Contacting volunteers, parents and carers

Find out how you should communicate with other volunteers, parents and carers

This guidance is part of our Managing information procedure

As a Girlguiding volunteer you need to make sure that you use people’s contact details appropriately.  

Only contact people using their contact details on GO. 

Email 

One of the most common ways you’ll communicate with others in Girlguiding is by email.  

Our collecting, using and destroying personal data page has a list of rules you should follow to make sure you’re emailing safely and securely.  

Don’t forget to use the BCC field if you’re emailing more than one person so you don’t share anyone’s personal email address. 

When you’re emailing as part of your volunteering role, you need to use anemail account only you can access. This is to make sure both your own and other people’s personal data stays safe. 

Never use an email account you share with family members. This is a data breach, as they’ll have access to personal data they shouldn’t. If you share a device with family members, make sure they can’t access your email account, even accidentally. Make sure the password for your email account isn’t saved automatically and always log out after using it. 

If you use a work email address for your volunteering role, think about what your work IT team might be able to access. Avoid using this account to send emails about anything sensitive or confidential, like a safeguarding concern or bank details. 

You might want to have a separate email account just for Girlguiding, because: 

  • it will help you to keep information about your private life separate 
  • it may make a data breach less likely by decreasing the risk of accidentally using the wrong email address and sending an email intended for a volunteer or HQ to a family member or friend.  
  • it makes it easier to quickly find emails relating to Girlguiding. This will make responding to requests for access to personal data, like Subject Access Requests, less time-consuming. Our Data Protection team will support you to handle these requests, but you’ll be responsible for searching through all your emails. 

We don’t recommend using a shared email account that other volunteers can access. This is because of the risk of a data breach taking place. But we understand there may be some circumstances where you think the benefits of sharing an account outweigh the risks.  

If you decide to have a shared Girlguiding email account, you must follow the guidance below to minimise the risks: 

  • Only volunteers with the same level of access to personal data should use the account. Just because someone else is involved with Girlguiding, it doesn’t mean they should have access to the same personal data as you. If you have a shared unit email address only leaders, or those with the same access as leaders on GO, should use it. Check which roles have unit leader access 
  • A shared email address mustn’t be recorded as anyone’s personal email address on GO. Others in Girlguiding may use your email address on GO to share information personal to you. 
  • Make sure that anyone you communicate with is aware of who monitors the account. You could do this by including an automatic signature on your emails. 
  • Make sure you use a unique password for the email account. You should reset it every time someone leaves your leadership team or changes to a role with a lower level of access on GO. You should have a plan in place for how to do this. 
  • Don’t use the account to discuss anything you or others in the email conversation want to keep private. 
  • Don’t use the account when reporting anything sensitive, such as a safeguarding concern or complaint. 

Social media, including WhatsApp and Facebook 

Another common way of communicating with volunteers, parents and carers is through social media. Not everyone will be comfortable or have the technology to communicate in this way, so make sure you offer other ways as well. 

Before setting up a group, here are a few things you need to think about: 

  • if it’s a group for parents and carers, make sure to only include those listed as a contact on GO. If a parent or carer asks for another family member to be added to the group, make sure there’s a practical reason for this. For example, Grandma might need to be in the group if she’s in charge of drop-off and pick-up 
  • what information will you share in this group? Will it just be for sharing important updates about unit meetings? Or will you also share photos and videos?  

Make sure you’re only sharing things that are appropriate for group members to see. 

When you set up your group, let volunteers, parents and carers know that: 

  • they can choose whether to join the group or not. You can explain the benefits, but you can’t add them without their consent 
  • other group members may be able to see their contact details or other information. They should check the privacy and security settings of their account before joining 
  • they can leave the group at any time 
  • they shouldn’t share personal data if they don’t want others in the group to see it.

Make sure it’s a closed or private group, so only you can add people. You should know who everyone is, and remove people when they shouldn’t have access anymore, for example if a girl or volunteer leaves the unit. 

For more information check out our Digital Safeguarding procedure, our social media community guidelines, and our guidance on promoting guiding through social media. 

Contacting young members 

Volunteers should never contact young members under the age of 14 directly without their parents’ or carers’ permission.  

Find out more about messaging with young members in our Digital Safeguarding procedures. 

Contacting volunteers through GO 

To contact volunteers through GO, click on the Directory button and search for the person you want to contact, or use the Message button. 

Managing a newsletter  

You can send volunteers and parents or carers newsletters using email platforms like Outlook, Gmail or Mailchimp.  

When sending newsletters make sure to: 

  • always use BCC for email addresses. This protects individual email addresses from being shared 
  • always use an up to date list of emails downloaded from GO, and delete old lists regularly 
  • only send marketing emails to people who are on the marketing list on GO 
  • If you’re sending a marketing email, include an option to opt out. This could be a sentence at the bottom explaining how to unsubscribe from receiving marketing emails, for example: ‘If you no longer want to receive these emails, please log on to GO and update your marketing preferences.’

Service messages 

A service message includes anything vital to someone’s membership, their role in guiding, or information they must know. If you’re involved with Girlguiding, you can’t opt out of these messages because they contain essential information.  

Making guiding happen is an example of a service message Girlguiding HQ sends to all volunteers. Your country, region, county, district or division will have examples of other service message communications. 

Service messages to volunteers can include information about: 

  • safeguarding 
  • changes in leadership 
  • essential training, like A Safe Space, 1st Response and data protection 
  • county, division or district meetings  
  • updates to policies and procedures 
  • changes to the national programme 
  • subscription information 
  • membership system changes. 

Service messages to parents and carers can include information about: 

  • term dates 
  • information about pick-up and drop-off of young members 
  • meeting activities, including things to bring to meetings 
  • compulsory forms. 

Marketing messages 

A marketing message includes information that isn’t essential for volunteers to do their role. You can only send marketing emails to members who have agreed to receive them through their marketing preferences on GO.  

Discover, grow is an example of a marketing message Girlguiding HQ sends out. Your country, region, county, district or division will have examples of other marketing communications. 

Some examples of marketing messages are: 

  • selling tickets to an event, like a training session that members have to pay for, a camp or a barbecue 
  • selling things from the Girlguiding shop or another shop 
  • advertising activity opportunities, discounts or sponsorships with organisations outside Girlguiding.

Send marketing and service communications separately 

To make sure you’re following data protection laws, you must send marketing and service messages separately. Email our Data Protection team at [email protected] if you’re not sure what content you can include and need more guidance. 

Information on fundraising 

If you want to talk about fundraising activities in emails or in your newsletter, be aware you can only send these to members who have agreed to receive fundraising communications through their marketing preferences on GO.