Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dollars and Sense

One of the most common discussions I hear among Girl Scout leaders and on discussion forums centers around money, from how to raise it to how to budget for troop activities. Just as money can be the biggest source of tension and arguments for couples, it can be a major stumbling block for troops, for a few reasons:

  1. There's usually a shortage of it. There are so many opportunities available to my troop that if we tried to do them all, we'd quickly bankrupt the troop and all our parents.
  2. We all have different ideas about money. Among leaders, parents and girls, we may have very different perspectives about fairness, value and priorities.
  3. Many of us feel unprepared as leaders. If you're like me, you got involved as a leader for the badges, camping and crafts - and not for the fundraising and budgeting. I feel perfectly confident managing my own finances, but sometimes feel an added responsibility in overseeing our troop finances.

And most importantly, every troop is different. Our girls come from different backgrounds, we're situated in different areas and are dealing with different councils. So what works for my troop may not work for yours. That said, here are a few personal philosophies I've developed over the past few years in Girl Scouts.

  • Girl Scouts should be accessible. If a child wants to be a Girl Scout, and her parents want her to be a Girl Scout, then I don't want money to be the issue that prevents that. Girl Scouts continues to be one of the least expensive and most valuable opportunities available to our youth - and I want it to stay that way. We try to keep our costs as minimal as possible and make sure our parents are aware of financial aid, if needed.
  • Be transparent. I feel I have a duty to my girls and to their parents to responsibly manage the troop funds, and I take that seriously. I've never been questioned about how our money is spent, but I think part of the reason is that we try to be very transparent. At the end of each year, we provide a detailed financial report to all of the parents. Click here to view a sample.
  • Money doesn't equal fun.  Some of the things our girls remember the most don't cost a cent. Some of the things we've spent big bucks on have been a bust (or are barely remembered). Be thrifty, be creative, be resourceful. 
  • If we can't afford it, then we don't do it. Beyond registration and dues, I'm not a big fan of asking parents to pony up additional funds throughout the year for events.  We're upfront with our troop about the fact that events and activities cost money and try to provide them with this information as we make decisions. If we're truly trying to teach our kids about responsible money management, then this is an extremely important philosophy to model. 
What are your personal philosophies about troop finances and money management?

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