Results tagged “Cookies” from GSSA Leader Blog: The Virtual Volunteer

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The 2017 Cookie Program will soon be in our rear view mirror, as we head into awards season and start to dream about the fun of summer camp. However, as we move into these last few weekends of booth sales, I want to encourage you to keep pushing and help your girls meet their goals. We have some great opportunities with the long President's Day and National Cookie Weekends ahead.

I've been out there with you, and I understand how long those days of booth sales in the cold, wet or heat can be.  Winn Dixie can be a crazy place on a rainy, cold, windy Sunday afternoon with a group of girls!

During this sale, our staff has worked hard to support you, with check-in phone calls and our mid-sale survey.  You gave us some great information to build on for next year, and some solid feedback about how things are going.  We are glad so many of you have had a great sale, so far. And we have listened to you.  As a bonus, we are offering $25 in Program Credits for every 25 cases of cookies picked up between Feb 15 and March 5. These program credits can be used for troop supplies in our stores, council events, and to offset membership expenses. Enjoy this bonus as a thank you and your girls for your hard work!

I've had the chance to visit many of our booth sales in the past few weeks and had some fun conversations with both girls and adults.  I love that every Daisy wants to tell me which cookie not to buy (clearly, Lemonades aren't big in the kindergarten and first grade set), and the older girls are eager to share what their plans are with their cookie earnings.  I've had some great feedback from volunteers and parents about incentives and good booth locations - and of course we always commiserate about the weather!

We hope that you and your girls have had a great time this year.  Our goal is that the Cookie Program be as easy for our Girl Scout families as possible, and we will continue to solicit your feedback and partnership to help us make this happen.  In the meantime, if there is any way we can do to support you, please let us know. 

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I hope you all had a great first weekend of cookie booth sales. While I wish the weather would have cooperated a little more (actually, a lot more) for us, the intrepid girls I saw selling were having a good time, which is what it's all about.

One of the many things our girls learn from the cookie sale is business etiquette.  As we head into these long weeks of booth sales, it's good to remember that a positive, polite, and friendly attitude is important.  Demonstrating this kind of behavior starts with you and me.  As Girl Scout parents and volunteers, it's important we remember that, at each interaction with a potential customer, our girls are watching.  They look to us to model the behavior we wish to see from them.

As a Girl Scout mom, I am horrified when someone is rude to my daughter or her friends at a booth sale -- or won't answer the door of their home on Walkabout Weekend (when there are five cars in the driveway...!), but it's my job and yours to remind our girls to stay positive, smile, and return rudeness with kindness - even if we have to grit our teeth to do it. 

Thank you for supporting our girls in their entrepreneurial efforts and for teaching them lessons that will last a lifetime.  Together, we are building stronger young women every day. 


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What are your girls going to do with their cookie proceeds?  I love asking girls what their goals are for cookie season, and I've gotten some great responses over the years. 

I remember the first year our daughter sold cookies and the discussion those sweet kindergarteners had.  First, they wanted to go to Paris, then Disney World, and then Krispy Kreme (our daughter proudly led the charge on that one!).  They had a great time selling cookies and then they did go Krispy Kreme -  and the fire station and to paint ceramics, among other things.  The girls loved watching all of their hard work come to fruition, and they also were delighted that they had a hand in choosing what they would do to celebrate.

Our girls dream big when it comes to these major cookie-funded decisions.  We've had girls go to all sorts of places (Our Chalet or Pax Lodge, anyone?), complete projects to support some great causes, and simply have fun in their own backyard.  Help your girls lead the making of these decisions.  They have great ideas, and they also learn about budgeting and even conflict resolution.  Making a goal at the beginning of the sale gives girls something to work toward and be excited about.

So, where will your girls go this year?  The time to decide is now!

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The cookies have arrived - just in time for a nice warm up of our weather!  We hope that you will have a chance to get outside and enjoy this weekend's warm temps and sunshine and take part in our Cookie Walkabout Weekend.  I'll be out on Saturday, myself, with my daughter, and we are looking forward to it!

Speaking of cookies, we need a great sale so that we can continue to present excellent programming for our girls, and we know that your hard work is critical to this effort. If there is something we can help with or a question we can answer, please let us know.  Our product sales team is here to help!

Time for resident camp will be with us before we know it, and we are delighted that so many girls (more than 50!) have already registered for camp.  We are looking forward to a great year, with lots of fun planned and a great new camp director (who's no stranger to most of you), Cheryl Miller. Start making plans to attend now.  We can't wait to see you at Scoutshire Woods or Kamp Kiwanis in June.

As many of you know, our Thin Mint Sprint was cancelled due to the potential for ice and the low wind chill last Saturday morning.  Our team was up and ready to greet racers when the news came that the Mobile police were asking folks to stay inside and off the roads.  We have rescheduled to April 8, with details to come!  However, girls and volunteers who registered should pick up their T-shirt and gift bag at the Mobile office as soon as possible.  The T-shirt is too cute, and you won't want to miss having one. 

Have a great Walkabout Weekend!

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Happy New Year!  I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday break.  We had a great time with our kids and extended family.  Although I admit getting both kids back into their routine this week has been hard.  Our two-year-old begged me on Tuesday morning to "pwease, pwease put my jammies back on, Mommy!" I bet many folks felt the same way that day!

Back at GSSA we are excited to start a new year, and we have so many great things going on this month.  On Saturday, our Thin Mint Sprint 5K will be presented in Mobile at the University of South Alabama.  It's going to be chilly, but so much fun. Please come and join us if you can!  Here's a link to more information: 2017 Thin Mint Sprint.

In case you haven't noticed (ha, ha), the cookie sale has begun!  Cookies should be in troop hands by this time next week, and we are hoping to have a great sale.  We've had a lot of excellent media buzz about the new cookie, which is a good start. Don't forget that girls who sell 25 boxes of cookies are eligible for the entrepreneur discount for programs and resident camp.  Also, girls who sell 800 boxes will receive $175 in program credits toward resident camp, council programs. At 1,600 boxes, girls receive another $175 in credits.

Don't forget that our Walkabout Weekend is Jan. 14-16.  This is a great time for girls to get out in their neighborhoods with their fellow troop members.  Decorate your red wagon, your scooter, or even your golf cart and have some fun selling cookies the "old fashioned" way (i.e. like we used to do it when we were kids!).

Be sure to take a Walkabout photo during Walkabout Weekend featuring your Girl Scout or Troop/Group as she/they go door-to door selling cookies, and email your photo(s)to communications@girlscoutssa.org by the end of the contest (February 24). We will place your photo in a Facebook photo album and the photo that has the most likes will win the contest. We will post photos beginning January 23, so the sooner you send them, the more time for everyone to like them!  The winner receives a $50 GSSA shop gift card!

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It's almost that time!  The holidays?  Well, yes - and I, for one, can't wait for some family fun and special times with our daughter and son.  It's also almost time for ... you guessed it, cookies!

I want to remind everyone that preorders start on Dec 26 (and not before then - we want to be fair to all of our Girl Scout sisters!). We have some great cookie merchandise in our shop, both online and at the service centers.  Be sure to check the cookie pages on our website for troop marketing resources and other important information. Everything you need should be there, and if not, please feel free to call us.  We will be happy to assist you and your girls throughout the sale.

GSSA closes for the holidays on Friday, Dec. 23, and we will re-open on Tuesday, Jan. 3. We hope that you enjoy some well-deserved time off, as well, during the holiday season.  On behalf of our staff, I want to thank each of you for your work to lead our girls into the future.  We are grateful for your love of Girl Scouting and can't wait to begin 2017.  It's going to be a great year!

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Did you know that the Girl Scout Cookie Sale turns 100 this year? What an amazing accomplishment that our cookie sale started with a great idea from one troop and grew to become world's largest girl-led entrepreneurship program.

I love the story of how the cookie sale started back in 1917, when girls from the Mistletoe Troop in Oklahoma, began selling homemade cookies to support their troop.   By 1922, Girl Scouts of the USA was encouraging troops to sell cookies as a fundraiser, and by 1936, our national organization began licensing bakers to make Girl Scout Cookies.  The rest is history!

To celebrate the 100th year of Girl Scouts selling cookies, we will promote this special occasion throughout the sale. Most notable, we have a new cookie, the S'more, which has all the flavors of the classic snack and is creating a great buzz.  I always gauge the potential success of a new cookie by how quickly it disappears from my house, and when I brought a few S'mores home for my husband and children to try, they vanished in record time to rave reviews.  I've also heard good feedback from volunteers and folks in our community who have tried them, so we hope they will fly out of our pantries and be a great success. Keep your fingers crossed!

Try Digital Cookie this year.  It's a great tool for you and your girls. Your Girl Scout can earn an online patch by selling 15+ packages by using COCO and/or COCOdirect. Volunteers can use Digital Cookie to share links on Facebook, manage reports, and use many more great tools.

Cookie drive-thru's are back this year! These were so much fun last year and got some great publicity for us.  We hope we've worked out all the kinks and will offer more strategic locations this year.  Please help us locate drive-thru locations in your area that you think will help drive the sale. Drive-thru location signup will be through SNAP, just like a regular Cookie Booth Sale, and you can get the drive-thru equipment through your service unit manager.

We are excited about the 2017 Cookie Sale, and I hope you are, too!

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Almost one hundred years ago, an international phenomenon began - and it was started by Girl Scouts. In 1917, just five years after Girl Scouts was founded an ambitious group of girls in Muskogee, Okla., baked cookies and sold them as a service project for their troop.  By 1922, girls across the county were selling cookies -- and the rest is history!

This cookie season, we will celebrate the 100th birthday of Girl Scouts selling cookies.  We have a brand-new cookie, the S'more, to commemorate this special occasion, and we have lots of fun contests and activities planned for our girls. 

Let's get this cookie season started off right!  Make plans to attend your service unit's cookie training, which should be coming up soon.  This training will provide you with an overview of all you need to know for the sale. Also, bring your girls to our Cookie University events in Mobile and Montgomery, which will have a fun, festival atmosphere and offer girls the chance to earn the 2017 cookie pin.

Since we don't have cookies available quite yet, here's a recipe for the "Original" Girl Scout cookie for you to try. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but it does sound tasty!

Original Girl Scout Cookies

????         1 cup butter, or substitute

????         1 cup sugar

????         2 tablespoons of milk

????         2 eggs

????         1 teaspoon of vanilla

????         2 cups of flour

????         2 teaspoons of baking powder

Cream butter and sugar together, add well beaten eggs, then milk, flavoring, flour and baking powder. Roll thin and bake in quick oven. Sprinkle sugar on top.

 

 

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Spring is in the air, and spring break is here or about to commence.   I enjoy seeing what many of you do during spring break.   Most everyone that I see photos of is enjoying the beauty of spring and the outdoors.   Funny, I wonder if there is a correlation between that and being a Girl Scout?   I suspect there is.   I'm also struck by how so many of you are people of action, not sitting on the couch much.   Most of you are out with your kids spending time investing in their fun.   It is good to watch and share in those memories.

We have some great spring programs for the end of the school year.   All look fun and like things I would want to do.   I want to remind you that the annual meeting is at Kamp Kiwanis on Saturday, April 9.   There will be an update of what went on last fiscal year with the audit results and the annual report.   We have a good day planned for girls and adults.

We continue to work to sell the excess cookie inventory.   As an appreciation gesture, we will sell cases of cookies for $25.   This includes mixed cases. If you have an interest or know of some businesses that would like to purchase them as thank you gifts, please send Teri Eversole or Amy Murray an e-mail.   They are teversole@girlscoutssa.org and amurray@girlscoutssa.org.

Camp information is on the website, and we are working on camp sign up.   As a reminder, for those who aren't quite ready for a night in a tent, we do offer day camp for those girls who want to come home.   I know each year we have some involved in softball and other sports activities, so for them day camp is a good option.   It should be a great year at resident camp.   We are going to work on teaching lots of basic camping skills in addition to the program the girls sign up for.   As always, there is financial assistance available, and that application can be found in the camp materials at www.girlscoutssa.org/camp.

As we think through the importance of this wonderful time of year, I want to let you know how much we appreciate the hard work and care you put into being a Girl Scout.   Thank you. Enjoy this beautiful spring!

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We have been fortunate to have some really great cookie programs since I have been here.   It is interesting to me that this year the feedback we are receiving says people just aren't buying cookies.   They walk past and not only do they say no to purchasing, but they aren't exactly even nice about it.   I find that troubling and wonder what that says about our slipping civility.

We did receive a great deal of feedback about the cookie program, some things we can improve and lots of great suggestions and ideas.   In an effort to respond to those, I wanted to be sure to address some of the consistent concerns we received.

First, we closed out last year $53,000 in the red, or in "the hole."   Again, this happened for the first time since I have been here.   Last year, the girls sold lots of cookies and did a great job.   We wound up with $40,000 in excess cookie inventory because we had one parent take $40,000 in cookies and not pay. We also had a significant cut in the River Region United Way funding, $38,000, so we had $118,000 in unanticipated lost revenue.  

It is important that we work hard to assure our income matches what we spend annually.   We eliminated two full-time positions from the budget, which we have been doing over the past few years.   We have many less staff than we had even three years ago.   Salaries are the largest expenditure in our budget, with utilities the next highest.   And it is pretty tough to cut our utility consumption.   Watching what we spend is on everyone's mind this year.

We made many changes to the cookie program.   We did increase the price of a box of cookies from $3.50 to $4 per box, and we were late in doing that, as many other councils went to $4 several years ago.   The councils in the western United States are at $5 now.   Clearly, there is some price sensitivity, and we want to be aware of that.   It is interesting to me because the Mobile office is one block from a Starbucks.   As I come and go, I see cars lined up to purchase single cups of coffee for over $5, but $4 for a box of cookies that do last awhile is a high-cost item.   There's some incongruity on the part of the public on this issue.

As we dissected what we were doing, we realized had so many contests, rewards and the like we were actually losing money from the top cookie sellers.   The cost of patches and additional bars was unbelievable.   As we worked through each issue, we discussed what is valuable to a girl selling and what isn't.   Many said the additional patches were often not used and put in a drawer or never put on to a sash or vest.   Rather than waste valuable financial resources, we decided it was best to allow a girl to make her own decision about the additional patches.   When those run $.45 each, and you multiply those across 5000+ girls selling cookies, and they come at each level, you can imagine what the cost of that is.

We did move from a system that rewarded large troops with the bonus to one that is more equitable across all troops, no matter their size.   Now, don't get me wrong, we do understand every troop has girls that are stars and sell lots of cookies while others do the minimum to get by.   I suspect every troop has that situation.   However, the previous system rewarded large troops at the expense of smaller troops.   Our troop sizes run the gamut from very large to very small.   We are interested in a system that is equitable.   Most of the country uses per girl average and not troop totals, so our previous system was somewhat out of sync.

Just to give you an idea, I spent a week taking last year's troop results and applying the new formula to see what the net effect was.   I had about 10 pages of numbers by troop to determine what the net effect would be on  our girls.   The short answer is that, when I ran the numbers, many troops benefitted from the new system.   There was a group in the middle where there was no impact, and a small group would have seen a troop decrease, but the number of troops that would experience a decrease predicated on the new formula was small based on last year's data.   That is why we made that change coupled with the price increase.   Returning to my earlier point, we did increase the troop proceeds, but also need to balance the budget.

There was a lot of complaining about some of the incentives; in fact, the one that is taking a beating is the hand sanitizer.   As a reminder, the council staff asks the girls to select the incentives.   What we have found is that girls have a better feel for what they like than we do.   The hand sanitizer is at a level where the girls have a choice, so they do not need to select the hand sanitizer.   We have consistently found that the some of the things the council staff likes is not what is selected by the girls, so we are pretty careful to use the data provided by the online surveys and the surveys of girls done at council events.

Another common theme was around the cost of camp and how hard it is to reach 800 boxes of cookies for program credits.   We have had to locate and use another vendor to provide our horse camp horses.   Please understand, we are renting someone else's horses for 3 weeks.   This involves moving him or her, feeding the horses, and having a vet certify each horse.   The cost of the horses increased significantly.   We have been trying to be very modest in our increases in the cost of camps, but when you compare the cost of a week of Girl Scout camp to any other camp, ours are significantly less expensive.   Most girls who earn the program credits do not use them for camp.

We appreciate that you take your valuable time to make this endeavor work.   We recognize this is countless weekends, sometimes in the cold.  You often work with parents who aren't responsible, responsive, or cooperative.   We do understand that this is hard work and sometimes it feels thankless, but as I travel around and have the privilege of meeting some of the girls you work with.   Your investment of time is recognizable, because these girls can do anything.   Thank you for all you do. It is a labor of love.

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The cookie program has been slow this year, and we can't figure out quite why.   This is normally a time when we are simply frantic working to keep up.   The volunteers we have been talking to say the cookies have just not been moving.   When they are usually returning to the cupboard for more cookies, they have not had to return this year.   Last year, we ended the sale with $40,000 in excess cookie inventory, so we are doing everything we can to help the girls move cookies, since that is hard on the entire program and costs everyone money.   We are soliciting ideas for how to finish up this year strong and sell the cookies that remain in our cupboards and in troop hands.  Please email us your ideas at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

We haven't heard much about the cookie drive-thrus. Did they work, or were they a bust?   We also had a hard time scheduling some of the Wal-Marts we would normally have set up prior to the start of the sale, so we are working to do some booth sales in the new neighborhood grocery stores, as they seem to be filled with cars when we go by many of them.   We would be interested in feedback on why you think the sale is slower than usual.

I have seen girls out and about selling cookies.   We also had more girls registered this year, so in some ways this is counter-intuitive as to why the cookie program is lagging.   We still don't see much action-selling on COCO direct, which is a good way to sell because you do not have to touch the cookies. You just send the postcards and your friends and family order.

We hope the program has been a learning experience for the girls you work with.   Each year, I hear about girls who learn they have a voice.   They can approach strangers, take no for an answer, and learn how to count change.   In all, it is a great learning experience.   Thanks for all you do to make this possible. Please help our girls by helping us end the sale on a solid note!

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Bling your booth!   I was surfing GSUSA's Bling Your Booth Facebook page, and so far there are only 68 booths posted.   If there are 25 winners, I would say at the moment the odds are pretty good to win.  Of those 68, only one is from GSSA troop from Mobile.   Now, I know the girls of this council, and they are an exceptional group.   So, if you are exceptional in decorations, color, and creativity, you should bling your cookie booth!   We have some good booths; let's show them off!

Just a reminder about some of the contests of this year's cookie program. Your chances of being a council super seller are easier because we divided the council into 5 regions, since some were rural and others more heavily populated.   The super seller for their region has a choice between a Kindle Fire or a $200 GSSA program credit.   Also, all girls who sell 150 or more packages of cookies are entered into a drawing to win a Kindle Fire.

This year, we moved to a different troop proceeds program, which is based on a per-girl average for the troop with the minimum being 8 in a troop.   When we did the calculations this resulted in about the same proceeds across all groups, but rewarded those troops that had across the board participation.   This is a more common troop proceeds approach across Girl Scout councils, and it made sense to change it as we changed the price of the cookies.

Each year one of the fun parts of the cookie program is for those who purchase more than five boxes of cookies.   If they fill out the entry form, there is a drawing for a year's worth of cookies, which is six cases of their choice.   We will do this drawing again for each region of the council, so your buyers have the opportunity to enter into the fun. It's always fun when we show up with balloons and cookies to tell them they've won!

Troops that meet all the troop deadlines earn $.40/case of cookies, so it is worth it to work to meet the deadlines to increase your troop earning power.

GSSA is supported by the many military that inhabit our council territory, including the Coast Guard Bases in Mobile, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, and Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass.   These individuals lay their lives on the line daily so we can savor our freedom.   Many people don't want to purchase cookies for a variety of reasons, but are willing to purchase cookies for our military troops.   If you can't make a sale with those walking past, try asking about having them purchase cookies on Operation Cookie Care Package.   A donation to Operation Cookie Care Package earns your troop sales credit and proceeds, and you are doing a good deed for those who don't have an opportunity to visit a cookie booth.   For those girls who turn in donations for 10 or more packages of cookies, you can purchase an Operation Cookie Care Package patch.   Each year at the end of the sale I'm always impressed with the number of girls who take this seriously and provide much-appreciated cookies to the troops deployed or military organizations.

Thank you for all your work to make the sale a great success.

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It's cookie season, and we are grateful for the really great weather we had last weekend.   We had many reports of girls out and about selling cookies.   On my way out of the office door tonight, a car pulled up and the occupants wanted cookies.   I thought they were requesting an opportunity to pick up cookies, but they just wanted to buy two boxes of cookies because they were craving them.   We had the same thing happen last week in Dothan when someone wanted cookies mid-week and could not wait until the weekend to find a cookie booth.   Clearly, there's some pent up desire for cookies, and hopefully your girls will be able to meet the needs.

We have had some reports of locations that are especially particular about where girls are set up to sell.   Please comply with their wishes, since they don't have to allow us back and we want to cooperate with their hospitality.  Remember to check in with the manager and thank them for letting you be there.   To touch on professionalism, we thank folks even if they don't choose to buy.   We don't know their reasons, but need to respect their right to choose.   It is important to be an active cookie seller.   Having your ear buds in listening to music while the adults sell the cookies is not the type of girl entrepreneur image we want to present.   Being engaged and involved at a cookie booth is a great way to be part of a team.   I've seen some great photos of cookie drive-thrus from last weekend.   As always, if you have issues, concerns, suggestions, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

We have been working on the summer resident camp program.   We are delayed on that because we had to find a new partner to provide horses for our horse camp.   We are working with Riverside Ranch from Loxley.   We are delighted to have this new partner, the horses are coming to camp this year are beautiful.   Look for the camp program to be on our website shortly.   As always, selling lots of Girl Scout cookies is a great way to earn your way to summer camp.

We know you have been busy juggling cookies and dealing with collecting money from parents.   This is always a tricky proposition.   Each year, we have a troop leader who comes to us after the cookie program to admit there has been a delinquent parent in their troop.   It is someone they know, it is someone they trusted, but now they are in the hole financially and the troop's profit from the sale is gone because the parent owes that much.   As a reminder, we are always willing to assist with parents who are not paying.   We consider this theft from the girls in your troop.   If you have issues with this, please contact, Teri Eversole at teversole@girlscoutssa.org. Sooner is always preferable because it is important to minimize the damage.

Just a reminder please have the funds for the first part of your cookie payment in your troop account on February 10.  This ACH will be based upon all cookies picked up through February 3rd

Thank you for all you do with the cookie program.   We hope the girls are learning and having a great time!

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Bbbbrrrrrr, we are experiencing the El Nino, and the temperatures are dipping into unusual winter range for here.   Kudos to all of you who did show up at your booth sale or drive thru last weekend and sold cookies.   I've been enjoying the photos of girls on participating in Walkabout Weekend that are coming in.  They are always fun.

I want to give a quick an update from some of the chaos we have experienced.   We have been posting the new booth locations as they come in.   We have had fewer reports of issues seeing the entire booth scheduler, so we are hoping that is working better for everyone.   If not, please let us know.  We are working to address your frustrations as they arise, since selling cookies should be fun!   Also, let us know how the cookie drive-thrus are going. These are a new program for us this year, so we look forward to your feedback.

We brought in additional inventory in all cupboards, so we have plenty of cookies for you to pick up.   Simply put in your planned order and come to pull more cookies.   We are pretty close to getting ready to ping your bank account to see if our bank sees your account prior to the ACH withdrawal in February.   If you have not gotten your bank account information to Cheryl Miller, please do so.   If we have sent your troop an ACH in either direction, we probably have the right information for you.   We will ping your account, and then will work to give you a warning a day or before taking the funds your troop owes for the first part of the sale.

I haven't heard much talk about e-mails to others to purchase cookies.   Just a reminder, this is a very easy way for girls to learn about on-line marketing, and you don't have to touch the cookies, as they are mailed to the customer.   Last year, our online sale was .5% of our sale, while most councils grew their sale by 5% or 10 times more.   It's something to consider, and you can sell out of council with e-mails, so you can "guilt" the grandparents into purchasing cookies!   As a reminder, those e-mails cannot be forwarded, and the girls' information is protected in the software.

If you have a good story about your girls and cookies, we always love those.   We use many of your stories throughout our publications, so if you want to share, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

Thanks for all you do to make the cookie program a success. I'm grateful that the forecast for this coming weekend is more favorable for outdoor sales.   We hope your girls are learning for the world's largest entrepreneurial program.   Keep up the excellent work!

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Welcome to cookie chaos!   You would think, because we do this every year, we would simply get better at it each time we do it.   Well, we wish that were the case.   We do keep notes and make changes each year.  But, as we make these adjustments, things around us changes.   The software is tweaked, the staff changes, we have different folks in the warehouse, etc.   Those are but a few of the changes we're dealing with for 2016 cookies.


First, my apologies again for the IT glitches we encountered at the end of last week.   We had more issues cropping up than we could believe, and they were different in separate parts of the council.   One part of the council could only view one page of the cookie booths; some could not see any booths.   In the midst of trying to work our way out of issues with the baker, our phone system started acting up, so it was a complete mess. Rather than have some inequity in booth sign-ups, we decided to cap it where we were until we could work our way through the issues and address them.

 

We are one of the earliest councils to sell cookies (the "cookie season" runs from when we start through to April).   In this case, leading edge is sometimes bleeding edge.   We heard the GSUSA booth finder app wasn't completely working and there were issues with their cookie platform.  Our online cookie program remains with ABC Bakers, so we have not heard of issues on that.

We had to order all our gluten-free cookies early on (remember that deadline for Trios last Fall?) and commit to those cookies.   Because they are more expensive and have a different market, we do not over-order on those, so we are already out of gluten-free cookies.   However, they can still be purchased online from a girl, but we won't receive any additional gluten-free cookies in our service centers.

Thanks to all of you who did the Walkabout about over the weekend.   We heard great things about it from folks who were out there, and have received some fun photos that we will be posting to our Facebook page for our annual photo contest.   We are hoping for better weather as the cookie program continues.   It's not easy to be out there when the weather is cold, so our hats are off to you who were out and about!

The cookie drive-thrus are getting started this weekend, and we would appreciate your feedback on that endeavor. Please send comments and photos of your drive-thrus to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   We do track all your comments and discuss them during our frequent staff conversations.   At this point, those are almost daily because of the issues we have been addressing.

As always, we appreciate your professional attitudes, the great cookie outfits we have seen, and some really good advertising.   The creativity is wonderful and a tribute to all of you who have spent some thoughtful time with girls making it a fun and educational program!

Thanks for all you do to make this a learning experience.   Like you, we deal with cookies daily and hope you have some laughs along the way, because we certainly do on a regular basis.

January 15, 2016

 


We had some crumbled cookies today as we tried to upload the cookie booth scheduler.   Here are some of the issues, if you suffered from some of these please accept our apologies and let us know, if you have not done so already.

1.  We sent out a message at 9:30 a.m. via SNAP, but its server sent the message out at different times to avoid spam filters. Rather than real-time communication, it can be delayed.   Because of this, we will be using social media, field executives' email lists, Remind text messaging and SNAP to communicate going forward.

2.   We had 79 cookie booths listed in SNAP's booth schedule, while last yea, we had 148.   Thanks to many of you for getting the permission forms to your favorite booth location.   We can only upload those locations for which we have signed paperwork. The staff assures me this requires lots of diligence on your part.   If your favorite booth does not appear, please pester them and have them fax their form back to us at 251-344-4181.   We appreciate your assistance on this and will add new booths daily as we receive them.

3.   Because of the many glitches today, we are limiting troops to only signing up for 3 booth sales until we can work through some of the issues.   If, when you go to view the booths, you only see one page of possible booths, despite the fact you have scrolled up or down with the arrows, please send an e-mail to  afaulk@girlscoutssa.org.   Also, it would be helpful to know what your ISP (internet service provider, such as Comcast, Windstream, AT&T, etc.) is.

4.  To add insult to injury, our office phones started acting up after lunch.   We want to be responsive, especially as you are wrestling cookies and working to get booths scheduled.   If the phones don't pick up, which was one of many phone issues, please call Teri Eversole or Cheryl Miller's cell phones.

We are working hard to move through these glitches and will continue to do so over the weekend. If you have other cookie-related issues that we should be aware of,  please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

Thanks...liz brent

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Don't you just LOVE a drive through?   I have some favorite fast food places, but two don't have a drive through, and I have to admit, I don't go to them as often because I have to get out of the car and stand in line to get my food.   That might be the epitome of laziness, but convenience matters in today's busy world.

With this in mind, the staff has been working hard to develop cookie booth drive thrus.   They have been outlining the rules so we comply with our safety standards, but still provide an opportunity for those who want to purchase cookies, but who might not stop at some of the booth sites to get their always-desirable Girl Scout cookies.

We have purchased drive-thru kits with safety materials, such as signage, cones, and laminated menu cards so we assure everyone involved is safe.   The service unit managers will be managing those kits, and there's a $50 deposit for each kit, so we ensure that troops return what they borrow.

Sign up for the drive thru is on the booth scheduler.   We have selected sites that have larger parking lots, have good visibility, and easily can take the traffic in one direction only, again to assure everyone is safe.   Because this is our first year doing drive thrus, GSSA staff will be visiting some of the sites to be sure safety guidelines are followed.  Because we have carefully chosen sites, we are not authorizing drive thrus other than those available in the booth scheduler.  Please do not hold an independent drive thru this year.

 Meghan Cochrane and her public relations representatives will be highlighting the cookie drive thrus as one of the new initiatives of this year's cookie program.

We hope you will find this as an easy way for your girls to get out and sell cookies without the hassle of moving lots of cookies from cars.   We welcome your feedback on this both now and during the sale so we can work to improve it for the girls and you.   Comments can be sent to communications@girlscoutssa.org.  

The rules and notes about a cookie drive thru can be found on our Troop Cookie Chair Resouces page, or click here.

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Predicting how cookies will sell is much more of an art than a science.   That is true from your perspective and ours, and it is always good to be reminded of this, as we wind up as the aggregate of all of you.   We work to pay a lot of attention to how rapidly cookies are going out of our 10 warehouses.   The patterns change from year to year related to the weather, enthusiasm on the part of the girls to get out to booth sales, and whether we have lots of criticism of Girl Scouts, such as the orchestrated Planned Parenthood affront during 2014.

Just as a reminder, we do not give money to Planned Parenthood. We have no relationship with them and believe that topics related to those issues are best managed at home and within faith communities.   For the GSSA policy on this go to What GSSA Stands For on the GSSA website

Why do we want to encourage you to do pre-orders/planned orders?   Last year, GSSA was left with $40,000 in excess cookie inventory.   At the end of the sale, we are not able to sell that magnitude of cookies.   We gave them to our First Responders and military, which was a great thing, but all of that is at the expense of GSSA girls, so we really do care about having you give us your best guess for pre-orders.   We work hard to have cookies on hand in case you get caught and really need them.   However, this year we will be much more cautious on how much inventory we have on hand.   Losing that much in cookie revenue hurts all the girls of the council.   We order cookies on Sunday evening, for delivery to our larger pantries at the Mobile and Montgomery service centers on Monday and Tuesday.   If you can submit your order for the following week by Sunday evening that would be a great assistance to us.   We can only guess from one year to the next, but the more you tell us what is going on with your sale, the better we are at predicting what your needs will be in the aggregate.

We do close off pickups and deliveries while we are replenishing our larger warehouses.   It is simply too confusing to have cookies going in and out at the same time with two folks there counting.   If you think you count a lot, think how much we count with cookies moving sometimes twice a week.   We work to replenish our inventory only once a week but sometimes that simply doesn't fulfill your needs.   We always hope the delivery trucks arrive on Monday, but that does depend on the schedule and workload of delivery agents.

If you see new patterns, or experience new situations during the cookie program, please let us know.   One year we had some issues in a particular shopping center. After we had to contact the police, others who had issues shared they had experienced the same thing.   If someone bothers you and/or there are issues, please let us know.   We work hard to monitor all our media during the cookie program with increased vigilance.   You can contact us at any of the following addresses:   communications@girlscoutssa.org, teversole@girlscoutssa.org, cmiller@girlscoutssa.org, mcochrane@girlscoutssa.org.

 

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It is hard to believe, but cookie time is just around the corner.   I was reminded of this when our public relations cookies arrived last week.   It seems like yesterday that we saw the last year's cookies head out the door.   Last year was a great sale; the girls did a tremendous job, as you did as leaders, and parents.   Thank you for that.   We hope to have an even better year this year.  Before we do that, though, I thought I would run through a few reminders.

Cookie training, which has a fun lemonade party theme in honor of the Lemonade cookie's 10th anniversary this year, is a good program to attend if you can make it fit into your schedule.   We have a representative from the cookie baker with us to talk about the changes they have made and new things on the horizon for the year.   This year, ABC Bakers has worked very hard to make the online ordering experience a better one for those using it, as well as you, so there are some improvements there.   Last year, our online sales generated less than one percent of our total cookie program, while most councils saw a 5% increase in sales through the online opportunity.   Clearly, there is room for growth there, and it is not as complicated as order taking and delivery.   If you have relatives and friends that live outside the GSSA footprint, here's your chance to garner some sales from them.

As always, it is good to have the leadership responsibilities outlined for your troop and service unit.   We have some great leaders in service units who can speak to how they are organized if you need pointers.   If so, please send Cheryl Miller an e-mail, and she can get you in touch with those tremendous volunteers, she is at cmiller@girlscoutssa.org.

With the retirement of Chris Shavers, Teri Eversole will be running the entire cookie program, and as you can image, this is a huge task.   Teri can be reached at teversole@girlscoutssa.org, or you can call either office and use extension 1302.   Please let us know if you have needs so we can address them.

Last year GSSA was left with more than $40,000 in excess inventory.   I realize it is often hard for you to predict what your needs will be, so we err on the side of having sufficient inventory.   This year we will be working with our inventory management more closely.   You can assist us greatly in this effort by always submitting a planned order.   This helps us pull what you need and assure we have the types of cookies you need on hand.

We had some folks take more cookies than what they could sell,  which is never a good thing, so we will be watching more carefully how much is taken out on the initial order.   We want the girls to be successful; we want you not to be cussing about cookies littering your entire home for the duration, so we will assist you in ordering wisely.

This year, we will be adding some drive through cookie booths around the council.   We have been working on safety rules to make this safe for your girls and a success.   We have targeted high-traffic locations throughout the council's footprint that we can get access to.   Look for those on the booth scheduler.   If you have any contacts that you believe would provide good drive through locations, please contact Meghan Cochrane at mcochrane@girlscoutssa.org, or call and use extension 2907.

As an educator, I'm always impressed by and want to encourage you to use the curriculum materials that go along with the sale.   ABC Bakers provides some great materials for girls to enhance their learning while doing, so try to use their on-line resources, they are really great!

We plan on doing a special segment called "Cookie Bites" throughout the program to communicate about changes, issues, good ideas, and how the program is progressing.  Look for those in the GSSA Weekly during the sale.  You also can sign up to receive reminders via text message on your phone.  To do that, please email Jennifer Thrash, director  of membership development, at jthrash@girlscoutssa.org.

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....to everyone who moved cookies, sold cookies, marketed cookies, or had anything to do with the cookie program.    We are still working through some of details, but it looked like we did okay on the cookie program this year.   I recognize it is a tremendous amount of work and effort on the part of thousands of you to make that a success.   I always hear great stories about girls who found their voice, learned more about arithmetic, was able to make eye contact with strangers and a variety of other life skills from that one program.   So thank you for all you did to make everything about that program successful. 

We have gotten back into the swing of things with some great Girl Scout programs to celebrate Girl Scout week, which for us is every week.   Thanks to our hosts at Auburn University for a great equestrian program.   I saw the pictures and it looked like a great time.   We have Pi day this weekend, again thanks to Auburn University who is hosting this STEM day for the girls.   The USS Alabama Battleship sleepover is maxed out with girls, a great weekend is on tap for that one.   The Joy to Life walk in Montgomery is scheduled for April, if you have girls that need community service hours they need items made for the Survivor Tent.   Also, one of my favorites each year, the Biscuits baseball game and Camporee sleepover is in April.

We have a mini-destination scheduled for Huntsville, there is lots to see and do while there.   It would be a great way to explore science and be awestruck with how STEM can turn into a job that changes the world by going to space.   A great opportunity to explore the Great State of Alabama!

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