Way to grow!

Hear how two of our growth and communities coordinators have been growing guiding locally

Daisy, Member communications team
17 April 2019

Our pilot project Space to Grow Together launched last year. It’s designed to make sure all young people can access the fun and adventure we offer and bring guiding to even more girls.

As part of the project, we welcomed seven new growth and communities coordinators to help us grow guiding locally. We caught up with two of them to find out more about who they are and what they do.

Lisa, Growth and communities coordinator for Derbyshire and Leicestershire

Who I am…

I started my role in November 2018, looking after three districts in Derbyshire and three divisions in Leicestershire. As well as my job, I’ve been a Girlguiding volunteer for 26 years and counting!

My love of guiding definitely impacted my decision to take on the role. I was actually on Guide camp when I was offered the job… my fellow leaders started to do the conga around the campsite while I was on the phone!

What I do…

The areas I work in have very diverse needs. Some have lots of capacity for more girls, others have long waiting lists, so I’m helping volunteers set up new units. Every area needs more volunteers too, to ease the workload on the ones we already have. So far, 66 existing units are being supported by 83 new volunteers who have joined since I started. That means 1191 girls in units that I’ve supported to open or stay open!

I’ve done this in a few ways. Firstly, hijacking district/division meetings to spread the love of growing guiding and help everyone bring recruiting into their roles. Secondly, by using GO data to identify where new units are needed. I’ve also been shouting about guiding however I can – from spreads in magazines and local radio interviews to events such as Derby City’s International Women’s Day.

Some challenges and wins…

The biggest challenge has been helping volunteers overcome their fears that “growth” means taking away their extra leaders, or opening up “rival” units nearby! Luckily, my experience as a volunteer means I’m able to reassure them growth is good for everyone. I promote a realistic, sustainable view of growing guiding to help get them onside.

My highlight has to be attending the first meeting of the first unit I helped set up. The 31st Derby family is now complete, with a Ranger unit that opened in January!

My top tips for growth:

  • Promote flexible volunteering! Even if someone can only give 20 minutes a week to help with admin, that’s brilliant. For example, you could delegate social media or updating GO to a parent (they’d still need to do their A Safe Space Level 1 and DBS check).
  • Monthly units or holiday units are a great way to grow flexibly too. 
  • A warm welcome is vital to forge relationships with new volunteers and make sure existing ones feel valued.

Liz, Growth and communities coordinator for West Mercia county

Who I am…

I started my role in the Midlands in September 2018. I was a Brownie when I was younger. At 15, I joined Venture Scouts and went on to become an assistant Scout leader. This was a huge part of my formative years – that’s why I’m so keen to make sure more girls can access the world of opportunities in guiding.

What I do…

I’ve been busy supporting various districts and divisions to recruit volunteers and girls, and to open new units. We’ve been opening units in areas where it makes sense, like ones where there’s no unit for girls to move up to – or no units at all! I’ve also been helping units apply for grants.

We’ve also been focusing on improving our online presence to make us easier to find and more useful to the public. We’ve got a new county website launching soon and are starting to see volunteers come through adverts on recruitment websites. The next step is taking our social media to the next level by planning campaigns and scheduling posts.

Some challenges and wins…

A big challenge for us has been communication, as different audiences have different needs. For example, leaders need to know about events well in advance, and parents might not know much about how guiding works.

Another challenge is the names of our districts and divisions, as our area is more commonly known as the Black Country (not West Mercia). We’ve created social media channels for the four local boroughs instead so new people can find us more easily and keep the West Mercia page for members.

My best bit has been all the people I’ve met.

We have a really supportive county commissioner, an amazing county growth lead and lovely volunteers. I’ve also loved getting out there to speak to other organisations to raise our profile and get advice on how to grow.

My top tips for growth:

  • Do you build a relationship with parents? Maybe you could chat to parents during the last 10 minutes of the meeting or invite parents in towards the end.
  • The idea of volunteering can be intimidating. Ask people to help with a specific task as a first step, like setting the room up or updating girls’ records on GO.
  • Many units have a private Facebook group for parents, but do you have a public Facebook page? Also remember people are more likely to search for Rainbows, Brownies or Guides than the term ‘Girlguiding’. If you do set up a local page, make sure you mark that it’s “unofficial” in some way, so people don’t get it confused with our national pages.
  • A social media plan doesn’t need to be complicated - think about who you want to target and what they’d like to know, in order to plan posts in advance. Posting in local areas’ online Facebook groups is a good way of reaching new people too. Canva is a great free website and mobile app for creating images to make posts more eye-catching.
  • It doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Think about one to three things you could do, and simply start there.

Space to Grow Together

Space to Grow Together is funded by Pears Foundation, #iwill, Big Lottery and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and saw us join forces with the Scout Association.