Niagara Gazette — Under her leadership, a new set of handbooks seeks to nurture such attributes as environmental awareness, healthy lifestyles and critical thinking. New programs seek to boost girls' competency with money matters and encourage them to pursue careers in science and technology. In the fiscal realm, GSUSA has launched a campaign to raise $1 billion by 2017.
GSUSA Treasurer Joan Wagnon reported in March that revenue from membership dues was down 3.8 percent over the past year and nationwide cookie sales for 2012-13 were down about 4.5 percent.
The national headquarters' operating budget relies heavily on efforts of the local councils, notably the $12 annual dues (rising to $15 later this year) paid by individual Girl Scouts plus revenue from sales of uniforms and merchandise.
The Girl Scouts note that many youth organizations have been losing members, for a variety of reasons. The Boy Scouts of America's youth membership declined from 3.3 million in 2002 to about 2.6 million last year.
Some critics say the recent program changes have gone overboard in de-emphasizing traditional outdoor activities and replacing them with curricula that replicates schoolwork.
"In trying to be more relevant, they've gone too far the other way," said Cheryl Brown, former CEO of a Girl Scout council in Arkansas. She left the post in 2009, soon after her council was forced to merge with four others.
Brown also said pressure from headquarters to boost membership led some councils to recruit girls with no intention of engaging them in the full scope of Girl Scout activities.
"It no longer was about the girls — it was about the money," she said.
Nationwide, the shortage of volunteers is a critical problem, according to Chavez, who wants to develop new recruiting strategies.
"At the end of the day, we're not serving enough girls," she said.