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.
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 had a 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.
How do you handle cookie season?