Uh Oh: The Girl Scouts Are In Trouble

It’s been a year since both the Girl Scouts of the USA celebrated their centennial and a year since I posted “Girl Talk: I Was Born A Girl Scout.”  Unfortunately, the balloons have since burst, all the cake has been eaten, and the Girl Scouts have little to sing about these days.

Many problems have arisen within the organization over the last couple of years, specifically financial issues. Fewer women are offering to volunteer their time with the Girl Scouts, which means some potential Girl Scouts are on waiting lists. Declining membership and revenue has also led to many disagreements between leadership and grassroots members. The biggest problem, though, is the pension plan with a $347 million deficit. Yikes.

Today, the Girl Scouts only have 2.2 million Scout members, down from more than 2.8 million in 2003. Unfortunately, donations have also declined from $148 million in 2007 to $104 million in 2011. Nationwide cookie sales went down 4.5 percent between 2012 – 2013 yet Girl Scout membership dues have risen from $12 annually to $15 annually. [Don’t blame me! I buy 10 boxes of Thin Mints every year! — Jessica]  Plus, the Girl Scouts now have a lot of competition with sports teams for young girls and  some youngsters just plain think Girl Scouts is too old0fashioned.

Interestingly, the new CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, Anna Maria Chavez, was formerly the Chief Executive of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, the division that I was a Girl Scout in and where I received my Gold Award. While Chavez has been serving as Girl Scouts’ CEO, the number of local councils decreased from 312 to 112. The idea of selling old Girl Scout summer camps to pay for the deficit are not sitting well with some troop leaders, parents of Girl Scouts, and organization employees. There are many pro-camp activists who argue that “camping is integral to the Girl Scout experience,” while other leaders say that “today’s girls are less keen on camping than their predecessors.”  To try and create a more modern image, the Girl Scouts have gone through a major brand transformation, including “making their programs and image more relevant to a diverse population of girls and parents,…[affecting] uniforms, handbooks, merit badges, program materials, [and] the logo and fine print on the boxes of Girl Scout cookies.” Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Since I’ve grown up with the Girl Scouts my whole life, it’s disheartening to hear that an integral part of my development as a young girl may not be available to other aspiring Girl Scouts in the future. I hope we can take a hint from The Girl Scout Law to “make the world a better place”! Let’s donate our time, money or support to this organization, so that we can “be a sister to every Girl Scout!”

Interested in volunteering or donating to the Girl Scouts of the USA?

[NY Daily News]

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[Photo of a Girl Scout cookie via Shutterstock]