The other day the doorbell rang and we found ourselves facing an unfamiliar Girl Scout and her father. She was going around the neighborhood selling Girl Scout cookies. I guess it is that time of year again.
I know very little about the Girl Scouts as an organization. In fact, everything I know about the Girl Scouts centers around the selling of cookies. That’s can’t be a good thing.
I am sure that the Girl Scouts do a lot more than sell cookies. I imagine that their activities are similar to what I’ve seen in the Cubs Scouts. They learn things, they make friends, they volunteer their time, they socialize. But if the only thing I really know about the Girl Scouts is that they sell cookies, then a PR problem exists. The Girl Scouts should be about a lot more than selling cookies.
The Little Miss recently joined the ranks of the Daisy Scouts, and so far, there has been no talk of hocking baked goods. Frankly, I am not looking forward to the time when selling cookies becomes a significant activity. I don’t like the idea of kids hocking things as a way to raise money. It is emotionally manipulative, for one thing. Who can say no to a cute 6-year old? For another, selling isn’t for everyone. Some people are uncomfortable pushing things on family, friends, and especially strangers.
When the Little Man’s scout pack recently raised money for a new Pine Wood Derby track, they attempted to do so by sending the kids home before the holidays with a catalog of junk to pawn on family and friends. The pack would earn a percentage of whatever was sold.
I took the packet home and immediately tossed it. I told the Little Man that he didn’t have bother selling junk to his family and friends. Instead, we would just make a donation to the pack, specifically for the Pine Wood Derby track.
Setting the emotional manipulation aside, the other problem with Girl Scout cookies is one of scale. It is one thing to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies for four bucks from a neighbor kid. But in the area that we live in, the scale of things is much larger. We don’t get asked to buy Girl Scout cookies by one neighbor kid. We get asked by dozens of people:
- Neighborhood girls.
- Parents of Girl Scouts at work.
- Out-of-state relatives.
- Friends whose kids attend different schools.
If we bought one box of Girl Scout cookies from every person who asked us to buy cookies, we could open up a cookie store.
What gets lost in all of this is what the scouts themselves get out of selling cookies. Sure, there are prizes they can win if they achieve certain sales benchmarks. And some of the money from the cookie sales must go back into the local packs. Here is what the Girl Scouts website says about revenue from the cookie program:
One hundred percent of the net proceeds from Girl Scout Cookie sales are reinvested back into the originating council to fund activities and Girl Scouts’ Take Action projects, which positively impact their communities. Each council determines its own revenue structure depending on its cookie cost, local retail price, and the amount that is shared with participating troops and groups. On average, Girl Scout council net revenue is approximately 65–75 percent of the local retail price; the amount shared with participating Girl Scout troops, referred to as troop proceeds, is approximately 10–20 percent of the local retail price.
I think it says something that Girl Scouts require cookie sales to fund their programs, when the Boy Scouts don’t require a similar stream of cash to fund theirs.
The Girl Scouts should be about more than selling cookies, and probably it is. But the only time I hear about the Girls Scouts is during cookie season, and that, I think, is a problem.