Campaign Increases Visibility
as it Raises Resources
Girl Scouting has a long history in the Ozark area, going back at least to 1922. As Girl Scout councils continued to expand and combine, new councils emerged. The Girl Scout Council of the Ozark Area (GSCOA), starting under its current jurisdiction in 1956, is one of 318 councils chartered by Girl Scouts of the USA. The Council is charged with administering the Girl Scout program in ten counties: five in southwest Missouri (Vernon, Barton, Jasper, Newton, and McDonald), three in southeast Kansas (Bourbon, Crawford, and Cherokee), and two in northeast Oklahoma (Ottawa and Delaware).
Before Building Tomorrow … Girl by Girl, GSCOA had never attempted a capital campaign. Fund raising was still an uncomfortable subject for many board members before 1990. Major universities were just entering the fund raising arena in a big way and bringing with them a new image of asking. For some board members in the Midwest and especially in Joplin, Missouri, the idea of going to the community for money had negative implications – fund raising was still considered a euphemism for begging. By the early 1994, that view had changed. The Council was working hard to enhance visibility and increase its efforts among girls not typically served by Girl Scouts.
Serving the Underserved
A new emphasis on underserved populations of girls led GSCOA to address contemporary issues such as teen pregnancy and school drop out rates. Outreach programs and services were started for girls with special needs and circumstances i.e. an Oklahoma Native American reserve troop, Hispanic mission troops, and specialized programs to deal with the rising incidence of teen pregnancy.
The Guardian Angel Program (GAP) was developed to provide unique, self-esteem building projects for girls who, due to socio-economic circumstances, would not otherwise have access to the advantages of participating in Girl Scouts. GAP programs offered throughout the Joplin, Miami and Webb City include:
- Breakfast Clubs – Presented by Council staff and volunteers during the school day in lower income area schools.
- Boys & Girls Club Troops – Programs at the Boys & Girls Club including Brownie Girls Scouts (grades 1 – 3), Junior Girl Scouts (grades 3 – 6), and Cadette Girl Scouts (grades 6 – 9).
- Summer Programs at the Boys & Girls Club – Designed to involve at-risk youth in fund, hands-on activities.
- Daisy Head Start Program – Targeting pre-kindergarten aged girls and their mothers in 25 head start schools located throughout the council’s 10-county jurisdiction.
- Ozark Center Intensive Treatment Unit Lock Down Unit – delivering weekly programs to girls who have been institutionalized.
- Ozark Center Group Home (Turn Around Ranch) – an effort to reach underserved girl populations.
- GSCOA made extraordinary efforts to serve areas that remained unreached: rural and poorer areas, non-traditional settings such as institutions, and girls that were without transportation or strong parental support.
The capital campaign was necessary not only for new programming, but for improvements to Ozark Girl Scout camp’s 50-year aging infrastructures and facilities. A portion of the campaign goal was earmarked for a new activity lodge, a camp challenge course with rappelling tower as well as an Education and Service Center for Girls. In addition to administrative offices, the new Center includes a computer lab complete with the latest technology and Internet access.
Optimism and Commitment
The 1997 campaign assessment suggested a total price tag of $2.2 million, with $500,000 designated toward a maintenance endowment. The results, announced in January 1997, preceded Board approval in March of the same year.
“I really went into the campaign with lots of optimism and very little fund raising experience,” said Karen Morgan, executive director for GSCOA since 1990. “I simply thought, ‘If other organizations have done it, why can’t we?’ I never doubted that we would be successful. However, I never dreamed it would be so difficult.”
The campaign had the unusual challenge of engaging three development directors over the course of the campaign. Nothing tabloid worthy, just bad timing for GSCOA. Despite this anomaly, the campaign kept moving.
“One thing I learned is that success is not how quickly you finish the campaign.” offered Morgan. “Success is sticking with it and finishing the campaign goal. I received e-mails from other executive directors. They were not always encouraging. Some told of their lack of success and gave discouraging reports from their own campaigns.”
Another challenge for the agency was to develop a steering committee with members who knew about the Girl Scout program and were personal advocates. For the most part, our initial steering committee members were not affiliated with Girl Scouts. They did not come in with a history of involvement with the organization. We had to develop a relationship with individuals who already had an interest and a passion for the mission, and who were not already financially committed elsewhere. This took some work.
An official campaign announcement came in 1998 after some momentum building. The board president made a lead gift, followed by the steering committee chair and others. One hundred percent board and steering committee financial participation established the campaign further. Gifts started arriving and in addition, the Council received a gift of land worth $216,000 at fair market value.
In the spring of 2000, a local foundation opened its doors for the first time to agencies that received United Way gifts. This was great timing for the Building Tomorrow campaign, since United Way has been a strong financial supporter of the Girl Scouts. The foundation’s donation of $150,000 turned out later to be the key to receiving a Mabee grant of $200,000. A gift of $150,000 came from a local foundation in Carthage, Missouri and a $25,000 gift from the C. W. Titus Foundation. There was also a Kemper Foundation gift of $15,000 and another local foundation added $150,000 to the campaign. A utility company donated $25,000. A bank gave $25,000. Other local corporations jumped in with gifts of various amounts and several individuals made $10,000 donations. The Lemons Trust donated another $100,000 to the campaign.
Not only did the capital campaign help to overcome old fund raising perceptions, but the heightened visibility actually brought greater prestige and new donor friends for GSCOA. “I really learned the significance of the old adage, Its not what you know, its who you know,” added Morgan. “People handed me checks and said that the gift was given because they knew me and knew about the changes we were making in programming and outreach.”
As is often the case, the annual fund took a hit while the campaign was in full swing. At the consultant’s recommendation, the organization hired a second person to assist with annual giving and to help with communications during the campaign. Anticipating this additional need, and addressing it before it became a crisis, helped in practical ways. It also helped sustain morale and energy while the agency juggled two important fund raising ventures.
“This campaign would not have occurred without the vision of the executive director, Karen Morgan. She receives much credit for this campaign,”said the campaign counsel. “As with all successful campaigns, there were excellent leaders among the staff, including Tiffany Brooks, the development director for much of the campaign and its finished goal, and superior volunteers epitomized by Rita Bicknell and Frances Nichols.”
“Our consultant helped keep us on track,” offered former Girl Scout development director, Tiffany Brooks. “He was always there to reassure us and point us in the right direction. He prompted us to start a monthly newsletter. The First Monday Memo was helpful in keeping donors aware of our progress. One thing I personally learned from the campaign was the importance of keeping in touch with potential donors. Gifts that we thought were impossible came through after months of sending updates and personal notes. Also, personal participation in local civic groups and organizations helped to give the organization and the campaign added visibility. Potential donors who may not accept a solicitation from an organization, may accept one from a member of a mutual civic group.”
Harder Than Expected, but Worth It
“The campaign was much harder than I expected,” said Morgan, “but we experienced some wonderful successes along the way. We were pleased to obtain $250,000 in state tax credits. Other agencies had received tax credits in prior years, but we were the only agency in Joplin to get the state tax credits that year. It was also the first year that the Neighborhood Assistance Program required outcome measures.”
The new Education and Service Center was designated to receive the financial benefit from these credits. The minimum contribution allowed was $2500. A gift of $10,000, for example, could be deducted from federal tax as a charitable contribution. After that, 50% – in this case, $5,000 – could be used against state taxes owed. If a donor had more credits than taxes owed, the credits could be carried over for an additional five years. Receiving Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits allowed GSCOA to gain donors from many more community businesses and individuals than it might have otherwise.
The dedication ceremony for the Education and Service Center for Girls was held June 28, 2000. The Girl Scouts of the USA National Executive Director, Marsha Johnson Evans, was on hand to speak and to share in the excitement. Evans congratulated and complimented GSCOA, “You are a pacesetter Council for the nation. Evans was speaking primarily about the groundbreaking work the Council had achieved in providing Girl Scout opportunities for disadvantaged girls, the impressive new Education and Service Center, and the continued efforts to provide role models and leadership opportunities for another generation of girls.”
However, the same thing can be said of the Girl Scout Council of the Ozark Area in regard to its fund raising efforts. Some said it would not happen… could not happen. It took a long time, but with the $2,200,000 goal achieved, the Girl Scout Council of the Ozark Area also serves as a fund raising pace setter for other non-profit organizations.