So—you’re ready to grow your troop and bring more girls into the fold. Maybe your troop is having such a fun Girl Scout Leadership Experience that you just HAVE to share the Girl Scout love! Maybe you started off small and are ready to expand now that you have your feet under you. Maybe you have found it difficult to spread the word about your troop and are looking for fresh ideas to bring more girls onboard? Maybe your troop has seen a decrease in numbers and would appreciate some additional friends to bring renewed energy and a new perspective? Whatever your reasons for inviting new girls and opening up your metaphorical doors, a Bring-a-Friend event is a great way to engage your girls and develop their leadership skills while also promoting friendship and inclusion. It’s a win-win!
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Not sure where to start? As a former Girl Scout troop leader and current Membership Development Manager with GSNorCal, here are 6 simple steps to get you started:
Step 1: Reach out to your local volunteers
There’s a good reason why “be a sister to every Girl Scout” is one of the lines in the Girl Scout Law! Your local Girl Scout community is one of your greatest resources so don’t be afraid to reach out—other troop leaders at your school, your school representative, service unit volunteers, and your council Membership Development Manager/Membership Manager are all people who can offer advice, resources, and handy tips specific to your area. Not sure who your local volunteers and council staff are? Just ask!
Your service unit may even already have a Bring-a-Friend event on their calendar that your girls might want to invite their friends to, so check with the event managers to find out if their events are open to non-Girl Scouts.
Step 2: Brainstorm an idea
An idea shared is an idea squared! Open a discussion with your troop to get them excited about their upcoming event, and to decide on their activity focus. Gather their ideas: What makes their troop unique? What are their favorite activities in Girl Scouts? What do they think their friends would enjoy most? What are the most important things they want their friends to know about their troop?
Step 3: Narrow down your activities
Stay true to your troop’s nature! Your girls may want to go all out to impress their friends, but it’s important to make sure that potential new members get a real idea of what it means to be a member of your troop. Here are some event ideas to get your troop started—make sure your event plays to your girls’ strengths and passions!
- Be sure to include your troop’s own traditions—your opening and closing ceremonies, kapers, songs, and troop business are an integral part of your troop!
- Have a group who loves to get outdoors? How about an outdoor scavenger hunt? If an outdoor event is not practical, bring the outdoors inside with edible campfires, outdoor-themed SWAPS, knots, campfire stories, and tea light s’mores!
- Showcase your girls’ love of STEM with a range of easy projects such as Paper Rockets and Catapults! You could even create a mini makerspace!
- Highlight some Girl Scout traditions! You could celebrate one of Girl Scouts’ special days, make and share SWAPS, participate in a friendship circle, sing songs, entertain your friends with skits… the possibilities are endless!
- Do your girls live to help others? Get ambitious and incorporate a one-day community service project into your event, whether that’s volunteering at a community garden, helping out at a homeless shelter, or making small toys for dogs and cats at your local humane society!
- Are your girls an energetic and fidgety bunch? Try getting-to-know-you and team-building games, or have them invent their own obstacle course, relay race, or field day!
- If you have a troop of party animals, encourage them to plan their own party complete with food, games, crafts, and (of course!) cake.
- Variety is the spice of life! If your troop can’t possibly limit themselves to one theme, set up stations and let your visitors try it all!
Step 4: Decide where and when
Providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for every girl and her family is one of the core values of Girl Scouts. Is your troop’s regular meeting place suitable for the planned activities and number of attendees? If not, consider what you need from your location, as well as the time of year. Parks, school facilities, libraries, and church halls can be great options. Make sure to choose a safe, secure spot with bathroom access!
Then, pick a time and day. If the activities your troop has chosen are suitable for your regular meeting time, this may be your best choice. If your invitees are able to make it to your event, they’ll be able to make it to your meetings! Otherwise, be sure to choose a day when all of your girls are available so that nobody is left out. Make sure every girl has someone to invite and share their love of Girl Scouts—whether they double-up on inviting the same friend or ask a trusted older sibling or guardian to attend.
Pro Tip: Do any of the invited friends have special needs? If so, think about how to tweak your activities or location so they participate fully!
Step 5: Call in the cavalry
Enlist help! Ask the other registered & screened adults in your troop to help by running activities and stations, supervising, planning, shopping, bringing snacks, providing first aid etc. Whatever you need, don’t be afraid to ask.
Pro-Tip: If parents, guardians, or caregivers of friends are invited as well, make sure you have enough adult volunteers to run the activities so that you are available to answer questions. It’s a great idea to provide a handout for the girls to take home with a description of your troop, your regular schedule, and instructions for registering their girls (and themselves as Troop Helpers)!
Step 6: Keep it girl-led
Girl-led events can be chaotic and messy, but letting them make the decisions is at the heart of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Let your girls take the lead in planning and execution wherever possible: the more ownership they have, the more excited they will be, and their enthusiasm will be contagious! Once all of the logistics are planned out, the girls can design and prepare their invitations and hand them out to their friends!
Pro-Tip: Support girls in working out any issues that might arise on their own. For example, if two girls want to invite the same friend and this causes conflict, can they work together on a single invitation? Does one of the girls have another friend who might also like to come?
Whether you’re looking to open your troop to one more girl or many, hosting or attending a Bring-a-Friend event will not only introduce new girls to the wonders of Girl Scouts, but it will help your troop realize how much joy, learning, and sisterhood Girl Scouts brings into their lives. The event is bound to be a blast, so get planning!
What to do next:
- Connect with your local volunteers, or reach out to your Membership Development Manager or Membership Manager for resources and advice.
- Read up on the benefits of bringing new members into your troop, discuss the reasons to invite a friend to Girl Scouts, and then start planning your event!
- Opt in to the troop catalog so that new members can easily register by November 30—if you also host a Bring-a-Friend meeting and add at least one new girl and volunteer to your troop by January 31, you and your whole troop can earn our Grow Your Troop patch and all three butterfly rockers!
Anna Lomas—As a Girl Guide in 1980’s England, Anna learned how to make a bed, serve a tea tray, and arrange flowers. After moving to the United States and becoming a mother to two girls she volunteered as a troop leader, never suspecting that her hard-won skills would be of little use to today’s Girl Scouts. Her understanding of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience grew along with her passion for Girl Scouting, leading her to first a service unit volunteer position, and then to her current position as Membership Development Manager for Contra Costa County. In her previous life before marriage and children, Anna was a teacher of Science and Psychology. It’s a far cry from her childhood ambition of becoming a vet, but she’s secretly rather happy with how it all turned out.