03/12/2012 12:14 pm ET Updated May 12, 2012

How Much Is a Girl Worth? Transforming the Girl Scouts at 100

Transformation seems to be on the lips of every corporate leader these days: How do we take the organizations that have survived the past decade and ready them for the recovery -- and beyond, they are asking.

As Girl Scouts of the USA turns 100 this year -- and actually today, March 12, 2012 -- we are making the same journey. Taking a page from business strategy, those of us on the national board, and in senior leadership positions, are working to transform the organization for a new century. We are seeking to create a relevant, powerful, attractive, inclusive organization that can prepare almost 3 million girls with the "courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place."

It wouldn't seem that hard, would it? After all, we have a powerful brand and over 50 million living alumnae (including nearly 80% of women leaders in business, Congress, science and the arts), who usually have at least one fond memory of cookies, camp, crafts and camaraderie. But, Girl Scouts has grown and changed, just as the status and girls and women has changed over the last century. A growing emphasis on the empowerment of young girls and women, on helping to foster independence and self-esteem, and of whetting their interest in science, technology, engineering and math has changed our program, just as the availability of fewer volunteer women troop leaders has challenged some of our delivery systems. Now, as we turn toward providing bold "leadership journeys" for our girls, we are charting a new course in the country -- moving from only offering traditional activities to providing a pipeline for female leadership that is more flexible.

Turning around the Queen Mary in a bathtub, some have called it.

But of course, the founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, was a renegade, though over the years we have sometimes forgotten that fact. 100 years ago, good girls stayed indoors because it was unseemly to go wading around in the mud to camp. Juliette, on the other hand, felt that girls would benefit from the nascent scouting movement in the UK, and would yearn toward health, outdoor pursuits, independence and teamwork. This was as radical in those days as some might see our goals of arming girls for leadership -- whether of themselves, their schools, communities, country or world -- today.

We are devoted to offering every girl in this country, regardless of her race, religion, demographic, orientation or ability to pay, a fun, positive, powerful experience that will open up a world of possibilities to her as she learns more about herself, and the role she wishes to play in life.

And so, this means that we must fund the movement more than we ever have before. Juliette funded the movement, started in Savannah, by selling her precious strand of pearls at a crucial moment. Were that it were so easy today. Of course, our iconic cookie program is really a traditional bake sale on steroids (and is quite a big business that has funded us well.) But, that is no longer enough. Dues for Girl Scouts are currently only $12 per year. (Yes, you read that right... about 1/10th of the cost of a pair of athletic shoes.) So, we keep the dues low, and subsidize girls and families who need it even while we are looking to swell our ranks to include all who wish to join, and might benefit.

How can we do it?

When, as the new Chair of the Board Fund Development Committee, I asked our staff four years ago what our financial goal should be for our 100th anniversary, I was told, well, maybe $8 million, because we probably can not raise $10 million. Really? Women and money, we have such a strange relationship. And sometimes we don't see the opportunities right in front of our eyes.

We have 50 MILLION alumnae, many at peak earning and purchasing power. On the corporate front, who would not want to partner with us in an appropriate way to reach that audience? On the individual donor front, if we were to ask every former Girl Scout for only $10, we could be well on our way. And, of course, many will want to give significantly more.

So, we decided it was time to practice what we preach, and act boldly. Last November we announced a goal of one BILLION dollars in honor of our 100th anniversary. This "count everything" campaign means that every dollar raised by local councils and the national Girl Scout organization around the country will go toward that billion. And it may take us ten years (though I doubt it), but we will do it!

Think big. Think transformation. Think of the opportunities $1 billion can give to our nation's girls -- in terms of after-school programming, in terms of community service activities, in terms of learning to live more healthily, and learning how to throw away "mean girl" role models and adopt the goals of supporting, befriending, teaming up with and honoring one another.

These are goals worthy of a hundred-year-old institution that is seeking to be a force for positive change for the future.

And, hopefully now, when someone asks: "How much is a girl worth?" We can all answer -- the floor starts at a billion dollars and goes up from there. Juliette would have been proud!