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News July 16 2009
News July 16 2009

News July 16 2009

Girl Scouts soar with new business model

By Richa Naik | The Times Herald


Although many nonprofits are struggling in the current economy, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania instituted a new business model at the perfect time, and has since watched its membership, sales and revenue increase.


GSEP recently met to celebrate their second successful year following the merger of three Councils — Freedom Valley, headquarters in Valley Forge, Great Valley, headquarters in Allentown and Southeastern Pennsylvania, headquarters in Miquon, according to a press release.


The merger of the three Councils occurred prior to the economic collapse, in May 2007.


“The national Girl Scout organization recognized a decline in membership and a misperception of the Girl Scout organization itself,” GSEP CEO Ann Meredith said.


The Council was restructured based on an in-depth analysis of the economy and media and combined 312 good Councils to 109 “high capacity Councils,” Meredith said.


Now with 43,000 girls and 14,000 volunteers, GSEP serves girls in Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties, according to a press release.


Following the merger, GSEP has seen an increase in girl membership for the first time in more than five years, and while many Councils were losing revenue from the Girl Scouts’ cookie program, GSEP produced an 11 percent increase in revenues, the largest sales increase in the nation, according to a press release.


Other nonprofits may want to follow GSEP’s business model and consider mergers as a way to become more efficient and serve more people in this economy, Meredith said.


“It is not a secret that there are many nonprofit organizations competing for the same resources and the same people,” Meredith said. “The nonprofit sector should look around for opportunities for strategic partnerships because the benefits have been amazing.”


Two years following the merger 10 percent, or $1.5 million of the Council’s overall budget, in overhead was reduced. The freed-up revenue is now spent on programming for GSEP, Meredith said.


“For too long (Girl Scouts) relied on its own resources, but you can get a lot more accomplished if you are working with partners,” Meredith said.


GSEP has partnered with local Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCA


“The key (for Girls Scouts) was to shed ourselves of the inefficiencies and limitations of too many councils and reduce competition,” Meredith said.


Although she hasn’t done so yet, Meredith plans to speak to nonprofits about the benefits of GSEP’s business model in the future.