Five years after the creation of Girl Scouts of Colorado, we are taking a critical look at our organizational structure to determine how we can increase our efficiency and maintain a strong future that provides the premiere leadership experience for the girls of Colorado. Our council faces two overarching and related challenges – a declining membership and a budgetary shortfall.
With the exception of two small single-year bumps, girl membership has been declining both in Colorado and nationwide since 2002, when we had 47,485 girl members in the state. By the end of 2012, that number had declined to 31,277. To help end this trend, we are talking with staff and volunteers around the state about challenges they face in recruiting and retaining Girl Scouts. Our largest membership challenge is actually not having enough troop leaders to guide the girls who want to be in a troop. Girls want and need the positive direction of Girl Scouting, but we don’t have the volunteers to provide the leadership.
In addition to a declining membership, our council is facing significant financial challenges. Our largest budgetary obstacles are a $650,000 loss in revenue from closing two of our resident camps last summer because of the Colorado wildfires; and cookie sale revenues that came in $900,000 under budget, due to fewer Girl Scouts selling. On top of that, GSCO faces rising costs for the GSUSA pension plan. The combined impact of these three factors amounts to a $2.1 million deficit. Guided by our commitment to the Girl Scout Law’s requirement of using resources wisely, we are streamlining our staffing and programming.
One of the initial changes we made to meet an increased demand for troop camp while saving on program expenses where resident camp registrations were lower was to change eliminating program staff positions and GSCO-planned programming at Sky High Ranch. This beautiful property will remain open and available for rental by troops and other groups year-round.
After listening to our members, GSCO has identified four service targets:
1. More regional support. We have combined our Membership, Volunteer, and Program departments into a single Program Department with a reduction of management positions and a focus on regional needs, while maintaining statewide support from our corporate headquarters. In each region we have established a local team with staff specializing in recruitment, program support, volunteer management and administration. Each team includes a Team Lead, who provides direction and coaching; and resources will focus on support for area troops and service units and their unique needs.
2. More staff presence in the community. The regional team administrative support will free program staff to have a stronger community presence and more time to directly work with volunteers.
3. Less red tape. We’re changing our systems and processes and utilizing technology to make the business of Girl Scouting more easy and efficient for our volunteers and staff.
4. More focus on our current members. While we will still be actively recruiting new adults and girls, we will shift our focus to retaining and reengaging our membership with a strong Girl Scout Leadership Experience and training and support for our volunteers to deliver it.
The total impact of the personnel changes included in this restructure is approximately $500,000. Combined with the changes to Sky High Ranch, we are expecting a savings of about $600,000 — well short of our $2.1 million shortfall. We are continuing to look for additional cost savings in all areas of the budget. Though this is a difficult time for all of us, we are confident about building a solid membership foundation for future growth. You can help in two ways:
1. Send a donation to GSCO at http://www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/catalog/donation-options. As we look to cut expenses, we also need to increase our revenue. Your donation will help us close this gap faster and ensure that we can provide girls and volunteers with the support they need.
2. Volunteer your time as a troop leader. We are always looking for volunteers to serve in various capacities, but our biggest need right now is for troop leaders, particularly for girls in K-5 grades. To help, please visit our website at: http://www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/volunteers/join.
Thank you for your continued support as we work through these challenges. We are grateful for the creative input of our entire Girl Scout family – parents, troop leaders, community volunteers, staff and the girls we serve – as we take action to face and overcome our challenges. We are excited about our new organizational model and are optimistic about our increased capacity to support our members.