CEO Remarks, 2015 Annual Meeting

Lidia Soto-HarmonGSCNC-0761
Chief Executive Officer
Annual Meeting 2015

Faye, you are a good sport to let us tease you about being a founding owner of the Nationals, but it’s really thrilling for us. There are so few women who are owners of sports teams. It is women like you who are shattering the glass ceiling.

During Girl Scout Weekend last September, we got a call to throw the ceremonial first pitch. I thought a girl could do it, but they said no, you!

I have to say, I was really nervous because the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is 60 feet!

Let me tell you—I am no Stephen Strasburg, but I was better than 50 Cent!

Just last month, I was invited to be a US Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status on Women for the 20th anniversary of Beijing Plus 5. Girl Scouts was one of only six non-profits invited to attend. When women provide 66 percent of the work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn only 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property worldwide, we know we have work to do for women and girlsDid you know that 62 million girls around the world are not in school today?

This experience at the UN reminded me how many barriers are left to be broken down for women and girls worldwide.

And why we want a future with more female owners of sports teams, CEOs, entrepreneurs and presidents.

That is why we are here—to provide opportunities to develop the leadership skills of our girls.

Take Girl Scout Troop 4461—while they were earning their government badge, they had the opportunity to learn directly from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Take the teen Girl Scouts who spend a week during the summer shadowing Congressional offices through our Congressional Aide program.

And let’s not forget about the girls who have the opportunity to hang out with successful women at Camp CEO.

Our Girl Scouts have access to powerful leaders and opportunities to dream big!

We are building a pipeline straight to the board room, Capitol Hill, and maybe even to Silicon Valley!

After this meeting, we invite you to head over to the Potomac Room, and spend some time checking out the work of Girl Scout troops at our first ever Maker Day!

Our girls have been hard at work programming robots, coding computers and even making veggie-powered batteries.

Now let me take a moment to reflect on this past Girl Scout year.

In this Council, we know our membership is enriched by the diversity of our region.

In March, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Encuentro de Chicas Latinas de las Girl Scouts. We are reaching girls from isolated communities and giving them an amazing Girl Scout experience.

And it works. Girls who attended Encuentro as middle school students are now accomplished, independent young women who are college graduates, employed, and are giving back to their communities.

It has been a very exciting year for camping and the outdoors. Last year, more than 46,000 of our members participated in the outdoors and 13,000 girls attended day, evening and sleep-away camps.

This year, sleep away camp is already at 94 percent capacity!  But help us spread the word—there are still camp openings and financial assistance available to help girls attend our incredible camps.

We all know that the outdoors is deeply rooted in our Council’s history. In fact, this year marks the 85th anniversary of Camp May Flather in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Girls will celebrate with birthday cake this summer.

Did you know Camp May Flather has an antique working weaving loom?

Was named after Rebecca “May” Flather, who was Commissioner of the Girl Scouts of the District of Columbia in 1925?

And hosted First Lady Lou Henry Hoover who slept over at camp in 1930?

We know how important it is to preserve Girl Scouts’ history. At 103 years old, we have a century of artifacts and memorabilia that we need to steward for the next generation.

Now, those artifacts will have a new home, and our girls a new destination to learn about our rich history.

On Saturday, September 19, we want you to join us for the grand opening of the Girl Scout Archives and History Program Center in honor of Diane Tipton, in Frederick, Maryland.

Now, on to product sales.

Last year, our fall product sales went online and grew by 4 percent.

And this year, girls will be able to create an avatar to look just like them. The girl’s avatar will actually become a patch as an incentive for creating buzz around the fall product sales.

I gave it a try…

What do you think–does it look like me?

As you heard during the Treasurer’s Report, our cookie sale increased 4 percent this year. Girls sold almost 4.2 million boxes of cookies, and troops earned nearly $3 million to support girl-led activities. Seventy-nine Service Units qualified for the growth proceeds incentive and earned an additional $22,000.

I think that deserves a round of applause!

Girls showed off their marketing skills in our Bling Your Booth contest. Congratulations to Troop 2457 from Montgomery County, who received the most votes on Facebook!

I am amazed how committed our girls are to the cookie sale.

In February, Troop 6977 from Arlington stood out in the snow at the Ballston Metro at 5:00 in the morning to sell cookies, while ABC 7 broadcasted from their cookie booth. They were so excited for their chance at stardom that they didn’t seem to feel the cold!

All of this was possible thanks to the support of some very dedicated volunteers. From the cookie managers to the troop leaders to the high adventure dads, our caring adults drive this movement.

For that reason, it’s so important that we listen to your voices. Last year, we asked our members to tell us what works and what we needed to improve. Of the 2,000 of you who responded, 83 percent rated us “good” to “excellent.”

A new survey has just gone out to all adult members via email. We encourage you to complete the survey and let your voice be heard.

We do listen…after last year’s forums, we knew we needed to provide easier ways to get volunteers the resources they need and a better system of communication.

Well, it’s here. And it’s called Membership Engagement.

This enhanced technology will allow volunteers to spend more time inspiring our girls and less time doing paper work.

Did you know that 88 percent of moms own a smartphone? We know we must adapt to the way information is best shared.

Membership Engagement will provide us with some great technology. First, let me tell you about the Toolkit.

Imagine a future where a new troop leader can access all the resources she’ll need right from her smartphone. That’s where we’re headed!

With the Toolkit you can plan the best Girl Scout year ever. Think of it as your administrative assistant. This toolkit will help you manage your troop roster and plan activities for a Journey year, badge year, or create your own year! Initially, the toolkit will come with program materials for Daisy, Brownie and Junior Troops.

We’re also excited about another innovation called Volunteer Systems. It’s a one stop shop for new members. All in one place, parents can easily select a troop from a catalog, register their girl, and sign up to volunteer.

Starting in August, all new volunteers will complete a background check. This is going to replace the current Volunteer Application Process. Of course, if you are a current volunteer, you are already grandmothered in!

Both the Toolkit and the Volunteer Systems will roll out this December—and they are free!

But wait—there’s more!

These new features will be delivered on our BRAND NEW WEBSITE!  That’s right, you have been asking for a website that is more user friendly, and we are ready to deliver. Before it goes live, I am excited for you to see a “sneak peek” of our new site right now!

Let’s take a look.

What do you think?

In addition to a more user-friendly website, you also asked for a way to better interact with each other. That’s where Rallyhood comes in.

Rallyhood is an online community where:

  • The Council, associations and service units can send reminders and alerts
  • Where volunteers can communicate each other
  • And where members can share best practices.

With many Service Units active in Rallyhood, we have launched the Girl Scout Family Rally in April.  In the coming months, we want more of you join the conversation.

While we embrace all of the new and enhanced technologies that are part of Membership Engagement, we understand some of you, like me, may feel daunted by all this. I want you to know that we’re here to help you.

Technology is but one tool to help deliver the Girl Scout experience. Nothing can replace the face-to-face experience that makes Girl Scouting work. Service units are vital to the structure of this Council, and we will always need troop organizers, registrars, cookie managers, welcome specialists. You are vital to our success.

With our new website—Rallyhood—the toolkit—and volunteer systems, it is our hope that we can bring more girls into Girl Scouting and engage more caring adult volunteers.

I think this is a good time to hear the membership bells!

It’s my pleasure to recognize the Associations who successfully increased the number and percentage of girls registered. Our top association had an increase of 10 percent—that’s 165 girls! Where is Association 21 from Southern Prince George’s county? Is Latisha Corey in the building?

In second place with a 6 percent increase—that’s 102 girls—we have Association 42 from Central City-Friendships. Where’s Mary Martin?

Congratulations!

And I hear today that Association 60 (Arlington/Alexandria) is the Association to beat already! They have over 200 more girls registered than last year and have already reached their July goal. Where is Critchett Hadokavitch at?

Because of all of you, today we stand as the largest Girl Scout council in the country, with 89,000 members. But we can’t stop here. We must retain our existing members while bringing in new ones. I ask for your help. Let’s work together and successfully integrate this new technology into our work. And let’s not lose sight of why.

We do this for our girls. We do this because we want them to have the best leadership experience.

We do this because we want them to become owners of sports teams, CEOs, entrepreneurs and even the president.

We want them to go as far as their dreams can take them.

Thank you.