As membership season 2020 launches on the banner “Skills Today, Success Tomorrow”, I am more reflective this year than last, being one year more experienced. Last year, I really sat back and watched with eyes wide open learning from my team. This year, I expect more of myself in being able to make targeted leadership inputs to help us achieve our goals. I am beyond excited that we met our goals last year and am vigilant and cautious we will be successful in 2020 knowing the membership tide going out to sea remains powerful. Societal dynamics and family complexities make joining membership organizations more and more rare.
That said, we in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho are pioneering in attitude and hearty, so I challenged my entire Council to take ‘one small step for a Girl Scout and one giant leap for the sisterhood’ this upcoming year. Putting action behind my rhetoric, I allowed for the hiring of new membership personnel based on the belief we would be successful. I also appealed to the victorious volunteers to help us in our endeavor especially during back to school time when it is critical to have visibility with so many families returning to school. This was an unusual action for me as I, rarely if ever, ask for volunteers to do things for the Council. Their day to day troop jobs are busy enough supporting Girls. But extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and with less than 3 percent membership market share, it was time to act and take a step forward.
Visiting my son in Washington DC this weekend, two related events happened that caught my attention and reminded me of an analogy for our movement. First, an aspiring politician and Virginia county official named Forrest had campaign signs up that said—you guessed it “Run Forrest run!” In the same moment, I happened to watch the iconic movie Forrest Gump, and it reinforced to me how I should proceed with this year. Just take one step at a time. The famous scene of Forrest starting to run cross country is exactly how I would like to proceed with recruiting.
In the same breath, watching our external recruiter Stacy work…she shows up to one back to school night, then another, then starts up a troop (she has already started two!), and then attends Valleyfest and makes a huge step forward crossing our region county to shining county. Likewise, volunteers in Yakima and Sunnyside, Moscow and Sandpoint, Ellensberg and Omak, rise up and do similar activities. And before you know it, our tide collectively rises and we go from 2.5% market share to over 3%. We cross the proverbial country running recruiting and retaining one Girl Scout at a time.
No doubt our audacious membership goals are harder to achieve than Forrest Gump’s singular running focus because it relies on so many. From our programming team giving good programming, to our new troop effort led by Jodi, to our education team doing their best to give a good educational baseline, to our product sales team harnessing the new energy to make our cookie program the strongest ever. But like the movie with many trailing Forrest, I envision our movement being not a single runner, not just an external recruiter, but an army of staff and volunteers who are choosing to run this year…not walk.
At some point, we may need to stop like Forrest did and say “’I am tired.” That day may come, but that day is not today nor tomorrow, for one thing I know for sure…Girl Scouts are tough and that is why we are absolutely a Council where Girls grow strong. So, let’s do this, out the door we go with our Nikes! Run Girl Scouts run!
--Brian Newberry, GSEWNI CEO