Monday, July 13, 2015

It didn't happen overnight.

I was speaking with a few fellow volunteers over the past couple weeks and they were so shocked to hear all that we do and our efforts. We are not a "flagship" by any means, but we have added things that seems to help our leaders. But, it didn't happen overnight. It's taken several years and lots of work and conversations. 

When I became the Service Unit Manager for our amazing Service Unit 3 years ago, I had a million great ideas and things I wanted to do and improve. I had been on the team for about 1 1/2 years prior to that as the webmistress and co-manager for the service unit. I was part of a team of 8 other amazing women that were, thankfully, open to moving forward and improving many efforts and areas for our group. But, I soon saw that I had so many ideas and so many thoughts running through my mind that it was hard to get anything done. 

That's when I began "focus goals". They go by many a name, but for me the name reminds me that first and foremost... FOCUS! At the beginning of each scout year, I sit down with the team and ask "What do we need to accomplish this year? What do we want to accomplish?" We brainstorm and think about the million and three things we would love to do. Then, one by one we go through them and decide what was most important. 

The first year, it was communication. That's a pretty broad topic, though. So, we set a "focus goal" to begin publishing a monthly newsletter for Leaders. Our Lead Her News comes out the 2nd Monday of the month at the Leader meeting and contains information about Service Unit events, Council events, patch programs, contact information, and we've added a craft column, recipe column, and Girl Scout history column to the mix. It's been a great help for volunteers to know what is going on and they aren't left wondering if they missed the deadline for events and it helps plan for upcoming things. To get troops and girls involved, we ran a contest to design a logo for our Service Unit. We have had it made into a patch and our events have rockers that fit around it. It's pretty darn cute, too. 

Next... this was a biggie... online event registration and social media. This was really 2 focus goals. First, online event registration. This was huge. No other Service Unit had done this. We worked with council to figure out a way to set up a PayPal account for our Service Unit, have it tied to our checking, and to make sure it was secure and monitored. We started using an online form service that accepts PayPal and set up forms. The first few events, online registration was about 40-50%. Now, online registration is at least 90%. They complain when they have to mail it in or drop it off. Funny they didn't even have this until 2 years ago and are already hooked. We do still have a few bumps here and there because of addresses and accounts and all that, but most of it is smooth sailing. 

The second goal for that year was to beef up our social media. The majority of our Leaders are connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. So, we set up a FB page and we're pretty active there. We follow the rules set by Council and we monitor all posts going on the page. Leaders love that they get the reminders about event deadlines and meetings and such. This may not seem like a huge thing, but believe me... it is. It's another piece of the communication puzzle.

Last year was the GAB (Girl Advisory Board). Our Service Unit had one years ago. Our older girls want to be involved and want things for them, yet they don't have the opportunity to get involved and make it happen. So, we rekindled the GAB and gave them the opportunity. They planned, hosted, and pulled off their first event last year. It was great to see their passion and ownership of something they did. 

Along with the above mentioned things, we have really tried to promote service projects and encourage Leaders to track the girl's hours and their own. I would love to see a bigger buy in for this. There is no reason all of our volunteers shouldn't be receiving the PVSA each year. I know they are putting in the time. We have started the Hearts of Service patch program, which is a derivative of a program ran by a NJ Council. 

This year... I'm not sure. We just finished our event dates for 2015-2016. I would like to see us expand our CSA offerings and we want to evaluate the events we are offering to make sure we're still relevant for today's Girl Scout. I would also like to find a way to get more involvement in reporting what they are doing. So, maybe that's the answer... better communication coming back from troops. We'll see... 

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