Girls on the Run International
The Girls on the Run program, which puts pre-teen girls through a 12-week curriculum that uses running-related activities to teach self-respect and healthy living habits, had grown far beyond the wildest expectations of its Founder and Vision Keeper, Molly Barker. From its start in 1996 as a small, after-school effort with 13 girls led by Molly in Charlotte, North Carolina, Girls on the Run had grown to deliver its program to over 40,000 girls per year by 2006, connecting to them through over 140 affiliates (or councils) that operated at hundreds of sites throughout the United States and Canada. Evaluation studies and countless testimonials offer evidence that Girls on the Run has had a substantial impact on the lives of its participants and their families, mitigating problems like eating disorders, childhood obesity, and poor self-esteem.
But Anissa Freeman (CEO), Liz Boarman (COO), and Dee Anna Clarke (CFO), along with Molly Barker, were not interested in resting on their laurels. They felt that continuing to scale up to address the evolving problems of young girls in all parts of the world was their calling, and they were wrestling with the best ways to do this. They knew that many of the forces and strategies that had helped them to scale up to their current state of accomplishment could continue to be harnessed for additional growth and impact, but they also knew that many of the forces and strategies might not function in the same way in the evolving ecosystem in which they operated.
In particular, they were trying to determine the most effective approaches for continuing to capitalize on:
- The energy and leadership provided by thousands of unpaid volunteers, including many of the executive directors of the councils and all of the coaches/trainers and board members.
- The attractiveness of the curriculum, which contains activities the girls and coaches enjoy, but which needs to be kept timely and fun.
- The favorable results of evaluation studies, which donors are increasingly requesting to ensure that GOTRI is accountable. The research to do evaluations can be difficult and expensive.
- The funds provided by commercial sponsorships. In 2006, GOTRI had three major national sponsors, New Balance, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, and Goody’s (a hair accessory company), all of whom approached GOTRI on their own. Attracting additional sponsors might not be so easy.
- The institutional support provided by collaborating organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and local hospitals, which frequently have served as sites for the program and have also provided staff to manage the program. By using the paid staff of these organizations to provide program management in many locales, Girls on the Run has reduced its personnel expenses.