Building Girl Scout Leaders
Featured Company: Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida
Executive: Lisa Johnson, Chief Executive Officer
Business Address: 6944 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth, FL 33467
Girl Scouts has been building girl leaders for over 100 years. We started at a time when women did not yet have the right to vote, but still had a shared sense of curiosity and the belief that girls could do anything they set their mind to. But at the heart of everything we do, in 1912 and today, is service to others. When we think about the pandemic we are facing today, Girl Scouts are working to make a difference. They are making and distributing masks to healthcare workers, collecting and donating food to food banks, and actively helping in their communities. We did the same thing back in 1918 during the flu pandemic when Girl Scouts made and distributed food to those affected by the flu.
While we compliment the kinds of things girls learn in school, we are focused on giving girls experiences that will shape their futures. We are coaching future entrepreneurs, business and civic leaders, astronauts, scientists, and more. In a technology-driven world, we are also getting girls outdoors and expanding their skills and interests so that they are confident to reach for their own goals and dreams.
We were founded in 1912 in Savannah, Georgia, but trace our earliest Florida roots to 1920 when the first Florida Girl Scout Troop was started in Palm Beach County. There are now 6 Florida Councils and 111 Councils across the Country. Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida was formed in 2008 through the merger of two councils. We serve almost 10,000 Girl Scouts in Broward and Palm Beach Counties and across the Treasure Coast.
The key people in our business are our girls. We serve girls in almost every zip code and could serve even more if we had more volunteers willing to help. Our staff team is small, about 50 people, and we have over 4,500 volunteers. Most think that they have to have a daughter in Girl Scouts to volunteer. That isn’t the case. We have many volunteers who are simply interested in helping girls succeed. And we have corporate partners who know that we are filling the pipeline for their future workforce – and that they will be ready.
Among our more than 59 million alumni is every female Secretary of State, celebrities such as Lucille Ball and Taylor Swift, astronaut Sally Ride, former Supreme Court Justice Member, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Olympians Venus Williams, Lolo Jones and Dorothy Hamill.
Tell us why you do, what you do, for a living.
While I was a Girl Scout as a child, I didn’t appreciate the impact it had on me until many years later. And I talk to women all the time who share their stories with me. Some met their best friend of 50 years in Girl Scouts. Some found their career because of the experience they had. And some say Girl Scouts saved their lives. I am regularly inspired by their stories and the ability to serve an organization whose mission is so deeply supportive. Even after almost 24 years, I wake up energized to go to work each and every day. It certainly helps that I have the most amazing colleagues who share my passion and commitment. And every time I get to spend time with girls, I am reminded why this work is so important. During our mandatory “work at home,” I discovered that I could visit troops via Zoom. I have met with hundreds of girls and their leaders and know that our girls are what fuel me.
In addition to bringing together close to 9,000 girls who give tens of thousands of hours every year back to their communities, I also model what we want our girls to do. I started my own Girl Scout Troop this year and have eleven 3rd graders. I have been an active volunteer with Leadership Palm Beach County for almost 20 years and recently served as President of the Board of Directors. I am a founding member of Impact the Palm Beaches, a women’s grant-making organization that provides $100,000 in transformation grants to local organizations.
Special assistance to individuals, customers, or the community-at-large in connection to the COVID-19 crisis?
Our girls are taking the lead on this. In addition to making and distributing masks, they are actively participating in our Feeding Florida Together Program and donated over 4,000 pounds of food in just the first couple weeks of the campaign, which will continue to run as long as help is needed.
As the lead staff person in my organization, I also put our team first as this crisis hit our communities. We transitioned very quickly to all staff working from home and have been able to continue our work in new and innovative ways. We are providing virtual programs for our members and continue to provide support to our volunteers.
What advice would you have for others in the business sector trying to make it day after day?
Stay focused on the “why.” This has been the most trying thing I have ever been through in my career. My leadership team and I have worked hard to stay positive for our team and to continue to engage them through weekly virtual lunches, weekly newsletters, as well as access to programs to support their physical and mental well-being. But I would also remind other leaders to take care of themselves.
Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, said “The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.” The idea that I have already seen a generation of girls grow into amazing women and leaders inspires me. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.