I discovered this wonderful video from the GSUSA on YouTube. Do not be taken aback by the 2013 date…the message still holds up and applies today. It drives home the point I have tried to make for years that girls should not get kudos for selling cookies that their parents or other family members sold for them. Yes, the troop benefits from the profits, but the child does not learn anything other than that she gets a bigger prize than the others who sold less.
I will always believe that the girl who sells 25 boxes on her own is a top seller…not the girl who “sold” 500 boxes because others sold the cookies for her.
It’s that time of year when girls around the country bundle up, ring your doorbell and ask “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”
You will also find troops of girls standing outside your local supermarket, big box store, or if they are lucky enough, inside a vestibule at your local library asking the same question.
Photo and image by Hannah Gold
Girl Scout cookies fund activities for troops. Big trips to water parks or the zoo for younger girls, and international trips that girls save years to go on, are paid for by the girls’ hard work and efforts, as well as the work of their leader and Cookie Mom.
This business activity, although not a part of the original mission of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scout of the USA, teaches girls many things. It also gives leaders a great big headache and for many, causes much aggravation and drama.
Yes, drama over selling Girl Scout cookies.
How can leaders avoid the pitfalls and make selling cookies a fun and less stressful activity for themselves?
A Short Video With Tips for Leaders
1. Have a Parent Meeting
What is most essential to a successful and less stressful cookie selling season is to have parents on board with you. This meeting can be held during your regularly scheduled meeting. The girls should sit in the front and the parents in the back so everyone is paying attention.
Use Graphics During This Meeting
You need to equate in the simplest way possible what everything costs. The younger your troop, the more visual you need to be. If a patch or badge costs $3.00, and you receive 50 cents per box your troop sells, each girl needs to sell 6 boxes of Girl Scout cookies for the troop to buy the badge. If you have 10 girls, then they need to sell 60 boxes.
Start small on your chart and work your way up to larger items, like a trip to Build-a-Bear. You may even want to take a picture of your chart and make it a post on your private Facebook pages, Shutterfly page or even as a handout.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Part of selling cookies is to teach children business skills. Setting goals, working as a team to create a business plan, setting the plan in motion and then deciding how to spend the rewards of goal setting are all part of cookie selling.
Leaders of younger Daisies and Brownies need to see the kind of parental involvement they have and if the goals the girls set are attainable. You want them to succeed the first time they sell. If the girls think they can sell 1,000 boxes, that is not a realistic goal, especially if they are only six years old! Set smaller goals and as they girls gain experience (and you do too, as a leader), the bar can be set higher.
3. Limit Your Booth Sales
Photo by Dsafdy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This tip may seem blasphemous to those who sell large quantities of cookies, but this is one of the biggest stressors of Girl Scout cookie season. In the Girl Scout leader forums and Facebook pages that I read, there are many venting posts pertaining to booth sales each and every year. Leaders sign up for too many booths and then have no coverage because parents forget or bail at the last minute, so they have to be there in the cold for many weekends for hours on end with their daughter. You just can’t cancel the booth, since cases and cases of cookies have been ordered for this specific reason and no troop wants to get stuck with them.
While booths can be the most lucrative way to sell a lot of cookies in a short amount of time (especially if you are lucky enough to get a high traffic area), by signing up for just a few most girls will want to be there to receive cookie credit towards their badge. Limited opportunities make the handful of slot times more precious.
You can always have more girls at each slot to accommodate everyone, the sales will just get split more ways.
4. Keep in Mind Parents Are Not as Committed as You Are
There is a reason you are the leader of your daughter’s troop-no one else wanted to do it! Participating in Girl Scouts is a fun activity and in comparison with dance or horseback riding lessons, it is very inexpensive.
Photo By Drmies (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
No parent is under any obligation to sell cookies for their daughter, as this is a voluntary activity that is supposed to be girl led. In my opinion, parents should only be a supervisor with booth sales and with door to door sales. Selling cookies on Facebook, Twitter, via email or at the office really does not help the girls learn anything. After all, do you go in and take your daughter’s science test for her in school and let her get credit for the grade you earned?
No, you would not.
There will always be gung ho competitive parents who will hustle for their child, and others who do not. It is not fair for a leader to judge a family based on cookie-or lack of-cookie sales. If a family does not sign up for a booth, what can you do about it?
If a family tells you that they will not sell cookies what can you do about it?
Troop money is troop money, and girls cannot be left out of activities simply because they sold no cookies or fewer cookies that the troop goal per girl. Yes it is a harsh life lesson for top sellers to learn, but these are the rules. Are they fair? If you sell cookies, they are not. However, Juliette Gordon Low did not establish the organization so that only a handful of girls benefited.
Photo by Hannah Gold
Plus, you would be penalizing a child who has no control over her parents’ decision to sell or not sell. It is against GSUSA policy to require a set amount of cookies to sell. If a girl’s parents want to make a donation to the troop in lieu of selling cookies, let them. You will not change their minds and aggravating yourself will not change things one bit.
5. Do Not Advertise What Each Girl Sells
When my older daughter was a Girl Scout, she hada hyper-competitive leader. Her daughter had to be the top cookie seller, and it was a neck-and neck race between her and the Cookie Mom to see who would come out on top. In fact, the leader, her husband, and her brother-in-law all sold cookies for her daughter so she could win every year. What did this child learn?
Every other week, she would send home a newsletter with each girl’s selling stats. There were a few who sold very little, and I always felt sorry for those who were at the bottom. It was not their fault, but at least they sold something.
If that were my child, I would have been pretty annoyed and would have said something! You may be offending a parent in your troop by publicly embarrassing them, and that creates a lot of ill will. And if you offend the wrong parent, you may find yourself in even more hot water if she reports you to your local Council.
Families have different priorities and circumstances, as well as financial situations. The top selling girl in my daughter’s troop really did not sell all those cookies, yet the child who sold 25 boxes at the booth sale or going door-to-door learned more from selling those twenty-five than the leader’s daughter who “sold” 750 boxes with lots of help.
Girl Scouts is about sisterhood. Creating a competitive environment helps no one and can create animosity in the troop when girls start flaunting “their” sales. Share troop goals and achievements, but otherwise, keep individual sales private.
6. Keep the Girls Posted on the Troop’s Goals
During cookie season, at the start of every meeting, show the girls how close to their goal(s) they are. Again, a visual is best. You can make a goals chart on oaktag and on the sides, glue a picture of what each goal will get them. Color it in during the meeting for a more dramatic effect. If girls ask who sold the most, cut off that conversation with a comment about every girl trying her best to reach the troop’s goals.
One of the most often asked questions that Daisy leaders have is what to do during the second year of leading their troop. Much, if not all, of the first year is devoted to earning Daisy petals. If you have earned them all, what’s next?
It has been a while since I have posted what my troop has been up to, so I thought I would take this holiday downtime to share what my 9th Grade Seniors have been doing.
This past summer, I wrote in detail about the Mission:Sisterhood Journey that we did over two consecutive days. At that time, one of my five remaining girls had dropped out of Scouts for good and the other did not come to the summer meetings as she was not interested in the Journey.
Fast forward to September and the start of high school, and for the first time ever, all of the girls were attending the same school. In the past, they had gone to different elementary and middle schools. My daughter even has a class with one of her scouting friends from the other middle school, and both are delighted to be together.
Photo from Pixabay
We spent our cookie money on a horseback riding experience in early October and the girls had a great time. However, the one girl who has been with my troop since kindergarten decided not to return. Her mom gave no reason and she has not told the girls why she left when they see each other at lunch or in the halls. I totally understand not wanting to return, but I believe it is a courtesy to let me or the other leader know after all of these years. We got the hint since she did not register in the fall, and all attempts at reaching out went unanswered. In all my years as a troop leader, this is the first parent to not tell us via email or in person that her daughter was not returning. I have never taken a girl leaving personally, and I love having a small troop. (I wrote about the benefits of having one in this blog post).
We did not meet in November, but did meet this week to bake cookies, muffins and other treats for the homeless program that we have participated in for the past six years. The girls are very independent and it was lovely just hanging out in the kitchen and listening to them chat as they decorated cookies. They even talked about going for the Gold Award, which would be quite a feather in their cap if they try to do this!
Photo from Pixabay
Picking Out Badges to Earn
When they finished, I sat down with them and told them that as Seniors, they needed to be girl led. I know that follow-through is tough and that finding time to get together to plan is also challenging, given their different activity schedules. I told them to look up the Senior badges and requirements online and find some badges they wanted to earn. They found three, the first being Room Makeover. They liked the idea of doing things for their own rooms, and two of them already had Pinterest boards full of ideas, which is Step 1. For Step 2, Paint Something, they want to go to one of the painting stores and make a creation for their walls. With only three girls, we have plenty of cookie money left from the two years that we sold to make this possible and not drain the account.
Photo from Pixabay
They can also get together at my home to sew pillows for Step 3, Sew or Glue Something. The fourth step is a challenge, but I think we can tie dye some pillow cases to repurpose, and we can do that together as well.
For the fifth and final step, Build Something, the girls can look and find a simple project that can be done together. They can text each other ideas until they find something they all like and I can buy the materials.
Looking forward to the new year, we will be earning this badge and learning about the requirements for the Gold Award. We will not be selling cookies, as we have money in the bank and the three families are willing to bankroll anything the girls do once the money runs out. For our little tribe, staying together is goal. This is a safe place for the girls, and together they can have great experiences as well as do service for others.