The Girl Scouts council of Western Washington returned a sizable grant this week when it was asked by the donor to ensure that no funds would be used to support transgender girls.
Though the national organization supports working with transgender girls, it allows local organizations to make the final decisions on whether to accept donations, and the Western Washington group decided to take a $100,000 stand. The group then looked to replace the donation, ending up with more than double the original amount from those who supported the Girl Scouts’ stance.
The local council, which serves about 25,000 girls in Washington state, received the donation in May. The cash was slated to be used to send 500 girls to camp and fund other activities this summer.
As the media outlets began dedicating coverage to transgender issues—inspired in large part by the story of Caitlyn Jenner—the Girls Scouts’ policy of accepting transgender girls as members became public. The American Family Association, a right-wing group, launched an online petition in May asking the Girl Scouts to limit its membership to “biological” girls.
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The national organization released a statement that rejected the anti-transgender call from conservative groups.
“If a girl is recognized by her family, school and community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe,” the group said. “Inclusion of transgender girls is handled at a council level on a case by case basis, with the welfare and best interests of all members as a top priority.”
Though the statement didn’t represent a shift in policy, it did not sit well with the donor, who sent a letter asking for reassurance that the $100,000 would not be used to serve transgender girls. The letter said that if the Girl Scouts council wanted to use the funds for transgender girls, it should return the donation.
“It was one of easiest decisions I’ve had to make. It was a sad decision, but it was a really quick one,” the council’s CEO, Megan Ferland, told BuzzFeed News. “Girl Scouts is for every girl. It always has been and always will be … I could not be put in a position where I would have to turn girls away.”
Ferland and her team were disappointed and did not want to give up on sending 500 girls to camp, so they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Monday hoping to raise $100,000 with no strings attached. They called it the #ForEVERYGirl campaign, and writing on their donation page, “By donating to our #ForEVERYGirl Campaign, you’ll help make sure that EVERY girl has the opportunity to participate in the life-changing opportunities that Girl Scouts provides.”
By Wednesday, the campaign had far exceeded its goal—raising upwards of $250,000 from more than 4,800 donors.
“The response has been so positive, supportive, and overwhelming,” Ferland told BuzzFeed News. “My team and I appreciate it so much, because what it means. So many girls are going to be able to have an amazing experience, and the impact of Girl Scouts is so profound. It is live-changing for so many girls. And that’s what it should be about.”