(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a six-part series describing one of the projects undertaken this year by a team of MBA students from the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus. We are examining the experience from the perspectives of the client, the students, the mentor/teacher, and the University. Today’s story focuses on the project need as seen through the words of Booth Kammann, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, Inc.)
By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
“We saw there were projects or solutions we needed to make that we could not do in our incremental process,” Booth Kammann told us in describing the impetus that led the organization that serves young women in 46 counties to engage with the University of Tennessee’s (UT) MBA student team.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, Inc. has been in her position for about five years. Early in that period, three separate groups – Chattanooga, Knoxville and Northeast Tennessee – joined together to form the current organization that serves nearly one-half of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
“We are at our core a leadership development organization,” Kammann says. The national organization was established 102 years ago, and the Knoxville-based affiliate was chartered in 1926.
“Market conditions have changed dramatically,” she explained. “What we do for girls is still extremely relevant for them, but we were the sole provider in 1912. We are not today.”
In addition to other organizations that serve young women, there are also changing demographics – from single parents to families where both parents work.
Kammann says that 95 percent of the organization’s volunteer base is comprised of parents or the custodians of the girls that are served. Addressing volunteer recruitment from several perspectives was a top priority.
“We recruit volunteers at the same time as we recruit girls,” she explained. While the girls can be accepted almost immediately, the volunteers must go through background checks which take time.
Another challenge is having enough volunteers, with so many two-income families, as well as lack of awareness of the shortage that exists. Kammann says the Council has an annual waiting list of about 300 girls that cannot be served, most in the metropolitan areas of the 46 counties.
“The general community does not realize that we need volunteers,” she says, adding, “We also want to broaden our base to bring in specialized capabilities.”
So, the Girl Scout Council’s goal was to increase the pipeline of volunteers to serve all applicants or, as Kammann described it, “We want the volunteer pipeline to get ahead of our needs.”
Fortunately for the UT MBA program, the CEO and one of her top staff members had good experiences with the university. In Kammann’s case, she is a participant in Alex Miller’s Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness. Heather May is a UT MBA graduate who was familiar with the annual spring project work coordinated by Pat Richardson and Glenn Swift.
The Girl Scout Council duo began talking with Richardson and a project was born. We’ll share Kammann’s observations on the project and how a tense situation turned a solid solution in the next article in this series.
NEXT UP: The project as seen through the eyes of volunteer mentor and teacher Kevin Frazier.