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A Sweet Way to Support Your Community

Girl Scout Cookie sales support many local projects

By Livability.com on February 9, 2015

Courtesy of Girl Scouts USA

They’ve got a sales force, customer base and product that would make most Fortune 500 companies drool. It’s no stretch to say that Girl Scout Cookies have become one of the most recognized brands in the country. Last year, girl scouts sold more than 200 million boxes of cookies, totaling an estimated $800 million in sales. Since starting in Muskogee, OK, back in 1917, Girl Scout Cookie sales have evolved into the largest all-girl sales program in the world. This year is the first time people can buy Girl Scout Cookies online. While most Americans are familiar with Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs, there are many who aren’t sure what else Girl Scouts do.

(Check out our infographic for an Insider’s Guide to the Girl Scouts, including a break down of the top-selling cookies and biggest financial supporters.)

While selling cookies is a part of the Girl Scout experience and considered the pre-eminent entrepreneurial program for girls, strengthening communities and empowering girls is the main focus of this organization. When someone buys a box of Girl Scout Cookies (selling in many states for $3.50) about 70 percent of that money stays with the local Girl Scout councils to reinvest into programming and activities for girls. Individual troops, receive approximately 10 to 20 percent of the local retail price to fund their communities and take-action programs. 

Community Support

“When someone supports a girl’s sale, they’re investing in that girl and their community,” says Kelly Parisi, chief communications executive for Girl Scouts of the USA. 

While the girls who participate in Girl Scouts gain confidence and learn skills, such as goal setting, decision making, money management and business ethics, the communities they live in also have something to gain. Many troops engage in “take-action projects” to help improve their neighborhoods. Each individual troop decides how their cookie sales will benefit their communities. Some donate food to local food pantries, others volunteer at animal shelters, garden at their schools, build or replace playgrounds, and visit senior living centers. 

“Every day I am astounded by the incredible things girls are taking on with their projects,” Parisi says. “This past summer, we unveiled our 2014 National Young Women of Distinction, the highest honor a girl can receive in Girl Scouting.”

Ten young ladies received the honor out of 200 applicants. All achieved the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. Among the winners were Haley Hanson, a New Mexico resident who created a robotics program for hearing-impaired children at local schools; Ohio resident Catherine Riordan, who received a pair of provisional patents for building wheelchair-accessible picnic tables and custom benches; Anna Krauss, of New York, who lobbied to change the auditory test requirements for deaf students in her state; and Camille Borders, of Ohio, who organized a network of political women from different communities to demonstrate the importance of gender-balanced leadership.

Membership Decline

During the last five years, the Girl Scouts have seen a drop in membership as fewer parents volunteer to lead troops. Total membership has dropped from 3.2 million in 2010 to roughly 2.8 million today. That’s a decline of about 400,000 girl and adult members. 

“Across all youth-serving organizations, there has been a significant decline in membership,” Parisi says. “At Girl Scouts, we are revamping our online platforms and tools to streamline the process of joining, which makes volunteering seamless. There are about 30,000 girls on waiting lists nationwide to be Girl Scouts, and they need us now more than ever. The need of the programming we offer is not decreasing however, having enough caring adults to serve them is.”

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