Throughout this journey, we have been guided by basic Girl Scouting principles. Empowering, inspiring and influencing the girls who make a difference in our world. The foundation is serving girls through programming offered in an environment where girl-led, hands-on, cooperative learning can take place. The property plan allows us to create the right surroundings for fostering that which we hold true — delivering personal growth and leadership development opportunities for girls.
Understanding how to attract girls to Girl Scouting, given the world we live in, is not a challenge that only affects our council. The Girl Scout organization, and councils all over the country, is reassessing the relevance of the Girl Scout experience in light of the rapidly changing interests of girls. We know we must enhance our offering to girls today if the organization is to remain viable in the future.
For Girl Scouts of South Carolina - Mountains to Midlands, understanding this very real and present challenge led us to look deep within our organization and consider how we can elevate our programming to make it more meaningful to girls. In addition to understanding what girls want, we knew we had to develop a plan on how to deliver it to them.
It started with a look at how our council compared nationally in terms of best practices across a number of organizational quality indicators. There were some areas in which we compared very well; in other areas, not so much. The most glaring imbalance we found is that 30% of our operating budget is being used for property expenses while the national standard is only 10%-15%. That told us there was a great opportunity to reassess that 15%-20% difference and determine how those monies might be reinvested into attractive program offerings that interest girls. Proudly, we are the first council nationwide to look at our total property picture and formulate a strategy encompassing camps as well as office space, meeting space, owned and leased sites, and future local presence in our communities.
The Long-Range Program and Property Planning Committee began its work in March 2008 with the charge of developing a long-term property plan. The committee crafted a vision statement and developed action items for the initiative.
It began with thorough research. Members of the committee gathered property and national trend data, visited all the sites and hired a consultant (funded entirely by a private donor) to conduct an objective program assessment. Glen Chin, GSUSA consultant, provided program and property expertise. We invited feedback from more than 17,000 Girl Scouts in our council, troop leaders, delegates and volunteers, donors and community leaders. We made a variety of response tools available to them:
Benefits of the Plan
The #1 benefit of the strategic property plan is aligning property to meet girls’ programmatic needs and interests. By studying every aspect of our properties - how we use them, when we use them, what we use them for, and even how much they cost to maintain- we have been able to make wise decisions about moving our council forward and preserving the long-term viability of the organization. This plan helps us:
The committee presented its final recommendation to the council Board of Directors on March 18, 2009. The Board unanimously accepted these recommendations and activated plans for implementation. They are as follows:
The Aiken and Clinton Huts serve a large number of girls, are affordable and require only modest improvements. We will work to extend those leases and explore options for program enhancements.
We will look for a new location in Newberry that better meets our program needs, offers a more desirable location and fulfills our goal for local presence and troop hut establishments in the future.
We will continue to explore similar partnerships across our jurisdiction to support the goal of local presence in our communities.
The following camps fell short in meeting the assessment criteria and will be sold, with assets being reinvested in programs and new or improved facilities:
Camp Wistagoman and Camp WaBak met the assessment criteria and offer great opportunity for program growth. The council will retain these camps, developing a master plan to support the program focus. Camp WaBak will be featured as a destination site for the council.
Camp Wistagoman is leased from the Corps of Engineers for $10 per year. To end the lease, we would have to return the property to its original state: no facilities at all. That would certainly be more costly than continuing its use as a troop camp and enhancing programming that is offered there.
Camp Congaree was revealed to have our lowest usage rates of established camps. Research identified that camp amenities are a must for the returning or new camper. Looking at the mandate for facilities to match contemporary interest and the desire for a "destination" in the state capital, we will sell the property and redirect those dollars into programs and a new, state-of-the-art Mountains to Midlands Urban Leadership Center. Summer programs will continue as outlined in the brochure.
Camp Mary Elizabeth experiences high usage and is a potential business entrepreneur destination site. We will pursue partnerships for the facility and improvements. Based on the findings over the next 12 months, the Board will determine next steps.
The Columbia office space is too costly, is underutilized and not in an ideal location. We are in year three of a 10-year lease and will immediately pursue sub-lease opportunities and a potential buyout with the landlord. Ideally, this space can be relocated in the proposed Mountains to Midlands Urban Leadership Center.
Our Greenville office will be maintained while we serve out the remaining three years of a very tight lease agreement.
Our Mauldin office offers limited program support on site and is only six miles from the corporate office. As such, we will sell that property and redirect those dollars to programming.
Our Spartanburg office will eventually be closed and those functions will be incorporated into Camp Mary Elizabeth.
"To provide safe and inviting indoor and outdoor properties offering a diverse range of unique, hands-on educational and engaging recreational activities supporting Girl Scout goals."
In forming its overall recommendations, the committee was guided by the following strategic factors:
In assessing each property, the committee outlined five criteria: