Chapter 5.3: Understanding the Girl Scout Cookie Program
Did you know that the Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in the country, with sales of more than $700 million per year for girls and their communities nationwide?
That’s right. The Girl Scout Cookie sale is the leading entrepreneurial program for girls: no university has produced as many female business owners as the Girl Scout Cookie Program has.
If you have a moment, watch the latest Girl Scout What Can a Cookie Do? video for an inspiring look into just how powerful those treats—and the girls who sell them—can be.
Council-sponsored product sales are really the best way for girls to earn money to pursue their goals: the sales are beloved by the community and come with program, sales, and marketing materials and support that help girls run a great business. And they’re an integral part of the GSLE. With every season of cookies, another generation of girls learns five important skills:
- Goal setting
- Decision making
- Money management
- People skills
- Business ethics
And most of all, girls gain a tremendous amount of confidence. It’s not easy to ask people to buy something—you have to speak up, look them in the eye, and believe in what you’re doing—all skills that help a girl succeed now and throughout the rest of her life.
A Sweet Tradition
It has been more than 90 years since Girl Scouts began selling home-baked cookies to raise money. The idea was so popular that, in 1936, Girl Scouts enlisted bakers to handle the growing demand.
Two commercial bakers are currently licensed by Girl Scouts of the USA to produce Girl Scout Cookies—Little Brownie Bakers and ABC/Interbake Foods. GS-TOP has chosen ABC Bakers as their baker of choice. Each baker gets to name its own cookies (which is why some cookies have two names) and gets to decide which flavors it will offer in a given year, besides the three mandatory flavors (Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos®/Peanut Butter Sandwich, and Trefoils/Shortbread). For additional information on cookie varieties, including nutritional details, visit www.girlscoutcookies.org.
Each year, GS-TOP provides learning opportunities on the procedures to follow during each sale. GS-TOP establishes guidelines and procedures for conducting the sale and determines how the proceeds and recognition system will be managed.
Knowing Where Proceeds Go
GS-TOP provides a breakdown of “how the cookie crumbles” in The Cookie Jar and the council website. Please share this information with girls and their parents/guardians so everyone’s clear on how revenue raised through product sales makes it possible for GS-TOP to serve girls. Proceeds resulting from product sales support program activities—in fact, council-sponsored product sales are a primary way in which GS-TOP raises funds to support Girl Scouting. The percentage of money to be allocated to participating groups (like yours) is determined by GS-TOP and explained to girls and adults as part of the product sale activity orientation.
The income from product sales does not become the property of individual girl members. Girls, however, may be eligible for recognitions and Cookie Bucks that they put toward Girl Scout activities, such as camp, the purchase of merchandise at the Girl Scout Shops, and many GS-TOP sponsored individual girl events. Cookie Bucks may be applied toward many fees for GS-TOP council-sponsored activities that have individual girl registration and occur between April and December. The may include Resident and Day/Twilight camp fees, Summer Extreme and Council or Area events where the registration is handled by the GS-TOP office.
Girls may earn official Girl Scout grade-appropriate awards related to product sale activities and the achievement of each girl is celebrated through recognition items which may include patches, sales awards and Cookie Bucks. The council plan for recognition applies equally to all girls participating in the product sale activity. Whenever possible, we try to involve girls in the selection of recognitions and administration of money given to girls from product sales.
One critical task for each group, is to keep excellent records and establish a clear accounting system for all money earned and spent. As the group’s volunteer, you’re in charge of making sure money is spent wisely, excellent records are kept (keeping copies of all receipts in a binder or folder), and all income is tracked, too. For older girls, your job is to oversee their work, as they learn to keep impeccable records.
Safely Selling Girl Scout Cookies and Other Products
A few other considerations will help keep girls safe:
- Parents and guardians must grant permission for girls to participate and must be informed about the girls’ whereabouts when they are engaged in product sale activities. Specific permission must be obtained when a girl intends to use the Internet for product marketing. A parent, guardian, or other adult must know each girl’s whereabouts when she is engaged in product sales, and if and when she is online.
- Girls should be identifiable as Girl Scouts by wearing a Membership Pin, official uniform, tunic, sash, vest, or other Girl Scout clothing.
- Adult volunteers must monitor, supervise, and guide the sale activities of all girls at age levels.
- Girl Scout Daisies (in kindergarten and first grade) may be involved in council-sponsored product sale activities, but they cannot collect money in any other way except through group dues or parental contributions.
- Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors who participate in door-to-door sales must be supervised by (but do not need to be directly accompanied by) an adult. Girls of all grade levels must always use the buddy system.
- Money due for sold products is collected when the products are delivered to the customer. Girls will need to know whether they can accept checks and to whom customers should write checks—find out from your troop leader.
- Personal customer information should remain private. Customer credit card information should not be collected by girls and should not be asked for on any form collected by girls.
- A girl’s physical address, social media page address, IM name, Skype name or number, email address, or cell number should never be revealed to anyone outside her immediate circle of family and friends. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating.
- Girls can market cookies and other products by posting on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter or sending emails to friends, family members, and former customers, as long as they use a group email address, the account or address of a parent/guardian or adult volunteer, a blind email address (in which the recipients cannot see the sender’s email address), or the online email tools provided by cookie vendors. Girls 13 and older can also use their social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest) to do the same to her immediate circle of family and friends. Be sure each girl’s account uses the tightest privacy settings and doesn’t reveal information about her or her location to anyone outside her circle.
- Sales may not be transacted on the Internet (for example, through a site that has an electronic shopping cart), except for magazine sales. Girls can, however, receive order commitments for cookies sales via email or the Internet. In other words, potential customers can relay (via email or a Facebook post, for example) that, “Yes! I’d like four boxes of Thin Mints and three boxes of Shortbread cookies.”
Please also keep in mind:
- Volunteers and Girl Scout council staff do not sell cookies and other products; girls sell them.
- Girls can participate in no more than two council-sponsored product sale activities each year, and only one of these may be a cookie sale.
Selling at Girl Scout Cookie Booths
Cookie booths, or temporary sales set-ups in areas with lots of foot traffic, are a popular way for girls to sell cookies as a team. Your council may have established cookie booth locations; contact the council before planning a cookie booth of your own.
Once you’ve gotten council approval, check out the booth site before the day of the sale. Talk to business owners in the area so they’ll know what to expect. Find out what security measures are in place—these may include lights for evening sales and whether a security camera watches the booth area—and where the nearest bathrooms are located. In addition, review the Girl Scout Cookie/Council-Sponsored Product Sale Safety Activity Checkpoints to make sure you and the girls are as prepared as possible.
On the day of the sale, these tips will help keep everyone safe:
- Ensure that you have adequate space at the booth (table, products, and girls) to allow safe passage by pedestrians, bikes, and cars.
- Plan to have at least two adults and one girl at the booth at all times. From time to time, volunteers might want to take breaks or will have to accompany young girls to the bathroom, so make sure to have a few extra adults on hand.
- Girls make all sales, except in cases where adults are helping Daisies handle money.
- Respect the surrounding businesses by making sure your booth isn’t blocking a store entrance or exit.
- Attract customers with colorful signs. Remind girls to be polite and to have their sales pitch ready for interested shoppers.
- Be especially careful with the money box; make sure it’s under adult supervision and out of public sight. Arrange for cash to be removed from the site periodically. When you do travel with money, have someone accompany you to your vehicle and/or the bank.
- Report any suspicious people in the area to local security.
If someone takes money or cookies from your booth, do not attempt to physically recover the stolen items and do not allow the girls to do so. Instead, get a good description of the offender(s), call 911, and alert local security (if applicable). Make sure girls know what to do in case of theft. Report any incidents to your area product sales staff.
Using Online Resources to Market Cookies and Other Products
Girls are texting, calling, emailing, Tweeting, and Facebooking—and those are all effective ways that girls 13 and older can promote cookie and other product sales. The following sections detail how girls can use electronic marketing, social media, and group websites to gather sale commitments from family, friends, and previous customers. But first, please keep in mind that girls:
- Can market to and collect indications of interest from customers within their councils’ zip codes. Refer prospects that come from outside council jurisdiction to the council finder at www.girlscoutcookies.org. Family members are the exception to this rule.
- Cannot have customers pay online (such as through a shopping cart function on a website the girls create). Girl Scout magazine sales and e-nuts are the exception to this rule.
- Must sign the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge (available at http://www.girlscouts.org/help/internet_safety_pledge.asp) before doing any online activities, and all online activities must be under the supervision of adults.
- Cannot expose their own or any other girl’s email address, physical address, or phone number to the public. When writing e-mail messages or online announcements, girls should sign with their first name only, along with their group number or name and their council name.
For girls in fifth grade and above, have your group visit Let Me Know, a site addressing Internet safety for teens and tweens. Girls can even earn an online award for completing activities on this site.
Contacting Prospects Electronically
Girls may use Facebook, Twitter, text messages, IMs, and emails as online marketing tools to let family, friends, and former customers know about the sale and collect indications of interest. Product-related email is not intended to be spam (unwanted texts or emails), however, so remind girls to be sure that their messages will be welcomed by the receiver.
When girls are marketing cookies online, remind them to always use a group email address (such as email@example.com), an adult’s personal email address, or a blind address (one that does not reveal the address to the recipient). In addition, be sure to discuss with girls the need to treat customer e-mail addresses from current and past years—as well as phone numbers, IM addresses, Facebook accounts, Twitter handles, and mail addresses—with respect; they are private and must be kept so.
Using Social Media
A girl (or group of girls) over the age of 13 may work in partnership with an adult to market cookies and other products online, using the social media account (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn) of the adult. Social media is a fun, fast way to get out an urgent message, such as, “It’s Girl Scout cookie time!” Posting, tweeting, or pinning such a message will get the attention of friends and family.
Before girls use social media as a marketing tool, keep the following in mind:
· Girls must have parental permission to use social media.
· Girls must meet age limits set by the provider, which is 13 and above in most cases, as per the United States Child Online Privacy and Protection Act and the Child Online Protection Act.
- Any use of photos requires a photo-release form signed by parents/guardians of the girls pictured and the signature of any adults pictured.
- Any use of online video sharing sites (such as YouTube), where the video is representing Girl Scouts or Girl Scout products, must follow specific requirements for that site, as well as council guidelines. Girl Scout photo release forms must also be signed by parents/guardians and any adults pictured. (In other words, this is not an easy venture, but if you and the girls are willing, it’s worth the investment.)
- Check out our Social Media Guidelines at www.gs-top.org/social
Setting Up a Group Website
Groups whose girls meet age criteria (13 years or older) and have parental permission may set up a group Facebook page or website. This site must be approved by the council, yes, but it can be a fantastic way for girls to share information, market Girl Scout products, and talk about their Take Action projects.
Before you and the girls design a website, remember that the web is an open forum for anyone, including potential predators. Documented instances of cyberstalkers make it imperative that any information that could jeopardize the safety and security of girls and adults is not disclosed on a website. Please adhere to these guidelines to ensure the girls’ safety:
- Use girls’ first names only.
- Never post girls’ addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses.
- Never, ever, ever post addresses of group meeting places or dates and times of meetings, events, or trips. (An adult volunteer who wishes to communicate upcoming events with families of girls should use email instead of posting details on a website, unless that site is password protected or is a closed/secret Facebook group.)
- Always have a parent’s or guardian’s signature on a photo release form before using pictures of girls on a website.
- Make yours a site that does not allow outsiders to post messages to the site, or make sure all postings (such as message boards or guest books) have adult oversight and are screened prior to posting live.
- Don’t violate copyright law by using designs, text from magazines or books, poetry, music, lyrics, videos, graphics, or trademarked symbols without specific permission from the copyright or trademark holder (and, generally, this permission is pretty tough to get!). Girl Scout trademarks (such as the trefoil shape, Girl Scout pins, and badges and patches) can be used only in accordance with guidelines for their use. (The Girl Scout trefoil, for example, may not be animated or used as wallpaper for a website.) Check GS-TOP’s website for complete graphics guidelines and approvals.
- When creating a website contact Public Relations firstname.lastname@example.org for support, branding and to register your site with the council.
Daisies: Stay Especially Safe!
Girl Scout Daisies are too young to be marketing online through their group, parent or guardian websites, or social media sites. For this reason, Girl Scout Daisies are allowed to send out emails only when working directly with an adult. Daisies and their adult volunteers must use only blind emails or the online marketing tools provided by GSUSA product vendors on their websites.