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.
For the most part, it was a quiet season for Girl Scout cookie drama in the Facebook groups where I belong. Leaders mostly posted about being tired and stressed and about parents who did not pick up cookies or show up at booths. There was virtually no mention of girls who were not selling.
Until last week.
In two different groups, leaders asked how girls should be presented their cookies selling awards and if top sellers should be recognized. It is at times like these that I am blown away that some of these women have chosen to be leaders, since their lack of care and consideration (one part of the Girl Scout Promise) for the young charges in their troop is so apparent. One leader called her low selling girls “slackers” and others accused parents of being lazy and wanting their daughter to get a “free ride” in Girl Scouts. These children need to be shamed, blamed and called out for their lack of sales so maybe next year they will work harder. Who cares if a six year old is in tears? They have a lesson that they need to learn!
Photo from Pixabay
Yes, it is true that there are parents out there who are unwilling to help their daughters achieve troop or individual cookie goals (in the same way as an educator I have met parents who are too busy to help their kids with schoolwork). There is no obstacle standing in their way to help out their child, such as an illness or disability, work obligations or other family obligations. But I ask you… how is this the fault of a first grade Daisy or third grade Brownie? More than likely, it is these girls need a loving and caring role model (a.k.a Girl Scout leader) to make them feel safe and have a place where they feel that they belong. If their own parent(s) are unwilling to give them help, it is up to us as leaders to step in and do what we can for them.
Photo from Pixabay
Does the total of cookies sold make a child a low achiever if the number is not what the leader wants (and no, you cannot have a cookie quota-selling is optional). Is it the low seller a “slacker” if she goes door to door with her parents and sells a total of 45 boxes because neither parent can sell at work? Or is the child whose has two parents bring cookie sign up sheets to work a slacker, even though she “sells” 200 boxes with no effort?
According to the leaders in the Facebook posts mentioned, who only go by the numbers, the girl who actually sold on her own and learned about the business of cookies is the slacker. In my opinion, this girl is the true winner and the other child is an example of why kids cannot leave the nest when they are older because their parents do everything for them. While there is nothing wrong with helping your child, there is everything wrong about her being rewarded for work that she did not do.
Which leads me to the questions that leaders asked…
Do You Give Top Sellers a Special Award?
Overwhelmingly, the leaders said that they did not. A “Top Seller” patch was all they gave, and that was placed in the bag of incentives the child earned from sales. Some leaders did buy special items, but in my opinion, this is wrong.
Should You Hand Out Awards by Numbers Sold or Share How Many Boxes Each Girl Sold?
No and No. Again, I will take you back to the example I mentioned about girls selling door to door versus those who had Mommy and Daddy sell. Children may not remember the prizes you handed out, but they will surely remember how they felt when their efforts were downplayed.
Image created by Hannah Gold on Picmonkey
Troop goals should be celebrated together at your meeting, not individual goals. The prizes/incentives offered by the bakeries are the girls’ incentives that they choose to earn. At the start of cookie season, you should have helped the girls set a realistic goal to achieve so you will have money for the things they want to do. If the girls met their goals, great! Celebrate!
If the girls did not make their goal, then you can still celebrate what they did achieve! You still have earned money for special activities for your troop.
As for the incentives the girls earned, most leaders hand them out in the same kind of bag without fanfare at the end of the meeting as the girls are being picked up. In the case where there is a girl who did not earn more than a patch, the leader can still put the item in a pretty gift bag and even add a piece of candy or a note that says “Thank you!”.
The bottom line is that how much a girl sells is out of her control if a parent is unwilling to help. That includes older girls whose parents will not volunteer at a booth or offer to take them door to door. A 7th grader is not going to defy her parents in the same way a 1st grader will not. Try to have the girls help in other ways, like making cookie posters or labels to put on the boxes.
As a leader, you need to seriously rethink how you treat your girls and their feelings. Girl Scouts is much more than cookie sales. It is about learning new skills, sisterhood and being considerate and caring of others.
As Girl Scout cookie sales begin to wind down in many parts of the country, leaders are feeling relief. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year and so much time and effort go into this.
Photo from Pixabay
As I have mentioned in several previous blog posts about dividing cookie profits, troop money is troop money. There have been many leaders in Girl Scout forums and Facebook groups that argue this point-how it is not fair to the girls who sell, how parents are uncooperative, etc. Some have questioned the “troop money is troop money” policy and want to know where it appears in writing by the Girls Scouts of the USA.
This policy does exist.
There is a Blue Book of Basic Documents from the GSUSA that is available online. This link will take you to the book.
Scroll down to page 21, and in the section entitled “Ownership of Assets”, it clearly states in the very last sentence of the final paragraph:
“Such assets are not the property of individuals, troops, geographic units, subordinate units, or communities within a Girl Scout council.”
As stated in the first paragraph of that section, the money your troop raises is money to be used for Girl Scouting and no one owns it other than the Girl Scout Council or the Girl Scouts of the USA. That is why if a troop disbands, all money left in the troop bank account goes back to Council.
No matter how you feel about the policy, you have to follow it. No paper accounts are allowed. If your girls are older and want to travel, then there are travel accounts you can set up once they are Cadettes.