Girls today face real and profound challenges. In fact, 1 in 4 girls experiences sexual abuse or sexual assault by age 17. One in 5 teen girls report experiencing mental disorder. Too many girls are missing out on education opportunities to prepare them for college and careers, particularly girls from low-income communities. And they are missing out on the critical knowledge and resources to prevent unplanned pregnancy and build healthy relationships.
But at Girls Inc., girls are empowered and equipped to overcome these barriers and succeed. They receive research-based programming and supports proven to achieve positive outcomes in the areas of health (Strong), education (Smart), and life skills (Bold). The Girls Inc. Experience, our comprehensive approach to whole girl development, allows girls to discover and build their inherent strengths, develop resilience, and plan for and work towards their future goals.
Knowing the transformative difference we’re making in the lives of girls, we are compelled to grow. And I’m proud to say in fiscal year 2017, we did just that. We grew the number of girls served with the high-impact Girls Inc. Experience by 7 percent to 51,148 girls. Guiding our work is a strong roadmap, our five-year plan, “Leveraging the Power of the Network and Brand: Strategic Plan 2016-2020.” This plan lays out a Bold Goal: to double the number of girls we serve with impact by 2020.
To support this ambitious target, last year we raised and invested significant capital. In 2017, we exceeded our annual operating revenue budget by 21 percent, bringing in $12.3 million to continue and expand our work. And we experienced an extraordinary first, a $10 million, four-year investment by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to support our $20 million capital campaign. These funds allowed us to strengthen our affiliate network, providing $3.5 million in growth grants to local Girls Inc. organizations.
We also made great strides in addressing key priorities outlined in the plan, including building a framework to effectively deliver outcomes for girls; a strong affiliate network equipped to consistently deliver the Girls Inc. Experience; and a policy platform that supports our goal to improve the conditions in which all girls are growing up. You can read more about these achievements in the subsequent sections of this year’s report.
Growth requires strong leadership. Thank you to our outstanding Board of Directors, led by Chair, Melanie Gray. Their commitment to this new plan is tremendous with 100 percent contributing financially to the growth campaign. I conclude by expressing my appreciation to you, our donors, friends, and supporters who make this work possible. We could not have gotten this far without your belief in us -- and in the remarkable girls we serve.
I look forward to what we will accomplish together.
President & CEO
This year marks my first full year as Chair of the Board of Directors, and the first completed year of our new strategic plan for growth in both direct service and advocacy. I am thrilled to say that Girls Inc. reached a new level of growth, impact, and effectiveness in fiscal year 2017. We secured critical funding to expand our reach, including the launch of Girls Inc. of Chicago in partnership with Martha Ruggles Elementary School on the Southside of Chicago. We also made significant investments in building the capacity of our affiliate network.
This year, Girls Inc. raised $13 million in growth capital, toward our $20 million investment campaign. This exceptional achievement allowed us to launch our first round of growth grants to 17 strong affiliates, three-year grants totaling $3.5 million, to expand strategically to serve more girls growing up in low-income communities. This could not be possible without the generous investment of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
We were also awarded a $2 million, two-year grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to serve girls at increased risk of juvenile delinquency and victimization. Grant funds will support affiliates as they strengthen and expand valuable mentoring efforts to help more girls beat the odds and thrive. Through direct service, as well as public policy and advocacy, Girls Inc. is making a measurable difference in the lives of individual girls and increasing opportunities for all girls to succeed.
This time of significant growth requires serious investment internally. We remain committed to strengthening our capacity both locally and nationally with a clear understanding of what resources, infrastructure, and practices are needed to support sustainability and expansion, including financial health. And I can report that our finances are strong. In fact, we ended fiscal year 2017 with nine months of cash operating reserves, more than double the nonprofit standard.
Growing up a girl today means navigating various gender, economic, and social barriers. One in five girls in the U.S. live in poverty, surpassing the national poverty rate of 13.5 percent. Nearly 70 percent of the girls who attend Girls Inc. live in households earning $30,000 a year or less. These girls face tough odds. But with Girls Inc. in their corner, they are excelling in school, living healthy and active lifestyles, and planning for college and careers. They are strong, smart, and bold.
We are grateful to have you on board at this important time. Together we will ensure many more girls have the knowledge, skills, and opportunity to push past serious barriers, break the cycle of poverty, and be all they can and want to be.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL