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Girl Scouts sell 4 camps, create Experience Fund (IL)


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Camp Wassatoga, near Effingham, Illinois; Camp Chan Ya Ta, near Worden, Illinois; Camp Torqua, near Edwardsville; and Camp Butterfly, near Farmington, Missouri...sold for $3.4M

The camps together have a total of 1,233 acres of rolling hills, rocky bluffs, lakes, woods and meadows that include trails, shelters and other amenities for activities like paddleboating, sailboating, and volleyball.

Together, the camps cost about $375,000 each year to operate. That cost was determined to be too high, while offering experiences Girl Scouts could get elsewhere in the area, CEO Loretta Graham said.

Instead, the proceeds will create the “Girl Scout Experience Fund” ($200,000/year) to “underwrite the costs of girls to fulfill their own Girl Scout experience, whether that experience be camping, horseback riding, zip-lining, STEM, robotics competitions, leadership training, and a broad array of other Girl Scout experiences,” Graham said.

...

The sale was a “devastating” surprise to troop leaders, who found out about the decision in an email Thursday, said Kimberly Hine of Collinsville. The camps gave thousands of Girl Scouts a place to try canoeing, fishing, zip-lining and archery — activities they often don’t get a chance to try anywhere else, she said.

more at source:

https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/illinois/girl-scouts-of-southern-illinois-selling-four-camps-for-million/article_a08f514c-0560-5517-8d9c-99de2d9ed124.html

Edited by RememberSchiff
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Interesting quote from the comments:

"My kids are in the Girl Scouts specifically to camp, hike, canoe, do archery. We can get leadership experiences, girl-led activities, etc. in a dozen different places nowadays. Camping is something we only get from Girl Scouts. The opportunity to be in nature, to appreciate the world we live in, to gain the camping skills that make the kids feel self-sufficient--these are the things camp provides. If the Girl Scouts doesn't offer those things, why would we remain a part of this group? (Co-ed "Scouting" is starting to look more and more attractive.)"

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12 minutes ago, walk in the woods said:

Interesting quote from the comments:

"My kids are in the Girl Scouts specifically to camp, hike, canoe, do archery. We can get leadership experiences, girl-led activities, etc. in a dozen different places nowadays. Camping is something we only get from Girl Scouts. The opportunity to be in nature, to appreciate the world we live in, to gain the camping skills that make the kids feel self-sufficient--these are the things camp provides. If the Girl Scouts doesn't offer those things, why would we remain a part of this group? (Co-ed "Scouting" is starting to look more and more attractive.)"

I agree with that quote 100%.  

If I were the BSA in Southern Illinois, I would start a focused campaign to recruit girls into Scouting touting the outdoor nature of the program.  

The GSUSA needs to understand that what you do in your program is what distinguishes you today.  In 2020 people are focused on results - what will my child do in this group?  Turning into just another group for youth without a core program vision is just going to turn them into another "me too" group.  

11 minutes ago, RememberSchiff said:

Together, the camps cost about $375,000 each year to operate. That cost was determined to be too high, while offering experiences Girl Scouts could get elsewhere in the area, CEO Loretta Graham said.

Instead, the proceeds will create the “Girl Scout Experience Fund” ($200,000/year) to “underwrite the costs of girls to fulfill their own Girl Scout experience, whether that experience be camping, horseback riding, zip-lining, STEM, robotics competitions, leadership training, and a broad array of other Girl Scout experiences,” Graham said.

The high costs of maintaining camps.  Why does it cost them $375,000 a year per camp?  Council boards need to stop looking at camps as palaces to the outdoors and as places that require dedicated employees.  It's OK to have a camp with nothing more than some dirt roads, a lake, and some cleared off areas for campsites.  You don't need a staff person for that.

That seems like a very strange comment from their council CEO: "Together, the camps cost about $375,000 each year to operate. That cost was determined to be too high, while offering experiences Girl Scouts could get elsewhere in the area".  Organizations provide competing services because it lets the differentiate or do it at an economic advantage.  What does Scouting become without the outdoor part?

Awful, awful decision.  I hope that the BSA is smart enough to recruit here and grow next year by 50%.

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24 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

That seems like a very strange comment from their council CEO: "Together, the camps cost about $375,000 each year to operate. That cost was determined to be too high, while offering experiences Girl Scouts could get elsewhere in the area"Organizations provide competing services because it lets the differentiate or do it at an economic advantage.  What does Scouting become without the outdoor part?

In fairness i suspect there were no activities happening in the camps that can't also be procurred from a commercial outfitter somewhere in the Shawnee or Ozarks.  I suspect that's what the CEO was trying to get at.  But that experience won't be as controlled as an owned camp.

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3 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

Together, the camps cost about $375,000 each year to operate. That cost was determined to be too high, while offering experiences Girl Scouts could get elsewhere in the area, CEO Loretta Graham said.

$375,000 in operating costs spread over four camps with structures, facilities, equipment, and program seems like a bargain, unless that $375,000 is actually an overall deficit (expenses greater than camp revenue) from camp operations.  If that is a deficit, then in a council with 9,000 girls, that is nearly $42 per member that has to be raised every year to cover the excess camp expenses.  Assuming only a fraction of those girls actually go to camp, user fees for the camps would have to go up significantly to break even.  But that deficit (if that is what the $375,000 is) could be significantly reduced by keeping one or two camps and selling the others.

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35 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

$375,000 in operating costs spread over four camps with structures, facilities, equipment, and program seems like a bargain, unless that $375,000 is actually an overall deficit (expenses greater than camp revenue) from camp operations.  If that is a deficit, then in a council with 9,000 girls, that is nearly $42 per member that has to be raised every year to cover the excess camp expenses.  Assuming only a fraction of those girls actually go to camp, user fees for the camps would have to go up significantly to break even.  But that deficit (if that is what the $375,000 is) could be significantly reduced by keeping one or two camps and selling the others.

 

2 hours ago, walk in the woods said:

In fairness i suspect there were no activities happening in the camps that can't also be procurred from a commercial outfitter somewhere in the Shawnee or Ozarks.  I suspect that's what the CEO was trying to get at.  But that experience won't be as controlled as an owned camp.

I just come back to a simple question - "what's the primary program of Scouting?"  To use the BP quote "Scouting is a game with a purpose".  What's their game?

As this GSUSA council continues to erode their "game" in favor of funding experiences, they become less and less differentiated. 

Truthfully, my daughter's GSUSA troop shows the same symptoms.  Their program has turned into an every two week's meeting with little other substance.  They get together do some crafts, the older girls provide some crowd control for the younger girls.  It all seems rather boring to me.

I'm not saying this council has to organize programming every month at camp.  But goodness, provide a camp.  Provide training and leadership so that unit leaders use it.  Don't just let the camp languish and then say - "well, looks like no one is using it and so we might as well sell it."

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5 hours ago, RememberSchiff said:

 

Together, the camps cost about $375,000 each year to operate. That cost was determined to be too high, while offering experiences Girl Scouts could get elsewhere in the area, CEO Loretta Graham said.

 

Let me guess.  Is her salary about $375,000 each year?  I might also guess it hasn't been determined that her salary is too high.  It would appear that Boy Scouting and Girls Scouting do have some things in common after all.

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So ?  This is nothing new to the BSA . Irving has, in the past, encouraged local BSA Councils to "downgrade" to make payroll and keep the endowment coffers full.  

Can we say Owasippee, again?   The idea that it is cheaper, easier to NOT own the source of the organizations success (places to camp, hike, swim, boat, shoot arrows)  is one of my biggest head shakers.   If the camp is not paying it's way, that is the fault of "management" not promoting and offering it's use to both Scouty and "civilian" users.   God ain't making any more land.  Once it's sold to development , it' is never coming back.   Even if the camps are sold (??) to a government agency for a park or conservation reserve,  it is never a Scout Camp, again.   

Some years ago,  NCAC sold it's four camp properties and purchased what is now the 4,000 acre Goshen Reservation, wayyyyy down in VIrginia.  It has been developed nicely, but it is some distance away. The closer in camps became the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, the Maryland Calvert Cliffs State Park, a County Park, a housing development  and another small state wildlife preserve area. I  was just a Scout back then, had no say in things like that, but I now wonder how things might be now, 50 years later, if Camp Roosevelt still sat on the Chesapeake Bay.  

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What are the property taxes? Could that be driving up the costs? BTW, the $375k is spread over 4 camps.

If that's not an issue I think it would be better to board up the buildings and invest in composting toilets. Drive the costs towards zero and encourage primitive use. Kids like dirt, trees, lakes and bugs. We had/have a girl scout camp that's up for sale that has lots of cabins and wifi and all sorts of expensive capital, and not enough scouts using it. Apparently nobody wants to buy it. Again, look at dropping the cost of the program. Those camps are important and they don't need to be fancy.

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If nothing else, this would be a great time to publicly offer Girl Scout troops to the option of attending BSA camps "to make sure they don't miss out on any opportunities".  It would suit my sense of perverse delight greatly if some of that $200,000 per year endowment ended up getting used to fund BSA camps because GSUSA troops or individuals wanted to attend.

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"Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois serves over 9,000 girls and 3,587 adult volunteers in 40 ½ mostly rural counties in southern Illinois. GSofSI has a yearly operating budget of approximately $3.7 million. One out of every seven school aged girl in our jurisdiction is a Girl Scout."

https://www.gsofsi.org/en/about-girl-scouts/about-gssi.html

"The Board recognizes the need to preserve the financial value of camp properties while also ensuring the delivery of Girl Scout activities and experiences.  In selling the camp properties, the asset value of the camps will remain. Camp assets of the Council will be transformed into financial assets of the Council.  The Board has directed that all proceeds from the sale of the camps be deposited into the newly established Girl Scout Experience Fund.

Last night, the Board approved the creation of the Girl Scout Experience Fund (the “GSE Fund”).  The GSE Fund is to provide direct financial support for delivering the Girl Scout experience.  These funds will help underwrite the costs of girls to fulfill their own Girl Scout experience, whether that experience be camping, horseback riding, zip lining, STEM, robotics competitions, leadership training, and a broad array of other Girl Scout experiences.  An investment of $3.4 million from camp properties into the GSE Fund, at a return of 6%, would generate $200,000 annually to underwrite the costs of girls and their troops to have fulfilling Girl Scout experiences.  By preserving the principal of the investment, and spending only the generated income, GSofSI will ensure the value of the camp properties will be continued to generate Girl Scout experiences for generations to come."

https://www.gsofsi.org/en/about-girl-scouts/news/2020/from_the_desk_of_lor.html

 

So $200,000/year would average $22/girl/yr in this Council. I'm not sure how much Girl Scout experience that would buy. I suspect the $3.4 million principle generating $200K/year interest will not be preserved.  If this was a thrifty BSA council surely that money would be transferred to a black hole account - a new Council HQ, STEM center, or forced merger.  :unsure:

Kudos to Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois website which I found more transparent than most BSA Council websites,

My $0.02,

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/29/2020 at 3:37 PM, David CO said:

Let me guess.  Is her salary about $375,000 each year?  I might also guess it hasn't been determined that her salary is too high.  It would appear that Boy Scouting and Girls Scouting do have some things in common after all.

Last full salary I can find for their previous CEO was for 2016...$135K

2017 IRS 990 filing shows Loretta Graham with salary of $0, and a named interim CEO with $22.1K  Must have been brand new at that point, but it will be around the $135K ballpark, for sure.

In contrast, our SE pulled down $203.5K for 2017, which puts them in the top 6% of our area, according to census data.  I point this out at the end of FOS presentations, so people can have full facts when deciding what they want to do with their money.  Needless to say, I am PNG with professionals in our council.

All data is information required by IRS to be disclosed publicly.  You can find what your Execs make, if you want.  (I use Charity Navigator.)  Recommend you not read those documents on a full stomach 🤮 

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Of all my complaints with the professional organization - I've got to admit that SE salary isn't one.  Sure, we want to have people paid fairly.  Yes, we are a non-profit.

I'd just be happy with more clarity around the roles and responsibilities of professionals so we can end all the confusion about professionals trying to do volunteer roles.

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ParkMan,

Would you elaborate, please? "...end all the confusion about professionals trying to do volunteer roles."  You mean confusion on the volunteers' parts, or on the professionals' parts, or both?

And I am all for paying someone fairly.  But there aren't many Scouters in our council who see the value for those dollars...  This is what councils need to do...show the value they create, and then show appreciation for the value the volunteers create. When the Mom who makes $45K a year is asked for money, and her Cub Day camp has been cancelled two years in a row with no explanation, and the council camp has buildings which are unhealthy (mold) and should be condemned...it's a hard sell for her, too.

When they can convince me, they'll get more of my money.

And the DE's, IMO, are not being paid fairly...what's their turnover rate, again?  And our Registrar is a saint.  Without her, things would come to a grinding halt...  You can't pay a good council Registrar enough :)

 

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