As the Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th anniversary today (they were founded by Juliette Gordon Low on March 12th, 1912) they’re still going strong, with 3.2 million girls and adult members worldwide, but they’re not your mother’s troop anymore. Badges can be earned today in cooking and knitting, as ever, but there's also forensics and technology skills. Just a few of the ways the Girl Scouts is celebrating its first 100 years:
• The organization's To Get Her There is billed as the largest advocacy and fundraising cause for girls' leadership in America’s history. The Girl Scouts campaign's goal is nothing less than spurring equal representation of women in leadership positions in all sectors and levels of society — within one generation. It’s a lofty (and big ticket) initiative for which the Girl Scouts has launched a $1 billion philanthropic funding campaign, 90% of which will go to programs for girls in the U.S. and in 94 countries globally to help fill talent gaps in finance, science, technology and the environmental and global leadership arenas.
• Girl Scouts in Greater New York will be lighting the Empire State Building green and joining a flash mob around the Flatiron Building in Midtown Manhattan.
• In Las Vegas this past weekend, more than 1,000 Girl Scouts rocked the Hoover Dam to celebrate the 100th anniversary while trading Girl Scout S.W.A.P.S. (an acronym for "Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere") and traversing a special green carpet as the Bureau of Reclamation agreed to turn the lights of the Dam green for Girl Scout Week this week (March 10-17th), with a special tribute to their new logo.
• Girl Scouts in Arizona will be lunching with the governor while girls in Sacramento, California, will gather to receive resolutions from both the California Senate and Assembly.
• In Nebraska, Girl Scouts will celebrate by breaking ground for a new outdoor education center in Lincoln, and by running an online fundraising campaign to raise $100,000 for girls in one day.
• The Juliette Low Flame of Friendship that has been traveling throughout Eastern Oklahoma will be lighting a 100-hour campfire, tended by girls and adults, to serve as the backdrop for a council-wide webcast on March 12.
• Super-charging the cookie fundraiser, the $760 million Girl Scout Cookie Program supports girls' choices for community service, leadership programs and summer camp. The partnership with mobile payments provider Sage North America that enables 40,000 Girl Scouts to go mobile, already resulting in a 13% or more increases in sales over traditional door-to-door and other methods. And then there’s The Cookie Finder app which uses iPhone GPS to locate the nearest cookies, sorting sellers by date and radius, and if there are no sellers in your hood, the app will connect you to the local council to help you with more information.
Gizmodo raved about the app: “Aside from the fact that Girl Scout Cookies are beyond the realms of deliciousness and that the app helps you find them? Well, what about this: the app has cookie notifications. Cookie notifications! Seriously, it asks you whether you'll "Allow cookie notifications". What kind of sick bastard would say no? It's the best push notifications I've ever seen in my life. Think about it, just having a miserable rainy monday where nothing goes right and then all of a sudden, badadading. Alert. Oh what is this? GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!? Best. Day. Ever.”
With Girl Scouts in 23 U.S. states now accepting mobile payments for their fundraising cookie sales, the cookie is inspiring other forward-thinking initiatives, such as a recent competition that asked food bloggers to “think outside the (cookie) box and create sweet and savory recipes that use Girl Scout Cookies.” First-place winner Deanna Morauski’s Savannah Smiles Frozen Lemonade Tarts specifically referenced the 100th anniversary. Last week's episode of The Office on NBC also featured a competition over Girl Scout cookies.
• Naturally, there are 100th anniversary collectibles:
• Celebrity Girl Scouts' endorsements, such as Katie Couric, to profile inspirational alumnae (former Girl Scout Michelle Obama is the honorary national president of Girl Scouts USA):
"We declared 2012 as the Year of the Girl to help bring attention to girls and the value of encouraging and supporting them," says Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "One kind of support we know girls need is role models—successful older women they can learn from and emulate. There is no group of women better suited to do that than our Girl Scout alumnae,” notes Chávez. “We're asking them to join our alumnae association and let us know if they'd be willing to visit schools and talk to girls who want to be leaders and may not be sure how to go about it. So Girl Scout, phone home. We need you."
The organization has worked assiduously to keep up with the times; first they unveiled new branding in 2010 to "revitalize and energize" their image. "We think we have the right message at the right time," said Kathy Cloninger, former CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA.
Next they created a standalone website, YouTube channel, Flickr group, and Facebook page for Girl Scout Cookies, making digitally savvy 9 year-old Girl Scouts able to sell 400 boxes of Thin Mints in an hour, followed by pop-up shops in all five boroughs of Manhattan last year.
It all began on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia when founder Juliette Gordon Low assembled 18 girls for an “opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. With the goal of bringing girls out of isolated home environments and into community service and the open air, Girl Scouts hiked, played basketball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars, and studied first aid.”
The first Girl Scouts came from influential Savannah families as well as girls from the Female Orphan Asylum and Congregation Mickve Israel, setting an organizational precedent for inclusiveness; by 1917 there were African-American troops as well as ones for disabled girls, and one of the earliest Latina troops was formed in Houston in 1922.
True to their roots and following an inclusive tradition, the marketing-savvy Girl Scouts launched a national media campaign last year focused on Hispanic and multicultural recruitment and Spanish-language marketing to target that market.
Data from a new Girl Scout Research Institute report, "Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study," shows that one in every two adult women (49%) in the U.S. has been a troop member with the average length spent, four years, and of those estimated 59 million Girl Scout alumnae living in the U.S., success indicators, compared to non-alumnae show higher self-esteem, greater civic engagement, higher levels of education and income and socioeconomic status.
In a time when our digital world renders brands and organizations in and out of fashion at warp speed, it’s comforting to see the Girls Scouts not only keeping up with the times, but geared to change them in positive ways (never mind what some say about the "radicalization" of the Girl Scouts). Happy Birthday, Girl Scouts!
Below, watch a vintage fashion show of 100 years of Girl Scouts uniforms: