Girl Scouts of the USA Cuts Eighty-Five National Staff Positions

Over the last few months, the Girl Scouts of the USA has reduced its national staff by about 25 percent, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

In a recent memo, Girl Scouts CEO Anna-Maria Ch�vez told the organization's local councils that the national office needed to "streamline" its work and resources to focus on the strategic initiatives that most help local councils "reach, retain, and serve more girls." The staff cuts include forty terminations and forty-five buyouts offered to employees age 55 and older with at least ten years of service. Between 2003 and 2012, the organization saw its membership decline by 20 percent, to about 2.9 million girls. In her memo, Ch�vez said that "merchandise sales" — which includes items like uniforms — also fell over that period.

Contributing to the organization's financial problems are its increasing pension obligations. According to the Chronicle, the national office informed local councils earlier this summer that they might have to increase their pension contributions by 40 percent in 2014, to a total of $36.1 million, to help cover the plan's deficit under federal law. The organization is lobbying Congress to change the pension rules that apply to charities with multiple affiliates to bring them more in line with what it believes are the less onerous obligations that apply to corporate plans. At the same time, the organization is fighting a lawsuit from one of its Tennessee councils which alleges that the national office increased its pension liabilities by offering generous early retirement packages to people who were at risk of losing their jobs when mergers shrank the number of local councils from 312 to 112.

Since Ch�vez's arrival in August 2011, at least seven senior managers have left the organization and employees have continued to send anonymous letters to the board questioning her leadership. Board president Connie Lindsey has remained supportive, however, describing Ch�vez as the right person to lead the organization's efforts to remain relevant. Indeed, during her tenure, Ch�vez has led an effort to revamp the national office so that it is more responsive to the needs of councils, scouts, and volunteers; hired Daniel Boockvar, a former executive at Weight Watchers International, to serve as the organization's first "chief customer officer"; and, just this week, launched a new recruitment campaign with the help of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Suzanne Perry. "Girl Scouts Cuts National Staff by 25 Percent." Chronicle of Philanthropy 09/30/2013.