NEW YORK — With an assist from Michelle Obama, the Girl Scouts of the USA is launching an unorthodox recruitment campaign this week aimed at reversing a long-running decline in participation by girls and adult volunteers.
Instead of placing ads on TV, in newspapers and on billboards, the decentralized campaign will unfold in neighborhood initiatives and on social media as local Girl Scout councils directly target elementary-school girls — even kindergartners — with promises of adventuresome fun.
Obama is pitching in with a video in which she lauds the contributions of the Girl Scouts and urges adults to find the time to help out.
‘‘In order to bring the fun to more girls, Girl Scouts need you to volunteer,’’ she says. ‘‘You can show girls that anything is possible. You can inspire them to dream bigger and go further than they ever imagined.’’ Obama serves as the Girl Scouts’ honorary national president.
The upbeat campaign launch follows a trying stretch for the Girl Scouts, who celebrated their centennial in 2012 but have confronted multiple difficulties this year. These include a deficit-strapped pension plan, rifts over the direction of Girl Scout programming, and revenue shortfalls that prompted the national headquarters to trim about one-fourth of its staff through buyouts and layoffs.
Overshadowing all the problems is the steady decline in membership, a trend also buffeting other national youth organizations as children turn to other after-school and weekend diversions. The Girl Scouts today have about 2.2 million youth members, down from nearly 2.9 million in 2003. Over the same span, the ranks of adult volunteers have dwindled from 986,000 to 890,000.
Anna Maria Chavez, the Girl Scouts’ CEO, depicted the recruitment campaign as a chance for the national office and the 112 local councils to re-energize in pursuit of a common goal.