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

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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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Many of the values and lifelong skills are illustrated through the cookie program experience.   Girls find their voice, suddenly able to speak to strangers and gracefully accept "no" for an answer.   One of the more interesting facets of the learning experienced during the cookie program is how troops decide what to do with the cookie proceeds for the troop.

This is a great place for Girl Scouts to truly be "girl led."  One of the beautiful things about girls in a troop is that they often have to negotiate with one another.   Testing negotiation skills, leadership skills, and how to make group decisions enhances the girl experience.   I have heard a number of anecdotal stories about how girls determine what to do with their proceeds.   I have to admit I'm often entertained and surprised with what they do.

The most common use of cookie proceeds is the groups that fund their summer camp experience.   We have girls that sell enough to attend camp at both Camp Scoutshire Woods and Kamp Kiwanis.   I met two of those girls last week.   They are excited about using the cookie program to pay for their camp experience.   Those activities also build their skills.   These girls were excited about what camp experiences they would have this summer.

We hear about lots of girls that go to the McWane Science Center or the Georgia Aquarium.   Both hold many learning opportunities in a fun venue.    For most of our girls, these are significant trips and provide an opportunity to travel and see more than their hometown.   Some other things that I think are educationally valuable and interesting are the Selma to Montgomery Interpretive Centers; one is located in Selma and the other in Lowndes County.   Given the buzz around the anniversary of the march and the movie "Selma," it would be a good year for this visit.   I also like the Tuskegee Airmen Museum in Tuskegee, whichis en route to Auburn and/or Atlanta.   Two other places of note are the Naval Air Station Pensacola; one of our Gold Award recipients is based there in flight training.   They have an interesting museum with lots of hands-on activities, a bus tour, and for additional funds about four IMAX movies.   A new place that I have not visited yet is the Infinity Science Center located on Stennis Air Force Base on the western edge of Mississippi on I-10.   They have all sorts of interesting space exhibits.   Huntsville's Space and Rocket Center is another great place for girls to visit.

I know many girls take this opportunity to visit larger zip lines than the ones we offer at camp, overnights in new and different places.   I would put in a plug for Wehle Center in Bullock County.   They have fantastic facilities at a reasonable cost.   We also have lots of troops who use camps they don't regularly visit within GSSA.   Then there are the always-fun visits to water parks, zoos, and other events and activities close to where you live.   I hope your girls learn the power of being "girl led" through the cookie program.

Thank you for all you do to make that possible for them.


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What is that all about?   Many of you know the original story; that the cookie program started as girls learning to bake cookies and selling them as a fund raiser.   Isn't it amazing how the world's largest girl entrepreneur program was started by girls and was girl led?   And it started as early as 1917!

As you can imagine, we have seen a lot of changes to the cookie program this year with the move to allowing girls to sell cookies online.   This is a positive move, as girls have asked for this to happen and permission has been lagging.   Because of concerns over girl safety, this change did not move at "girl speed."   But with this said, selling items online and in a virtual marketplace will be the world these girls inhabit.  

This changes the mix on the cookie program because sales will become more reliant on the girl who has a good sales pitch and marketing for the e-mail recipient to purchase their cookies.  The online sale does not replace or substitute from the regular sale of cookies to friends, family, and at booth sales, so this is in addition to the other traditional sales approaches.

Our cookie baker, ABC, which has developed the online sales software, has assured us they have done considerable testing around the safety issues of girls doing online sales.   One of the safety features is that you cannot forward the e-mail from the Girl Scout from whom you received it to your friends, colleagues, etc.   The link is broken when forwarded, so girls have to initiate the e-mail to make the online sale.   If any of you experience something different, please let us know at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

There has been some blogging about the cost of shipping of Girl Scout cookies sold online.   For anyone whose dining room or home has been consumed in cases of Girl Scout cookies, this might not bother them.   Because this is the first time for this type of sale, there are no reductions in the actual shipping costs.  Or put another way, we do not have the volume that a company like Amazon has to negotiate dramatically reduced shipping rates.   Our baker has determined that purchasing a half case, whole case, or 8-pack of each variety sampler makes the shipping cost effective, so the orders have to be of that size to make the shipping costs bearable.

Although the cookie program always has everyone operating in high gear, each year we all hear wonderful stories about what it does for the self-confidence of the girls who participate.   Every year we hear about the quiet, shy girl who doesn't speak up at troop meetings.   She's an introvert and doesn't interact a lot.   And then, one day at a booth sale, this girl suddenly finds her voice.   She sheds the fright of speaking to people she doesn't know.   She gracefully accepts "no" as a response and isn't bothered by it.   She has discovered that she is an entrepreneur and a successful one.   This happens every year to many girls.

The cookie program has five objectives for girls, which build their self-confidence. They are goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.   We hear stories that demonstrate each of those objectives during the program each year.   If you have some good stories to share, please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.   We love to share those stories, and they reinforce the power of the program.

I want to remind people that this year the money management is more complex than in previous years. The gluten-free cookie, the Trio, costs $5 a box, rather than $3.50.   This means you will have to be more vigilant while you are selling cookies to be sure you collect the right amount for the type of cookie sold.   The bakers assure us those who regularly purchase gluten-free products are not bothered by the higher cost, but our concern is that your troop and your parents remember the price difference.   I had someone complain to me about it, and I understand change is hard.   As an educator, my response is that this creates a great opportunity for girls to practice their math skills.

We hope the addition of online sales is yet another way for you to learn with your daughter or troop member.   We believe this is a great opportunity for girls to experience the world they will inhabit.   As always, we can learn from girls about how to market and make sales.    I hope your experience with the cookie program is a positive one.  

Cookies, cookies, cookies! They are in our house. They are in our dreams. They are at work. They are everywhere!   It definitely is cookie season!

I have been fortunate to see some great photos of the neighborhood walkabout for cookies, what fun!   One of my favorites was the canine "assistant," who helped the girls while they were doing the walk-about.   There's always safety in numbers.   I watched a delightful video created by some girls, doing their sales pitch and talking about what they learned from selling cookies to the public.   So, even though the cookies are invading our homes and invading our dreams, they are fulfilling their purpose of teaching girls how to be entrepreneurs.  

I had a great discussion with a staff member recently about how professional the girls are when they are selling cookies and how great they act.   They are in their uniforms or in their Girl Scout T-shirts and look like professional young women.   They are making great sales pitches and graciously accepting that not everyone purchases their delectable treats, so not only are we building future entrepreneurs, but this program builds professional women.

 The first year I was here, I received telephone calls about parents and volunteers at booth sales arguing about what door they had scheduled at the Walmart and throwing boxes of cookies at one another.   I'm so grateful the demeanor of the parents and volunteers working with the girls has improved during my time here.   One of the staff has a sign in their office that says "REMEMBER A GIRL IS WATCHING."   I think this is true of the cookie program.   The public draws conclusions about Girl Scouts from how professionally the girls and parents behave at cookie booth sales and throughout the program.   This makes me appreciate the high level of professionalism I see exhibited or hear about from others about girls participating.

We appreciate the amount of time this takes from your already busy schedules.   We know that moving cookies, hauling cookies, counting money, running to the bank, and all the other things you do to make this program a success are time consuming.   But, if you could see all the things the girls learn from it, you would know it certainly is worthwhile.   We also appreciate your professionalism in what can be a taxing task.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place, one girl at a time.

It's Cookie Time!

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This time of year is so exciting for many of our amazing young entrepreneurs, and the beginning of some real craziness for many of us as we kick into high gear.   In an effort to keep you abreast of what is going on, I want to review some of the issues we often face during cookie time, so you are well-informed about what may come up.

During the 2014 cookie program, we dealt with that old internet farce, the so-called Planned Parenthood conspiracy with Girl Scouts.   We received telephone calls from some upset people; others made a point of letting us (or girls) know they were not purchasing cookies because of Girl Scouts giving money to Planned Parenthood.   The truth is, we don't.   We haven't, don't, and we are not going to.   Because this affected our cookie program sales, our public relations staff has worked ahead to try to address this and provide you with a set of responses around last year's allegations and the real facts.   Let me repeat: we do not have any relationship with Planned Parenthood.   For more information and the materials we have developed for this year's cookie program, visit our Forms & Resources page.

We have seen some blogs and other materials about the Girl Scout retirement program funding deficit.   Yes, there are issues around the full funding of the Girl Scout retirement program.   This and other councils pay into the plan annually to fund pensions of long-time Girl Scout employees.   However, the plan has been frozen for several years, meaning those of us hired in the last several years have no retirement plan.   GSUSA has worked with Congress to shape legislation to address the full funding issues.

Online cookie sales is a new point causing confusion this year.  I have had many people tell me they thought the only way girls were selling cookies this year was online.   I think the great public relations around the online sales have led the general public to that conclusion.   I have assured those to whom I have spoken that online sales are simply another approach to selling cookies in this age of the internet.   When 70% of the public says they do not purchase cookies because no one asks them, this is a way to ask them to support girls.   Hopefully, as the general public sees girls out and about with cookies, their perception will change.

This year there are two online platforms to purchase cookies.   These vary by the two bakers. One is being managed by GSUSA, and the councils using that platform use Little Brownie Bakers for their cookies.   We are using COCO, which is the online platform for our baker, ABC, which decided that, to purchase online, you must purchase at least 6 boxes of cookies to make the shipping costs seem reasonable.   Thus, you cannot purchase only one box of cookies online from our baker.   

Through the online cookie platform, girls send emails to potential customers, so that they may purchase cookies. Depending on the email sent, girls either are asking customers to purchase cookies that they will then deliver, or purchase cookies that will be delivered by the cookie baker (in which case, customers must pay applicable shipping fees).

We are looking forward to a great cookie sale and hope you are, too!  Please let us know if there is other information that would make your girls more successful as they are out selling.  Thanks, again, for your hard work during this time of year.

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Thanks to the staff at Wehle Land Conservation Center for hosting us.   Many attendees remarked to me about how beautiful the property was, even though they had done some burning recently.   The birds were abundant, and the girls seemed to have a good time, which is what it is all about.

We welcome a number of new members to Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama's board of directors.   They are Holly Adcock from Prattville, Christie Crow from Union Springs, Carrie Gray from Montgomery, Garrad Green from Mobile, Ramona Hill from Spanish Fort, and Bill Lancaster from Mobile.   We also welcome a new board chair, Janie Corlee, from Auburn.

I would like to thank the following long-time board members for their many years of service.   They include Helen Alford, who served as the board chair for two years.   Marian Loftin of Dothan was on the board from the council's inception.   Alonzetta Landrum-Sims, from Montgomery, was part of Girl Scouts of South Central Alabama's board of directors, so she has served many years. Dr. Larry Turner, from Chatom, joined the board not long after GSSA was born.    Finally, Alisa Summerville has been involved for two board terms.   All have spent hours working in the best interest of the girls on topics most troop leaders aren't interested in, including budgets, financial statements, audits, contracts, insurance, and other facets of doing business as a not-for-profit.   In addition to these wonderful folks, I would like to thank Nancy Greenwood, who has served as the board chair for the past two years.   Nancy has provided consistent, reliable and supportive leadership during her tenure.

The other business of the meeting included electing the delegates and alternates to the 2014 GSUSA National Convention in Salt Lake City.   In the near future, we will begin to share the business before that convention for member input and comments.   We distribute that input and comments to the board delegation, so they can effectively represent you.

The report passed out at the annual meeting, which is retrospective to the 2012-2013 year, is now on the website.   The reason this goes back that far is because our annual audit for that year is not complete until February, so all the information on that report is for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Each year, we also like to report to troops what their troop proceeds are for the cookie program.   We are still cleaning up some of the details, but we believe parents should be informed of how much the troop made in proceeds.   Each year, I'm asked whether troops make only 10 cents per box sold.   That is not accurate!  The amount varies because of troop bonus and service unit bonuses, but it is much more than 10 cents per box.   If you click here, you can search for your troop and the minimum your troop should have from the 2014 cookie program.

We are always happy to take questions about the annual report, financials or any other questions.   Please send them to communications@girlscoutssa.org.

The very best part of the 2014 annual meeting was awarding three Girl Scouts who earned their Gold Awards.   They are highlighted in this annual report.   We would like to congratulate them and all the girls who earned Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards this year.   These girls rock!  

liz_brent.jpgDoes it seem like they are taking over your life?  I know that's how many of us feel this time of year, but now is the time for the final push to reach our goals before the sale ends.

The #1 reason the general public has for not purchasing cookies is that no one asked them.   I was at my local Walmart this weekend, and there were no girls there selling cookies.   Last year, this particular location was a hot spot because the leaders working it told me they had done very well there, so I was puzzled to see no girls there this year.

I know most of you are working hard to reach your goals and ergo the council cookie goal for the sale, which we certainly appreciate.   The sale has been down some this year, and we are working hard as a council to meet our goals, as well.

We have been confronted almost weekly with this allegation that Girl Scouts is connected with Planned Parenthood, and this is all a conspiracy.   Well, we are NOT connected with Planned Parenthood or any similar organization, and we teach girls to be courageous girls who have confidence and character.   We don't want this vicious allegation to hurt the girls of this council.  

GSSA girls have always been top cookie program sellers compared to other councils across the nation.   We don't see any reason why this can't be the case this year.   Please let folks know this supports their local girls and the funds for the cookie program don't leave the area.

We have been working on some end of sale tips, since sometimes you might feel like you are out of gas.   Here's some good ideas.

Each year, I delight in some of the stories I hear from parents and volunteers about the cookie program.   One family decided their daughter needed to be a Girl Scout to 'change her attitude.'   Not only has it changed her attitude, her father relayed to me this Daisy is a fantastic cookie seller, and she loves it. I also have loved seeing the fun pictures posted on Facebook for the Walkabout Weekend photo contest.  Looks like the girls had a great time!

Remember, sometimes it is simply a matter of asking.   We hope that your girls meet their goals, so we can meet the council goals.   In the meantime, thank you for the wonderful work you do to teach girls the many valuable lessons from the cookie program.

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We scoured the internet for tips on selling cookies! Here's a roundup, including a link to our Pinterest boards, which covers many more.

 

Sell in underserved areas

There are areas in our council that don't have many troops -- this means lots of cookie buyers are just waiting for YOU! You don't have to be from a town to have a booth sale there. Booths are needed in Greenville, Selma, Monroeville, Tuskegee, Clio and Rehobeth. Sign up in SNAP today!

 

Sell at college dorms

What do college kids love more than anything? Sweet treats. And most college campuses are remote from choices. Show up at the dorm with Girl Scout Cookies, you'll be flooded with sales!

 

Churches and other public places

Go to church? Ask your minister if you may set up a booth in front. The parishioners may be hungry after the service and would love to have some Thin Mints for the trip home.

 

Sell to grandma, and all her friends and neighbors

Remember to wear your full uniform.  Perhaps the lady across the hall or street from Grandma used to be a troop leader and can share her favorite Girl Scout memories.

 

Offer a sample
Open one box (you'll have to pay for that one) and break cookies into small samples on a nice plate. No one can resist!

Remind customers to stock up
Ask people to buy a whole case so they have enough for the whole year.  Give away a large zip-top freezer bag with large purchases. Cookies freeze great!

Call on last year's customers
Save your order card for next year so you can return to your customers and ask them again.

Ask, ask, and ask again
When you deliver cookies, ask customers if they would like to buy more than they ordered.

Create a Gift of Caring program
Customers buy cookies that you deliver to a charity or community group. Make booth signs that tell customers about this choice. Create a drop box so customers can see the donated cookies stacking up.  Ask if they would like use their change to help purchase Gift of Caring cookies.

Upsell with "Buy 5" contest
Would your customers like to win 72 boxes of delicious cookies?  YES! They need only buy five boxes and fill out  the "Buy 5" entry form to be entered into a contest.

Bundle up the cookie goodness!
With pretty ribbon, tie up three packages to create bundles such as "Chocolate Lovers Pack" or "Classic Bundle." It's fun to give away free handmade gift cards, too.

Print out recipes and offer one free when they buy more than one package. 

Check out our Pinterest Boards for more great tips!


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What a great way to celebrate our Cookie Entrepreneurs!  We've created a special Facebook photo album for photos that you take of your girls on Walkabout Weekend, January 24-26, 2014.

Take a photo of your Girl Scout or Troop/Group as she/they go door-to door selling cookies during this year's Walkabout Weekend  and send it to us at communications@girlscoutssa.org.  

 

We will post all the photos in a special Facebook photo album for everyone to vote on by "liking"!  If you post the image on your own social media, use the hashtag #cookieboss so everyone can see the "cookiebosses" in your Troop!

Become a fan of our Facebook page to vote for your favorite photos. Simply click on the Walkabout Weekend photo album on our Facebook page to join the fun. The photo that receives the most likes will win 100 Program Credits, good for our shops, resident camp, and event registrations.

 

You can submit as many photos as you like before March 2,2014, 11:59 p.m. You and everyone else can like your favorite entries until then. The photo with the most likes will be the winner! 

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