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Monday, June 24, 2013

A Cautionary Tale for the Boy Scouts

Fox News reports that the Girl Scouts, despite becoming more inclusive, have suffered a significant decline in membership in recent years, resulting in budget problems, and a corresponding decline in volunteers. There are also internal divisions on the course of Girl Scouts and funding of pensions. From the article:

Since 2003, the Girl Scouts have undergone what they describe as a "complete transformation" aimed at making their programs and image more relevant to a diverse population of girls and parents. Changes have affected uniforms, handbooks, merit badges, program materials, even the logo and the fine print on the boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

"Our brand, as iconic as it is, was misunderstood — it was dated," Chavez said in an interview in her Manhattan office Friday.

Yet today the Girl Scouts have about 2.2 million youth members, down from more than 2.8 million in 2003. Donations to the national office and local councils plunged to $104 million in 2011 from nearly $148 million in 2007.
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However, the changes have not stemmed the membership decline. GSUSA Treasurer Joan Wagnon reported in March that revenue from membership dues was down 3.8 percent over the past year and nationwide cookie sales for 2012-13 were down about 4.5 percent.

The national headquarters' operating budget relies heavily on efforts of the local councils, notably the $12 annual dues paid by individual Girl Scouts plus revenue from sales of uniforms and merchandise. The dues are scheduled to rise to $15 later this year.

The Girl Scouts note that many youth organizations have been losing members, for reasons including competition from youth sports leagues and a perception by some families that they are old-fashioned. The Boy Scouts of America's youth membership declined from 3.3 million in 2002 to about 2.6 million last year.

During that period, the Boy Scouts — who have no formal ties with the Girl Scouts — have been entangled in controversy over membership policies that excluded gays and atheists. The GSUSA provided a contrast with inclusive membership policies, although it suffered some defections from families who felt it had become too liberal.

Some adult Girl Scout members say the recent program changes have gone overboard in de-emphasizing traditional outdoor activities and replacing them with curricula that replicates schoolwork.

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