Subs 2021 – Information for commissioners

Helping you support units with their 2021 subscriptions

This year, central subscriptions have been raised from £16 to £17.70.

Girlguiding’s Trustee board agreed this small increase to make sure we can still deliver essential services in 2021.

Even though this is a small increase, it could feel like a lot for some members - particularly if they are already worried about unit finances.

Many areas have already set their 2021 annual subscriptions and most units know what the rate will be. If you haven’t set your subscriptions yet, you could consider helping units by not setting a local levy this year.

Resources to help you

Guiding conversations: annual subscriptions 2021 - Talking about finances is never easy. This Guiding conversation resource will help you talk to your volunteers about this years subscriptions.

Throughout 2020, as a result of Covid-19, many units met online, face-to-face, or provided activities for their members, whilst others weren't able to do so. A large number of units didn’t charge any subs, or asked for a lower unit subscription fee, since the outbreak. This means they've had a loss of income this year. We recognise that the annual subscription for 2021 may cause concerns for some volunteers and we’re keen that everyone feels supported.

As a commissioner, volunteers in your area are likely to ask you questions or want to talk to you about the reasons behind the cost of the annual subscription and the factors that have influenced this. This resource provides some information behind the decision making by Girlguiding and on the measures that Girlguiding are taking to reduce costs. In addition, this resource provides some recommendations for how to manage conversations and decisions in your area.

The wider context

Lots of conversations have happened about the annual subscription, and we want to address some of the key points below. This is information that you can refer to when talking to volunteers and making plans for your own areas.

A loss of income

The annual subscription isn’t the only funding that Girlguiding receives, but in 2020 our income dropped significantly because of Covid-19. In addition to suspending face-to-face unit meetings, the central events and events at our activity centres were cancelled. There was a decline in sale from our Girlguiding shop, and income from other sources such as fundraising (for example, the cancellation of the Virgin Money London Marathon, treks and sponsored activities) was also reduced. As a result, at a central level Girlguiding had £4 million less for 2020 than we normally would, and there's likely to be further losses in 2021.

Difficult decisions

Since the beginning of the outbreak we've been working to reduce the impact of the lost income whilst maintaining our core services. Initially we needed to furlough 51% of our staff, and paused major work, projects, and plans. We reviewed the essentials that we need to continue supporting our members, and to comply with all legislation that is relevant to Girlguiding. As a result, we reviewed our staffing structure and made significant cuts to non-pay costs. We transferred money from our designated fund for transformation into general funds to reduce the forecast year end deficit.

As part of our strategy, we'd already identified that we needed to improve our structures and processes, and develop new ways of working to help ensure our sustainability as an organisation. Covid-19 has required us to re-prioritise some of these areas and it’s vital that through our organisational design project we look at reducing duplication between levels to ensure that our resources are used efficiently. 

The local context

Locally, we know that the HQ subscription is often less than half of what units pay, with amounts varying depending on the facilities available in their local area. To manage the loss of income this year, this could mean needing to take a different approach to budgeting than you normally would.

Thinking strategically

In the past, the levy for some levels has increased whilst others have been able to keep their levy the same, or in some areas even waive the fee, according to local need. The levies at each level should be set according to each level’s budget. This year, some areas may have saved money allocated to events or training in 2021, whilst others might have incurred additional loses as a result of events not taking place.

We know it feels really hard to plan ahead at the moment, but it's important for each level to consider their core priorities for the forthcoming year and how they fit with the other levels around you. Be clear about who is providing what, so that there's no unnecessary duplication. It's useful if district/division/county teams think strategically about what your level needs funds for and, where possible, that you don’t ask for money where it’s not needed.

Working as one team

In the lead up to annual subscriptions, it’s even more important to continue to work as one team. Think about the following to support your area:

  • Work with your members to agree any spending that could be cut from the local budget for this year. For example, if you’d normally have a district-funded social event, perhaps the contribution could be less this time.
  • Remember that although Girlguiding is being delivered in a variety of formats at present, it's ok to ask members to pay for this either as a set amount or as a donation.
  • Leaders might find it helpful to consider the annual subscription as a membership fee to Girlguiding – just like you might pay a membership fee to your local gym or the AA.

Volunteers can help by:

  • Making sure their unit records are up to date. If you have members who aren't currently in guiding, make sure they've been removed. We also know that there are several individuals registered as unit helpers – a membership role which requires a subscription to be paid – when they're actually fulfilling the non-membership role of registered volunteer.
  • Working together to manage invoices when volunteers have more than one role. Although a volunteer’s main role needs to be on one invoice, if they have more than one role (common with Rangers who are young leaders), their other unit might agree to pay their ‘main’ unit a contribution.
  • Looking out for alternative sources of funding to help with loss of income, or to help with expenses to return to face-to-face meetings. There might be opportunities from local councils, other charities, or large businesses (such as banks and supermarkets).
  • Making sure you have efficient methods for communicating about any potential local grants. They often have short time scales to apply for them and the usual main contact may not be the best person to access messages about this. It might be easier to apply for grants as a district rather than individual units, but you need to decide this in advance.
  • Preparing key information in advance so that it is easily to hand when grant opportunities arise. Make sure you've got bank statements to show reduced income, and a statement about how the pandemic has affected you financially/or how it affected your ability to carry out your key purpose.
  • Helping one another with Gift Aid applications. If one leader is more experienced with applying for Gift Aid, see if they'd be happy to help other volunteers and (virtually or in-person, where allowed) talk them through the process.

Moving forward

Talking about money and finances is always difficult. However, open, honest conversations should be had at all levels, so that leaders are not left struggling or feeling overwhelmed. We know that by working together and being realistic about budgets this year, we will be able to sustain the organisation and continue to give girls and young women amazing opportunities.

Further information

Managing subs during coronavirus 

Applying for Gift Aid

Annual subscription policy

Having tricky conversations

Approaching sensitive conversations 

Template letters to parents - We've updated our template letters so leaders can use them to explain annual subs and the increased rate to parents. There's a few different templates that can be adpated to suit different circumstances. Find the templates on our Subs during coronavirus page.

What your annual subscription pays for: - Familiarise yourself with this breakdown of how Girlguiding HQ will spend its part of the annual subscription. Country and regions may also have a breakdown of their costs so  check their websites.

Frequently asked questions

How do I get two signatures on my subs cheque during lockdown?

We recommend you post the cheque to your second signatory so they can sign it and send it on to the address shown on your invoice.

If this isn't possible, then you are permitted during lockdown to leave home to do voluntary work that cannot be done at home. So you can organise your subs payment in person if you make sure to wear a face covering and observe social distancing. Make sure you take extra precautions and do not agree to meet the second signatory or any other volunteers if anyone in your household has tested positive for coronavirus or is showing symptoms.

There's big problems with post in my area, can I pay my subs online?

Unfortunately, we cannot take subs payments online. We know this is frustrating for some of our members. 

We collect subs at a UK-level and then pay varying amounts to countries, regions, counties and districts. It's a complicated process and trying to modernise it for this year is a huge task. 

We recommend that you send your cheques in as early as you can to allow for any postal delays.

Why is there a subs increase when we haven't been meeting for most of this year?

We're all living through a global crisis. And like a lot of organisations, Girlguiding’s activity and services have been badly hit. Our deficit is now over £4m and we think there could be further losses in 2021.

We're acting now to secure the long-term sustainability of Girlguiding. We're deeply saddened to be in a difficult financial position, like many others as a result of Covid-19, and are now having to take steps to save money to sustain us for the future. At the Board of Trustees meeting in July 2020, it was recognised that Girlguiding cannot make all the savings neede through central budget reductions alone. The Board agreed to make a small increase in central subscriptions of £1.70 for 2021.

Subs make up roughly 30% of Girlguiding UK’s income. Increasing to just £17.70 in 2021 is still excellent value for money. It means we can keep guiding going safely and continue to be affordable for our members. 

My unit really can't afford this, can we get help?

If your unit is in an area of deprivation, you can apply for the UK Units in need grant. This can help with buying small items of equipment, resources and uniform. We've also been working with countries and regions and counties to look at ways in which we all help those units.

Following our Act your act fundraising appeal with BBC Children in Need, we're setting up a new grant to help units in need. 

What are you going to do about girls who really can't afford this?

We don't want any girl to face a barrier to taking part in Girlguiding. No young member should ever be left out for not having the right clothing or not being able to pay subscriptions. Make your unit more accessible by:

  • Offering a wide range of activities, including activities that don't cost anything. Give families lots of notice if you need to charge for any activities.
  • Offer payment plans, allowing small payments to be made over a period of time. Don’t ask for large amounts to be paid in one go.
  • Encourage girls to borrow and reuse uniforms. Don’t be worried if not everyone is wearing the latest version.
  • Use some of your unit funds to subsidise those who may not otherwise take part in these activities or to provide lower cost membership if you know that a young member gets free school meals.

There are also fundraising platforms such as easyfundraising and just giving that can support online fundraising. You could also look at claiming Gift Aid to subsidise your unit. You can also take a look at funding opportunities available during Covid-19 and read our FAQ on fundraising at this time.

We haven't been collecting subs this year, can you help? 

We have some letter templates you can use to write to parents to start collecting subs. You can adpat these to suit your individual situation. We've also been working with countries and regions and county commissioners to find ways to help units. And we've updated our fundraising pages to help you with Covid safe ways to fundraise.

My unit only accepts cash and we cannot do that at the moment because of coronavirus restrictions, what can we do?

Start by talking to your local commissioner and try to find a solution. We know a lot of units have accounts that cannot accept online payments. You might be able to meet outdoors to collect money, but make sure you follow the current guidelines for your area and stay safe and sescure when planning to meet other people.

My unit is only meeting virtually, do I still need to pay subs?

Yes, subscriptions are paid by all members of Girlguiding.

Can we make exceptions for girls from low income families or girls who get free school meals?

Unfortunately not. However, you might be able to use some of your unit funds (or countries and regions, counties, districts and divisons may be able to help) to subsidise costs for individual members.

Some of the girls in our unit haven’t engaged with guiding since March 2020. Can we put them onto the waiting list so they can rejoin when we’re allowed to meet face-to-face?

No. Our Annual subscriptions policy is very clear that members should not be removed from GO to avoid paying the annual subscription. This also includes placing girls on the waiting list.

We know 2020 was a difficult year and for various reasons units or girls were unable to engage. The annual subscription payment covers Girlguiding membership and even if girls haven’t engaged, they are still a member. If your unit is in financial difficulty please speak to your commissioner to see whether there’s help available.