Girl Scouts Changes Approach to Member and Adult Volunteer Recruitment

A new grassroots and social media campaign aims to reverse declining membership and volunteer numbers for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Billboards, television ads, and easy access to delicious cookies just isn’t cutting it anymore.

In the last decade, the Girls Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) has seen youth membership numbers fall from 2.9 million to 2.2 million. In the same period, adult volunteer numbers have dropped nearly 10 percent to 890,000.

To put an end to the backwards slide the group is launching a new campaign that is far different from anything it has done in the past. Rather than using ad space in the media and on highways, the group is relying on neighborhood initiatives and social media to get the word out. Local GSUSA councils are pushing both the “I Can’t Wait To …” catchphrase and other girl-friendly promotions as a way to engage potential members and volunteers with the campaign.

While the grassroots approach is new for the Girl Scouts, the group is confident that the campaign’s message will hit home with its intended audience.

“This is the first time we’re speaking in that fun, fresh language—speaking in a girl’s voice,” Sarah Gormley, a GSUSA marketing executive, told the Associated Press. “We learned from the research that the heart of what makes girls want to join, and adults to volunteer, is the opportunity for new experiences. These are exciting whether you’re a 5-year-old or a 40-year-old.”

The “I Can’t Wait To…” campaign also has a high-profile contributor in First Lady Michelle Obama, who, like every First Lady since Edith B. Wilson in 1917, serves as honorary national president of the Girl Scouts. In a video message, Mrs. Obama touts the benefits of participating in the program for young girls and adults.

“In order to bring the fun to more girls, Girl Scouts need you to volunteer,” Mrs. Obama said in the video. “You can show girls that anything is possible. You can inspire them to dream bigger and go further than they ever imagined.”

Anna Maria Chávez, GSUSA’s CEO, told the AP that changing demographics among America’s parents—fewer stay-at-home moms and more single parents—is playing a role in the declining numbers, but said the organization must figure out a way to work around that.

“This is the time to double down for the Girl Scouts and help us grow,” she said. “Our volunteers need help, they need reinforcements. We need to recruit and train [volunteers] in a way that works for them.”

Has your association stepped outside the box with member or volunteer recruitment recently? Share your story in the comments.

The cookies aren't cutting it anymore. At least not on their own. (photo by Merelymel13/Flickr)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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