Besides cookies. I know you love cookies. Probably Thin Mints, possibly Caramel Delights.
But besides cookies, what is your absolute favorite thing about Girl Scouts?
Mine was summer camp. Holy cow, summer sleepaway camp was the coolest. I got to go really far away from Mom and Dad, ride horses, learn sign language and make lots of noise at the dinner table. Can't say I was real into the swim lessons...I never could learn how to dive. I hung out in level 3 for all 5 summers I think. And anyways I always took a buddy which made it even better. Oh and I got mail from Mom, Dad and Grandma. Yeah, camp basically rocked.
Then when I was a little older and cheerleading replaced Girl Scout camp and nerd camp replaced cheerleading, I was totally ready to be out on my own. No worries. I could pack a suitcase and learned how to wash clothes in the sink when you were down to your last pair of shorts. I could take on the world with just a cabin and a buddy. Sweet.
Now as a Girl Scout staff person, its that independent living I promote. And its great. But I'll be honest, when I was a kid, it totally wasn't about learning to take care of myself. It was about running away to camp with my BFF of the year and playing all day with no parents to tell me to clean my room. (Somehow chores were way more fun when a spunky college girl named "Tigger" was telling you to do them and you got to do them with your BFF.)
I remember Girl Scouts being all about FUN. Riding in town parades, first campouts in the backyard, field trips to the beauty parlour, growing crystals in baby food jars. FUN and FRIENDS. And I still kinda stay in touch with a few of those girls (thank you Facebook). They were definitely among my closest friends through high school. Lisa Smith and I went to high school dances in the same group; Nicole Stallings and I visted each other at our part time jobs and her mom made my prom jewelry. Renee Howard and I went to high school football games together and I think she dated one of my friends.
But I digress. Back to what is Girl Scouts about. Girl Scouts is also about teaching girls whatever skills they need to succeed and making sure they have fun doing it. Back when the org was founded that might have been baking and sewing. Now it's public speaking and computer literacy. It's all about helping girls be the best they can be and often that means building self esteem and confidence so girls have the guts to say no to drugs, teenage sex and other potentially destructive behaviors. In a word: leadership.
So here's the dilly of a pickle: Girl Scouts is about leadership, fun and friends too. All these things are critical to the success of the organization and girls...who after all, are our entire mission and reason for being at Girl Scouts. But how do we convey these things all at once?
Leadership is serious and evokes images of Hillary Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and Michelle Obama (yes, I am clearly a polisci nerd). For some it brings to mind feminist which seems to have a dirty, negative connotation. Even if by feminist all you mean is independent capable gal, somehow it connotates a man-hating, anti-baking, bra-burning hippie. And for an organization best know for sweet cookie sales, that hippie image doesn't really vibe. But for corporate big-wigs who see chick leaders as the next generation of their CEOs and VPs, leadership sounds awesome. And they will donate to awesome, which as the Girl Scouts, is what we're counting on. So yeah, leadership is tricky.
Fun is, well, fun. Water guns, barbies, playing make-believe, singing along with Miley Cyrus, horseback riding. Jamming as many girls as there are seatbelts into a mini-van and driving to the nearest theme park for a day of roller coasters, sunburns and ice cream. Girls love it. Awesome; we want to give them what they love. But we have to find educational value in it; we're not just a party planning organization. Fortunately finding the education is easier than you might think. Troop leaders help girls set goals to go to the theme park, earn the money to pay their admission, plan the trip and pack a first aid kit to stuff under the passenger seat in the mini-van. It's kinda hard though to present yourself as a serious, relevant and necessary organization when your bottomline is fun. So back to leadership we go when we're talking to donors.
Friends...honestly, maybe not the most difficult of messages. Business tycoons call it networking; girls call it BFFs. Either way, the general appreciate for interpersonal relationships is there. Whew, at least one of these is easy.
Many paragraphs of rambling later I pose these questions: How does Girl Scouts effectively show both its BEST THINGS EVER: fun and leadership? How do we attract girls, parents and donors with one Web site? Potentially one newsletter?
If you are a comm person you are probably screaming "You have to target your audiences! Fun smiley pictures on pink backgrounds for girls and clean corporate leader-y images for donors! Come on Cheryl!!" And I totally hear ya. But I don't have the funds for two sets of materials so too bad so sad. That's life. It's called a "nonprofit" for a reason and we've got to get creative to get the most bang for our buck on every marketing material we make.
And finally, I don't want you to finish reading this post and think I must totally hate my job because I just rambled about the challenge of it for a full entry. Freak that I am, in some ways, this is exactly what I like about my job. Maybe I'll be the genius who will figure it out. And if I'm not and someone else is, God willing, I will be lucky enough to learn how they did it. I'll be a better comm person for it and Girl Scouts will help even more girls learn how fun it is to be (secretly) taught leadership skills under the HOT HOT HOT Texas sun of a spunky, funky, wicked-cool Girl Scout camp.
And I hope they all move past level 3 of swimming lessons. I hear diving isn't nearly as scary as I think it is...