Girl Scouts raising funds for new campus

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In 2001, donations to the Girls Scouts, Hornets’ Nest Council, from individuals, corporations and foundations accounted for 3 percent of the organization’s $2.8 million annual budget, with only 3 percent to 4 percent of families of member girls giving a total of about $8,000.

Today, private giving represents 10 percent of the Council’s $4 million annual budget, with 13 percent of families contributing a total of $90,000.

Those changes are the result of an effort the Council launched in 2001 to create a “culture of philanthropy” rooted in the belief that everyone in an organization should understand and be involved in helping to develop the resources it needs to advance its mission, says Katherine Lambert, the Council’s executive vice president.

Building that culture also has set the foundation for the Council’s current effort to raise money for development of a 700-acre site it has acquired in Iredell County near Statesville to replace and expand three sites it had used for camping and outdoor activities for girls, and to meet rising demand for services.

“We were not serving the girls of today, much less tomorrow,” says Sally Daley, the Council’s CEO.

The Council is in the “semi-quiet phase” of a capital campaign, its first since it began in 1935, to raise money for developing the new site, a project that will cost $12 million in addition to the $5 million it paid to buy three connected pieces of land in Iredell County.

The Council expects to cover the cost of those purchases through the sale of Camp Occoneechee, a site of nearly 200 acres near Lake Lure it sold in three pieces in 2011 for a total of roughly $3 million; and from the sale of Camp Catawba, a 25-acre site near Lake Wylie in South Carolina, and of a 75-acre site near Albermarle in Stanly County, both of which are on the market.

The Council has worked with the Catawba Land Conservancy to provide a conservation easement to permanently protect about half the acreage of its new site, which will be an “environmental leadership campus” and feature perennial streams and two miles of riverfront access to the South Yadkin River.

On the site, which all was raw land, the Council plans to develop housing and a dining hall for 500 people; build a dam to create a 25-acre lake; create trails and an environmental center; facilities for traditional activities such as archery; and seven “adventure zones” such as a 60-foot climbing tower, and a “low challenge course” and “group initiative course” for leadership development.

Programs at the new facility will focus on environmental leadership and on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Operating with 43 employees and 6,000 adult volunteers, the Council serves 16,500 girls in kindergarten through 12th grade in eight counties.

It generates roughly 70 percent of its annual budget from the sale of cookies, 10 percent from fundraising, 8 percent from United Way, 6 percent from its retail store, and the remainder from program fees and miscellaneous revenue.

And with girls and adult volunteers finding themselves increasingly busy, the Council is working to provide them with more flexible options to participate.

“We’re always focused on leadership development,” Daley says. “The real mission of our organization is helping today’s girls become today’s leaders and tomorrow’s leaders in these critical times.”

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