The Guiding Vibe blogger, Holly, shares her top tips for new guiding leaders.
On this, my two-year anniversary back in guiding, I type from my newest position as ‘Brown Owl’ at my very own unit. I have taken on a very old unit that has been well taken care of, but due to life getting in the way, the previous leaders have had to step aside. This left it at risk of being closed…something I really didn’t want to happen since the unit turns 100 in 2030!
I umm’d and ahh’d for a few weeks as to whether I would be capable of taking over such a unit, however, because of the wonderful team in our district convincing me, I took the plunge! I thought I would write a list of the 10 things I have learnt since entering the world of being a fully-fledged (if still half a module away from qualifying) leader!
- Don’t panic!
I know, I know…I panicked too. There seems like a lot to do, and there is! But remember, you are a leader! Make lists and check them twice! Here is my suggestion of people to contact before taking over:
- The other volunteers
- The meeting place (and any schools/churches connected)
- Bank signatories
- Any sections above/below yours for when girls are ready to transition to the next section
- Local commissioners (although it’s likely you’ve already been in contact with these!)
- Bank Account Woes
This is something I thought would be much easier than it was. In the age of technology we now live in, you’d think this would be straight forward, right? Wrong. Make sure you learn who all your signatories are and contact them so you have an open form of communication. I had it easy compared to some, since I had so many helpful people around me, but I’ve still spent over 2 hours on the phone to the bank to get it sorted.
- Don’t buy twice!
Get into the meeting place before you start, check what resources are left over and available to you. I was very lucky to inherit a huge amount of stuff, saving on our purchasing costs for future activities. We also had loads of left-over donated uniform which I was able to use too!
- The more the merrier
Advertise your unit in the local area. We had lost a lot of girls due to the pandemic, so we needed to boost numbers! I sent an email to the two local school heads, and they put my advert in the school newsletter! Links with schools like that can be very handy.
- Contacting Parents/Carers
Make sure you have a contact for each parent/carer so that when you have things to announce you can do it all in one go. I tried a Facebook page but the uptake was low, so I swapped instead to using WhatsApp Broadcasts. You could use an email group, WhatApp group, Facebook Messenger group or good old texting. Don’t spend your entire evenings sending a million correspondences out, find out which ones your parents/carers use and choose the 2 that everyone fits into.
- Get good on GO
Spending time having a play on GO is the most valuable thing you can do to save you on admin time. Utilise the BETA systems for logging Skills Builders and UMAs - it is SO. MUCH. EASIER. Honestly, if you can join a training about GO from Girlguiding, I would highly recommend you do so.
- Balance those numbers
In the interest of full disclosure, I had no idea the Excel spreadsheet from Girlguiding for accounts was a thing. I was only keeping paper accounts and was beginning to panic that I was going to have to hire an accountant out of unit funds before I found it online. It’s very user friendly once you have spent enough time staring at it. I would recommend downloading one to play about with before you have to actually input anything into the real accounts.
- Our greatest currency is our time
It’s very easy to get completely lost in the programme. Make a plan with your unit team on what you want to cover this year. Spending 2/3 hours sorting out all the UMAs and Skills Builders and other activities you want to do that term will save you much more time down the line. Also join dedicated section Facebook forums as they always have such amazing ideas and are a wonderful resource if you ever need help. Chance is they’ve already invented the wheel for you, don’t waste time doing it again! Also, if you want to do a certain programme activity but don’t have the resources/space etc, just improvise! So long as the girls are getting the same idea you can change the activities to suit you.
On the back of my point about joining forums, don’t feel as though you’re not doing it right if you see everyone else celebrating something and you’ve not planned to do so. You don’t have to join in with EVERY badge for every occasion that Girlguiding releases one for. By including the odd one here and there, you are providing that balanced and varied programme the girls need.
- Enjoy yourself
I have so much fun at our meetings, the unit team is great, the girls are amazing and seeing their reactions to the activities is what its all about. Seeing and hearing about all the cool things they do at home for their interest badges is lovely. Remember you are part of a massive Girlguiding sisterhood, embrace it!
I have probably forgotten 100 things that I could pass on to you, but I hope these tips helps any upcoming leaders taking the huge plunge of running a unit. In my opinion, it is worth every moment you spend on it and more!