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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!  

Thank you for your hard work.
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We are at the culmination of the 2014 cookie program.    Like you, we are all happy for the cookies to disappear. We look forward to the program each year, but are grateful for its completion.    I want to thank each of you for all your hard work, patience, and generosity of your time.

Each year I hear a number of stories about the quiet girl, who doesn't really talk in the troop meeting who blossoms during the cookie program, being a real entrepreneur.  The goals of the cookie program - which are for girls to gain experience in goal setting, business ethics, people skills, money management,  and decision making, are fulfilled by all the girls who participate in the cookie program.   Hopefully, each of you had some powerful learning experiences with your girls.

And now for Camp!
We are in the process of camp sign up.   This year we have added a day camp opportunity for those girls who are reluctant to spend the night away from home.   The camp program from their arrival at camp until they leave (9a.m.-4 p.m.) each day will be the same as the resident campers.   A girl can use her cookie program credits for day camp, as well as resident camp.   We look forward to this as a great way to provide a great camp experience for girls.

This year we are making some changes at resident camp.   We are going to eliminate turtle time and bring in external resources from the wider community.   In each area, we have some tremendous outdoor education and environmental resources, which will provide fun and educational activities for the girls during this time every day.   In addition, the COO or I will be on the property daily with some of the program staff and other resource people.   We have had our program team working on the programatic elements of camp.

We are also working on a new opportunity for GSSA's older girls.   The staff at Wehle Conservation Center in Midway (near Union Springs) are going to allow us to conduct a resident camp on their property  for Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors. We are going to allow the girls to shape their camp experience.   Wehle provides some wonderful outdoor education and conservation opportunities.   This will be aimed at older girls only, and they will have a great deal of input on the activities in which they participate.   For more information on that opportunity, which is scheduled for July 13 - 19, contact Amy Farrar at afarrar@girlscoutssa.org or 334 272-9164, x2205.   

Sailing camp is still under discussion at this time, and we hope to have information to you soon.

Have you heard of Amazon Smiles?
Finally, this week I discovered another painless and easy way to donate to GSSA.   We have Socialvest, which is an organization that provides us with a small percentage of your purchase costs from a large number of companies.   It does not increase the cost to you, and GSSA receives a check related to your online purchases.   The other one is Amazon Smile.   We talked to Amazon Smile, and it seems they have added us, using one of the legacy council names (Girl Scouts of the Deep South), which is fine as we still use that tax identification number, so you go to Amazon Smile and sign up.   Then, when you go to Amazon to shop, instead of going directly to Amazon, go to smile.amazon.com and again a small percentage of your purchase will be sent to us to support the girls of GSSA at no cost to you.   Please sign up and remember Girl Scouts when you shop.

Thank you for all you do on a regular basis to make the world a better place.

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!

caramel-sash.jpgHere's a roundup of all the fun contests going on during the 2014 Cookie Sale Program:

Contest for Customers    

Buy 5: Customers who buy five boxes of cookies can fill out an entry form for a random drawing to win SIX CASES of COOKIES .  The troop who sold to the lucky winner also wins a $50 GSSA shop gift card!

Contests for Troops 
NEW!  Collect the Most Buy 5 Slips: The troop that turns in the most "Buy 5" entry forms (based on per girl average, so it's fair to all troops, large or small) will receive a $50 GSSA shop gift card!

 

Walkabout Weekend: There is still time (until March 2) to encourage your friends and family to "like" your photo in our Facebook Walkabout Weekend photo album.  The photo with the most "likes" will win 100 Program Credits for the troop.

 

Contests for Girls
Top Cookie Sellers: Top Seller wins choice of iPad or 400 Program Credits. The 2nd and 3rd top seller and top-selling family (more than 2,200 packages) wins choice of Kindle Fire or 200 Program Credits.
 
NEW! Top Regional Sellers: We have divided up the council into five regions with roughly the same number of girls.  The top seller from each region will win a choice of a Kindle Fire or 200 Program Credits (winners of the above contest are excluded from this one).
 
100+ Boxes: For every 100 boxes of cookies sold, your name will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire!  There is no limit on number of times you can enter (e.g., sell 600 boxes, and you get 6 entries; sell 1,000 boxes, you get 10 entries).
 
Of course, in addition to these contests, there are all the fun recognitions that girls can earn! (Applicable to troops that choose recognitions.)
 
Contest for Councils     
COCO: That's right -- Councils compete amongst themselves, too!  The council with the highest average of girls who sell even ONE box of cookies using the COCO smart phone app will win a cash prize.  Our CEO has designated this prize (if we win) to purchasing jon boats for our camps.  So if the council wins, the girls win!   

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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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We've spent the week working on delivery schedules, packing in cookies at the cookie cupboards and pantries, and cleaning up issues with swipe devices, so clearly the cookie chaos is about to commence.

The council goal for cookies this year is 913,488 packages or boxes of cookies.   Now, that is a lot of cookies.   This amount is what we sold last year, so we know it is achievable.   Our girls are some of the most prolific cookie sellers in the nation, with our per girl average at 200 for last year.   We hope to exceed that and the number of boxes sold.   We believe we are well positioned to make that happen.

Each year at this time, we always start planning for resident camp in earnest.   One of the goals is provide some new opportunities for the girls if we achieve the council goal.   In the past, you may recall we have purchased stand up paddleboards when we made our goal.  Another year, we installed zip lines at two of the camps because we exceeded our council cookie goal.   This year, I'm in search of what would motivate girls to work hard to sell cookies.   One item on my list is to purchase more Jon boats (flat bottomed), so girls who cannot use the canoes are able to get out on the lake in a boat.   Jon boats are much more stable, hold more girls, and you row rather than paddle, ergo the famous camp song "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat."   Purchasing more stand up paddleboards is another possibility.   We are open to suggestions on this, please give us your thoughts at communications@girlscoutssa.org.

I always feel compelled to remind troop leaders and parents that ABC Bakers, our cookie baker, has some great apps that make the cookie program a learning experience for the girls from every angle.   The app for girls to use during the cookie program is called COCO.  Click here for instructions on downloading and using the app.   I believe girls not only learn while selling cookies; when they are at home they can set goals, and establish them in a visible way they can track via the app.   The cookie program presents a great opportunity for girls to learn about the work of commerce.

I hope the cookie delivery went well and your sales are looking great.

Thank you for all you do this time of year to create girls who are young entrepreneurs and business women.

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Incentives do work!   It is the time of year where girls are receiving all their incentives from the cookie program.   We have tried to get them to the service units as early as possible, so girls have them before the end of the year.   There are bridging ceremonies, patches and badges earned, as we feel the race to the finish and the end of the school year.   Overall it's been a good year.   I've seen a lot of girls in action, speaking, participating in civic activities and having fun indoors and outdoors.

I am especially pleased today to announce that we will soon be sending funds directly to the following service units because of your hard work.   Your service unit increased its membership by 10 percent before the end of the calendar year or you increased your cookie sales by 10 percent. Remarkably, three service units achieved both. The top bonus this year totaled $1,088.44.

Congratulations to the following service units for their hard work during the 2012-2013 year!   I know these funds will be put to good use with the girls.

The service units are:

906 (membership and cookie bonus)

927 (membership and cookie bonus)

815 (membership and cookie bonus)

804 (cookie bonus)

810 (cookie bonus)

812 (cookie bonus)

814 (cookie bonus)

823 (cookie bonus)

Thanks for all you do to build girls of courage, character, and confidence that make the world a better place.