It’s that time again! Here is another interview with one of the many nonprofits who have been awarded one of the Firespring Foundation nonprofit website grants.

Our interview today is with Shayne Wheeler, Communications Team Leader at the Girls Scouts Heart of Michigan. I got to ask Shayne a few questions about the organization’s work and vision for 2013–learn what their organization is up to, and be inspired in your efforts this year!

Interview with Shayne Wheeler of the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan

Marc Koenig: In a few sentences, what would you say is the most important work that the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan is doing today?

Shayne Wheeler: The Girl Scouts Mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who will make the world a better place. Girl Scouting is about learning leadership skills, but we often find that we’re best known for cookies, camp and crafts.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program helps fund our programs, but more importantly, it teaches girls skills for life like goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

We consider every encounter with a girl an opportunity for a teachable moment. One important thing we’re intentional about is allowing the girls to make mistakes in a safe environment. It’s important for girls to learn that it’s ok not to get it exactly right at first, but rather, to learn, show initiative and challenge yourself. The goal is for each girl to grow on an individual basis.

MK: In your own words, what have been some of the biggest day-to-day challenges about running your nonprofit?

SW: The biggest challenge is Michigan’s economic downtown. It’s just not the same, and we’ve had to be more proactive and willing to be more diverse in the ways we fundraise and recruit members.

MK: What’s your future vision for the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan? What’s the next step toward that goal?

SW: Our vision in 2013 dovetails with what I brought up earlier–really working to expand how our organization is viewed. We want to show we are more than “that nice, little organization which sells cookies and teaches girls how to make crafts.” We are about instilling leadership and encouraging personal growth. You’d be hard pressed to find an organization that cares as much as we do about helping all girls realize their full potential as leaders.

Our girls are sometimes as young as six years old but still get the opportunity to lead something, to come up with their own ideas and to participate in a space that encourages a real sense of personhood in a way they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

I’d like to see us get to the point where people readily acknowledge us as a major stakeholder in the future and lives of the millions of girls who call Michigan home.

MK: What’s the most interesting way your website has helped you connect with your constituents?

SW: First of all, our website has been great for SEO, traffic and analytics. It’s been a vast improvement for helping us reach our goals.

The biggest strength of our website is an emphasis on user experience. We have done much to make it as simple as it can be. Our website serves as a resource for our volunteers, a place they can go to and find what they need. We strive to make it really easy to get around and find information, as well as to donate or volunteer, and make sure it takes as few clicks as possible to get where you need to be.

We’re also proud of our very active Facebook Page, which is a place for all our constituents to connect and share information, conversations and dialogue with one another.

MK: What are you hoping to incorporate or improve for your online presence in 2013–and why?

SW: One big change we are planning on making in 2013 is starting a blog we can use to get news and information out there. A blog would be a really valuable way to share stories and show impact without traditional media–because, as you know, the media landscape has changed significantly over the years, one change being less local community coverage.

We’re also planning to increase our social media presence. While we’re already very involved in social media, we’re always looking for new ways to connect with our existing constituents.

MK: What do you think will be your biggest challenge for growth as a nonprofit organization in 2013?

SW: While there are always plenty of girls interested in becoming Girl Scouts, our challenge is to find volunteers to lead those girls. Historically, the volunteers are often parents of the Girl Scouts, and more and more women and men are in the workforce than ever before. So we’re figuring out ways to recruit more diversely, such as through referrals, resources like VolunteerMatch.com and social media.

Another big challenge is that while Girl Scouts has been around for many years, society has changed, and Girls Scouts’ place in society has changed too. Back in the day, Girl Scouts was really one of the only extra curricular activities that girls could invest in–they didn’t have the vast amount of options for sports and other activities that they do today.

We’ve had to adapt and recognize that we are, in a sense, competing for attention. It’s more and more important for us to find ways to show parents the impact and growth that being a Girl Scout provides. The challenge for us as we enter our next 100 years of Girl Scouting will be to get this message out as a way to encourage more people to become leaders and help us change girls’ lives in meaningful ways.

—————

Check out the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan website to see the work they’re doing. Thanks again to Shayne and the Girl Scouts for sharing their vision for 2013!

Inspired? Learn more about the Firespring Foundation website grants.