The Basic Organizational Structure of Girl Scouts


When you're submersed in a topic, you sometimes forget that the basics as you know them are a mystery to outsiders or newcomers. Recently, I've outlined the basic structure of Girl Scouts several times. I thought it would be worthwhile to do that here as well.

The basic unit in Girl Scouts is the individual. Girls can and do join Girl Scouts independently and participate in activities and earn awards without any further organization imposed upon them. Girls who join independently are referred to as Juliettes or Independent Girl Members (IGMs).

At the next level is the organizational unit most are familiar with, which is the Girl Scout troops. Troops must have a minimum of five girls and two leaders. The maximum size of a troop is not set, but realistically once you go beyond 15 girls, the numbers become unmanageable. The number of leaders must increase as the number of girls increases; the exact ratios differ by age level as outline in the Girl Scout publication, Safetywise.

Troops are identified by troop numbers and can adopt a troop crest once they reach the Junior level. There is no rule that states that girls must be the same age or grade level nor is there any rule that says girls in different levels of Girl Scouts cannot belong to one troop. For practical reasons though, troops are generally broken down along age lines.

Beyond the troop, most people are unaware of the organizational structure of Girl Scouts. At the next level up, there can be a fairly informal organization within your school led by a school organizer. Troops are then organized into neighborhoods. There is not set number of girls and/or troops that can be in a neighborhood. At this level, leaders tend to meet to exchange information and support large-scale programs. The neighborhood is generally led by an all-volunteer neighborhood service team. Neighborhoods have names to identify them, such as the Hilltop neighborhood in Minn-Ia-Kota Council.

Neighborhoods are organized at the next level into Councils. Your council is the first level of Girl Scouting that employs paid individuals whose job it is to support girls, leaders, troops, and neighborhoods within the Council. The Councils generally have offices for the service personnel and council shops where you can buy Girl Scout supplies. As noted previously, like neighborhoods, Councils are identified by names.

The level above Council is the national organization. The national GSUSA offices are located here:
Girl Scouts of the USA
420 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10018-2798

At the national level, a CEO is in charge of operations. There is also board of directors led by a president whose job it is to guide the movement. The board of directors is composed of 40 men and women from all over the country.

On a final note, Girl Scouts in the USA are also members of the larger World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). There are international centers located around the world that are open to all Scouts and Guides.