County Commissioner Handbook

What to do if…

A member or unit is being targeted through social media

Every County is made up of a diverse group of volunteers who bring different areas of experience and expertise to their roles. It is natural for there to be conflict within the County at times. The use of social media means that sometimes comments can be made before the consequences have fully been considered, or can be made anonymously.

As a Commissioner it is your role to lead the County, and in such situations you must remain impartial. Do not reply to any online comments.

All adult members have agreed to adhere to Girlguiding’s code of conduct, which can be found in the Guiding Manual. This should be referred to consistently when dealing with an issue.

Talk to all parties involved and arrange a meeting between them, with you acting as mediator. Set a time and place convenient to all parties. You should always have an impartial note taker to document these meetings and print out any posts that have been made online.

Ensure that everyone is invited to contribute and actions are agreed at the end. Given the circumstances through which this meeting has occurred, you should also remind all parties not to post anything online about the meeting and what has been discussed.

The notes should be circulated in a timely way and you will need to monitor and check on progress.

If a person has chosen to post anonymously online it can be difficult to resolve the situation. It is important that you do not speculate about who the person may be, as this can lead to greater tension and upset.

Print out any posts that have been made online and, if appropriate, make sure that there is a support system in place for the person who has been targeted.

It may be advisable to contact all adult members of the County. Remind them of Girlguiding’s policies for using social media and what you expect from them as a County, without mentioning any details about posts that have been made.

A Safe Cyberspace (Online Safety Guidance for Volunteers) is available from the website to provide further guidance.

A Leader has taken girls away without the correct qualification or forms

All residential events must be approved by the relevant Commissioner using the Residential Event Notification form before they take place.

If you discover that a Leader has taken girls away without having the correct qualification or filling in the relevant forms, she has gone against Girlguiding’s policy. This could be either the fault of the Leader, or the local Commissioner.

It is important that you keep your Country or Region informed at all stages when investigating and dealing with this situation.

The residential processes page on the website provides useful information. You can also refer to the Managing Membership page of the Guiding Manual and the document Processes for Managing Adult Membership. If you need further support, please contact

A unit/District/Division cannot afford its subscriptions

As County Commissioner you are responsible for finances within your area. There may be times when a unit/District/Division cannot afford the annual subscription. This could be due to parents/carers of girls being unable to afford the subscription cost, or a miscalculation in budgeting.

You may need to use some of the County funds to ensure that the subscriptions get paid. Make note of where the shortfall occurred and create a plan with the members involved to ensure that this does not reoccur. This could involve the implementing of a ‘hardship’ fund within the County, or helping Leaders with their budgets in the future.

Further advice can be found in Responsibilities for Unit Accounts.

There are concerns about a young member

If a Leader brings to your attention concerns about a young member, you should consult ‘A Safe Space’ to help determine what action should be taken.

If you feel that a referral may need to be made, you or the Leader should contact the NSPCC or your local authority’s Safeguarding Children Board or Unit. If a young member is in immediate danger, contact the police. Either you or the Leader must report any action taken to Guiding Services at Girlguiding Headquarters.

If a Leader requires additional support in handling a disclosure from a young member, you can direct her to the NSPCC for free confidential support and advice.

If the Leader would like to provide further guidance to a young member, she can advise her to contact ChildLine, so she can seek free confidential advice and support via phone, email or an online chat facility. The young person should be informed that the ChildLine number will not appear on phone bills, including mobile phone bills.

For further support and guidance, please contact Guiding Services or email

You feel that you do not have the support of your County Team

Taking on the role of County Commissioner can feel like a daunting task and very often you may be inheriting members of the existing County Team.

These members can be an invaluable source of knowledge when you are just starting in the role. It can, however, be difficult to build relationships with people who are used to working in a certain way, and have worked together before.

If you feel like you are having difficulties with members of you County team it is important to make the time to talk to them, individually. Try not to be confrontational and avoid using emotional language. Use this as an opportunity to get to know every member of your team personally and improve your working relationships.

If you need further support talk to your Country or Region Commissioner, or the outgoing County Commissioner, who may be able to help.

A role is due to end and you cannot find an appropriate replacement

Even with careful succession planning there may be times when an appropriate candidate cannot be found.

It is better to leave a position open until you find a suitable person to fill the role than to fill it quickly with somebody who may not be suited to the tasks.

If you are conducting an extended search, be sure to set a deadline to ensure that the role is filled.

Talk to the outgoing person about extending their role while you look for a suitable replacement. If this is not possible, look through the tasks included in the role. If these need to be done immediately then delegate them among your team.

When looking for a replacement, remember that not all roles need to be filled by a member. You may wish to approach a parent of a girl within the County who has the necessary skills, or a person who you know from a different context. There may also be times when a role can be filled by more than one person, or a group approach can be taken.

A number of Leaders have left, threatening a unit in a local area with closure

Although this should be dealt with at District or Division level, there may be times when a situation involving Leaders leaving is escalated to you as County Commissioner.

It is important to consider, in your role as manager, why Leaders are leaving. This may be coincidental but there may be a problem within the District or Division that needs to be dealt with. Try to speak to the outgoing Leaders, and provide them with an exit questionnaire to complete. This will help you identify any issues at local level that may not be getting passed on to County.

As Commissioner you should take an overview of the District or Division involved.

  • What other units are available for girls to attend?
  • How far away are these?
  • Do they have space to absorb girls from the threatened unit?

This may only work as a short-term solution, but will give you time to implement a permanent strategy.

Make sure that the District or Division Commissioner contacts parents of girls throughout this time of change, keeping them informed of progress and what options are available to them. This is important for retaining girls. If parents feel out of the loop they may send their girls to different youth groups.

You need to have a difficult conversation with a member of your County

As Commissioner, there may be times when you need to have difficult conversations with a member of your County, such as when investigating a complaint or providing challenging feedback. This part of the role can be unpleasant and it is important that you feel prepared and know where you can get support.

  • Plan ahead – make sure you know what points you have to cover in your conversation.
  • Ensure that other people in the conversation are given opportunities to express opinions and ask questions.
  • Make sure that there is an impartial person present.
  • Ensure that the outcomes and future actions are clear and confirmed in writing.

Talk to Commissioners from other Counties or to your Country or Region for support; you may find that they have had similar conversations in the past. These conversations may need to be kept confidential and should not be discussed using key information about the people involved, or with members of the County who do not need to be kept informed of outcomes.

Keep your Country/Region informed if you feel issues may escalate.

Successfully handling difficult conversations is a vital skill which can be developed with practice and planning. If you feel like you need support with this please contact your Country or Region. Some examples have been included below.

Someone is not performing in a role

Girlguiding as an organisation relies on the dedication and hard work of its volunteers. However, there may be times when a volunteer is not performing as expected in a role.

This is a difficult subject for a Commissioner, but one that should be dealt with. In your role as a manager you need to identify problems such as this and create a strategy for improvement before they impacts on the girls and young women in the organisation.

If a volunteer is not performing this may be a sign of something deeper. For example, they may have not received appropriate training for a role, may feel that they do not have the support of the County or may be facing some personal problems.

It is important that you make time to speak personally with the volunteer and discuss your concerns.

Have clear examples of how you feel that they may be underperforming. This may be difficult to discuss as the volunteer may feel that they are being targeted.

Avoid using accusatory words or placing too much emphasis on ‘you’ and ‘your’. Instead focus on how the County can support the individual.

It may be that this is not the right role for this volunteer, but they would be better suited elsewhere or they may need extra training to help them be more effective in the role. Remember, not all volunteers need to be placed within a unit.

Draw up a plan, with the volunteer, of how they will continue. Set targets and dates for these to be achieved by, and agree a date for the next time you will meet.

Please email if you have any further questions.