CEO: January 2013 Archives

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Each year we conduct an annual meeting, which provides an opportunity for us to share information about state of the council, examine the council's financial situation, and conduct business.   We move this meeting around the council and attendance varies from year to year.

We try hard to make it interesting, but what we have discovered is that many of you prefer sessions about how to make the Journeys come to life for your girls or best practices for your troops, rather than the excitement of the business meeting.   We are obligated to conduct this business, but we have looked at your evaluations and listened to what other councils do.   This year we are going to try something new and have a program event as a part of the annual meeting.   We are planning events both for volunteers and girls.  

With Easter landing on the weekend we normally have the annual meeting, this year's annual meeting will be April 6, the weekend after our usual time. We have a very popular event the same weekend as the annual meeting, the sleepover at the Montgomery Biscuits baseball game.   This event includes a great parade, sometimes presentation of girl awards, and some fun during the game.   The culmination is a sleepover in the outfield with a movie on the Jumbotron.   Rather than create our own competition, which we sometimes do with programs, we are working to couple this popular event with the annual meeting.

We are having the annual meeting at Kamp Kiwanis starting fairly early in the day.   For those who want to make a weekend of it, we will have the camp available for overnights at the property on Friday night.   We are planning on a fun-filled day on Saturday, with the business meeting as a part of the itinerary.   Then, for those who are interested in more fun, there is the Montgomery Biscuits game Saturday evening.   You can elect simply to attend the game or spend the night on the outfield as part of the Biscuits events.

We hope this provides a great opportunity for a weekend of Girl Scout fun and activities for the entire family!   If you are interested in serving as a council delegate to the business meeting, please contact the council membership staff member for your area.

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It's January, and the cookie the craziness has begun. The offices smell somewhat different than usual -- it must be Mango Crème's.   And they certainly look different, with furniture moved aside so we can shift cases from one space to another.  

I've already heard two stories of people being flagged down by others unknown to purchase cookies, one at a Waffle House.   There must be something about Waffle House as I hear a similar story to that every year.   We, of course, love to hear the fun stories about cookies, and there are usually plenty of them.   If you have a great story, please let our new director of public relations and marketing, Meghan Cochrane, know.   She can be reached at mcochrane@girlscoutssa.org or call either office and dial extension 2907.   If you need more media releases in your area, please let us know.   We put out the media kits before the holidays.   Thanks to those troop leaders, girls, and press reps that made that happen.   It is a lot of work, but it's fun.

The council's initial order was about the same as it was last year, which was disappointing because I think most volunteers found they did not get caught with cookies.   We've also heard others say they need to come to the cupboard and refill already because their initial order is sold.   We LOVE that!   You go girls!   Like you, we don't want to get caught with cookies either.   This is why we ask you to do planned orders.   We order cookies for the cupboard based on your planned orders.   We keep some additional in the cupboard, but you know what it is like to be "caught" with cookies at the end.   We also don't want to have that happen, so inventory management during the sale, albeit a pain, really does assist us in not getting "caught" with cookies.   You might think, well it's not my problem if the council gets stuck with the cookies.   That is true, but the girls pay for it, whether it is your troop or the council, so planning is a beautiful thing.   I certainly understand, though, that sometimes you can't plan.

If you need additional pick-up hours for large orders, we are always happy to accommodate you.   Last year we had the cupboards open for long spans of time.   In fact, I received complaints when folks arrived to find out college guys snoozing while waiting to fill orders.   This is what college guys do when not occupied.  We are cutting back on the number of hours, again, to save the girls money.   However, if you need additional hours or exceptions for pick-ups, please contact the cookie hotline at 800-239-6636, option 5, and we will work it out.   This should be done in advance.  We do want to sell cookies, we want to be of service to you during the cookie sale, but we also need to be fiscally conscious because all the money is the girls' money.

We do love to hear the stories about the sale.   Let us know what is going on!  Thanks for all you do to make this a successful program.

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I'm sitting in the Volunteer Center writing this while surrounded by cases of cookies.   The smell is almost overwhelming -- fresh cookies, just off the truck from the baker.   The world's largest girl-led entrepreneurial program is about to commence!

I want to run through a few reminders of issues we encounter during the cookie program.

1.    Girls must be registered as a Girl Scout for the current membership year, which started October 1, 2012, to sell cookies.   That means she and/or her parent needed to fill out the paperwork, sign the form and provide the requisite $12 annual membership fee.

2.    Girls and their parents must complete and familiarize themselves with the permission forms to sell, which also highlight the safety rules for selling.   Assuring safety is always a concern in working with girls, especially in parking lots with cash in hand during a tough economy.

3.    The best cookie program experience for the girls is one that involves using the program materials that the cookie baker has developed.   These can be accessed by going to www.abcsmartcookie.com and signing up for COCO Cookie Command.   The fun activities (materials) emphasize the five goals of the cookie program.

4.    If you are having issues or troubles with facets of the sale it is better to let us know sooner rather than later.   We will have a cookie hot line going during the sale.  The telephone number for the cookie hot line is our council phone number, 800-239-6636, option 5.

5.    ABC Bakers, our cookie baker, also has a hotline available if you are having issues using SNAP or COCO, they can be reached by 800-221-1002.

6.    We are pleased that the new cookie this year is receiving some excellent attention. I saw it this morning on ABC's Good Morning America program.   It is a mango crème cookie with Nutrifusion.   Nutrifusion means the baker actually used the mangoes and coconut in the filling more directly than in a typical sandwich cookie.   As we know, smelling is a very large part of flavor, so give it a whiff.   It is like an inexpensive trip to a tropical island without leaving the state.

7.    Every year this is when we have anonymous calls and accusations about the "conspiracy" between Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood.   Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood. We do not provide them any funds and believe these issues are best discussed within a family and church setting.   GSSA's board-approved statement on this topic can be found on this link, What GSSA Stands For.   This mythology always reaches a peak during the cookie program.

8.    Vegan is a new label on the Cookie Order Card this year.  The Thin Mints are labeled Vegan.  Lemonaids, Thanks-a-Lots and Peanut Butter Patties are Vegan, but are not labeled as such. ABC Bakers have NOT changed the anything in the cookie recipes, and these cookies always have been Vegan.

9.    This is supposed to be fun.   I've been around some tremendous leaders who have made this an incredible learning experience for the girls, and I have seen girls grow and come out of their silence during this program.   I recognize this is a tough sell to you, since you have picked up your cookies, have the always errant parent who never pays, gives you a bad check, or does something else absolutely infuriating.   We hear horror stories daily about frustrating behaviors on the part of others during this experience.   And trust me, we have to deal with most of those. 

My least favorite cookie-related issue occurred during the first two years I was here.  We had two instances of parents throwing cookie boxes at one another in front of the girls because there was a fight over who got which door at the Wal-mart cookie booth sale.   As you see, now if you are doing a booth sale, one troop takes both doors.   Please let us know if you experience troop leaders not illustrating the Girl Scout Law and Promise.   Children see us as role models.

And most important, thank you for all you do during this incredible learning experience.  Last year we sold more than $3 million in Girl Scout cookies.    The girls, with your assistance, made enough money to install zip lines, a new bath house, and a new sail loft at our properties.   That is because you shared your time, patience, diligence, and responsibility with them so they could learn to be the best entrepreneurial program for girls in the world!

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Can you smell it?    Does it remind you of summer breezes and warm summer weather?   It should! It is the scent of mango crème cookies, which remind you of an afternoon at the beach and smell like a refreshing swim in a beautiful pool with the hot sun bearing down.   There's always something new in the air this time of year -- must be the precursor of the world's largest girl entrepreneur program - the Girl Scout Cookie Program!

As I am out in the community, I'm asked, "where are the cookies?"   The answer to that this week is they are about to arrive!   The conversation after that is always interesting.    Most people note the cookie they prefer, from there they go on to explain why they like Girl Scout cookies.   Part of this conversation always goes back to how they cannot resist the girl selling the cookies.

This year GSUSA is going to do some national media advertising during the cookie sale, and they have declared February 8, 2013, is National Girl Scout Cookie Day!   We are working on our area media for that day.   Here is what GSUSA has outlined as talking points for the cookie program.

When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she's doing more than just handing you a box.   She's creating a plan, interacting with customers, and working as part of a team.   She's building a lifetime of skills and confidence.

Selling cookies teaches goal-setting, decision-making, money-management, people skills, and business ethics - aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program empowers a girl with the strength, abilities, and drive to become an accomplished woman who benefits herself, her family, and the world.   From heads of the household to heads of state, troop leaders to world leaders, Girl Scouts touches every aspect of society.

So, when you are tired to hearing about cookies, thinking about cookies, or moving cookies, remember: this is what a girl can do to change the world.

Thanks for all you do to assist her in accomplishing those goals.

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I was talking to a GSUSA consultant a couple of weeks ago, and she asked what our per-girl average is for the cookie program.   When I told her, she was stunned.   She had been a Girl Scout board chair and has worked for the Girl Scouts for many years, so she knows what a girl can do.   She was stunned at how high our per-girl average is.   I explained that not only was Alabama known for some great football teams, but also our girl entrepreneurs are simply amazing, and you are, too.

As we teeter on the fiscal cliff, I expect more folks will be declining our offers of the best-tasting cookies in America.    People tend to be more cautious with their money because of the harsh and uncertain economic times, but that does not deter the girls of southern Alabama.   Our cookies remain $3.50 while other councils have moved to $4 and some even to $5.  Of course, this is less than the largest latte at Starbucks, but people do think about these purchases.  I have heard about girls who sell cookies in atypical and unusual places, whether that is at a shopping mall, community festivals, return visits through the neighborhood.   Persistence is a good thing at this time of year.

I always enjoy hearing stories about girls' adventures during the cookie program.   They range in both good and bad, mostly good though.   In some areas, we have heard that people come up to girls at booth sales to say Girl Scouts support Planned Parenthood.   We do not support Planned Parenthood, we don't give them any money, and we don't have discussions with them.   Our values at GSSA are that those types of conversations are best left for families and within a church context.   Our telephones always light up this time of year about the conspiracy with Planned Parenthood, which is an urban myth because we don't have a relationship.

Just to give you an idea how great you are.  Last year we gave our U.S. service men and women an estimated $6,000 in cookies.   Recently, in the fall product sale, we sent 63 cases, 756 cans of Honey Roasted Nuts valued at $3,780 to the troops, as well.

We know that girls learn the following from the cookie program: goal setting, decision making, business ethics, customer relations, and money management.  So in addition to gaining funds for troop goals, they are gaining skills that will serve them throughout their lives. 


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