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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.