Busy family schedules, work responsibilities, cleaning, cooking, driving—there’s always something that needs to be done. It’s no wonder every family needs a system to keep the moving pieces in our lives in order!
As a troop leader, one of my greatest desires is that girls are able to attend every meeting and as many fun Girl Scout activities as possible. But as a parent, I know firsthand that my troop families have so many other extracurricular events, meetings, appointments, and activities to juggle. That’s why I know how important it is to be organized with how I communicate with my troop parents!
To ensure that your girls are able to get the most out of their time in Girl Scouts, here are my best practices for managing troop communication with parents:
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Create a Centralized Troop Website and/or Newsletter
To keep the parents in my troop up to date, I maintain a free, secure troop website (we use Shutterfly Share) and send out a biweekly 2-page PDF newsletter to stay in touch between meetings. The newsletters are sent after our meetings (we meet on a Friday, so I try to get the newsletters out on Sunday) and have separate sections that rotate, depending on what’s happening with our troop at any given time:
- A thank you to meeting and snack helpers and anyone else who has supported the troop. I love to give gratitude to my families, because my troop would not be what it is without their help!
- Relevant Service Unit and Council Events, so that parents can know at-a- glance what’s coming up that their girl may want to attend.
- A recap of the previous meeting as well as any action items needed from families, so that everyone is on the same page. (This particular item is super useful, as it helps us save paper and keeps girls from relaying messages…or forgetting to!)
- The current troop calendar with information about upcoming events that parents and girls should know about.
- The last two sections change as needed. Since we’re currently Bridging to Brownies and leveling up, that’s our current content but it will change many times throughout the year.
If you decide to create a newsletter for your troop, the most important thing to remember is that is has to be useful! Busy families want their information in an easy to use format that is concise and contains pertinent information about all of the awesome Girl Scout activities available for your troop.
Click to check out my sample troop newsletter – simple and easy!
Keep Your Emails to a Minimum
My golden rule in communicating with the whole troop (I have a large troop of 15 families!) is that I only send emails to the whole group if I absolutely have to. For example, when we go to events together, it’s rare that the entire troop is in attendance, so I do my best to make sure that emails about specific event updates and information are only sent to that event’s participants. Yes, it takes an extra step to make sure I’m emailing the right people but, by respecting my families’ time, they’re more likely to read and respond to the emails I do send. Ultimately, I try and pack everything I can into our biweekly newsletter to make things as simple as possible for our troop families.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
Our newsletter and website help us stay organized, but the people are the power behind the machine! Troops do not run effectively without the support of numerous families working together to meet the needs of the girls, but as go-getter troop leaders, sometimes we feel like we have to do it all ourselves.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to make sure the troop stays informed is through delegating out responsibilities to parent volunteers. For example, having an Events Manager frees me to do other troop leader tasks and empowers that volunteer to stay on top of announcing events on our troop site. (Shout out to Cody & my entire troop team! You rock!) Not only do shared troop management responsibilities enable your troop to be more successful and efficient, but it allows parents to gain better understanding of the demands of running a troop as well. It truly does take a village!
Pro Tip: Not sure where to start or which tasks to delegate? In a recent post, fellow troop leader, Richel, shared her top 6 tips to recruit parent volunteers!
Use a Survey to Gauge Interest, Solicit Feedback, and Monitor Effectiveness
Often, we focus on communication in terms of sending information to the members of our troops, but we totally overlook figuring out a process for effectively receiving communications and feedback from the girls and their parents, too.
At the end of each year, I use a free survey tool (like Survey Monkey or Google Forms) to send a 10-question survey to my troop families, which helps me plan our upcoming year according to what the girls and their parents hope to get out of Girl Scouts. The questions I ask focus on ideal scheduling for meetings, what the girls and parents enjoyed about this year, ways the troop can improve, what the girls want to do next year, and how we can continue to provide experiences that the girls are eager to participate in.
When evaluating the surveys last year, I noticed that one of our girls shared that she felt as if our troop didn’t go a good job of listening to each other (which, by the way, I thought was super insightful feedback for a Daisy!). Armed with this information, I was able to go into our new year ready to help our girls understand how important it is to respect and listen to each other when speaking.
Want to get started with your own survey? Here are a few sample questions to help:
- Do you plan to re-register your girl and yourself for the coming year?
- Would you be willing to volunteer as….Treasurer, Historian, Other?
- We would like to do more….field trips, outdoor activities, community service, GS NorCal Events, Other?
Repetition Is Key
When I want to make sure that my families see important things, I’ll make sure that I communicate out about it multiple times in multiple ways in multiple places, especially for event and activity dates. Telling the girls about upcoming events during the Business section of our meetings, adding those important dates to newsletter and troop calendar on the website, and including the events in each newsletter are what has worked best for us.
When In Doubt: Pick Up the Phone
There are going to be times when group communication methods just won’t be effective and times that people just won’t respond! So when mass methods fail, I prefer to speak in-person, that way I can be sure to grab a few minutes of their undivided attention. If talking face-to-face won’t work, I’ll go for the second-best thing: a quick phone call or text message. The key here is that, if email just isn’t working, mix it up and reach out in a more direct way.
The variety of ways to reach your people is almost endless—email, Facebook, text message, and so many more—it can be hard to choose. Believe me, I know that staying on top of organization can be challenging but it always proves to be well worth the effort. In my experience, taking the time to limit the quantity of communications I send (and focusing on the quality), I’ve had so much more success with parents reading and responding as needed. What more can a troop leader ask for?
Now, I’m curious to hear what’s worked for you: in the comments below, share your tips for keeping your families in the Troop Loop!
Liz LiVolsi—Liz LiVolsi is a former Girl Scout and now a Girl Scout leader of 16 eager second grade girls. She is Midwestern transplant who adores everything Girl Scouting: spending time outdoors, crafting, going on quests and learning. Follow Liz and her troop’s adventures on Instagram: @datroopleada.