Event Planning

So, you have agreed to put on an event for girls but you've never done it before and don't quite know where to start?. Below are some elements that should be looked at when organizing an event. I also have a page of Sample Events for you to look at which have already been planned and utilized. Another source to look at is an online Event Director's Manual complete with forms and checklists.

Event Purpose & Theme

Why are you holding the event? Is it to teach skills? To recruit new members? To provide a multi-level experience for girls? Or perhaps to expose girls to new ideas or experiences. Many events serve more than one purpose; however, you should be able to determine what the main purpose of the event is. This is important to do first, before any other planning takes place, so that the planning committee (or individual) has a clear idea of where to proceed next. This also provides a useful tool for the evaluation process (i.e., did the event satisfy its purpose?).

Deciding upon a Theme for the event often aids you with your planning and helps spur a flow of ideas. Try to pick themes that can carry throughout your whole program including food, decorations, activities, etc. Below are just a few examples of themes that can be used for events:

Earn-A Try-It or Badge Day

Winterfest Beach Blast Games People Play
Wild Wild West Science Magic Search for the Stars Juliette Low's Birthday/Halloween
Renaissance Faire Sock Hop Outdoor Skills Day Thinking Day
Water Frolic On Safari Ice Cream Social Zoofari

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Target Audience (Single Age Level vs. Multi-Level)

Who will attend? Will only one age level be invited or will it be open to more than one age level? Will the public be invited? How about parents? These are all questions which must be answered early on in the planning since activities, etc. will be based on who is attending. Single age level events are easier to manage from an activity standpoint since it is easier to chose an age-appropriate activity when only one age level is involved. Sometimes it is possible to adjust the activity to accommodate more than one age level but this is not always the case. Multi-level events have the advantage of exposing girls to different age levels and are particularly useful as bridging activities. Inviting the public or other non-members to your event may require that you arrange for additional insurance with your Girl Scout council.

You must also determine if this is to be a troop or an individual event. Remember that if it is an individual event, appropriate adult/girl ratios must be met and since Troop leaders are not expected to attend when it is not a troop event, you will need to make sure that you have sufficient staff to accommodate this.

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When chosing a Day and Date for your event, be sure to check your Girl Scout Council event and training calendars to avoid any conflicts that may arise. Look at the dates surrounding your proposed date - are there other events happening the weekend prior or the weekend after? Are they for the same Target Audience? Then, perhaps choosing another date might make the event more successful. Are there community events happening that may affect attendance at your event? What is the weather generally like at the proposed time of year and will that affect your event at all? Will it conflict with scheduled school or sports events?An event, though well planned, will not be successful if no one attends so attention to these points are crucial.

How long will your event run? Remember that you want to have the girls to have so much fun that they want more rather than being bored because it ran too long. Consider your target age level(s). In general, the younger the girl, the shorter the event should be to be able to hold their attention. For example, an all day event might be too tiring for Daisys but just right for Brownie Girl Scouts.

What time of day will your event be? If it is in the evening, how late will your target audience be able to stay? If after school, is transportation a problem? For events held on weekend days, are mornings or afternoons better? Remember to allow for people who wish to attend religious services when planning your day and time.

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Event Location

When looking at a potential event site, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the site large enough for the type of activities planned and the number of people expected?
  2. Do people feel safe in the area? If not, you will likely have poor attendance.
  3. How much does the site cost?
  4. Is it accessible? (i.e., convenient to get to for those attending)
  5. Does it have adequate parking?
  6. Is it handicapped accessible?
  7. Are there facilities for cooking and food storage, if needed?
  8. Does the site allow you to put up decorations?
  9. Does the site provide equipment (tables, chairs, PA system, etc.)
  10. For outdoor program activities, are there natural resources that can be utilized to enhance your program?
  11. Is there adequate shelter from inclement weather?

Make your reservations for the facility as far in advance as feasible. Many times, site fees are a major part of your budget.

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When searching for activities, make sure that they are age appropriate. There is nothing more boring to a Junior than to be stuck doing an activity that is really appropriate for Brownies. Likewise, Brownies will get frustrated if they are trying to complete something that is really a Junior activity. Not sure? Check the age level handbooks for similar activities to test if they are age appropriate.Or, actually use some of the handbook or badgebook activities for your program.

Check to see if the activities utilize the site resources. Is the site adequate for the chosen activities? If not, and the site has already been arranged, you need to find alternate activities.

Verify that the activities chosen are in keeping with the theme and the purpose of the event.

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Whether you charge for your event or not, you will still need to develop an overall budget for the event. Use this handy Budget Worksheet to help you figure your expenses and determine any fees which will be charged to the participants.Remember to think about the following questions when developing your budget:

  1. Will adults be charged
  2. Will older girls working as aides be charged?
  3. If this is a fund-raising event, how much profit is anticipated?

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Staffing Required

During the planning process, it is important to know how many adults you will need to run the program. Can attending adults be utilized to help implement the program? Do you need or want consultants to provided special program for your event? Are there other groups with which you might collaborate to put on this event? Remember that in order for the girls to have fun, adequate program staff will need to be obtained. In general, the younger the group, the more program staff is needed. Also, for crafts, the more complicated the craft, the more program staff is required.

Look first to people you already know and ask if they can help you. Ask other troop leaders, friends, neighbors, Service Unit members first. If you give them a concrete idea of what your expectations are, they are more likely to say yes. For example, if you ask a friend if they will help you run an event, many will merely say no because it sounds like such a large task; however, if instead you ask "Would you be willing to help teach knots at a skills event?" and describe the job responsibilities, you may have more success. Cadette and Senior Program Aides are an excellent source of help in providing program for younger girls. Please provide a clear description of their job responsibilities to them and remember that they cannot take the place of an adult.

Provide a training for your staff, including your Program Aides, if at all possible. Your event will run much smoother if those in charge have a clear understanding of how the entire event is being run. Topics to include in this training are:

  1. Goals of the Event & Theme
  2. Job descriptions& responsibilities
  3. Emergency and first aid procedures
  4. Event schedule
  5. Site rules and regulations
  6. Tour of the site to be used
  7. Practice of activities which will be done at the event - this is crucial to the success of your event
  8. Discuss any problems which might occur and how they might be handled (for example, homesickness for an overnight event)
  9. Discuss any pertinent safety issues

Remember to in some way thank your staff. If nothing else, provide a hand written note thanking them for their time.

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One of the most effective means of advertising an event in our council is by the use of fliers. These fliers are distributed either at Service Unit meetings are mailed directly to troop leaders, depending on the event.When composing fliers, make sure you include the following information:

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Confirmation Letter

Many people appreciate receiving a confirmation letter after they have registered for an event. I usually make my deadlines at least 2 weeks prior to the event date in order to facilitate this. Included in my confirmation letters are the following:

  1. Number of girls and adults confirmed for the event

  2. Name, date, time and location of event

  3. What dress is appropriate for participants

  4. What participants need to bring,if anything (i.e., sack lunch, pencil, etc.)

  5. Preliminary event schedule (where appropriate)

These are generally sent out to the troop leader at least 1 week prior to the event so that the word can be spread to all the troop members before the event.

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Supplies & Equipment

My biggest help when it comes to figuring out what supplies and equipment are needed for an event that I run is the ever popular "To Do List". I take each individual activity and make a list of supplies needed for that activity. On one side are those things that will need to be purchased while on the other side are things that I need to collect or borrow.

In addition to the supplies and equipment for each activity, you may need additional supplies or equipment to help your event run smoothly or to enhance your event. For example, if you are doing an outdoor event for a large group of people, a public address system may be needed so that you may be heard when doing group activities or announcements. Does your council have one that you can check out? Do you want/need signs at your event to mark different activities or for check-in? Do you want to have decorations and if so, what kind? Are sufficient tables provided at the site or are more needed? Will a flag ceremony be part of your event and if so, is the flag available on site or do you need to provide one? Think of all the extra areas of your event that are not part of the actual activities and make an additional list of things to buy and things to gather.

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Risk Management

Safety at your event should be one of your top priorities. To this end, make sure you have arranged for an appropriate Level First Aider to be present. If in doubt as to the level needed, consult Safety-Wise. In addition, the site and activities should be looked at from a safety point of view. Are there any potential hazards? How can they be avoided? Decide ahead of time what the procedure will be for an accident or emergency and who is responsible for implementing each part of the plan. Discuss this at your staff training so that everyone is familiar with it.

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Ask for feedback from the participants (both girl and adult) on how well your event went. This is one way to make sure that the next time, your event is even better. Ask questions such as:

In addition, ask yourself how well the event achieved its purpose. How well did the site accommodate the program (this is especially valuable to people who use the site after you)? Were there unforeseen problems? What would you do differently next time? All of these questions will help you to improve your event planning skills with each new endeavor.

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