The councils worked with consultants in a group training program and then began receiving individual coaching.
“I think it’s an 18-month pilot,” Cloninger says. “So the fundraising consultants will capture from those 10 councils the best practices [and] lessons learned, and be able to use those for a sort of broader learning opportunity across all the other councils.”
In one such pilot effort, the national organization partnered with a local council in upstate New York that was a long-time recipient of an annual operating gift from the PepsiCo Foundation. Cloninger and the CEO of the local council approached PepsiCo with studies that indicated a need to promote healthy lifestyles among girls. PepsiCo subsequently provided GSUSA with a $1.1 million grant to develop a program that contributes to the organization’s Healthy Living Campaign.
“The partnership benefited the local council because it increased their annual gift, and we leveraged a larger gift for girls around the nation,” Cloninger explains. “And from what we learned from the PepsiCo experience, we can determine best practices and spread those across the country to every Girl Scout council.”
The PepsiCo venture probably wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago, before there was an inkling of the realignment that’s taking place now. Even now GSUSA is careful not to jeopardize relationships between donors and individual councils.
Working with, not against
“I spent 23 years as a local council CEO, so I can really understand what it takes to develop the funding relationship on the ground,” Cloninger says. “We’re very clear to a donor when we go in. We tell them, ‘We really appreciate your support to our local community and we’ve got some great ideas that would help girls nationally. However, we would not want this funding request to diminish what you’re doing locally.’”