New ideas in fundraising
The arrangement will continue, she notes, but in a streamlined form that will leave about 109 high-capacity, well-resourced regional offices and make it easier to revitalize the Girl Scouts brand and thereby create new fundraising models — the second component of the transformation.
Cloninger has worked to establish an effective national fund-development staff with the goal of substantially increasing contributed income. She notes that, for now, most contributed income for Girl Scouting is received by the local councils which, in a business sense, are independent organizations. The national organization didn’t have a dedicated fundraising department when she took the job, but rather a combined funding and marketing department that tried to do it all but usually ended up focusing on marketing. The first staffing change she made was to appoint a senior vice president for fund development.
“I know it doesn’t sound very revolutionary,” she jokes, “but I knew that if we were going to get serious about philanthropy, we’d need a serious fund-development department. Now we have two VPs, one focused on major gifts and one on annual giving.”
GSUSA’s more focused approach to fundraising involves developing what Cloninger calls a successful “culture of philanthropy.” She says that the organization already is a great study of women in philanthropy, because it achieved success before women were in the workplace in large numbers or had the right to vote. A century ago, women weren’t comfortable in the fundraising arena, which is why Girl Scouts came to depend on self-generated funding mechanisms — e.g., membership dues, and merchandise opportunities with handbooks and uniforms. It’s clear that, to some degree, GSUSA’s decision to transform itself reflects the extent to which not only the organization but also the country has altered its views on the roles of women in society.