Do you remember celebrating your Girl Scout troop’s “birthday”? Did your Girl Scout handbook have a picture of a birthday cake with Girl Scout membership stars spread out around it? Then you may remember a time when the “Girl Scout year” was not October 1 – September 30! For many years, Girl Scout membership forms and national dues were collected and returned to Girl Scouts of the USA in a staggered pattern. Your troop might re-register in September while a friend’s troop in another part of the council registered in March; there was a six-month-long registration period, with different service units assigned different months. The month your troop registered in was your troop’s birthday month, and many troops celebrated with a cake, party, and the presentation of membership stars. This staggered registration pattern meant local councils didn’t have to collect and process all their troop memberships at the same time.
When Girl Scouts of the USA changed to one consistent Girl Scout year (after all, most troops are organized and register for the first time in the fall) councils felt like they were caught up in an avalanche of forms and fees. Even the advent of computers for data input didn’t help much – some troops were getting their Membership Cards just about the time school closed for summer vacation. In 1998-1999, GSUSA introduced Early Bird Registration – what we now know as Spring Registration. Troops collected their national dues and filled out the membership registration forms for the coming Girl Scout year; that way council had up to five months to process the forms. Today, no one – including troop volunteers – has to add re-registration to their fall Girl Scout chores unless they choose to!