Thursday, May 17, 2012

Troop Website?

Why on earth would you want a web site for your troop?

I toyed with the idea of having a web site for 2 years before deciding that a web site would be a great central location to post information.  I have 2 large troops with a total of 43 girls and I can spend a fair amount of time answering e-mails from parents.  I was getting the same questions over and over again.  And it never fails despite how organized and informational my e-mails were, a parent or two would miss a very important point and I would be reiterating my e-mails over and over again.  So I "invested" the time to create a web site.  I say invested because my web site was truly a labor of love.  Starting from the ground up takes time and patience.  However once the foundation is set, I can now easily add and remove information as necessary.  The platform is set and updating with photos, text and events takes only minutes each month.  I can't even begin to contemplate how much time this saves me each year with 2 troops, probably days to weeks in time.  Creating a Template, theme or feel of your web site is left to the creator.  The site can be as elaborate as you choose or as simple as needed.  The most important factor to consider when building a web site it that the site is as user friendly as possible.  You want your parents to be able to visit and find information quickly or they will get frustrated and not return to the site.  So it's important that you arrange the content of your information into categories.  Ask yourself what information do I want to communicate to my parents.  I have Vertical Tabs on my site that are divided into these topics:
Monthly Newsletters, Photo Gallery, Uniforms, Optional Events, Meeting Place, Badges, Calendar, Member Roster, GS Law, Cookies, Permission Slips, Thinking Day.  Each tab is fairly self explanatory.

The "Monthly Newsletter" tab allows me to describe to the parents what badges the girls have earned this month, how and why and post pictures and videos of our activities.  I have found this is a great page that even grandparents enjoy visiting every now and then.
Girl Scouts has so many opportunities for the girls I would love to do them all, but unfortunately I have other responsibilities.  I do encourage my girls and their families to attend additional GS events when they can, so I post additional activities under the "Optional Events" tab.  This allows many of my girls to earn patches on their own.
Uniforms always seem to be a hot e-mail topic.  "Where do I place the Journey Badge?"  "Do I put the recent dance clinic patch on the front or the back of our vest?"  I spent a lot of wasted time answering these questions, now my parents can easily refer to the web site.
Cookies are a huge endeavor each year and with new members added every year I have to introduce girls to the cookie system.  Everyone knows how time consuming this can be.  So over the years and with the help of some fantastic cookie moms I have created a "Cookie" tab with cookie tips, expectations, information on cookie moms , etc.  I have amassed a large amount of useful information that rarely changes from year to year.  Now I can easily refer the parents to this tab on the web site, ask them to review the information and e-mail me if they have questions.  This year I received very few e-mails!  Ahhhh Sweet Success!  I often cut and paste the info. from the site and share it on our council Facebook page, at our council service meetings and I can easily e-mail it to other leaders or refer them to the tab.  I also created a tab, "Booth Sales".  Here, I explain and offer tips regarding booth sales and I created a "Sign Up Genius" link for each troop to allow them to sign up for the booth times.  This is a fair way to allow your girls to sign up for booth times, it's on a first come, first served basis and girls can easily swap with another girl if something comes up in their busy schedule.  Linking Sign Up Genius to my web site allows my parents to easily visit Sign Up Genius anytime by simply logging onto our site.  (If you are unfamiliar with the web site Sign Up Genius and new to the computer world I encourage you start here.  Using Sign Up Genius with your troop is a great way to save yourself a lot of time and paper!  Refer to my earlier blog "Techno-Savvy" to learn how to get started.)
Another GREAT tip from one leader to another has to do with cookie management.  My Daisy Troop has 25 girls in it!  (No that is not a type-o!)  Many days meetings are like trying to coral kittens into a laundry basket, picture 25 crafts... 25 scissors and 25 glue sticks,  field trips can be chaotic, but the girls are tight-knit and a wonderful, loving group.  Cookies presented a problem for us.  If you have over 10 girls in your troop, you understand how demanding large troops can be on Cookie Moms.  Our initial order included almost 1000 boxes of cookies.  Clearly this job is too big for one person.  So we worked with our SU Cookie Manager and developed 3 colored groups with 3 cookie moms.  Each group worked separately, but cohesively.  In the end they spent the last day of cookie sales together and submitted one troop report.  While this system had some limitations and we had to be flexible, in the end it worked.  I would not recommend this system for troops smaller than 10, it required a lot of coordination on our part, but this was the only feasible way our large troop could manage cookies.  Thankfully we sold 2,783 boxes and we were the top selling Daisy troop in our SU area (by shear number alone).  But hey that's a lot of cookies for 1st year sales!
The "Calendar" tab keeps the parents well informed of our meeting dates and events.  I have not worked out a perfect system for this as my calendars are not interactive at this time which makes adding changes a hassle.  Clearly an area I can improve.
The web site is a much greener form of communication.  It saves me time in creating hand-outs for the girls, ink from my printer and the cost of paper.  Parents can choose to print out information or simply refer to the site.  I especially love the "Permission Slip" Tab where the parents can print out permission slips for the various activities.  I add all the information to each permission slip so the parents are well informed, but you could easily just include the link to the GS-TOP form page and let the parents print the permission slip directly from the Girl Scout Service Unit site.  The disadvantage to the link is you will have to provide all the trip details to the parents. I see a potential there for miscommunication, but it could work, especially for smaller troops.   And now... the permission slip is available on-line at GS-TOP in an interactive form which means you can easily add the information.  This system ROCKS!  Simply visit this link ( and click on Troop Program Forms.  For other service units if you don't have this feature, use our page, it's super cool and convenient!!!!!!!
The "Roster" tab is handy for the girls and parents.  It is nice central location for parents to access.  This brings me to the topic of security.  Anything placed on the internet is not really secure, but there are some things you can do to protect yourself and the girls.  First, I ask my parents for permission at the beginning of the year to post photos and their address on the site.  If I do not get verbal permission, I simply do not include their girls.  (This has never happened to date).  Second, I have created a password protected site meaning visitors can only access the site with a password.  This prevents companies, individuals and 3rd party hackers from invading my site.

So how do I get started?  Desire, a willingness to learn and a commitment to your troop (meaning you're in it for the long haul) are good indicators you will be successful in building your own web site.  There is a cost as well.  Many web site hosts will charge anywhere from $5-$30/month.  You can get a discount if you pay for an entire year.  I run a small internet business on the side so adding my troop web sites was free.  I could easily justify $1 a month per girl to run a web site page with all the advantages I have listed. Plus, the amount of money you save in printer ink and paper would probably cover the cost of the web site alone.  Honestly it saves me so much time, I would be willing to pay for it out of pocket to make my job easier.  I use the web host Homestead ( it is a large company with excellent customer service.  They will literally walk you through the steps in creating a web site.  They have templates, photos, gadgets, widgets everything you need to create a launch a web site quickly.  You do not need to know computer programming or HTML coding with this site.  Homestead is great for beginners and with enough added features to please advance computer techies.  I am sure there are several great web hosting companies on the net with competitive pricing, if you currently use another host or know of another company, please feel free to list in the "comment" section.

Finally, I am listing my web site here for educational purposes.  Maybe viewing my site will help give you ideas to create your own troop site.
Please e-mail me for the password:

Jenny Jo recommended Shutterfly to host your troop website.  I got a chance to check out this site and WOW!!!  this is perfect for beginners with a lot of interactive features including photo sharing, calendars, reminders, message boards, sign-ups and more.  Absolutely perfect for troops and very user friendly... anyone can create a site!  I highly recommend you check out this site if you have ever thought about a troop web site.  Kudos to Jenny Jo for the recommendation and great find.
Click on "Share" Tab and choose "Create Share Site".  This site walks you through setting up a web page.  When you browse the templates choose "Clubs and Organizations".


  1. i use shutterfly. you can add a password and all the other stuff.. and i have mine on the photo page where parents can contribute pics as well, i really like the calender because i can add info and it will send out reminders with all the info. :)

  2. That was an awesome tip! I've been trying to find a website that was free & easy to use. I'm almost all set up now. Thanks a bunch!! =)

  3. Hi! new follower here. so glad to have found your blog today. I'm a junior troop leader and recently started my own blog about what I do as a troop leader. Feel free to check it out

    Just wanted to share that there is a site called that is designed specifically for troops. I have not set up a site for for my girl scout troop, but I have for cub scouts and boy scouts in the past

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    2. Michelle... I think you and I may be twins in a former life! I Love love love your blog. We write about similar things. Honestly I don't think there can ever be enough information out there for leaders. It feels like Girl Scouts heavily recruits for leaders and then sort of just leaves us hanging as far as guiding us. Tips, suggestions, sharing ideas and information, recommendations and quite honestly having a place for leaders to vent is so therapeutic. I really think it helps to strengthen our resolve and tenacity as leaders. It's nice to hear other leaders struggle with the same things. And most importantly why should we all re-invent the wheel every time we plan our schedule for the year, it's great to have a place to find great field trips or activities. In my mind a testimonial or opinion about a field trip from a leader is far more reliable. You Rock!

    3. LOL. Thank you. I am very much looking forward to following you on your journey and sharing mine as well