My daughter has recently been asking to join Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts is great!
The annual dues are $12 for national. Each troop may set dues as well but that varies widely and typically covers snacks and supplies for meetings.
Your daughter would be in a troop based on her grade in school -- if she's in 3rd grade, she'd be a Brownie. In 4th grade, she'd be a Junior. This year, I do have a girl who is new to girl scouts that is a Junior. Not a problem!
Religion is not pushed though there are awards girls can earn for learning about her religion (since I'm a leader at a Catholic School, we do encourage these). The Girl Scout Promise does say "to serve God and my country".
Time commitment also varies by troop. I know my troops (I have 3) meet after school for 1.5 hours twice/month. We have a few special activities coming up in our Service Area (all the troops in our area) which include curling, bowling, and a lock-in. Those are optional and on Saturdays. But again, it depends on your troop.
There are summer camp opportunities. There is a candy/nut/magazine sale and the cookie sale for fundraisers.
If you want to attend events/meetings with your daughter, you will be encouraged to become a Girl Scout as well. For insurance reasons, everyone attending these things is supposed to be registered.
Hope this answers your questions!
I think most of the answerable questions were covered.
I think that Girl Scouts is about a wide variety of opportunities at low cost and about boosting the self esteem and peer relationships of girls too. Each troop will be different in that the leaders are different and the girls are different. A good leader can "read" the girls she works with and guide them to make decisions that will lead them in a direction to benefit them. Yes, there are badges and awards that can be earned, but there's nothing that says that's what you have to do all the time or ever. There are special girl scout activities in areas and special girl scout days (like Thinking Day). It depends upon the leader and girls if they know about these or want to do anything to participate.
Some troops meet weekly, some monthly, and some older girl troops meet whenever they can get the few girls together for a sleepover or something to do some work. Some encourage girls to work outside the troop on awards, most girls don't seem to do this though.
As a parent of a Girl Scout, you may need to send snack sometime or go to an occasional meeting as the "extra adult" if needed. Some parents don't participate at all in their daughter's experience besides drop off and pick up... if that. And it shouldn't cost you too much. As was stated, to become a Girl Scout it costs $12 annually... and the year runs from Oct to Oct. There's no discount if you are only in it for a month or two before re-registering. Then each troop is allowed to set dues. Sometimes it's a certain amount for the year or per meeting. Most groups try to have the cookie sale and nut/magazine sale cover most expenses for badges/patches/supplies, but it's usually never quite enough. Also, some particular activities will have a price tag... like a sleepover might be $10 per girl for food/supplies or a field trip might be a few bucks.
And it's never to late to become a girl scout... even someone in their last year of high school could become a scout. For the higher awards that a girl may want to earn to put on a resume, she would need to work really hard for that entire year, but could probably earn it anyway.
I would suggest asking the parents of the troop you are considering what they think. I'd talk to the leader and see if she has room for your daughter. If not, you could contact your council and see what other troops are in the area and are not full (fullness is determined by the leaders and space they meet in). And I'd go to a meeting as well, to try it out.
It is also very possible to become a girl scout without being in a troop. Those girls are called Juliettes and are entitled to all the priviledges of Girl Scouts. They may only attend summer camp, or perhaps they just want to have access to programs or trips. Or they really like scouts but the days that meetings of troops are held doesn't work for that girl?
If you have more questions... just ask. For us who have been around a longer time, it's hard to think of just everything we wanted to know as we got started.
Thank you both for your responses!