GSNorCal Volunteer Essentials


Quick Links to QUICK START GUIDE Topics: Welcome! | Girl Scout Leadership Experience | Promise & Law | A Worldwide Movement | Organizational Structure | Troop Size | Joining Girl Scouts | Flexible Ways to Belong | Safety Basics | Get Started |

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Welcome to the great adventure of Girl Scouting! Thanks to volunteers like you, generations of girls have learned to be leaders in their own lives and in the world. We know you’re busy and need to be efficient with your time. For that reason, this Quick-Start Guide to our Volunteer Essentials gives you the answers to the basic questions you might have right now about the Girl Scout organization. The rest of Volunteer Essentials is a reference for you to use as needed, and supports our online training modules. Think of it is as your encyclopedia to Girl Scout volunteering! For tips on navigating Volunteer Essentials [NAVIGATION]

Girl Scouts was founded in 1912 by trailblazer Juliette Gordon Low. We are the largest girl-serving organization in the United States and a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, a sisterhood of close to 10 million girls and adults in 145 countries.

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Girl Scout Leadership Experience

leadership keysWe have identified Three Keys to Leadership: girls Discover themselves and their values; Connect with others; and Take Action to make the world a better place. At Girl Scouts, everything centers around the girl: activities are girl-led, which gives girls the opportunity to learn by doing in a cooperative learning environment.

Benefits of Girl Scouting

There's no question that girls get a lot out of Girl Scouting! You'll want to make sure that your girls get to have a wide variety of experiences so that they will get the most out of being a Girl Scout.

It's clear that girls like variety, and a troop/group program should include opportunities for lots of different activities. The basic parts of a robust Girl Scout experience include these aspects. You'll learn much more about all of them in other sections of Volunteer Essentials.

[PROGRAM: The Girl Scout Leadership Experience]

[PROGRAM: Five Benefits for Girls]

[PROGRAM: National Program Resources]

[PROGRAM: National Leadership Journeys]

[PROGRAM: Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting]

[PROGRAM: Product Sales Program]

Parts of the Program

As a volunteer, you are in charge of keeping Girl Scouts both safe and fun! You and your troop will share adventures through something called the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. It’s simple:

  • The girls discover what they care about
  • They connect with and collaborate with people in the community
  • Then they take action to do something that makes the world a better place

And there’s a whole galaxy of activities to choose from and badges to earn along the way. Share these possibilities with the girls. They will discuss, decide, and plan the year’s adventures – everything from troop meetings to camping trips!

A great place to start out is with a Leadership Journey, which has sample meetings along with lists of needed materials, and tips and pointers on how to weave in fun ways of teaching the girls to plan their activities and make decisions. [PROGRAM: National Leadership Journeys]

For Daisy, Brownie, and Junior troops, you'll also have access to the digital Volunteer Toolkit, which gives you detailed meeting plans with tons of downloadable resources. All troops have access to the Volunteer Toolkit for managing their troops and communicating with families. [VOLUNTEERING: Volunteer Toolkit]

Girl Scout MissionGirl Scout Vision
Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.

 We strive to be the premier leadership organization for girls, and experts on their growth and development.


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The Girl Scout Promise and Law

The Girl Scout Promise and Law are shared by every member of Girl Scouting. The Girl Scout Promise is the way Girl Scouts agree to act every day toward one another and other people, and the Girl Scout Law outlines a way to act
towards one another and the world. Everything we do in Girl Scouting is rooted in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, which speak to the vision we all share for girls and inspire each of us to work on behalf of tomorrow’s leaders.  The Promise is often recited at Girl Scout troop meetings while holding up the three middle fingers of the right hand, which forms the Girl Scout sign. Girl Scout policy states that the organization does not endorse or promote any particular philosophy or religious belief. 

Girl Scout Promise

 The Girl Scout Law

*Girl Scouts of the USA makes no attempt to define or interpret the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise. It looks to individual members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs. When making the Girl Scout Promise, individuals may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.” Note: This disclaimer appears in the National Leadership Journey adult guides, but not in the girls’ books. It is included here as a reminder to you, as a volunteer, that it’s your responsibility to be sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of the girls in your group and to make sure that everyone in the group feels comfortable and included in Girl Scouting. Please feel free to share this information with girls’ families.


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2.6 Million Strong
We are urban, rural, and suburban. We are in schools, churches, temples, mosques, public housing, foster homes, and detention centers. There are 1.8 million girls five to eighteen years of age and 800,000 adults in 92 countries and more than fifty-nine million alums, united across distance and decades by lifelong friendships, shared adventures, and the desire to do big things to make the world a better place. At any given time, approximately ten percent of girls are Girl Scouts in our 112 councils throughout the United States.

globe More than 2.6 Girl Scouts live in every US zip code and in ninety-two countries around the world
briefcase Fifty percent of women business owners were Girl Scouts

Seventy-three percent of female U.S. Senators were Girl Scouts, and fifty-one percent of female members of the House of Representatives were Girl Scouts.

One hundred percent of female U.S. Secretaries of State were Girl Scouts

Four or the six current female governors were Girl Scouts

astronaut helmet Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout
 book icon
Girl Scouts are more likely to succeed academically and pursue higher education

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ToGetHerThere GraphicAt Girl Scouts, we know that when girls are given the opportunity, they change their world. Every girl has an important role to play, and every girl deserves the confidence to achieve anything she sets her sight on. But we need help to ensure that girls in every U.S. zip code develop the confidence that Girl Scouts nurtures. That's why we've launched ToGetHerThere, the largest fundraising campaign for girls in history.
ToGetHerThere is a Movement wide fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $1 Billion for girls by 2020. Every gift to every Girl Scout Council counts toward the goal. Together, we will get her there - to help lead her troop, her family, her community, her company, her country, and her world. To learn more about joining the largest campaign for girls visit

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National Organization and Worldwide Sisterhood

Girl Scouts is the world’s largest organization of and for girls, currently encompassing 1.8 million girl members and nearly one million volunteers! Three core structures support all these members: the national headquarters, your council, and your support team.

GS Organizational Chart

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)

WAGGGS ensures that girls have increased awareness about the world, cross-cultural learning opportunities, and education on relevant global issues that may inspire them to take action to make the world a better place. Visit Global Girl Scouting online for additional information. Since 1925, USA Girl Scouts Overseas (USAGSO), a division of Global Girl Scouting, has helped ease the transition for American families relocating overseas by offering the familiar traditions and exciting opportunities of Girl Scouting to girls abroad. USAGSO now serves thousands of American girls living overseas, as well as girls attending American or international schools. Through Global Girl Scouting, members participate in World Thinking Day on February 22, visit the four WAGGGS world centers (, participate in international travel, promote global friendship and understanding by supporting the Juliette Low World Friendship Fund, and take action on global issues.

Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA)

The national office of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), located in New York City, employs roughly 300 employees. GSUSA is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Visit GSUSA online, where you’ll find a wealth of resources for both girls and volunteers.

Girl Scouts of Northern California (GSNorCal)

Girl Scout councils are chartered by the national office to attract and retain members in a geographic area, provide ways for girls to participate in Girl Scouting, create an environment that reflects Girl Scout values and ideals, manage volunteers’ experience with Girl Scouting, and keep girls and volunteers as safe as possible. The national office provides support materials to all councils to ensure that the Girl Scout experience is nationally consistent.

Service Units

A team of volunteers and staff provides you with local support, learning opportunities, and advice. As a volunteer, you will have the most contact with your Girl Scout support team, which is called a service unit. Never hesitate to contact them, because your support team will guide and assist you in all things Girl Scouting. If you have questions about the Girl Scout program, working with girls, resources in the National Program Portfolio (National Leadership Journeys and The Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting), or selling Girl Scout cookies and other products, go to your team for answers and ongoing support.


    Girl Scout troops need to be large enough to provide a cooperative learning environment and small enough to allow development of individual girls. The following group sizes are recommended:

    • Girl Scout Daisies: 5–12 girls
    • Girl Scout Brownies: 10–20 girls
    • Girl Scout Juniors: 10–25 girls
    • Girl Scout Cadettes: 5–25 girls
    • Girl Scout Seniors: 5–30 girls
    • Girl Scout Ambassadors: 5–30 girls

    A Girl Scout troop must have at minimum, five girls and two unrelated, registered and background-checked adult volunteers, one of whom is female. Although troop size may vary greatly, all troops stay open to a minimum of 12 girls. If the troop is listed in the Troop Opportunity Catalog, it will automatically stay open until 12 girls are registered with the troop. Troops that have fewer girls may meet and carry out their activities, but should always be open to taking more girls. Larger groups should not see the minimums as a limit. Large troops can be super fun and offer lots of opportunities for different groups of girls to interact with each other.

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    Girl Scouts is about sharing the fun, friendship, and power of girls and women together. Any girl—from kindergarten through 12th grade—can join Girl Scouts.

    Girl Scout DaisyGirl Scout BrownieGirl Scout Junior silhouetteGirl Scout Cadette SilhouetteGirl Scout Senior silhouetteGirl Scout Ambassador silhouette

    Girl Scout Daisy (grades K–1)

    Girl Scout Brownie
    (grades 2–3)

    Girl Scout Junior (grades 4–5)

    Girl Scout Cadette (grades 6–8)

    Girl Scout Senior (grades 9–10)

    Girl Scout Ambassador (grades 11–12)

    Girl Scout volunteers are also a diverse group—you may be a college volunteer working on a community-action project, a parent volunteer ready for an outdoor adventure with your daughter’s troop, or any responsible adult (female or male, who have passed the necessary background-checked process) looking to help prepare girls for the day when they’ll lead—however and wherever they choose.

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    How to Join

    What all members share, both girls and adults, are the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Each member also agrees to follow safety guidelines and pay the annual membership dues of $25, paid to the national organization, GSUSA. Adults have the option to purchase a lifetime membership (see fee options below). Additionally, girl members pay a $15 annual Council Service Fee (this portion directly supports GSNorCal).

    Membership Dues

    Adults - $25

    Girls - $40

    $25* annual membership fee
    paid to GSUSA

    Lifetime Membership 

    Adults have the option to purchase a one-time lifetime membership:

    • $400- Lifetime Membership for adults who are not a former girl member, or a former girl member who is 30 years or older.
    • $200- Young Alumnae Lifetime Membership for adults who were a former girl member who is 18-29 years old.

    $25* annual membership fee
    paid to GSUSA

    $15 annual Council Service Fee which directly supports GSNorCal

    GSNorCal is one of 112 Girl Scout Councils that operates under the “umbrella” of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA).  The national dues that you pay to GSUSA support Girl Scout activity insurance and development of national programs (like badges and Journeys). Increasingly, dues also pay for technology investments, including the troop catalog, new registration system, Volunteer Toolkit and Digital Cookie.

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    Across the country, the Girl Scout community is hard at work on a whole new approach to make sure that everyone can participate in Girl Scouting in the ways they want to. As a volunteer, you can choose from flexible ways to participate that can be tailored to fit your schedule and lifestyle. You can also volunteer behind the scenes, in a GSNorCal office, instead of volunteering directly with girls.

    Girls can choose any one, all, or some of the options—camp, events, series, troop, travel— within a single membership year. 

    As a volunteer, you, too, have the option of partnering with girls throughout a membership year or committing to an opportunity for only a few weeks or months. Based on independent research and extensive surveys with thousands of council staff members from around the country, we have a good sense of which options will interest girls, based on their grade levels. These are reflected in this chart:

    Pathwayspathways chart

    Girls of all levels can explore their skills and interests while helping to shape a variety of fun and enriching leadership experiences that inspire them to reach their personal best. No matter where and how girls participate, they get the necessary guidance from adult volunteers and council staff to develop leadership skills and understand how those skills can be used to make a difference in the world.

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    Pathways for Girls in GSNorCal

    Girls participate in a series of programs with the same group of girls over the course of an academic year. Girls of all levels can explore their skills and interests while helping to shape a variety of fun and enriching leadership experiences that inspire them to reach their personal best. No matter where and how girls participate, they get the necessary guidance from adult volunteers and council staff to develop leadership skills and understand how those skills can be used to make a difference in the world. Troops provide a flexible way for girls to meet. Some ideas include:

    • Fourteen Girl Scout Brownies who meet twice a month from November through March at a local community center
    • Seven girls who are homeschooled and meet weekly as a Girl Scout Cadette troop
    • Girls who meet together once a week at their juvenile detention center to participate in Girl Scout activities

    Girls and adults participating in troops can meet once a week, once a month, or twice a month for several months—how often is up to you and the girls. Troops can meet just about anywhere, as long as the location is safe, easily accessible to girls and adults, and within a reasonable commute (“reasonable” has different definitions in different areas: In rural areas, a two-hour drive may be acceptable; in an urban area, a 30-minute subway ride may be too long). In each meeting, girls participate in fun activities that engage them in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE).

    Contact the GSNorCal Member Services Team for more info:

    Girls participate individually or with their troop in one-time events (e.g., career day). Check out the Program and Event Guide

    Girls participate in day or resident camp with a focus on the out-of-doors and/or environmental education.

    Girls participate in a series of programs with the same group of girls relating to a specific theme or purpose (e.g., high-adventure and travel troops, robotics teams, or after school programs where girls complete a Leadership Journey over a six-week period). Contact

    Girls plan, earn money, prepare, and participate in regional, national, and international trips! GSNorCal believes that every girl deserves a chance to see the world! Therefore, we host two annual travel adventures each summer (Cadette’s and a separate trip for Senior & Ambassadors).

    GSUSA coordinates a national GSUSA Destinations program that provides unique experiences for girls in grades 6-12. Through this program girls can apply for and attend events sponsored by councils throughout the United States that take place all over the country and also internationally.

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    Pathways for Adults

    Adult volunteers in GSNorCal can serve:

    At the troop level

    • Troop Leader
    • Troop Treasurer
    • Troop Cookie Manager
    • Troop Fall Product Manager
    • Troop Helpers
      • Troop Driver
      • Troop First Aider
      • Troop Trip Advisor
      • Event Manager
      • Troop Camp Advisor
      • Troop Background Advisor

    Or beyond the troop (service unit or council level opportunities)

    • Support troops traveling the world by sharing your love of travel!
    • Work with a group to plan and carry out events for girls in your area
    • Join the Girl Scout Alum (former girl or adult members who serve
      the council in a variety of ways)
    • Be a Campaign For Girls Champion in a local service unit (raise awareness about the benefits of financially supporting our Girl Scout council)
    • Work to coordinate cookie or fall sales in your service unit
    • Manage a Fall Sales or Cookie Cupboard in your service unit
      •  maintain an inventory of products for local volunteers to check out or return products during the sales
    • Work on property improvement or maintenance for our camps
    • Work with our Fund Development Department to explore funding opportunities with your employer, or foundations or other organizations you are affiliated with
    • Volunteer at camp (Day and/or Resident)
    • Provide Girl Scouting for girls in hard-to-serve areas including migrant camps, detention centers, homeless shelters or other areas.
    • Talk to potential new volunteers at a Parent Information Night or
      recruiting event.
    • Training/development of adults, help coordinate volunteer learning courses or mentor new volunteers in your service unit.

    Contact Member Services 800-447-4475 Ext 0 or

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    Girl Scouts is fun, exciting and full of adventure, but it’s difficult to have a good time when you're experiencing bumps and bruises! It's important to keep safety a top priority!

    1. Use the Safety Activity Checkpoints for all of your Girl Scout activities. Safety guidelines in the Safety Activity Checkpoints are designed to keep girls safe and protect adults’ legal interests. You’ll be provided with resources that make it easy to comply with local, state, and federal laws and insurance requirements, and spend more time having fun with your girls! [SAFETY-WISE: Girl Scout Safety Guidelines]

    2. Make sure your girls have proper supervision - always two unrelated adults (sometimes more). Girl Scouts’ adult-to-girl ratios show the minimum number of adults needed to supervise a specific number of girls. (Councils may also establish maximums due to size or cost restrictions.) These supervision ratios were devised to ensure the safety and health of girls—for example, if one adult has to respond to an emergency, a second adult is always on hand for the rest of the girls. It may take you a minute to get used to the layout of the chart, but once you start to use it, you’ll find the chart extremely helpful. [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]

    3. Be Prepared for emergencies! Make sure everyone in the troop knows how to handle fires, weather, and evacuations. And of course, always have a first aid kit handy. [SAFETY-WISE: Emergency Preparedness]

    4. Feelings get hurt, too, so one of your most important roles is to ensure that your girls feel emotionally safe. This is the place where girls try new things, and they have to do it without fear of how they look while they try, fail, practice, and succeed. Always include everyone – never ever allow cliques, bullying, or discrimination in your troop. Be the role model that encourages openness and acceptance. [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating A Safe Space for Girls]

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      Online & In Person Learning

      Ready to learn more? GSNorCal provides learning modules to help you every step of the way, and you’ll earn virtual badges when you complete them! Go to: and select your role. All the learning modules, forms, and resources you need are there just for you!

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        You probably have more questions – that’s a good thing! The volunteers and staff at GSNorCal will be answering them, and supporting you, throughout all your Girl Scout adventures. Don’t shy away from asking parents for a little time every now and then – making adventure happen is a collaborative effort.

        Finally, use the resources your council will provide for you – you’ll find all the answers you’ll need in there, from how to transport girls to events to contact information. And if you can’t track down what you need, contact us! There’s always someone to help you out! or 800-447-4475 Ext. 0

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          Get Connected

          Connect with Girl Scouts of the USA:

          Connect with Girl Scouts of Northern California:

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          Resources in Volunteer Essentials

          Adult-to-Girl supervision ratios [SAFETY-WISE: Adult-to-Girl Supervision Ratios]

          Knowing which adults must be registered and screened [VOLUNTEERING: Registration Questions][VOLUNTEERING: Adult Screening]

          What to do with girls [PROGRAM]

          Finding a place to meet [SAFETY-WISE: Meeting Place Considerations]

          Girl characteristics [GIRLS & ADULTS: Understanding Healthy Development in Girls]

          Communicating with girls [GIRLS & ADULTS: Creating A Safe Space for Girls]

          What to do when sensitive topics come up [GIRLS & ADULTS: When Sensitive Topics Come Up]

          How to plan with girls [GIRLS & ADULTS: Letting Girls Lead]

          Preventing behavior problems (and what to do if they occur) [GIRLS & ADULTS: Preventing & Managing Conflict]

          How to form a network of adults to help [GIRLS & ADULTS: Friends & Family Network]

          Agenda for first parent/guardian/caregiver meeting [GIRLS & ADULTS: First Parent/Guardian/Caregiver Meeting]

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