CEO: July 2013 Archives

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GSUSA has been in the media quite a bit lately, and unfortunately, some of the press has not been positive.   This is never helpful for us.    Some of the reports have focused on the staff cuts at GSUSA.   

Once the realignment was complete across the United States, it became critical to determine whether the staff at GSUSA is appropriately aligned to serve 112 councils, which is the current number of high-capacity councils vs. 330 councils, which is the number in existence seven years ago.  

With GSSA's realignment, we serve our girls with fewer staff than one of the previous legacy councils had.   That is good news that translates more funding directly for girls programs and needs.    A consulting firm that specializes in this type of work managed GSUSA's staff realignment, which was called Customer Focus Forward.   Part of their assignment was to survey members across the U.S. to determine what services high- capacity councils needs vs. what council needs were seven years ago.   I know CEO Anna Maria Chavez, and she is trying to move GSUSA forward to better serve girls.

Another focus of media attention is the sale of camp properties across the U.S. to fund the GSUSA retirement plan.   Some of you might have received e-mail recently from GSUSA asking you to contact your Congressional representative about this.     As with many retirement plans, the in which GSSA participates was administered by GSUSA.   The plan was well funded for many years. Then, as the economy became volatile, like many plans in the U.S., it became underfunded.   We are required to keep the plan fully funded, which drains precious resources in difficult economic times.   I have spoken with some of our Congressional staff about this, but if you know them, I would encourage you to also add your voice to this conversation.   We are not asking to have a reprieve from our financial obligations, but would appreciate some budget relief on the fully funded part of the issue for a span of time.

A part of the media attention is also focused on selling camp properties at other Girl Scout councils.   When councils realigned, some had many more camps than they could handle financially.   We are fortunate and have four camp properties that are at comfortable distances from one another to serve our constituents.   We are not planning to sell any properties at this time.   In fact, we have a master plan for property development that we are working on.   However, two of our camps are on lease,s and although we have renegotiated both leases, there are no guarantees when you operate leased properties.

Hopefully, the media will take a long hard look at all the good Girl Scouts produces.   But one of my friends, who is a national correspondent for a news station reminds me, good news doesn't sell.

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We have some exciting changes on the horizon. I've spent the past two days working through the training modules for our new software, E-Council.   The other councils that use this sing praises about how easy and user friendly it is for parents and volunteers, and so far I have found that to be the case.  

 Soon, you will be able to go to our website, www.girlscoutssa.org, click on membership and renew your membership.   Or you can register for a council program or adult training.   It is very quick and easy to do.   The software will send messages with information on the program, or event to those who wind up registered.   As a troop leader, you can register the troop for an event by simply going on the software finding the event, pull up your troop roster and click through the girls that will be attending the event.   The bill is generated automatically.   You will be able to apply council program credits, as I understand it, for those programs or pay via your troop debit card.   I think you will like it!

The E-council software will be a tremendous way for you and for us to save time.   Currently, we do a lot of business taking telephone calls, and some of that involves negotiation about when the program registration was turned in and whether it was turned in by the deadline.   E-council won't allow you to register for an event, program, or training after the deadline.   It relies on today's technology, which means we will be using e-mails to communicate with you on whether you are in the program and what the additional directions are.  

We receive lots of complaints about how much of the council isn't online and don't have access other than a public library.   That is true in a few places, not many and we know where they are, so we will be working with those few locales to make this work for them.    Going forward, you will need to use your credit or debit card and your e-mail address.   I had someone tell me when I announced this at a summer meeting that they don't trust giving  out their credit card information online.   This has the same type of security for your credit card that any business maintains, so I don't believe that is something you need to spend much time worrying about.   This uses a credit card processor that has to comply with all the laws about offering those services.

I believe the new E-council program will be a great improvement for you as a parent, troop leader, service unit manager or someone who wants to know what is going on with the girls in Southern Alabama.   Those of you who have registered as an early bird  for 2013-2014 are already in the system as a registered member for the 2013-2014-membership year. We'll have more information on this as the dates of the rollout become established.  

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Summer resident camp is over, so now we turn our attention to fall and the beginning to school.   It seems like summer just started, and here we are thinking about fall.   During this time, we have been discussing different ideas on how we can better serve the families that participate in our programming by providing events and activities people are interested in.

We would appreciate your feedback on some of the following ideas.   Would adult volunteers be interested in a weekend at camp away from the kids to discuss different program and troop ideas and gain certifications?   We do that for camper training, but would you be interested in having the training department offer other opportunities?   We know the issue for many parents is how hard is it to get a weekend away from your children, so is that feasible and realistic?

Another idea is that we would present council-sponsored camporees at a couple of the properties.   Some service units do a fantastic job with camporees, and we want to support that, but not all service units do camporees.   Would council-sponsored camporees be desirable?

We are asking that volunteers assist in recruitment, since you know the principals and folks who might make good leaders.   When council staff recruits, they are not as familiar about who wouldn't make a good leader and who the key players are within the schools.   What types of incentives for adults can we provide that you would find valuable?

Do you have a great program idea that you would like to share for the entire council?   We have volunteers who do some fantastic programs and are willing to share those across the council.   We are always interested in supporting those programs because we want to provide as many opportunities as we can

We are moving to E-Council, which is a computer system that will allow for online member registration, as well as program registration.   We are in the initial stages of converting our data to this program, so I don't want to get too far into what will happen until I have accurate information.   We hope, though, this will aid in providing a quicker, easier, and more efficient way to register for everything, from membership to programs to camp.   I'll share more on this as we learn about the capabilities of this program first-hand.

We welcome your feedback and read all your comments.   Please share your thoughts on these topics at communications@girlscoutssa.org.   Thank you -- your great ideas are what makes this council strong.

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The best thing I get to do as GSSA's CEO is watching girls learn and grow, but at a close second is the opportunity to meet many exceptional and caring adults.   Girl Scouts would not work if we didn't have you make the world a better place, so every day I have encounters with many adults who are just remarkable people.   You might not make the nightly news, but I know what you do, and more important, the girls you work with know what you do for them.

Last weekend one of our remarkable Girl Scout adult members died.   Mrs. Mary Edith Foshee Jones was 91, although when I met last year, her she didn't look 91.   She was spry, independent, smiling and laughing.   This past April she spent a month in Australia because she had always wanted to go to there. Good for her!   There are many factors that make Mrs. Jones a remarkable woman, but let me share what I know.

Mrs. Jones served as the troop leader for her daughter's Girl Scout troop in Montgomery.   It was a fairly large troop, many of whom are still get together regularly.  I met most of them last December, more than 40 years after they started.    Not only did she get those girls to remain with her in the troop through high school, Mrs. Jones remained engaged and involved in their lives since she started with them.   That troop has met every year since then.

When you talk to the "girls" from the troop, their conversation turns to how Mrs. Jones has always been in their lives.   She was an active listener.   She served as their cheerleader.   She shared their happiness and their sorrows.   Think of how many weddings she must have attended.   When she lost her daughter, their troop member, the "girls" in her troop came to her aid.   They remained involved and engaged with her, helping her deal with her loss.   It was a tremendous illustration of how sharing your gifts with others can last a lifetime.

We honored Mrs. Jones as one of Juliette's Pearls at an open house in Montgomery around the holidays.   Every one of the "girls" from her troop attended, many coming from far and wide.   We had some great entertainment for the event, and she enjoyed every bit of it.   When we asked if she wanted someone to pick her up to take her to events she was invited to, she always wanted to drive herself instead -- independent to the end.

Mrs. Jones exemplified a woman of courage, confidence and character.   She made a mark on her world and left it a better place.   She lived life until the end and gave of her care generously, and it was returned to her more generously.   We can all learn lessons from how she lived.

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I can do it!!!!!   This is the time of year where we hear this mantra uttered about a variety of things.    It's when girls go off to camp, leaving the comfort of their air conditioned homes and sleep in a tent in the great outdoors.    This is daunting for lots of the population, but once you've done it, you recognize the wonder of the night sky and the woods.

It's the time of year when a girl who really doesn't like the water much and has relied on her water wings too long, returns capable of putting her face in lake water and able to swim from one side of the dock to the other unassisted and unafraid.   How did that happen in such a short time?

This is the time of year when a girl who hates spiders and has screamed on sight each time she sees one, now understands that they are part of the circle of life, providing an important piece of the puzzle.   She has seen a snake and not run; she's moved out of her comfort zone.

It's the time of year when girls stretch themselves and work on being girls of courage, confidence and character.   Events at camp are unpredictable and part of life.   It might be a snake, it might be a spider, it might be new food, it might be girls she has never met, it might be sleeping in a tent in the rain.   I have an abiding respect for a child who takes a chance, moves out of her comfort zone, and discovers, "I can do it!"


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