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a clear view ahead Girls Friendly Society five year strategic plan 2019-2024

contents 1 Foreword

2 Introduction

5 Who we are and what we do

6 Our priorities

8 The need

12 Strategic goals

18 Strategic targets

19 Conclusion

Hello, Welcome to our five year strategy for Girls Friendly Society England and Wales (GFS). This is an exciting time for the charity, although we recognise that there will be challenges ahead. This plan addresses the need for us to increase the number of girls we reach to meet a need that is ever growing. Therefore, we not only look back at our roots, but also ensure that we address the very real issues of today to build the plan around three pillars of culture, growth and sustainability. We believe that there is a bright future for GFS and the work that we do, not only because all the research identifies that the need is significant, but because our engagement with girls and volunteers tells us we are so vital in their communities. Furthermore, there is confidence and enthusiasm amongst our staff, volunteers, members and girls to support the charity’s focus on what is needed as we work towards our 150th anniversary in 2025. We remain grateful for the generosity of all who have supported GFS and we are looking forward to working with the trustees, staff team, volunteers and members to build on the strong roots of our celebrated movement of fun, friendship and sisterhood.

Our vision

A world where all girls and young women fulfil their potential.

Our mission

To provide opportunities for girls and young women to develop their confidence, self-esteem, wellbeing and resilience.

Our values

To engage every girl, young women, parent, volunteer and member of staff with kindness, trust, respect, empathy, humility and compassion (as informed by our Christian heritage). Iana Vidal Chair

Laura Sercombe Chief Executive


introduction Girls Friendly Society is an incredible charity with a long history of meeting the needs of girls and young women; it’s an amazing legacy that we are excited to build upon in the next five years. Mary Elizabeth Townsend officially established GFS in England on 1 January 1875, as a pioneer youth organisation to protect working class girls who left the countryside to take up urban employment. Mary identified that these young women would be cut off from the support of friends and family, and aimed to connect them with ‘Lady Associates’ who could befriend and guide them. Mary was ahead of her time in understanding the importance of women supporting women and strong women role models and the power of her vision quickly gained pace. During her lifetime, not only did the charity deliver her vision, but it grew to become a national and then international presence. We are so very proud of this distinguished history. Led by Mary’s inspirational thinking, the charity has adjusted over time so that it can continue to meet the ever-changing needs of girls and young women. GFS has offered housing, training, support for single mothers and so much more. Today, the intention is that our support for girls through weekly groups helps them develop into confident, resilient individuals, capable of achieving their potential. We are honoured to be working with an incredible team, many of whom have been involved with GFS since childhood. Some volunteers have been involved in our development for over 65 years! This extraordinary level of commitment is an example of the passion that has enabled this charity to maintain our determined focus on the wellbeing of girls and young women, for almost 150 years.



who we are and what we do GFS works to help every girl and young

While sessions do have an outline, they

woman we meet by providing supportive

rely less on a standardised structure,

and fun places, to meet friends, learn

and place emphasis on personal

and grow in confidence. These all-girl

development over formal achievement.

settings generally operate after school and give girls the opportunity to learn

We also place value on providing girls

through activities that explore the

and young women with opportunities

world they live in. At their heart, our

to contribute to planning and delivery

activities are designed to develop self-

of activities based on what they enjoy

esteem; the goals that GFS girls and

and the issues they feel are relevant

young women achieve are personal and

to them. This is great for building

appropriate to them, and we discourage

confidence and helping girls see

comparison of status and ability to

themselves as potential leaders.

others. The ultimate goal is resilient young The majority of girls at GFS range in

women who are equipped to deal with

age from 5 to 13 years and we offer

life’s challenges and be confident in

a well-structured and comprehensive

their future. We know that girls have

programme based around six themes,

high aspirations when they are young

as well as an exciting annual National

and it is widely accepted that these

Challenge. We build flexibility into our

get eroded as they face challenges and

activities to ensure that each group

approach their teenage years. We have

can utilise their volunteers’ individual

an ambition to help raise and maintain

skills and talents to offer what will best

these aspirations; to support girls to be

benefit the girls in their area.

the leaders of tomorrow.


Through considerable research and engagement, we have developed an inspiring plan that aims to provide direction and growth for today and the future. This plan has three priorities that come from looking back in order to create a clear view ahead.

GFS is in a good place; we have many

challenges faced by girls and young

inspiring long-standing volunteers, but

women today. Many of our groups are

are also attracting new volunteers all

in areas of deprivation or highly rural

the time. Added to our cohort of girls

locations where the need for GFS is

and young women, we recognise that

significant. Many have long waiting lists

we are in a unique position to deliver

and we need to find a way of growing

intergenerational work. To be able

to meet the ever-increasing need.

to bridge the age ranges, and bring

Therefore, our second priority is to

together girls and women aged 5 –

acknowledge that we are proud of what

85, is extraordinary and presents so

the volunteer groups achieve across

many opportunities. We must make the

England and Wales and implement

most of this and so our first priority

a growth plan to ensure that we can

is to build on what we have in terms

continue to engage more girls and offer

of culture and use the merits of the

more support where it is needed.

different teams to deliver a safe and relevant service for the girls and young

Our final and third priority focuses

women we serve.

on assuring the long-term future of the charity. The Third Sector has faced


GFS is unique in the fact that the charity

challenges around sustainability and

is flexible enough to allow volunteers

GFS is no different. To continue to build

to meet the specific needs of the

on Mary‘s vision and the 150 years of

groups they run, as well as providing

dedication offered by our volunteers,

a programme of content that equips

we owe it to them to build a sound and

them to deal with the many widespread

sustainable financial plan.

This plan aims to offer clarity around

our priorities

who we are and how we work together to ensure that the 150-year-old history is respected by addressing three priorities:

1. Culture 2. Growth 3. Sustainability These strategic priorities come from listening to and reading feedback from girls, volunteers and staff, alongside analysis of the research outlined in ‘The Need’ (p. 8). In striving for these, we should regularly measure our actions against three key questions:

1. Is it inclusive? 2. Is it relevant? 3. Is it safe?


the need

Equal Measures 2030 Gender Index

with life’s challenges, is vital to their

found that the UK is ranked only

wellbeing and that of their communities

17th in Europe and North America for

and society as a whole.

gender equality. The impact of this is significant.

Simultaneously, we see evidence that the world is becoming more complex

There is a body of evidence that

for girls and young women, but that

illustrates how girls and young women

services for helping them deal with it

remain disadvantaged. A safe space,

are being reduced.

dedicated to supporting them in dealing

YMCA reported in 2019 that: • The average spend on youth services per local authority has declined by 69% since 2010.


Single-gender spaces encourage girls to take more risks, express themselves and develop their self-confidence. In mixed gender settings, boys tend to dominate the space, which reduces girls’ confidence. YWCA AND GIRL GUIDING UK

Plan UK’s, The State of Girls’ Rights in the UK identified that: • girls across the UK do not feel heard in public life

The Millennium Cohort Study found that:

• mental health issues amongst girls are rising -

• 35.6% of girls are

girls do not feel that this is being taken seriously

depressed, compared

and schools are not properly equipped to provide the

to 17.4% of boys

support needed • pressures to look a certain way remain a major

and harassment in school is rife and is impacting

All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image and Central YMCA reported

how girls feel about themselves


source of anxiety in girls’ lives • girls are outperforming boys in education, but sexism

• where a girl lives affects her experiences and opportunities

• girls as young as five now routinely worry

• the full spectrum of gender-based violence, and the threat of it, shapes a girl’s experience in every space

about their weight and appearance

that she lives her life in – including online

A Girl Guiding survey found: • 67% of girls aged 11–21 think that women do not have the same chances as men

A Duke of Edinburgh study identified that: • girls are far less likely to continue studying STEM qualifications – in 2017/18 only 22% of A-level Physics students were girls and just 9% of those starting STEM apprenticeships were female

GFS engagement with staff and volunteers has found that:

• the lack of representation of women in STEM is a significant contributing factor to the gender pay gap

• that as girls get older, their aspirations tend to dwindle due to a combination of

GFS engagement with girls found that:

restrictive social norms and

• they feel stressed about academic performance

with a lack of opportunities

• they feel insecure about their appearance • there was a sense of isolation and boredom in some areas girls complained that other than

Children’s Society research found that: • nearly a quarter of girls aged 14 (22%) said they had self-harmed in just a year.

GFS there are no activities for young people • they would like more access to varied female role models, science experiments and techniques for dealing with stress

The research is shocking, but there is hope. In the past decade there has been a notable upswing in inspiring grassroots organisations focusing on improving issues for girls and young women. We have groups like The STEMettes engaging girls with science, tech, engineering and maths, Bloody Good Period combating period poverty and Schools Consent Project empowering teens to understand and make healthy choices around sexual consent.

Where GFS comes in is by providing a holistic, nationwide approach to pulling these strands together, providing girls with a steady support network and a safe space while they face these challenges. The work we do is in great demand and GFS wants to remain a key part of the solution. We believe that our three-point plan will enable us to make a significant contribution to the current landscape and ultimately, make a difference for girls and young women across England and Wales.


strategic goals

culture After the girls, GFS volunteers should be central to everything we do. We celebrate their time, commitment and passion. Volunteering for GFS is fun and rewarding, and we are increasing our efforts to make it manageable in terms of the time required. Key to our work to improve how we engage and retain volunteers is to ensure that the training we provide offers friendship, development opportunities, tangible life skills, career benefits, and most importantly, a chance to’give back’. Our ambitions for girls to benefit from and be empowered by GFS also apply to the women who volunteer with us. We aim to provide the training and support needed for groups to operate safely and effectively. In addition, we aim to allow volunteers to contribute their individual experience and skills, and act as role models to the girls they work with. We are proud that we can offer a worthwhile experience in which volunteers can really make a difference in their community and to the lives of girls and young women. We are also looking for volunteering opportunities at GFS to become broader than running groups over time. Regional Committees will be supported and co-ordinated by Regional Development Coordinators (RDCs) to bring groups together for sharing best practice, peer support and development of the region. In addition to the move to become more inclusive, groups have recently seen a change in the way the organisation works with them. The team has been developed to support groups, offer advice and guidance, relevant programme content and resources, as well as to oversee key areas of regulatory compliance. Our role over the next five years is to continue to offer high levels of quality support to groups, for the benefit of the girls and young women we serve. We are excited about building on our founder’s inspiration and looking ahead to our 150th anniversary.


growth GFS is structured regionally, with a team member based in each region to develop new groups and support existing groups. This local knowledge and flexibility allows GFS to be a genuine force for change and benefit for girls where and when they need it most. Our programme makes GFS different and helps to increase our reach and profile. It is well structured and based around six themes. All groups are able to integrate some volunteer-led activities and ideas into the GFS programme in order to meet the particular local needs of the girls. Our programme needs to be one that evolves appropriately to mirror the everchanging needs of girls, ensuring that the topics are relevant and appropriate. It is vital that this evolution involves our direct volunteer team and their on the ground knowledge of the challenges their girls face.


We are planning to work with our existing groups and support them to be the best they can be, as well as to open more groups each year. Over the next five years, we will focus on this being a target of a further 12 new groups each year. The approach we plan to adopt is a ‘ripple effect’ where we open new groups not far from a successful group. This allows for peer support and is an efficient way of growing the region safely and tactically. In addition to this, new groups will be developed in areas of real need and we will use the recent research by Plan International UK (The State of Girls’ Rights in the UK 2019-20) to guide planning. This research identified a local authority index around key areas of need e.g. obesity, NEET*, education, teenage conceptions, poverty and life expectancy, that will be key to our decision-making. The central support team is ready to do all they can to help the regional team, for example in the development of a new support package as well as ensuring every opening has an inspiring launch involving the local community, press and media contacts. In working together, we believe our goal is achievable and at all times, we will ensure that our focus is on the girls we support. The engagement focus will be key to this and ensuring that the service we offer is girl led.

*Not in Education, Employment or Training


sustainability Throughout nearly 150 years of

regardless of her family’s financial

activities, GFS has benefited from

circumstances, which means there is a

the generosity of benefactors who

real charitable need in what we do. We

have endowed the charity with funds

will work, through central fundraising,

restricted to the particular aspects of

to ensure that every group has enough

GFS’s work that were closest to their

funding at the start of every year to

hearts. GFS has become accustomed

carry out an agreed activity plan and

to funding itself from the investment

that the long term sustainability is

income deriving from these restricted


and therefore untouchable funds. This has been to the detriment of building

We have developed a robust financial

a sustainable fundraising strategy or

strategy that aims to improve GFS’s

relationships with potential funders

financial resilience and sustainability.

of our mission with girls and young

The key features of this are:

women. This means that our ambitious programme to extend our reach and

• a realistic, multi layered fundraising

operations is not achievable without

strategy, that focuses on providing

major change.

working capital for groups and funding activities for the girls

In 2019, we started to think about

• working with the Charity Commission

developing a fundraising strategy but

to identify ways to unlock certain

this plan makes it an organisational

restricted funds to invest in income

priority. A key part of this work is to


review our vision and mission,

• changing our investment strategy to

our values and our core lines of

maximise income appropriately for a

communication to ensure they reflect


GFS today, whilst celebrating the pioneers of yesterday.

• maintaining an appropriate level of unrestricted reserves • putting into effect plans to better

We are committed to ensuring that every girl is able to join GFS,


manage our overheads


strategic targets Culture • • • •

Annual engagement plans for girls, volunteers and staff An impressive culture of alignment and empowerment All groups supporting the plan for compliance A reputation for being a happy place to volunteer and work • Outstanding pride in the volunteers and staff team in what we do

Growth • Widespread recognition of GFS’s vision and mission for girls and young women, and a raised profile at a national and local level • Significant growth in groups and membership • Every GFS group offering a cutting-edge programme of weekly activities • A multi-faceted structure of support for our volunteers and their groups

Sustainability • A robust and diverse funding base and financial sustainability • A successful fundraising pipeline built on an ambitious but achievable fundraising strategic plan • An organisational budget that ensures the focus on our spending is the frontline • An appropriate level of unrestricted reserves



GFS has a unique history, and remains relevant and valuable for girls of today. We are excited about the next five years and the opportunity to build on such an incredible history to be able to reach more girls and at the same time offer a sustainable future. Culturally, we are making progress in simplifying our communications with volunteers and groups, and ensuring we focus on what groups


need, being supportive rather than directive. Much can be gained from working consistently to a clear strategic direction and integrated plan and by setting in place, the organisational change needed to support it. The leadership at GFS is committed, energetic and well informed, and there is a great deal of goodwill and positivity at GFS and ambition for its future success. This plan offers a sense of clarity around who we are and how we achieve growth and sustainability by working together as one team to honour the legacy left by Mary Elizabeth Townsend. Together we will make an enduring difference to the lives of girls and young women throughout the UK.

Magazine Title

Girls Friendly Society Unit 12 Angel Gate, London, EC1V 2PT t: 020 7837 9669 e: info@girlsfriendlysociety.org.uk w: girlsfriendlysociety.org.uk @GFSEnglandWales girlsfriendlysocietyuk @girlsfriendlysociety Registered charity no 1054310 Registered company no 3172713

Profile for GirlsFriendlySociety

A clear view ahead - GFS strategic plan 2019-24  

This document is how we plan to build on those first steps and we are excited about this strategy because we can already see the plan coming...

A clear view ahead - GFS strategic plan 2019-24  

This document is how we plan to build on those first steps and we are excited about this strategy because we can already see the plan coming...