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Want to know what’s going on with Girl Scouts regionally? Here, CEO Lise L. Luttgens gives us a quarterly rundown of the Girl Scout Movement in the diverse communities of Los Angeles County and parts of Kern, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties.
Dear Girl Scout Families and Friends:
Greetings! Welcome to our new Girl Scout membership and fiscal year (Oct. 1). Still basking in the glow of so many bright moments from this fall (Girltopia, for one!), it’s time to share our goals for the year ahead.
To recap, our focus remains on delivering our mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character by:
- recruiting and retaining our girl membership,
- providing new opportunities for volunteer engagement, and
- creating high quality, relevant programs for girls in grades K-12.
In order to support this mission, we also set goals every year to strengthen the business of Girl Scouting, focusing on the financial stability to support mission delivery and our philanthropic (fundraising) capacity and market awareness of Girl Scouts.
We are constantly learning and growing as a council, and thus, I want to share with you several critical developments from 2013 that affect our 2014 business goals:
Like many other councils around the country, funds raised from our Girl Scout Cookie Program fell short—in our case, 9% short from the previous year. A healthy Girl Scout Cookie Program is vital to our mission for two key reasons: It is the most successful business entrepreneurship program for girls in the world, teaching them goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life. It’s also our council’s largest income generator for girl programming. (See a breakdown of where cookie money goes at $4 a box here.)
In 2013, we suffered a $1.6M cookie-related shortfall in our $16M budget revenue, forcing us to undertake two rounds of non-salary cuts last spring and summer, and in August, we had to make the difficult decision to reduce staff positions by over 10%. We recognize that these reductions, which involved all departments and levels of the council, support programs and services to girls and the adults who lead them. And we know that when we are challenged financially, it ultimately impacts the girls. I sincerely hope together, we can turn this downward trend in cookies around this January-March to achieve our goals.
Many councils have also experienced declining membership over the past few years. GSGLA has been fortunate to be building membership at the rate of about 5.5% each year to align with our strategic plan. Unfortunately, we finished last year with a 1.3% decline, compared to a 6% decline nationally. This year we expect flat membership and have budgeted accordingly, which makes our collective focus on getting girls to participate in January’s Girl Scout Cookie Program even more important.
Now, on to the highlight of our season: Girtopia: the World of Girl held at the LA Convention Center on Nov. 9 was an extraordinary event for nearly 10,000 girls and their families. All about exploration, empowerment, and Girl Scout spirit—the event celebrated all things “girl” through activities aimed at sparking creativity and leadership in girls.
With amazing bands and entertainment, and more than 200 community exhibitors, participants had fun learning, creating, and exploring tons of activities in six villages related to GSGLA’s program areas: leadership, business smarts, environment and outdoor adventure, arts and culture, STEM, and wellness and healthy living. Also featured: Leadership Café where girls enjoyed table discussions with women leaders in a variety of careers (I was there!), Cookie University where girls brushed up on their entrepreneurial skills through fun games, and tons of robotics demos and games with GSGLA’s older girl robotics team. We also partnered with Deloitte to present the new Teen Summit, an awe-inspiring afternoon leadership conference just for girls in grades 6 to 12.
What a spectacular finish to 2013! We’ve had some ups and downs, some twists in the road, and through it all, we have kept our focus on what’s important: the girls. I’m proud of the partnerships we have experienced as we make this council and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience even greater.
I wish each of you the happiest of holidays, and a great Girl Scout 2014.
Yours in Girl Scouting,
Lise L. Luttgens
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles