Girlguiding's briefing on trustees' recent decisions
22 September 2023
Girlguiding briefing to MPs and ministers ahead of Westminster Hall debate on the role and future of youth programmes and Girlguiding - Tuesday 19 September at 4-4.30pm
Girlguiding is the UK’s largest youth organisation dedicated completely to girls. We are a registered charity with a membership of 300,000 Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers (4-18 years), and nearly 80,000 volunteers. Girlguiding is an association made up of thousands of charities and unincorporated bodies.
Girlguiding’s Board of Trustees has a responsibility to make decisions for Girlguiding that enable it to further its charitable objectives. Our board of trustees regularly review our strategy, risk and assets and how to use our charity resources most effectively, so we can continue our core mission to help all girls know they can do anything.
The board of trustees recently made two strategic decisions regarding British Guiding Overseas (BGO) based on risk, and the sale of its 5 UK-owned activity centres for financial reasons.
British Guiding Overseas (BGO)
In April, the board of trustees decided to make changes and to end BGO operations as they are currently delivered (see below for affected areas).
Why was this decision made?
The decision to cease our operations overseas was made after careful consideration of the increasing complexity and requirements to oversee operations in 36 countries and territories with different laws and regulations. The trustees were concerned about the organisation's future ability to take direct responsibility for overseas operations at this scale with a BGO membership comprising less than 1% of the total Girlguiding members. They considered whether additional oversight functions could be put in place from the UK to provide assurance, but this was not possible or practical, while also continuing to deliver our other activities in a challenging economic context, and meeting increasing legal requirements and the expectations on charities.
Organised guiding run by Girlguiding in the Middle East and Africa, Asia, and some European countries ended on 1 September 2023. Some girls from units in these areas will continue guiding or scouting through international partners, such as a local guiding organisation (which will be a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), USA Girl Scouts Overseas, or British Scouting Overseas.
Girlguiding on military bases also closed on 1 September 2023.
Girlguiding in the British Overseas Territories (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands) which has c.700 adult and young members, is continuing until 31 December 2023 (previously 1 September 2023) as we explore options for local Girlguiding organisations.
We have proposed 2 options to government going forward, FCDO for the Overseas Territories and the MOD for military bases and look forward to their response.
- Option 1: an entity is formed, and government financially support Girlguiding so that risk assurance can be provided to Girlguiding’s trustees via appropriate staff.
- Option 2: An agreement whereby the risk is mitigated and carried by government and Girlguiding provides the materials girls are familiar with eg badges, programme, uniform, policies.
Sale of the activity centres
In May 2023, Girlguiding’s board of trustees made the recommendation to sell its 5 UKowned activity centres - Blackland Farm (Sussex), Foxlease (Hampshire), Glenbrook (Peak District), Waddow Hall (Lancashire) and Ynysgain (North Wales). We held a consultation with affected staff and the trustees have subsequently decided to proceed with the sale.
Why was this decision made?
There has been historic underinvestment in the activity centres due to financial pressures and they have been running at a loss for some years, despite successful efforts to generate more business from different markets. The centres would need significant funding of over £20m in the coming years to be fit for future use and regrettably, we cannot afford this level of investment. Furthermore, the activity centres have been used by less than 10% of our membership each year for the past decade.
Girlguiding does not receive any core recurring revenue funding from government. We rely on member subscriptions, grants, a small amount of investment income and fundraising. We currently receive some limited grant funding from the DCMS Uniformed Youth Fund, which is restricted to our work to tackle waiting lists for 11-18-year-olds. The 5 Girlguiding UK-owned activity centres were not eligible for funding from the DCMS Youth Investment Fund, due to the geographic locations.
The next phase is preparing to sell the activity centres. The activity centres will remain operational until the end of 2023. As a charity, we are bound by charity law. An independent chartered surveyor will provide a report to confirm that the terms of sale are the best that can be reasonably obtained for the charity.
Girlguiding’s trustees will make the final decision on the terms of sale for each activity centre and will look to provide the best outcome for the charity. Funds from the sale of the activity centres will be put into a designated investment fund to support Girlguiding activities, adventure for girls and a range of purposes to invest in the future of Girlguiding.
Like many charities, Girlguiding has had to make difficult decisions in challenging times with limited resources, but it is always important to be focused on our core mission, vision and purpose. For over 100 years, Girlguiding has focused on what drives, challenges and excites girls and we remain committed to giving all girls opportunities. The Board of Trustees recently made two difficult decisions to ensure Girlguiding will continue for future generations.
Our research shows girls’ happiness is at an all-time low and we believe Girlguiding is never more needed. We welcome this debate as an opportunity to highlight the needs of girls and young people and discuss how Girlguiding and the government can support them.