she is still in Girl Scouts, what it has given her, what she has learned from Scouting.
  • Don’t forget the Flag Ceremony, Promise and Law – it’s a great way to include those younger girls.
  • Have tables, rooms, or corners set up for each level, depending on what your space offers you.  At each of these, have a leader who has led that level before, but is not currently leading that level.  They can speak with experience, but aren’t trying to put all the best girls in their Troop. 🙂  We typically have spaces set aside for each grade K-5, and then one area for Older Girls, because our recruitment drops off so drastically in sixth grade.  But there is always a handful of Older Girls who show up, so make sure you have somewhere for them!
  • Have some way of keeping track of who is placed in which Troop formed that night, hard copy, just in case.

Here’s a couple of forms I made, based off of ones I created when I was on the Recruitment Team.  Even if you can’t use these directly, they may give you ideas you can tweak.

  • TroopSurvey – this is a great tool for finding out which existing Troops need new girls and new volunteers.
  • NewTroop – this sheet helps you keep track of what Troops you form at Rally Night, and who volunteered to be what!

Rally Night!

Tomorrow is my Community’s first Rally Night, so I can’t tell you what the Leadership Team has planned today.  Thankfully, I no longer am in charge of planning those events.  But I have been in the past, and I have been to every Rally my Service Unit/Community has held for the past 9 years, starting from the one where I signed my daughter and I up for Girl Scouts.

For Parents New to Girl Scouts

Rally night is recruitment night.  This is your BEST opportunity to join Girl Scouts, because this is when the local group administrators (all volunteers, by the way) are trying to add girls all at once.  We try to do it right at the beginning of the school year, because the Girl Scout Membership year starts on October 1, and ideally new Troops should be able to get started as close to that date as possible.

So when I say BEST, what do I mean?  Are there prizes for signing up during Rally Night?  Mmmm, not usually in my neighborhood.  Unless, by prizes you mean pencils and stickers for the girls and flyers, booklets, and paperwork for the parents. *grins*  Your area might be different, though.  However, this is when new Troops are formed.  So if you want your daughter to be starting at the same time as everyone else in the group, earning the same badges, doing the same service, having the same fun – join at the same time as everyone else.

The more girls we have signing up at a Rally, the larger the pool of potential volunteers, i.e. parents, grandparents, and guardians.  A Troop can’t exist without the volunteers to lead it.  Depending on your Council, and depending on the activities your girls want to do, each Troop needs at least 2 leaders, a first aider, a camper, a Cookie Manager, and a Treasurer.  That is either 6 parents who each do their part, or 2 parents who will be burnt out by the end of their Daisy years.

If you are a parent* who is reading this and would like to have your daughter join Girl Scouts at a Rally, to misquote an African proverb, “It takes a village to run a successful Girl Scout Troop”.  You need to be involved in your daughter’s Girl Scout career beyond just shuttling her back and forth.  I’m not saying you have to be the leader, though I can vouch for how rewarding it is.  Identify your own strengths: what can you help teach group of girl your daughter’s age?  The more parents who embrace Girl Scouts as a time to spend WITH their daughters, the better off their daughters’ experience will be. (and the smoother Rally Night will go!!

* I say “parent” because although I mean “parents/grandparents/guardians”, that just doesn’t flow as nicely. *grins* The typical Girl Scout volunteer is the girl’s mother, but just within my own Troops, I have had volunteer assistance from dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, and aunts.  If you care about the girls, we will welcome your help!

girl-kaleidoscope-blue_horizontalFor Girls New to Girl Scouting

This is it!  This is your BEST chance to get started in Girl Scouts.  You won’t get any swanky prizes that you can hold in your hands, maybe a pencil that says “Girl Scouts” on it (last year, we had cool color changing ones!).  Instead, you will get something even better: a Girl Scout Troop!  Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you look like, whatever you believe – there is a Troop out there for you, and we would love to have you.

For Those Brave Souls Who Volunteer

I would hug each and every one of you, if I could.  I’ve hugged plenty of my local new leaders.  Because you are about to take on a hard, rewarding, amazing journey with your daughter/granddaughter/beloved girl.  I promise that you will get as much out of this as you put in, and so will your girls.  If you are starting as a Kindergarten Daisy Troop, you will get to watch your girls grow and blossom and evolve into powerful, capable young women. You will watch as they take over the leadership, as they take ownership, bit by bit.

And because no leader should ever be left behind (again, misquoting), I’m going to give you as much help as I can, from troop management ideas, craft ideas, activity ideas, and just the real life workings of running a Girl Scout Troop.  Next week, look for a post on what happens/should happen After the Rally.

And If You Are In Charge of Running Rally Night

First of all, I feel you.  Been there, done that.

Second, I am starting a monthly newsletter starting tomorrow, and the first one is FOR YOU.  In addition to some free printable goodies, there’s a list of the top 7 ways to form Troops that FAIL after Rally Night. *grins*  Sign up tomorrow, and you can tell me if you have seen any of these particular techniques used at your local Rally nights on my Facebook Page.

Oh, and if you need a quick activity for the girls at your Rally Night, here’s a neat Fortune Teller/Cootie Catcher printable from the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida (click on the thumbnail to embiggen):



Another Community Meeting

So, one of the biggest issues I have with my two troops is that they are in two different, but neighboring Communities.  My newer Troop’s Community already met this month, but my older Troop’s Community had it’s first meeting of the year last night.  I didn’t send out an email asking parents to come to this meeting, although I am thinking that it might be a good idea.

My two Communities are actually quite different, even though they share a border, geographically.  Brazos Valley, my original Community, is more of a suburban, stay at home mom kind of area – which you would think leads to more volunteers.  But actually, most stay at home mom’s are already committed up to their eyeballs, because everyone assumes they sit home all day eating bonbons just waiting to be asked to take on that volunteer role that gives them a reason for living . . . wait. 😉 Annnnnyways, between driving their daughters to sports practices, music lessons, religious studies, dance classes, tutoring sessions, and volunteering in the PTO, as a room mom, as a coach – stay at home moms are usually as over scheduled as their children in this Community.  By the time new Troops are being formed at the end of September/beginning of October, they are ready to start saying “no”.

Heart of the Brazos, on the other hand, is further out with more farming communities and double income families.  More girls come in with Financial Aid in this Community, and parents have even less time because after working all day, who wants to teach a dozen 6 year old girls how to make friendship bracelets?

But they have very similar monthly meetings.  Our Council would like us to play games, and have ice-breakers at Community meetings, but that really doesn’t work in Brazos Valley – there was nearly booing when it was brought up.  Heart of the Brazos is trying to do a little bit more of that, but not anything extreme.  Mostly, our Community meetings run like this:

  1. Welcome, sign in, grab an agenda and any other handouts
  2. Council News
  3. Upcoming Community Events
  4. Any special speakers (Council reps, Destinations travelers, Council Delegates, etc.)
  5. Ask for volunteers for “blah”
  6. Close (Brazos Valley does door prizes)

IMG_7031Last night was no exception – except that they didn’t have a printed agenda for us. Since I had already heard most of the news from Council at the Heart of the Brazos Meeting, I really only needed to take notes of Brazos Valley specific stuff.  Which there wasn’t a lot of yet.  Rally Night, and Fall Product are the big things for the next three months.  We did get our Troop’s small stuffed hedgehogs from last year’s Cookie Sale (finally) – pretty cute aren’t they?  I also got our next garage sale approved by the Leadership Team after the meeting was over (that’s our Council’s official form for money earning event requests). And I actually won a door prize, I picked the duct tape collection, since my girls decimated our stock at the last meeting . . . 😉

Does your Community/Service Unit have meetings like ours?  Do you do more games and songs, like a Troop meeting?

Community Meetings

Last night was my first Community Meeting of the year. (Communities are what my Council is now calling what used to be Service Units, Neighborhoods, etc. – the local volunteer run geographic regions.)  It was for the Community my newer Troop is in.  My first Troop is in a different Community – the one I helped set a good foundation for. They won’t be meeting for another couple of weeks.

I was super excited about last night’s meeting, though.  I had sent out the meeting info to the Troop, and invited everyone to come – especially the parents who were thinking about stepping up to be leaders this year.  I got a response!  I knew at least one mom was going to be coming!  This has never happened before.

And yay, she actually showed up.  And then another one showed up.  With a friend from her homeschooling group who wanted to have her 6 year old join.  And then another showed up. Holy cow, our Troop had 5 people representing, and 2 had already definitely told me that they would be leaders!  I brought the one I knew about ahead of time the Junior Leader Binder I made up, but I will have to get the Brownie Leader hers at our planning meeting next week.

O.M.G.  I might actually get this Troop out of the nest and flying on their own!

Beta Testing for Council

I don’t know about your Council, but mine is going through a major upheaval. Since the end of last year, various Service Units around town have been told they are merging. We are going from 150ish Service Units to 57 “Communities”. And the staff are all reapplying for their jobs. And every single form and handout and training outline is going to have to be updated (I have seen some forms that still don’t include Ambassadors on them as an option). Final rollout should be the beginning of next schoolyear.

So for the next year, we will be beta testing.

Le sigh. Nobody is really excited by this change. But I’ve noticed that Girl Scouts tend to make some kind of major change every few years. Well, in my experience, anyway. I have only been involved in GS for 6 years, and in that period Daisies went from one year to two, Journeys got introduced, and the Handbooks got overhauled.

My Service Unit is a very strong one, with one out of every three girls at the elementary school level in one of our troops. We have great volunteers, great girls, great retention rates, and great community involvement. But I am looking forward to the change. I am hoping to help implement some changes to benefit the new Community.

I would like to see a big all Community Thinking Day Event, with all Older Girl Troops hosting a Country Table for the benefit of the younger girls. I would also like to see a Scout Fair showing off what the girls have done the previous year in the month before Rally Night(s), with a display for every Gold, Silver, and Bronze Award earned and a display for every trip taken and a display for camping memories and a booth for every level with a badge activity for that level.

Of course, the problem is that I am the SU Fall Product Manager. And I’m a newbie in the neighborhood and in the Service Unit. We’ll see how the beta test rolls out.