Cookies and social media

Girl Scout Cookies

We’ve seen it many times before. Once a year, Girl Scouts around the country market and sell different types of cookies to sweet-toothed enthusiasts and soft-hearts all over the nation. These little girls with their badged vests and gap-toothed smiles invade your supermarkets, neighborhoods and offices to offer up their wares. Their wagon is a neverending pile of cookie boxes awaiting the always-up-for-more public.  They grab your attention by sweetly asking to help them out… and then they hook you with the Samoas and Thin Mints.

As years have gone by and girls have gotten older, the competitive aspect of the cookie-selling game has developed an intense rep.  Recently, the Scouting society, Troop leaders and Girls have turned to social media to try and return the biggest number of boxes and ultimately call themselves champion of the troop.  It seems as if there is no more knocking on the door of your neighbors or asking Aunt Ethel to buy boxes of cookies for her knitting group; these ladies are turning to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  Even the pageant star Honey Boo Boo has used social media to market cookies for a friend in the past, offering to sign each box a customer buys from her on Facebook.

But one thing’s for sure: the Council Members are stuck in their old ways.  In the past, Scouts have tried to sell cookies online and have even created PayPal accounts to reach a mass number of customers.  Unfortunately, this has now been deemed a violation of Girl Scout policy, with the National Council disallowing it. Though they have turned to social media marketing to promote cookie sales, the Council has ruled that the girls can still only sell in person, having customers pay in check or cash for their cookie fix.

…What? Girls can’t receive money through PayPal or sell online, but can use social media to get the word across that it’s cookie time? Why allow the ability to market it all over the Internet, but not sell it there?

I can’t imagine why the National Council would think they could afford to cut out potential online sales with the financial issues they’ve experienced in the past few years.  Due to lack of donations and declining membership since 2003, the Society depends on the cookie season for almost 80 percent of some Council revenues.  To help soften the blow, Councils are selling camps and holding many fundraisers to make up for it.  One new idea the National Council has implemented is the “find a cookie” search box on their official website to help customers looking for cookies find a local spot to buy from.  The box is a way to help people find a booth sale in their community. They even have a free “Cookie Finder” app for iPhones and Androids.

Back when I was a Scout, I never had the luxury of digital assistance to boost my sales. I spent countless hours knocking on doors and standing around at booth sales to try and be my troop’s winner. Times are definitely changing, so maybe the National Council should get with it. The days of door-to-door sales are over. Now, parents worry about who’s going to be on the other side to answer. I see selling online a much safer way to market cookies instead of having Girl Scouts go up to a complete stranger’s house not knowing what could happen as soon as they knock on the door.  The Council believes the girls will lose their entrepreneurship skills by selling online – but isn’t learning online technology a good way to help strengthen these skills?  Seems like just about everything is conducted online these days; shouldn’t the Scouts step out of the dark ages and be educated on how to use online commerce?

The Scouts’ CEO, Anna Maria Chavez, simply can’t afford to disallow online selling.  The new director (also known as the “Cookie Monster”) has an annual salary just under $400k. Not only is she making the big bucks, she recently had a $65,000 renovation done of the executive bathroom in the Manhattan headquarters.  Apparently marble finishes and a new shower were on the priority list for this new Director.

The 101-year-old organization also faces an extreme pension deficit. Forty-seven percent of the pension plan is unfunded.  How are the Girl Scouts going to be active and sustain this Society if they can’t even support their staff? The publication Pension & Investments reports that the organization’s liabilities ($819 million) almost double their assets ($433 million).  The National Council doesn’t have time to waste.  They need to react to these numbers and make changes before the Society really starts to go down the tube.  One easy, no-brainer change they can consider is selling their cookies online. I hope they’re working on it.

What do you think of the Scouts’ financial trouble?

Written by Brittany Hoffman

Brittany Hoffman is a blogger at fishbat, an award-winning social media agency. She is currently a senior at St. Joseph’s College (NY) studying for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration while minoring in Economics.
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