The 2015 Girl Scout cookie season is underway across the country. Earlier today, my daughter and I tallied her sales and emailed them to our cookie manager. This year, my fourth grader approached many customers herself, went knocking on neighbors’ doors and called relatives. She wrote down the orders herself, gave totals, and is currently planning her thank you notes for delivery. Watching her take a vested interest in this annual project adds even more value to this experience.
With every Girl Scout cookie season though, there is some kind of uproar, protest, or open letter. Someone somewhere always has an issue with what this program is about or what it funds. In a way, I understand. At $4 a box, the Girl Scouts have to be rolling in dough, right?
Here’s my annual rebuttal/reality check/explanation gathered from sources online and from personal experience:
Girl Scout Cookie sales are coordinated at a council level (think of them as districts). Troops selling the cookies keep some of the profit (currently 36 cents per box), and the local council keeps the rest. The national organization receives a royalty each year from the cookie manufacturers based on the number of boxes sold.
People concerned with what the cookie money funds should look at their local council’s annual report. Non-profits such as Girl Scout councils are required to publish one each year. In looking at our Girl Scout council’s report from 2013, I saw the graph that I personally needed to see: the pie chart that shows 84% of the operating budget goes toward girl programming. 84%! The 10% that’s spent on administration seems reasonable, and the 6% that covers the fundraising costs makes sense. Along with that, product sales revenue accounted for 71% of the income for the year. So more money is being spent on programming than is being raised in product sales.
Anyone who wants to know more about cookies simply needs to ask. Each council has designated contact people, and from the councils I’ve looked at online, those people have easy-to-access contact information. The answers to what each council does with their cookie money is going to vary, but I’d bet that each council uses it to enhance the member experience.