Girl scout troops don't make nearly as much money off their sales as the children's hard work warrants.

An Introduction to Girl Scout Cookies

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Categories Financial Literacy, School-AgeTags

It’s Girl Scout Cookie season here in Central Texas. If you live in the US, chances are that you’ve seen little girls in uniform selling boxes of cookies in front of stores or had them knock on your door.

These twins don't agree on how they feel about selling Girl Scout cookies today!
Perhaps you have a little Thin Mint addiction. Perhaps your No Soliciting sign has a Girl Scout exemption.

This post is an introduction to Girl Scout cookies for those unfamiliar with the point of cookie sales beyond satisfying your sweet tooth. It’s also for parents just getting started on their daughter’s Girl Scout journey. I know I was a little lost last year when cookie season began.

Where Cookie Earnings Go

Girl Scout cookie sales raise money for Girl Scout troops, but that’s not really the core purpose. From the $4.00 price tag of each box of cookies, our troop earns a measly 10%. That’s right. $0.40 for each box goes into the troop fund for the kids selling you cookies. We do get an extra quarter per box for the troop from our specific Service Unit if certain requirements are met by the end of sales season.

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There’s no obligation for Girl Scouts to sell cookies. In our troop, we ask parents who aren’t up for participating in sales to contribute what they can to the troop account, which we spend on things like badges, outings and a charitable donation.

Why Scouts Sell Cookies

Troops (groups of Girl Scouts who meet regularly and share activities) decide as a group what to do with their earnings. The point of cookie sales is to teach our girls the basics of entrepreneurship: Goal Setting, Decision Making, Money Management, People Skills and Business Ethics. 

Girl Scout cookie sales are only in very small part about making money. The more valuable aspect is giving girls an opportunity to learn to run a business.

Each girl sets for herself a goal for how many boxes of cookies she can sell during the sales season. Based on her age, she more or less independently sells the cookies. Daisies (kindergarten and 1st grade) are accompanied by older scouts at their sales booths and adults handle the money for them. Brownies can make their own change but parents are nearby for assistance. Juniors (4th and 5th grade) can handle most sales independently, but adults are there for assistance with credit card sales, check sales, and philosophical questions.

Last year, my girls convinced me to buy a box of cookies from them, then handed out free samples in our vet’s waiting room. Not surprisingly, they were able to score several sales off this approach. This year, I asked my 7-year-olds what they thought they were learning to selling cookies.

M: People listen better when we stand up more confidently.

J: Counting money.

To keep things fun, the Girl Scouts each earn an award for selling a certain amount of cookies. In addition to the badges and pins they can add to their uniforms to show the skills they’ve exercised selling cookies, they earn extra incentives for selling different quantities of cookies. Incentives vary by location.

Girl Scouts earn incentives for successful cookie sales.

A Twin Thing

My daughters actually asked me whether they could pool their sales toward a single (presumably better) incentive by crediting just one of them with all their sales. I said no. They were individual Girl Scouts and didn’t get to work the system. Our sales are evenly divided between the two children. We will probably modify that approach if they stick with Girl Scouts when they’re old enough to sell cookies more independently.

Keeping Track

One of the more challenging things for little girls is keeping track of what money is coming in and what cookies are going out. I made my daughters a chart, two versions shown here, to help them keep up with sales. They used tally marks to track cookie boxes and wrote down donation amounts in dollars. (Click the image for a printable PDF.)Cookie Sale TrackerCookie Sale Tracker

Different troops handle orders differently. In our troop, we discuss sales goals with our daughters and provide and initial estimate. Our Cookie Dad puts in an order for the troop and distributes the cookies once they arrive. If we realize we need more cookies, we can ask him and he’ll put in a couple of additional group orders during cookie season. We’re free to sell door-to-door or to our friends, but we’re also welcome to serve at booths set up at businesses around the community.

Other troops take orders by order form and only purchase cookies to meet their orders. They must then deliver the cookies. A couple of troops sell cookies online.

Types of Cookies

One of the things I found most confusing was the different types of cookies. Seemingly identical cookies had different names. People wanted to know why we weren’t selling their favourite cookie from the year before. People wanted to know why their cousin 100 miles away could buy Lemonades when we didn’t have them.

There are two different bakeries licensed to make Girl Scout cookies. They use different names (and recipes) for the cookies, although Thin Mints are Thin Mints regardless of bakery. So Samoas are Caramel Delites. Do-si-Dos are Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Also, Trefoils are Shortbread, Tagalongs are Peanut Butter Patties. Apart from the core 5 cookies, they make different types. Little Brownie Bakers’ lemon cookies are bite-sized powdered sugar-covered crescents called Savannah Smiles, while ABC Bakers’ Lemonades are lemon-iced shortbread cookies.

Also, from the official Girl Scout Cookie FAQ:

Half of the Girl Scout councils served by Little Brownie Bakers are taking part in the “Super Six” initiative and selling the core five favorite Girl Scout Cookies (Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, and Trefoils) and Savannah Smiles. Research shows that these core varieties appeal to the vast majority of customers. This initiative has been very successful and well received by both Girl Scout members and cookie consumers. The primary benefit to the participating Girl Scout councils is better management of cookie inventory and a way to streamline the sale process for girls and volunteers.

When Is Cookie Season?

Cookie season varies from region to region. I imagine that weather plays a role. I’m certain that Minnesota troops have no interest in selling cookies while there’s snow on the ground, while we Texas scouts certainly don’t want our cookies melting in our cars in the summer.

Officially, cookie season is limited to 6-8 weeks to allow girls to focus on them for that period of time and then move onto other Girl Scout activities. Unofficially, I wouldn’t be surprised if the limited availability was intended to maintain consumer interest in the product. After all, people are more likely to buy a whole lot of cookies if they know they won’t be available again for 10 months than if they can run to the store if they run out.

If you’re interested in seeing when you’ll be able to buy cookies, you can check out the Girl Scout site’s cookie finder.

Any questions? What’s your Girl Scout cookie preference?

A big thank you to Michelle for editorial review!

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Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

One thought on “An Introduction to Girl Scout Cookies”

  1. I handmade a sign for my front door that says, “No Solicitors except children”. I want the neighbor kids who are selling wreaths or soap for school or the girl scouts to stop by!

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