Happy 103rd Birthday, Girl Scouts: 5 Questions with Kelly Parisi

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Founded on March 12, 1912, by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Georgia, the Girl Scouts challenged the conventions and taboos of its time to ensure that all girls had a safe space to develop leadership skills.

Today, with nearly 3 million girl and adult members, Girl Scouts can be found in every US ZIP code and more than 90 countries around the world.

Following its recent recognition by Fast Company as “one of the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies of 2015″ in the not-for-profilt category, brandchannel asked Kelly Parisi, Chief Communications Executive for the Girl Scouts of the USA, how this century-old organization stays fresh and relevant.[more]

brandchannel: How has Girl Scouts evolved over the past 103 years?

Kelly Parisi: We have taken Girl Scouts to new levels by revamping our online platforms and transforming the way we serve our members. We are leveraging new technologies and implementing new systems across our 112 local councils to build out our capacity to deliver on our mission.

In doing so, we are improving the overall girl and volunteer experience—making it easier and more fun to volunteer, so more girls have the opportunity to thrive.

And, of course, we recently launched a new initiative called Digital Cookie, which is revolutionizing our iconic cookie program. By adding a digital layer that expands on the traditional five skills of the program, it teaches vital 21st-century skills—including e-commerce, online money management, digital marketing and online customer service.

brandchannel: How does the Girl Scouts brand serve today’s girls and volunteers in a busy, digital world?

Parisi: Volunteers are critical to our movement’s success in reaching girls and changing lives. Across America, there are thousands of girls on waitlists who want to become Girl Scouts. So we have rolled out new online systems that enable interested volunteers to complete the process to become a leader in days instead of weeks or months.

Volunteers can receive the information and resources they need through their PC or mobile device, and stay connected to troop leaders and parents.

A new national web platform will unite the websites of all 112 Girl Scout councils across the country. That way, girls, parents, volunteers and alumnae can all receive the same first-class Girl Scout experience online and directly access information and resources relevant to their council.

Girl Scouts is one of the first nonprofit organizations to implement such a far-reaching business change program. Co-created with councils, this multi-year strategy will empower us to manage our resources and deliver on our mission more efficiently and effectively.

brandchannel: What hardships come with being a 103-year old brand?

Parisi: Say “Girl Scouts” and most people think “cookies, camps and crafts”—what we call the “three Cs.” But many may not realize that the Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-run business in the world. And our commitment to the outdoors isn’t just about sending girls to sleepaway camps—it’s about instilling a sense of environmental stewardship, independence and a lifelong dedication to personal fitness.

Many may not understand that through Girl Scouts, girls become community-oriented and civically engaged, and that the money girls earn selling cookies is invested back into their communities.

Our mission is very simple: We help girls tap into their leadership potential, and build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. That mission hasn’t changed with time—only the way we carry that mission forward has.

brandchannel: As a nonprofit, how are you able to make sure the masses understand your mission?

Parisi: One in two women either wore the sash or know a Girl Scout. What better way to learn about Girl Scouting than from the alumnae or the girls themselves?

When someone interacts with Girl Scouts, they see firsthand what girls are being exposed to and they recognize that girls are in the driver’s seat of their Girl Scout experience because they can choose what they want to pursue.

With the Girl Scout Cookie Program, girls take on a variety of service projects, from donating food to the local food pantries, to volunteering at animal shelters, to creating robotics programs, and even successfully lobbying for changes to state testing. These stories are being shared by Girl Scouts across the nation and overseas, and people can’t help but listen to the extraordinary impact girls have on the world.

We are also often publically recognized as a thought leader on girls’ issues and a movement dedicated to empowering girls to thrive. The White House recognized our commitment to providing outdoor experiences last month with the announcement of the Every Kid in a Park initiative. The invitation to partner with the White House on this important initiative is testament to our 103-year-old legacy as one of the nation’s foremost organizations.

brandchannel: What do you think Juliette Gordon Low would say about today’s Girl Scouts?

Parisi: I think Juliette would be proud of how Girl Scouts has evolved while remaining true to the core values, ideals and principles she instilled over a century ago. We continue to provide girls with essential skills to reflect the changing world we live in.

Girl Scouts has something all girls can benefit from. Over the past century, we’ve continued to implement Juliette’s mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.

—Jennifer Yepez is a tone of voice specialist based in Dallas and a Girl Scout alum.

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