Whether you’re greeting a group of old friends or friendly new faces, your first parent/caregiver meeting is your opportunity to deepen the bonds among all members of your troop.
It takes a village to lift up the next generation of leaders, and to set the stage for a successful troop year for your girls, you need to set the tone for parents and caregivers. By helping the adults understand the roles they play in the troop, you’ll empower them to stay engaged and enhance the entire group’s Girl Scout experience.
What’s the best way to launch this initial meeting? Here’s how some volunteer have run their first parent meetings:
Give a Girl Scout welcome
Kick off your meeting by introducing yourself and any co-leaders you’ll be working with, and have each parent/caregiver introduce themselves. Depending on the size of your group, you might also have the parents say what they hope their girl will gain through Girl Scouting. It’s an opportunity for you to not only get to know the adults in your troop, but to also get a sense of the kinds of activities that excite the larger group.
One of the best parts about Girl Scouting is the inclusive, welcoming environment, and as the troop’s leader, you can set that tone for parents. “As we went around the room with introductions, the parents fell into a pattern of leading off with whether they had been a Girl Scout, and we observed some shyness or hesitation among some parents who were unfamiliar with Girl Scouts,” shares one long-time volunteer. “We now proactively emphasize that it doesn’t matter whether or not parents were involved in Girl Scouts growing up. My co-leader, who is new to Girl Scouts, tells parents that she did not have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout growing up and that she feels very much a part of the organization now and is so glad that her daughter is having the experience.”
Introduce the world of Girl Scouts
Explaining the Girl Scout mission and the breadth of experiences the girls will enjoy is a great way to get all adults on the same page. “At our parent meetings we make sure to discuss that Girl Scouts is a leadership development program,” says a volunteer troop leader. “We meet in our school’s library, which we prearrange with the librarian, and show a short video by GSUSA on the three Girl Scouts processes: girl led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning. We share that over time, the girls will take on increasing responsibility for making decisions and for running the troop.”
Review information in the Volunteer Essentials handbook to explain Leadership Journeys to parents who aren’t as familiar with the programming. “It has been helpful to show parents how troop meetings are organized and how the girls earn badges,” says a volunteer.
Set aside time for paperwork
You’ll want to have enough copies of the Girl Health History & Emergency Medical Authorization, Girl Membership Registration, New Parent Guide to Girl Scouts, and information as to when meetings will be. Parents/caregivers can complete at the meeting. Also give instructions for how to register as an adult Girl Scout or volunteer, because registered adult members can attend meetings or help with transportation, overnights, or field trips. Parents are usually very grateful for the information and impressed with the organization and planning.
Parents and caregivers will inevitably ask about dues, so have a list of costs ready, including dues, sash or vest, handbooks, and any other materials the girls may need during their troop year. If your troop is participating in the cookie program, let parents know how cookie sales work and how sales can help fund troop activities.
Teamwork makes the dream work, and your parent volunteers can help your troop dream big. Be prepared to share a list of specific tasks that you’ll need help with throughout the year—troop snacks, carpooling, managing the troop’s social media and communications—and note the time required for each so parents know what to expect. Some may be surprised that some recurring tasks will only take about 15 minutes of their time each week! When you can outline things three to four months out, parents feel more confident that they can manage the time commitment.
You can also take this opportunity to specify how parents can use their unique skills and strengths to pitch in. “If you’re a money person, a craft person, an outdoor person, there’s always something a parent can do,” says one volunteer. Tell people that everyone brings their gift to the troop; the leader can’t do everything and that’s OK. Girls will get a variety of experiences if everyone pitches in.
Ask everyone to consider ways that they might want to contribute to the troop, and ask for specific skills. Later follow up by email to get people to sign up for specific tasks such as helping plan and lead a badge or bring snacks for a field trip.
Close your meeting, with intention
Leave time for any questions before you officially close the meeting, and let parents and caregivers know how you’ll stay in touch. Remind the group that by actively sharing in troop life, they’re also modeling what leadership looks like for their girls!
More troop leader pro tips
Need a few more tips for meeting success? Our Volunteer Experts have you covered!
- Decide when to hold your meeting. Sound too obvious? Not so!
- Explain adult membership to the caregivers in your group. The biggest discrepancy occurs when parents don’t understand that they also have to register for Girl Scouts if they want to attend meetings and events.
- Make individual troop policies clear. Encourage parents to be on time when picking up their daughters and to escort them into and out of the meeting location for safety.
Join Girl Scouts today!
Reprinted from Girl Scouts of the USA