2011 Girl Scout National Session Proposals

Girl Scouts’ National Council Session is this November in Houston. This is our national organization’s major governance meeting and shapes the future of the movement. GSCSA’s Delegates are asking for your input before they cast their votes on three important proposals: an annual general program fee for girl members, a rolling calendar for annual membership, and timing for the election of national session delegates within councils.


Below you will find information provided by GSUSA in response to questions by National Delegates regarding the proposals. You will also see council-specific information from GSCSA regarding each proposal.

Please give each proposal careful consideration and e-mail your opinions to DelegateResponses@girlscoutcsa.org.

Our Delegates are waiting to hear what you think.

Proposal One: Annual General Program Fee for Girl Members

Basic Facts about the General Program Fee

Each council has the option of establishing and charging a general program fee. The fee can change from year to year if the council chooses to do so. Only girl members will be charged the general program fee. The fee will be applied to all girls in the council and will be charged at the time girls register for Girl Scouting each year.

Adult members will not pay the general program fee. Lifetime members will not pay the general program fee.

The amount of the general program fee cannot exceed the cost of GSUSA membership dues in the year that the program fee is charged. The general program fee can, however, be lower than the GSUSA membership dues.

If the council chooses to charge a general program fee, all income received from that fee will be considered undesignated income to the council. The council can use the income in any way it would like including but not limited to recruiting girls and adult volunteers, program development and delivery, capital costs related to property….the options are endless. All decisions about how to use the funds rests with the local council.

100% of the general program fee stays with the council and the council is responsible for wise use of the funds.

Additional Facts

Would this new general program fee make all programming inside the council free – would it replace fees that are already being charged?

The general program fee does not take the place of other fees that the council charges. It is charged in addition to the fees that girls already pay to participate in various council programs. For example, if a council that decides to charge a general program fee of $10 – the cost for a girl to participate would be $12 dues to GSUSA + $10 general program fee to the council + fees already charged for existing programs.

What are the main reasons councils want this money?

The cost of Girl Scouting is far less than the cost of participation in other youth oriented activities and organizations. As the cost of developing and delivering Girl Scouting increases, councils feel is it fair to ask those who are receiving the benefits of the program to share in the cost.

Will the money go to Girls, Service Units, Troops, or the Council?

Each council will decide if it wants to charge a program fee and will also decide how the income will be used. If a council wants to return some of the money to Service Units or troops – or support girls – or help maintain camps…this will be the council’s decision.

Have the extra costs associated with this proposal been considered? If checks are made to GSUSA, will GSUSA remit the program fee back to the councils? Will two checks have to be submitted, one to GSUSA and one to the council?

Extra costs associated with administration of this proposal have not been estimated, though we expect they will be minimal. The details of collecting and processing the fee have yet to be determined. We also don’t know if it will be possible to list the fee on the membership registration form. All these questions will need to be answered if the proposal is passed.

Can you help clarify the term “program fee”? How does this connect to pathways?

The fee is called the “general program fee” to help parents understand it is a “general” fee that applies to all programs – not a fee for a specific program. The fee will be the same for all girl members regardless of the pathway/pathways to membership they are using.

Will the fee be the same for all – will it vary from council to council?

Each council will decide whether or not it wants to charge a program fee and the fee may vary from council to council. Some councils may choose to charge the maximum which currently would be $12. Some may choose to charge no fee. Councils will have the responsibility of interpreting these differences to their members.

Will the amount of the fee be a barrier to participation?

The general program fee will be an additional cost to participation that will have a greater impact on families with multiple members and on families that already have financial challenges. Each council who chooses to charge a general program fee will have the responsibility to develop and administer a robust financial aid program so that the establishment of a general program does not become a barrier to participation.

Does GSUSA expect that enrollment will decline when these new fees are instituted?

We do not know what the membership impact of this change will be in a local Girl Scout Council. GSUSA will strongly recommend that councils carefully consider any decision to charge a general program fee and make plans to broadly promote the use of financial aid so that any impact on membership is minimal.

If a girl moves during a membership year will she be required to pay the fee twice?

No. A girl pays a fee once during the membership year – and that is at the time she pays her GSUSA membership dues. The funds do not move with her.

Is the general program fee different then the Family Partnership Fund? Shouldn’t the focus be on voluntary contributions?

The general program fee is different than Family Partnership. Contributions to Family Partnership a not mandatory, are considered a financial contribution, and are tax deductible. The general program fee is considered a fee for service, and like the GSUSA membership dues, is not tax deductible.

It is very important for all Girl Scout Councils to focus on building their philanthropic base. However, we are learning from councils that the philanthropic base is not growing fast enough to support the true cost of delivering Girl Scouting to girls.

Can this be done on a trial basis?

If the proposal is not adopted, GSUSA can consider offering a few councils the opportunity to “try it out” and then bring a recommendation to a future national council session.

If a girl is joining the Girl Scouts to participate in one specific event, will she need to pay the general program fee?

Yes. If the council has established a general program fee, it will be charged to all girl members, regardless of the program pathway they choose.

What is the feedback of councils?

Many councils are interested in having the option of charging a general program fee. We will learn the extent of that support when the vote is taken at the National Council Session.

What stops a girl from registering in a council with cheaper program fees even if it’s not her council?

Each girl registers in the council where she lives and takes part in programs.

Is this giving too much power to councils?

Councils already have the power to develop programs and set fees that are in line with the needs of girls and the jurisdiction in which they operate. This is no different.

Could the fee be a flat troop fee instead of girl fee?

Because troops vary dramatically in size, the only fair way to charge a general program fee would be to charge individual members.

After we’ve spent time on building continuity, brand, consistency amongst councils — isn’t this counterproductive?

The decision to charge a general program fee would most likely create challenges in the early years as councils (and members) get comfortable with the change. That said, there are already many differences between councils – different programs offered, different fees charged, and different cookie prices. We have been able to manage those differences – and will, if it is passed – be able to manage this difference too.

GSUSA has the authority to increase membership dues at any time, which would affect how much councils would then receive for a program fee. Do you anticipate increasing membership fees in the next 2 – 3 years?

GSUSA does anticipate increasing dues in the years to come. As GSUSA dues increase, councils can charge an increased amount for the general program fee – not to exceed the amount of GSUSA dues.

The proposed amendment does not include Program Fees along with membership dues as a source of investment income. Assuming this amendment is approved, shouldn’t Program Fees be included in this provision?

The provision referenced above prohibits councils from holding GSUSA membership dues and using them as a source of investment income. Since income from general program fees will be income to the council, the council is free to use the funds in any way it chooses.

Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians’ additional information about Proposal One: ANNUAL GENERAL PROGRAM FEE FOR GIRLS

If Proposal One is approved, how would GSCSA determine whether to charge a Program Fee, how much to charge, and how the funds would be used?

GSCSA would engage in a multi-stage due diligence process to determine whether or not to implement a Program Fee, how much to charge (if implemented), and how the funds would be utilized. Steps of this process would include, but not be limited to:

  • Review of the financial needs of the Council as a whole plus the specific needs of service units, troops, and girl members;
  • Market survey of costs of other youth development activities in the region;
  • Review of impact of fee on girl access to Girl Scouting and financial aid;
  • Opportunities for membership engagement and feedback;
  • Board oversight to ensure that use of funds is consistent with GSCSA’s Vision, Strategy, and Culture.


Tracking Registration

Will this make it hard for troops to make sure all girls are registered? How would membership managers keep track of everyone and know who’s returning and when? Isn’t that a huge burden on leaders to figure out when girls need to register? Will online registration be able to actually track year-to-year registrations and numbers of years girls and adults are/were members? How would parents/troop track and coordinate membership renewal for multiple girls in a household or different registration dates for troop members? If the proposal passes, whose responsibility is it to make sure girls registrations are current—the leader or someone at the council? Who is going to keep these records and keep the registrars, troop leaders, and councils informed of whose membership is due when? This would be an absolute nightmare!

Business processes and technology updates would change both at the national and council levels so that members and volunteers would receive automatic re-registration reminders. Councils are at different places in terms of implementing systems and processes to support pathways. It would be up to the council to determine whether troop/group volunteers or council staff would be responsible for overseeing the re-registration process.

When would girls’ membership end, the same time of their registration the next year? When would girls get back on the normal schedule? How would they be counted in the next membership year—or would they?

Membership would end 12 months following the initial registration date. For example, if someone registers May 1, 2011, her registration would expire April 30, 2012. Even if the rolling membership year were implemented, we would still need to identify consistent start and end dates to a membership-reporting year. Members would be counted once within this identified 12-month period.

If we are using the e-biz module, will parents automatically be sent renewal letters to remind them to renew girls’ memberships?

Yes, business processes and technology updates would change at the national and council levels so members and volunteers receive automatic reminders to re-register.

What will this do to on-time and early bird registration promotions?

Any change to the annual membership would need to consider on-time and early bird registrations. Business processes are expected to change to encourage early renewal regardless of when the membership term begins or ends.

Has anyone done cost-effective studies of this proposal? My experience with the Midwest Gang Investigation Association is that for many years we accepted membership dues this way, and it was very difficult to manage. It is also very costly, because someone has to manage and inform each member when her dues are due, and that means all our volunteers would have to track these dues and have some kind of billing system to keep the members informed. This may also have a negative impact on girls earning their Girl Scout Gold Awards if their membership dues, and thus their memberships, lapse before they have completed their projects. This could be particularly troublesome for girls who finish their projects after high school graduation but prior to the start of the next GS fiscal year.

Yes, an initial cost-effectiveness study was conducted. That study indicated business processes and technology updates would need to occur at the national and council levels in order for possible benefits to outweigh costs of implementing rolling membership. The National Board will convene a task group to further study the current national dues structure and annual membership-registration practice. The purpose of the study is to make sure that our membership processes meet the needs of current and future members and align with national program offerings and pathways.

National Board Position

Why does the board recommend this proposal not be adopted? How does the board recommend we answer the questions from members who say they feel “cheated” by registering in the spring and only getting a half year of membership? Our delegates do not understand why this proposal is even on the agenda since the National Board plans to put it on the 2014 convention agenda.

Actually, the National Board is fully in support of the goals of the proposal, which we see as encouraging participation in Girl Scout pathways and increasing the perceived value of a Girl Scout membership. The reason we have recommended that we not adopt this particular proposal, at this time, is that we think there may actually be better ways to achieve those important goals. So, by taking a more deliberate approach, and investigating other options, we think:
  • We could reduce the complexity and cost of implementation, because more councils would use online registration.
  • We could implement changes when timing would be better for most councils, thus reducing disruption for girls, volunteers, and council staff.
  • It would enable us to introduce other related changes, such as introducing new types of membership or partial year memberships, that would allow us to get a greater return on investments in system changes.
Given that the annual membership is only one of many options to explore, the National Board felt it was premature to move ahead now. In addition, councils expressed concerns about the cost of adjusting systems and practices at a time when many are still rolling out elements of Personify, the enterprise-wide membership-registration system.

The National Board will convene a task group to study the current national dues structure and annual membership-registration practice. The purpose of the study is to make sure that our membership processes meet the needs of current and future members and align with national program offerings and pathways. Members of the task group, which will include councils, will be appointed by January 2012. Recommendations will be reported to the National Board in early 2014, with placement of a report on the 2014 National Council agenda.

It is important to note that if the proposal is adopted at the 2011 convention (without a proviso to delay implementation), the proposal would take effect immediately.

Wasn’t the partial membership question given to the National Board in November 2008? And, if so, why did the Board not research in the past three years?

At the 2008 National Council Session, with approval of the membership body, the National Board withdrew a proposal entitled Membership Flexibility, which sought a constitutional amendment to remove barriers to consideration of membership options other than annual and lifetime, but offered no specifics. The National Board looks forward to getting this important work underway in convening the task group in January 2012 to look at the options carefully and make recommendations.

Other Membership Options

Would it make more sense to offer a half-year prorated membership fee? A rolling membership year is too confusing for the service-unit structure. Has the option of prorated membership fees been explored? Could there be a registration period twice a year so membership would run October to October and January to January? That would decrease administration costs. I don’t understand why we need to offer a partial membership fee when it is only $12 for the year? It is also a much lesser cost than Boy Scouts’ membership fee.

The rolling annual membership is one of many options that will be considered, in support of the key objectives of encouraging participation in Girl Scout pathways and increasing the perceived value of a Girl Scout membership. Other potential solutions, such the idea of a prorated membership fee, have been suggested and will be explored as possible alternative solutions.

In January 2012, the National Board will convene a task group to study the current national dues structure and annual membership-registration practice. The purpose of the study is to make sure that our membership processes meet the needs of current and future members and align with national program offerings and pathways. Members of the task group will include council representation. Recommendations will be reported to the National Board in early 2014, with placement of a report on the 2014 National Council agenda.

Will the alternatives be explored at the convention so we can hear the “better options”?

No, the convention protocol does not allow for discussion on alternatives. Our parliamentarian has advised that other options are likely ‘out of scope’ from the original proposal submitted by the council since they would require a change to the Constitution which today provides only for individual annual membership and lifetime membership.

Other Questions

I don’t get the point of this proposal. This would cost us more money and make it more complicated for everyone, including the troop leaders. Would someone please explain why this would help girls?

We believe the key objectives of an alternate membership structure are to encourage participation in Girl Scout pathways and increase the perceived value of a Girl Scout membership. How this is best accomplished is the work of the task group that will be formed in January 2012.

What about registering adults?

If a rolling annual membership were implemented, the process would apply to both girls and adults.

The documentation states that arrangements have been made with our insurance companies so that new girls who register in August or September for the scouting year that technically starts October 1 will be covered by insurance for activities in August and September. Is that true now, for this August and September?

Yes, this additional coverage applies to new girls who register in August or September 2011 and all future years.

GSCSA’s Council-Specific Information for Proposal Two: “ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP”

GSCSA staff agrees that implementing this change at this time would put an additional strain on staff and volunteers in the absence of systems and processes to support the change. Staff supports the study of the current national dues structure and annual membership-registration practice, in order to ensure that GSUSA’s membership processes meet the needs of current and future members and align with national program offerings and pathways as proposed by the National Board.


Three-Year Commitment for Delegates/Selection of Alternates

My question/concern with selecting delegates a year earlier is this, would it make it more difficult to get girl members involved with the process? It is hard for an adult to plan that far ahead and would be even more difficult for a girl to commit to something that far in advance. Wouldn’t this also mean each council would need to select and train more alternates? Wouldn’t it be difficult to select alternates to commit to the longer process when it is unlikely they would attend the convention sessions?

The role of the Delegate is–and has been–a three-year commitment, and this proposal is consistent with the core elements of a delegate’s responsibilities. We, as a National Board, do see that for a girl member to take on this vital governance role it would make more sense for councils to elect girls earlier, such as those in their sophomore year. If elected in their freshman or sophomore year, girls could fulfill their 3-year term as a delegate before heading off to higher education or a job.

The three-year role of the delegate may have required councils to utilize alternates in the past, and may continue to require that councils select and train a sufficient number of alternates should the elections be held earlier. While some adults may find it difficult to accept a nomination to serve as a delegate, thus committing to a National Council Session meeting date that is over a year out, councils have always been encouraged to elect alternate delegates because of conflicts that occur, even at the last minute. We would hope that the practice of electing alternates would continue.

We believe that this proposal promotes engaging volunteers substantively and directly, and speaks to the true partnership of the National Board and councils.

The National Board is proud to support this proposal as it focuses on strengthening the governance processes of our Movement.

Timing of National Council Materials

Would the national organization, in turn, provide communications and resources earlier if the proposal is adopted?

In keeping with its commitment to strengthen dialogue with delegates and council leadership (regarding agenda development for the Session and the finalized agenda), the National Board supports earlier communications with council leadership and delegates. This includes:
  • Earlier communications requesting submission of proposal topics from council boards of directors;
  • Earlier and ongoing dialogue with councils and delegates about agenda development for the next session;
  • Earlier placement of proposals on the agenda by the National Board,
  • Earlier communication regarding the items for vote as placed on the agenda by the National Board;
  • Earlier communication of resources to support delegate training.

Impact of Adoption

How would this impact the previous national delegates? Would the term have to be shortened for them?
If the proposal is adopted as written, the Constitution of GSUSA is amended immediately.
GSUSA would then follow the procedure as indicated in the proposal. [In calendar year 2013, councils would elect delegates for the 2014 National Council Session. The effect would be the delegates that had been elected in 2011 for a three-year term would have a shortened term.]
Additional Questions

The proposed amendment makes no provision for adjustment of the delegate count if there is an increase in the number of girls under its jurisdiction. With on-going consolidation of councils, a provision that allows for adjustments to be made seems appropriate.

The delegate formula remains in the Constitution if the proposed change in timing for the election of Delegates is adopted under Part A of the Proposal.

(If adopted) Article IV, Section 5 of the Constitution would read:

Each local council to which a charter has been issued and remains in force shall be entitled to the following delegates based on the number of girls under its jurisdiction who are members of the Girl Scouts of the United States of Americas as of September 30 two years preceding the regular session of the National Council:

a) Two (2) delegates
b) One (1) additional delegate for up to 3,500 girls;
c) One (1) additional delegate for up to 3,500 girls thereafter.

USA Girl Scouts collectively shall be entitled to the number of delegates according to the same formula prescribed for local councils. The prescribed figure of 3,500 girls may be adjusted when necessary to keep the total membership of the National Council no larger than 1,500.

Was 18 months considered rather than two years?

Council bylaws determine when elections are timed. If communications regarding the delegate formula are timed to go out two years in advance of the session (after September 30 two years preceding the Session), councils can schedule elections consistent with their bylaws. The timing suggested by the proposal provides wide latitude.

Would GSUSA consider changing the timing of the National Council Session if the proposal is not adopted (to address timing issues)?

Under Article V, Section 1, the Constitution mandates that National Council Session shall be held every three years, and authorizes the National Board to set the date, time, place and purpose. The Session is usually held in fall (from mid-October through mid-November).
While no date works for everyone, fall meetings avoid the holiday season of late November through end of December, winter weather travel problems, and summer.


GSCSA staff agrees this proposal will support meaningful engagement of National Council Delegates throughout their term of service.


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