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—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.girlscoutcookies.org.
Girl Scouts Hears of Michigan's Role
Each year, Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan provides learning opportunities on the procedures to follow during each sale. Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan also establishes guidelines and procedures for conducting the sale and determines how the proceeds and recognition system will be managed.
Knowing Where Proceeds Go
Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan will provide a breakdown of “how the cookie crumbles” in Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan during Cookie Program season in each region. 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 Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan funds itself. The percentage of money to be allocated to participating troops (like yours) is determined by Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan 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, Take Action projects, and Girl Scout membership dues for the next year.
Girls may earn official Girl Scout grade-appropriate rewards and recognitions 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. Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan 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.
One critical task for each troop is to keep excellent records and establish a clear accounting system for all money earned and spent. As the troop’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 troop 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 (or as directed by Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan). Girls will need to know whether they can accept checks and to whom customers should write checks—find out from Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan 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.
- 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 troop 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. They are available at our council shops after the initial sale period.
- 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.
Before beginning any cookies or other product sales with your troop, refer to the cookies section of Girl Scout Central and www.girlscoutcookies.org.
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. Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan may have established cookie booth locations; contact Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan 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.<./li>
- 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 store security (if applicable). File a police report with local authorities. Contact your product program specialist and provide Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan with a copy of the police report as soon as it is available.
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 troop 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 Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan 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 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 troop number or name and their council name.
For girls in fifth grade and above, have your troop 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 troop 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.)
Please see social media policy on page 104
Setting Up a Troop Website
Please adhere to guidelines found at gshom.org, Volunteer Resources, to ensure the girls’ safety. These guidelines are written for adult volunteers, older girls, and others considering developing a Web page or “home page” for a troop or group in Girl Scouts. Although there is some “how to do it” information, the guidelines are not meant to lead you through the construction process. We leave that to the experts. We suggest that you find someone who knows the technical and legal aspects of Web construction, and someone who is capable of making it a learning experience for girls.
Information posted to the Internet on a Web page can be read by people all over the world. Therefore, safety and how you represent yourselves as Girl Scouts should be the guiding principal of any Web-based endeavor, even if your information is password protected. This includes issues of privacy, language use, sponsorship, links, and use of any kind of copyrighted material (writing, music, brand images, and pictures).
Is a Web Page Right for Your Troop of Group?
Developing a Web site for a group can be a great learning activity for girls. Unless you have expertise within your group, such as parents, or are using a Web development template supplied by your service provider, consider recruiting technical expertise. You might approach a community college computer lab, a professional in Web development, or someone who develops Web sites for a hobby. Girls can be involved in the process at all levels—decision-making, research, writing, graphics, and the Web page creation.
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. It is important to remember to adhere to the guidelines found at gshom.org,https://gshomorg.presencehost.net/file_download/094396e5-6c52-4c34-9df7-840a6db8c821 Volunteer Resources.
Daisies: Stay Especially Safe!
Girl Scout Daisies are too young to be marketing online through their troop, 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.