Tag Archives: recruitment

20 years of guiding

When this post comes out, I’ll be on camp.  There will be glorious sunshine, and everyone will be having a lovely time.  Let’s hope.  Meanwhile, it occurs to me that my guiding experience started almost exactly 20 years ago, so settle down and I’ll tell you How It All Began.

My dad is a member of SAGGA, which is a continuation of SSAGO, the Student Scout and Guide Organisation, after you’ve finished being a student.  However, SAGGA is pretty inclusive and you can join without having been in SSAGO, or indeed to university.  They do service projects, they have get-togethers and family camps, and it’s all good scouty-guidey fun.

In summer 1994, my family went to a SAGGA camp at Broneirion, a Girlguiding-owned house and grounds in mid-Wales.  That was my first conscious experience of guiding, and indeed scouting, though I’d been to one or two other events when I was very small.  A few memories stand out: the marquee (I’d never seen such a big tent before!); the smell of paraffin; the mealtime paraphernalia, with all kinds of chairs and stools and name-labelled cutlery; the bushes and shrubberies in the garden, great for secret passages and hidey-holes; the dining room in the house with a portrait of Lord Baden-Powell on the wall; the campfire circle, where I caught the singing bug; and the Brownie house, a little cottage hidden in the grounds.

One day, my mum and I went for a walk past the Brownie house.  It was in use, and I think we went in and chatted with the leaders and saw the Brownies doing their thing.  At some point, then or later, I decided that I wanted in on it.  I wanted to be a Brownie and live in a cottage with my friends and sing songs round the fire together.

When we got home, my parents made investigations (this isn’t my memory now, just their reports and conjecture).  I wasn’t old enough to be a Brownie, but my mum phoned the local Commissioner and asked if I could join Rainbows.  The Commissioner said that the only Rainbow unit in town was pretty full, but there were plans to open a new unit after Christmas…if only they had another adult helper….

Classic recruitment technique, as I now know.  That was how, the following January, my mother and I joined Rainbows together, and started our guiding adventures.


Out-and-about challenges

This week’s meeting came from the feeling that it had been a while since our Guides had done any traditional-and-useful outdoor skills like maps, compasses and knots.  Based on a meeting we did a couple of years ago (when I wasn’t around), we leaders discussed a few ideas then agreed to go our separate ways and each turn up with instructions for 2-3 activities could be put in envelopes for the patrols to grab and complete.

Luckily, thanks to Guider-telepathy, there was no duplication of tasks!  We did end up doing as much inside as outside, despite billing this week as “out-and-about challenges”, which some of the Guides noticed and commented on.  Never mind: next week will be very much outside.

1. Rope ladders

Using string and pencils, the Guides had to make a rope ladder with at least 6 rungs, fastened with clove hitches, and hang it up somewhere.  I was envisioning a traditional ladder like this:

Rope ladder 1

But some patrols went for the cheating (or at least less stable) version:

Rope Ladders 2

2. Grid references

A tricky one to gauge, as the oldest Guides have done 6-figure grid references ad nauseam at school, while the youngest ones haven’t come across them yet.  As a compromise, we did 4-figure grid references.  The Guides got a “quick guide” sheet based on this Ordnance Survey page, a photocopy of the Landranger map of our local area, and a list of 4-figure grid references.  They had to colour those squares in on the map and work out what word they spelled.  (It was “HI!”)

3. Compass co-ordinates

“Direct a blindfolded member of your patrol to step out the patterns listed below.  Use the compass to work out which direction to tell her to step in.  Draw the shape she walks out onto a piece of scrap paper as evidence.”

Shape 1: 3 steps west, 2 north, 1 east, 5 south, 2 east, 2 north (rectangle with a square in the corner)

Shape 2: 2 steps south east, 2 east, 2 south west, 2 south east, 2 west, 2 south west, 2 north west, 2 west, 2 north east (star)

4. Friendship knot swaps

Vaguely related to knot-tying, the Guides had to tie a friendship knot with ribbon using these instructions, stick it onto a luggage label, and swap it with a friend.  It seems I wasn’t clear enough, as some patrols made one between them, while others made one each.  It also gets them familiar with the knot before we tie them in our neckers on camp.

Friendship knot luggage label swap

5. Guide Law

This was prepared by Queen’s Guide Buddy, who is on a long-running mission to familiarise the Guides with the law.  It’s not the easiest thing to remember, even for leaders, but frequent revisiting helps.  The Guides got an envelope with all the words of the law chopped up, and they had to put them in the right order.  Each law was in a different colour – it would have been cruelty otherwise.

Guide Law word sort

6. Scout’s pace

Unit Leader explained Scouts Pace to the patrol (walk for 15 paces, run for 15 paces – or a different number if preferred – to move quickly without getting too tired) and timed them while they went around the block, about 5 minutes for most groups.  I’d love to know if they kept it up diligently the whole way round or if they just legged it as soon as they were out of sight!

One leader kept a tick list of who had done which challenge.

It was interesting to watch how the patrols worked, as the dynamics have shifted quite a lot since last term.  We’ve had a lot of new 10- and 11-year olds since Easter (8 of them!), several Guides have left, and a group of friends who used to be inseparable are now amicably splitting into two smaller groups.  It feels like everyone is still finding out how they fit into the new setup.  I noticed proudly that the older patrols were pretty good on their teamwork, getting everyone involved on different tasks.  The younger patrols needed help with this, but somehow still managed to be the first to finish everything…not sure how that happened, maybe because they got more help, or rushed more, or just spent less time chatting!

In other great news, we got a new leader this week, or rather an old leader returned.  She’d moved back to the area less than a week before – that’s how keen she was to come back to Guides.  Hurrah!

PR for the Unit Leader

Recently I went to a midweek evening training session on “PR for the Unit Leader”.  I decided to go on impulse when I received an email about it, since it was not far from where I live, I was free, and I’d learned from my experience helping to organise a publicity event that I could use some advice on selling guiding to people and liaising with the press.

It was a small and intimate gathering with just 5 people: me, the trainer, her Training Qualification mentor, another participant (a Guide leader from another town in the county), and a Guide leader who let us into the hall and then stayed to take part.  I think it was one of those situations where lots of people say they’d be interested in training on a topic, but for one reason or another they don’t actually come when it’s offered.  No blame: you can’t do everything, and I certainly don’t.

Actually, I liked the small size, as it made the session informal, like a semi-structured chat.  I always enjoy meeting new leaders (two I’d met before but didn’t know well, and the other two I’d never met) and having a good share.  It helped that, by chance, everyone was a Guide leader, as we had a lot of common ground to discuss.

The trainer was one of those amazing women who can talk anyone into volunteering for anything.  We have a couple of those in my District, who have singlehandedly recruited dozens of volunteers over the years.  She also seemed to be good at starting up new units and then moving on and leaving them in capable hands: good succession planning.

The training covered various topics, such as wider recruitment incentives (Growing Guiding and a county badge for new members and the people who recruited them), being prepared with short selling points about guiding (like an elevator pitch), ideas for where and how to find new members, both girls and adults, how to present yourself in the press, the importance of an exciting girl-led programme in attracting new girls, and making use of the free promotional materials from Trading.

It was one of those sessions where I learned one or two new facts and tips, but the main benefit was being refreshed and inspired by speaking and sharing ideas with new people.

Setting up shop

One fine Saturday, leaders and Trefoil Guilders from two local Districts took over a shared community space in town to do some promotion.

If “shared community space” sounds vague, it means a former shop that’s being rented by a group of local volunteers, who have decorated it, fitted it with lights and a kitchen, and added tables, chairs, soft furnishings, shelves, a photo exhibition and a “bring and swap” area.  Volunteers are running skill-sharing events there such as crafts and home brewing, and it’s available for local groups and individuals to hire at a very reasonable price for a day or an evening.

When I heard about it in the local news, I thought it would be great to have a Girlguiding event there, and fortunately other leaders in my District agreed.  Three of us went to visit in January, and on impulse, before we could change our minds, we booked it for a day in March.  We didn’t have a clear plan what we would do, so we billed it with the open name of “Girlguiding Takeover”.

Fast forward two months, and we’d included the District next door and decided to make it a general promotion event, with displays of photos and memorabilia and a tent:

A dome tent and display boards in a shop space


Table covered in Girlguiding leaflets and freebies

Girlguiding helium balloons on the ceiling


Card/drinking straw dafodil craft

Made with: a straw, a mini cake case, and a cut-out flower. Simples!

Carboard basket craft with knitted chick inside


Fairy cakes decorated with trefoils and rainbow sweets

And a side order of fundraising for a Guide who is going on an international trip:

Table of items for sale for fundraising

We had a good number of adult helpers from both Districts and all sections and of all ages, which I was really happy about.  It was lovely to get to know leaders from the other District better, as we don’t often do things together, and when we do, we’re usually occupied with our girls.  As another leader said, it’s a false barrier as we’re in two towns that almost run into each other and have loads of crossover.

I was touched by the amount that everyone contributed, not just in time but also in terms of bringing display materials (I was worried we wouldn’t have much, but in the end I didn’t put up most of the photos I’d brought as there was no space left) and cakes (again, I was worried we wouldn’t have enough but we didn’t even need to open the tin I’d brought).  It just goes to show how wonderful, willing and helpful our volunteers are.

We weren’t overwhelmed with visitors; someone went to hand out flyers around town every hour or so, but there just weren’t many people about.  As it was a lovely sunny day, we thought perhaps everyone had gone off to do fun things rather than going to the shops.  Still, we had quite a few visitors at mid-morning and mid-afternoon, especially families.  Some were already Rainbows/Brownies/Guides, others not.  We had some good conversations going and there was a nice friendly atmosphere.

We hoped to recruit some volunteers, and we came away with about half a dozen names and contact details of potential “occasional helpers”, which could be good.  I managed to get one helper for Guides, who has now come to three meetings!  We also had quite a few parents coming to ask about how their daughters could join Rainbows/Brownies, or saying that they’d registered their interest but hadn’t heard anything.  This is great of course, but the waiting lists – especially for Rainbows – are so big we could open another unit if we just had a few more leaders.  You’ve heard this all before, of course: it’s the same everywhere.

All in all, I’m glad the event happened, even though there weren’t as many visitors as hoped.  It was good to collaborate with the community space project, good to bond with other leaders, and I think those who did visit had fun and got a good impression of local guiding.  We also got some press attention (thanks to our wonderful PR advisers) both before and after.