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The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting for a reason. Gold Award Girl Scouts’ remarkable Take Action projects transform their world and solve problems sustainably in their communities—and beyond. Earning the Gold Award helps girls get ahead, adding a special bonus to college applications, providing a resume-builder that demonstrates problem-solving, teamwork, and leadership, and starting young women who enter the military one rank ahead.
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Once the project has been implemented, and the follow-up observations have been completed, a girl is ready for the last step in the process: submitting the Final Report. The final report is the last step in the challenging and rewarding experience of taking on the Gold Award, and a vitally important one. A Final Report must be submitted and approved by the Gold Award Committee Mentor before the deadline for a girl to earn her Gold Award.
The report form consists of 10 questions:
- Summarize your project. What did you do and why?
- Further describe the issue your project addressed, the impact your project had, and who benefited.
- What is the root cause of the issue your project addressed?
- How will your project be sustained beyond your involvement?
- Explain the national and/or global link to your project.
- Describe any obstacles you encountered and what you did to overcome them.
- Describe how you shared your project to inspire others.
- Describe what you learned from this project, including leadership skills you developed. What did you learn about yourself?
- What was the most successful aspect of your project?
- What aspects of your project would you change or do differently if you could start over?
We’ve collected helpful tips and insight from committee members who have reviewed hundreds of Gold Award Final Reports (even suggestions on other items to include and common challenges that delay approval). In this article you’ll learn more about how girls should answer each question as well as how her well-written project proposal will give her a jump start on the Final Report so she can turn in an excellent report.
Pro Tip: Don’t save these questions for the final step, keep them in mind ahead of time! Girls are encouraged to read over the final report questions while working on their projects; that way she’ll already have an idea of what questions she’ll need to answer at the finish line.
Summarize your project. What did you do and why?
This first question is asking for a brief statement about the project and the girl’s reasons for selecting it. It should be four or five sentences, and likely not more than 150 words. She should not worry about leaving out key details or experiences in the answer; there are plenty of other opportunities in the final report to cover the project experience in detail. The key to answering this question is to develop a compact description of the project and her reasons for selecting this topic, project, and segment of the community in which she implemented the project. The answer to this question may be useful outside of Girl Scouts. Often job or college interviews ask for an example of leadership or working with a team, so having a pre-written summary of her project can come in handy!
Further describe the issue your project addressed, the impact your project had, and who benefitted.
In this second question, the girl has an opportunity to expand on the issue addressed by her project. For example, if her project was focused on expanding the use of composting, this question is the place to discuss the particular way she addressed that issue. This includes discussing where she focused her project — home composting for particular neighborhoods, public composting such as schools, city buildings, and event arenas, or business composting at a large corporate campus.
The second part of this question asks about the project’s impact and the community who benefitted. Here, the Committee expects to see some specific facts about the project’s results. Returning to the composting example, the final report would include information such as: the number workshops conducted, the name and number of schools/ businesses who agreed to be partners, how many compost bins were installed, and a measure (or estimate) of the amount of landfill diverted as a result of implementing a composting program. If the composting program led to other benefits such as an on-campus garden, this is the place to include it.
Your Girl Scout’s project likely spanned several months, perhaps a year or more. There’s a lot to talk about. Fully describing the project in its final form and the impact that the project had can take two to four paragraphs. A shorter answer may leave out key details, which can lead to follow-up questions when the report is reviewed by the committee.
What is the root cause of the issue your project addressed?
Root cause… Root cause… Where have we heard that before? That’s right! The Gold Award project proposal! In this third question, the girl is asked again about the root cause of the issue her project addressed. She may even be able to use some wording for this answer directly from her project proposal.
Not so fast… this is not just a copy-and-paste exercise to bring the answer from the proposal into the Final Report.
In writing this answer, a girl should look back at what she wrote in the proposal and refine or adjust it to reflect what she learned while implementing her project. Perhaps her understanding of the root cause has shifted somewhat. She may have discovered connections between one or more contributing root causes that she had not previously considered. This answer is typically to five sentences.
How will your project be sustained beyond your involvement?
This is another question with a direct call-back to the project proposal. Plans can change. A girl’s original vision for how the project would be sustained beyond her involvement and what actually happened in the project might be quite different. This question is an opportunity to talk those differences. Perhaps in the course of her project she made some new community connections and found people she had not expected who were willing to take on her project and carry it forward. If her project developed new community resources (workshops, tutoring sessions, library programs, restored nature trails, disaster response networks…) this question focuses on how those resources will be maintained and further developed. This answer is typically four to six sentences.
Explain the national and/or global link to your project.
Girl Scouts are regularly encouraged to think about the world beyond their immediate family and community. As echoed in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, we strive to make the world a better place, to be helpful and caring, and to be responsible in our use of natural and community resources. This question is an opportunity for the girls to reflect on the larger connection she has to the global community. The Committee recognizes that the vast majority of high school girls are not solving national or global problems with a 80-hour project. However, they reflect on how the issue / root cause their project addressed relates to a national or global problem and how their solution might be scaled up. The answer to this question is likely two to four sentences.
Describe any obstacles you encountered and what you did to overcome them?
This question asks the girls to reflect on the experience of implementing her Gold Award Take Action project. The answer could be short or long depending on her unique experience. One way to approach this question is to start with a simple brainstorm about the obstacles or challenges she experienced. Was it difficult to get her project on the agenda for the City Council meeting? Did the community center that agreed to host her event cancel because of unplanned repair work? Was it difficult to recruit volunteers to help for her planned workdays? Was it challenging to remember to document everything?
Once she has her list of the obstacles and challenges she wants to discuss, she can write a short paragraph about each. Addressing each obstacle one by one will help her stay focused on how she found solutions, and kept her project moving forward. Each paragraph in this answer is likely three to five sentences. It is not necessary to address every minor obstacle or delay. In writing this part of the report, a Girl Scout may consider grouping two or three small challenges as examples under one common theme such as: managing the schedule.
Pro Tip: Be specific and action oriented. This is an opportunity to show her problem-solving skills. She can discuss how she worked with her project advisor, adapted plans where necessary, and responded to changing circumstances while keeping her project moving forward and focused on her goals.
Describe how you shared your project to inspire others.
The answer to this question is likely two to three sentences. The goal in telling others about her project is to reach people who otherwise might not hear about it—to get the word out beyond her circle of family, friends, and troop members.
If she created a social media strategy to promote her Gold Award project, this is the place to describe that strategy and its outcomes. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram: together, she can use these platforms to reach a wide audience, especially if she worked with established social media channels with her community partner groups. Other parts of her project plan that she might discuss in this answer include:
- Articles for her school newspaper or local newspaper.
- New pages or blog entries on an existing website, (example: organization benefiting from the project)
- Visiting community meetings (city council meeting, GS service unit events, etc…)
Describe what your learned from this project, including leadership skills that you developed. What did you learn about yourself?
It may be helpful to tackle the answer to this question in two parts—the skills and knowledge gained through the project, and what she learned about herself.
First, the girl should consider what knowledge she gained about the topic of her Gold Award project. This can include what she learned while digging in deeper to the contributing root causes, what she learned about existing community resources and organizations working on this topic, or maybe a new skill she learned to complete her project. Then, consider what skills she developed or improved as a result of this project. Public speaking, budgeting, using power tools, coordinating a team, conflict resolution—a Gold Award project can be a place to learn all of these.
In both cases, she should include specific examples to illustrate the connection between her project and those skills. It can be a good idea to mention specific mentors or project advisors who supported her in developing new skills and knowledge. This answer will be about four to six sentences.
What was the most successful aspect of your project?
Committee members know that the Gold Award requires a lot of work to complete. We appreciate how hard each girl works on her project, and the time, focus, and creative energy she puts into making her project the best it can be. With this question, she has an opportunity to show us what she’s proudest of. In this answer a girl should talk about the what and the why: what she considers the most successful part of her project, and why that specific thing is in the number one spot in her mind. This answer will be three to five sentences at least, but she shouldn’t limit herself if she has an amazing story to tell! Consider the following prompts:
- Was she surprised by the turn-out at one of her workshops?
- Did she achieve a “stretch goal” that she set for the project?
- Is she particularly proud of the team she built to implement the project?
- Did the results exceed her plan?
What aspects of your project would you change or do differently if you could start over?
All Gold Award projects have something the team leader would do differently if they started the project over again. The most common answers that the Gold Award Committee hears is often about timeline concerns :
- “I would have started the Gold Award process earlier. It was a lot to do with school and stuff”
- “I didn’t realize it would take me four months to get my flyer/program/project approved by the school board. I allowed one day.”
Your Girl Scout may have a similar experience, or she may have observations about other aspects of her project to share.
Other items to include with a Gold Award Final Report
Timeline: As she works her project, each Girl Scout keeps a record of the dates and the time spent on each activity. In addition to providing this record as a supplemental item to her final report, reflecting on the differences between the “as planned” and “as implemented” versions of her project is an important part of the final report.
Budget: With her final report, each Girl Scout includes a financial report. Just as with the project proposal, where she included a financial plan, the financial report summarizes all of the income she brought in for the project, and then how that income was used to cover the project expenses.
Pro Tip: Girls should keep in mind that the financial report must balance. That is, all of the income brought in for the project must be spent on the expenses for the project. There cannot be any money “left over”. Additionally, in accordance with the GSUSA guidelines on money and Gold Award projects, any remaining cash may not be donated to another organization. This is a direct violation of GSUSA rules and will result in a Gold Award project being held up or rejected at final review. All funds raised for a project must be spent. A girl may use excess funds to purchase additional goods that are donated to the community organization who benefited from her project.
Photos: For certain projects it can be helpful to include a photograph or two with the final report. Photographs can be an excellent way to demonstrate the “before” and “after” condition for some projects. Just as she likely included a sketch or mock-up in her proposal, your Girl Scout will want to include some pictures if her project included:
- Improving or renovating a public space (community center, school classroom)
- Installing public art (mural) or infrastructure (adaptive play equipment)
- Environmental protection efforts (trail rehabilitation, beach clean-up, tree planting at a public park)
Even if her project did not include one of the examples above, photographs can be a great way to show the project “in action”.
Common challenges that can delay final Committee approval:
- Vague answers that lack specifics (who, what, why, when, where). Girls might consider having a friend or mentor who doesn’t know much about the project read the report. See how much they understand about the project. Use their question help fill in any blanks.
- Missing or limited discussion of results achieved (ex. number of attendees). Anywhere she can include specifics – workshop session details, numbers and results, feedback, and outcomes, she should!
- A financial summary that does not balance. (ex. income and expenses do not match)
- Poorly edited reports with repeated grammar or spelling errors
- Paperwork requirements:
- For our Juliette Scouts: The requirement for leader signature should be completed by volunteers from her service unit. This may be the Gold Award coordinator or other leadership position.
- For girls whose parent is also the troop leader: A parent may not sign off (as troop leader). There is a spot for parent sign-off, but that’s a separate requirement. For Troop Leader approval the girl can ask a co-leader, the troop’s Gold Award coordinator (if she have one), or another service unit volunteer.
What to do next:
- Looking for more advice on your Gold Award? Learn how to set your budget and timeline, choose your topic, and submit a successful proposal.
- Take on our Gold Award training designed especially for Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors (Grades 9–12) and their leaders and advisors.
- Are your girls graduating from high school soon? Check out this blog post on How to Keep Your Graduating Girls Involved in Girl Scouts.
- Earning the Gold Award is a huge accomplishment. Make sure your girls feel seen and celebrate them with the help of these tips for planning an older girl recognition event.
Michele Harms—Michele is a long-time member of the South Bay Gold Award Committee. She is a lifetime Girl Scout, now in her 41st consecutive year. As an adult volunteer, Michele has always worked in Older Girl programs. During college, Michele was a mentor for a Cadette troop in San Luis Obispo. She estimates that she has reviewed over 1,500 Gold Award proposals – navigating 3-4 cycles of changes to the program requirements. Michele earned her Gold and Silver Awards with Girl Scouts of Orange County. Outside of Girl Scouts, Michele is a devoted aunt, avid traveler, and Quality Assurance Engineer.
Allison Wright—Allison is a South Bay Gold Award Committee member. She is in her 28th year as a Girl Scout (13 years as a girl, 15 years as an adult). Allison grew up as a Girl Scout in the San Diego council. While at Iowa State University she was a Junior and Cadette Troop Leader in GS of Greater Iowa; a special interest troop leader, and the chair for the council-wide Gold Award committee for GS of Kansas Heartland. Allison is passionate about Girl Scouts; she has continued to volunteer with the program since earning her Gold Award in 2002. Outside of Girl Scouts, Allison is an Aerospace Engineer working in Nondestructive Inspection of Composite Aircraft.