Girl Scout cookies and other council-sponsored products are an integral part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, built around financial literacy. In fact, the Girl Scout Cookie sale is the leading entrepreneurial program for girls: No university has produced as many female business owners as has the Girl Scout Cookie Program. With every season of Girl Scout cookies, another generation of girls learns to set goals, make a plan, and manage money. And most of all, girls gain a tremendous amount of confidence—it’s not easy to ask a stranger to buy something. You have to speak up, look them in the eye, and believe in what you’re doing.
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—and each council selects the baker of its 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.girlscoutscookies.org.
Product Sales: Financial Literacy and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience
Selling Girl Scout Cookies and other products gives girls a chance to run a business and practice leadership skills they can use in their lives. Girls will enjoy all the benefits this important component of the GSLE has to offer: They’ll engage in planning and goal-setting (aiming to achieve their personal best), teamwork, marketing, money management (including the importance of saving for future needs), and the enduring skill of customer service. As girls grow, they will get to know their product (ingredients and calories, for example) and design innovative and creative marketing strategies and tools. Girls will also be encouraged to share with customers how product sales help their council and their community. Volunteers can help girls develop leadership skills while they engage in Girl Scout Cookie activities by using the Girl Scout processes of girl-led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning. And as they participate in product sales, girls will:
- Discover a strong sense of self and gain practical life skills when they create personal goals, deliver presentations, and find ways to customize a marketing plan, for example. A girl can discover a lot about herself and her values as she makes decisions about money-earning, customer-management, andother cookie related activities.
- Connect with their group members as they set group goals and develop a list of positions related to cookie activities such as accounting manager, event planner, public relations specialist, and graphic designer. Girls can learn about their communities as they meet families, mentors, and business owners who have worked in these roles. Girls can also use the Girl Scout Cookie Sale as an opportunity to talk to customers about ways to improve the community or to solicit ideas for a local take-action idea bank.
- Take action as they learn to map neighborhood business and other resources that can help them consider community service needs. Girls use product sale money to make a difference in their communities, whether through a take-action project or a philanthropic donation. And don’t forget: Money that goes to the council from product sales allows councils to take action by serving all Girl Scouts!
Determining Who Can Participate
All girl members (including Daisies)—taking part in any number of ways (travel, camp, series, events, or troop)—are eligible to participate in council-sponsored product sales activities, under volunteer supervision. Your council provides learning opportunities (through a cascading staff and volunteer effort) on the procedures to follow during each sale. Your council also establishes guidelines and procedures for conducting the sale and determines how the proceeds and recognition system will be managed.
Knowing Where Proceeds Go
Your council will provide a breakdown of “how the cookie crumbles” in your council. Share this information with girls and their parents/guardians! Proceeds resulting from product sales support program activities—in fact, council-sponsored product sales are a primary way in which your council funds itself. The percentage of money to be allocated to participating groups (like yours) is determined by the council 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 incentives and credits that they put toward Girl Scout activities, such as camp, travel, and Girl Scout membership dues for the next year.
Girls may earn official Girl Scout grade-appropriate awards related to product sale activities, and each council may choose to provide items such as participation patches, incentives, and council credit for event fees, camp fees, grants for travel and take-action projects, as well as materials and supplies for program activities. The council plan for recognition applies equally to all girls participating in the product sale activity. Whenever possible, councils try to involve girls in the selection of awards and administration of money given to girls from product sales.
Using Online Resources to Market Cookies and Other Products
Girls are texting, calling, e-mailing, Tweeting, and Facebooking—and those are all effective ways that girls 13 years and older can promote cookie and other product sales! The following sections detail how girls can use electronic marketing, social networking, 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 are the exception to this rule.
- Must sign the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge (available at www.gsusa.org) before doing any online activities, and all online activities must be under the supervision of adults.
- Cannot expose a girl’s e-mail 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!
Daisies: Stay Especially Safe!
Girl Scout Daisies are too young to be marketing online through their group, parent or guardian Websites, or social networking sites. For this reason, Girl Scout Daisies are allowed to send out e-mails only when working directly with an adult. Daisies and their adult volunteers use only blind e-mails or the online marketing tools provided by GSUSA product vendors on their Websites.
Contacting Prospects Electronically
Girls may use phone calls, text messages, IMs, and e-mails as online marketing tools to let family, friends, and former customers know about the sale and collect indications of interest. Product-related e-mail is not intended to be spam (unwanted texts or e-mails), 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 e-mail address (such as firstname.lastname@example.org), an adult’s personal e-mail 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, and mail addresses—with respect; they are private and must be kept so.
Utilizing Social Networks
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 networking site (such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or LinkedIn) of the adult. Social networking sites are fun, fast ways to get out an urgent message, such as, “It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!” Posting or tweeting such a message will get the attention of friends and family.
Before girls use social networks as a marketing tool, keep the following in mind:
- Girls must have parental permission to use social networks.
- Girls must meet age limits set by the provider, which is 13 and above in most cases, as per the United States Child Online Protection Act
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.)
Setting Up a Group Website
Groups whose girls meet age criteria (13 years or older) and have parental permission may set up a group website or social networking site. 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, do 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. To ensure the girls’ safety:
- Use girls’ first names only.
- Never post girls’ addresses, phone numbers, or e-mail 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 e-mail instead of posting details on a Website, unless that site is password protected.)
- 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 static 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 with your council’s Website for complete graphics guidelines and approvals.
Safely Selling Girl Scout Cookies and Other Products
A few other considerations will help keep girls safe:
- Volunteers and Girl Scout council staff do not sell cookies and other products; girls sell them.
- Parents and guardians must grant permission for girls to participate and are 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 involved on the Internet.
- Girl should be identifiable as Girl Scouts by wearing a Membership Pin, official uniform, tunic, sash or vest, or other Girl Scout clothing.
- Adult volunteers must monitor, supervise, and guide the sale activities of all age levels.
- 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 must always use the buddy system.
- Money due for sold products is collected when the products are delivered to the customer (or as directed by your council). Girls will need to know whether they can accept checks and to whom customers should write checks—find out from your council staff.
- 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.
- 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.
- A girl’s physical address, social networking page address, IM name, Skype name or number, 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!
- Before beginning any cookies or other product sales with your group, refer to the cookies section of Girl Scout Central and www.girlscoutcookies.org.
Additional Group Money-Earning
Product sales are a great way to earn the funds necessary for girls to travel. If income from the product sale isn’t enough, however, girls have more options available to them. Building upon the following list of ideas, facilitate a group brainstorming session to determine how your group will earn money:
The following examples from councils and overseas committees give girls a way to build public speaking, financial literacy, marketing, and other skills. (Note that not all these ideas will be appropriate in all regions/states or councils.)
- Talent show
- Flock of flamingos traveling yard décor
- Famous mom, dad, or friend puts on a concert
- Food/Meal Events:
- Spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast
- Lunch box auction (prepared lunch or meal auctioned off)
- Multicultural meals for younger girls
- Bake sales
- Meals at volunteers’ meetings
- Themed meals, like high tea, Indian meal, Mexican dinner (depending on girls’ destination)
- Car wash
- Babysitting for holiday (New Year’s Eve), special or council events
- Holiday activity/supervised crafts so parents can shop
- Services like shoveling snow, raking leaves, weeding, cutting grass, pet walking, gift-wrapping
- Cold or hot beverages at an event
- Take photos and/or create greeting cards or calendars
- Council program event or badge workshop focused on a theme (i.e. culture)
- Bottle and can recycling
- Used ink cartridges turned in for money
- Specialty products (creating a personalized note, ribbon, or creative packaging customized by girls adds value to a product):
- Crafts (crochet, needlepoint, jewelry, ornaments)
- Yard or garage sale
- Books for resale