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Girl Scout Cookie Program and Fall Product Program

As the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, the Girl Scout Cookie Program  and the Girl Scout Fall Product Program are foundational experiences during which girls learn to think like entrepreneurs and to develop vital business skills. Plus, Girl Scout Cookie proceeds power fun and enriching experiences for Girl Scout troops year-round!

Understanding the Girl Scout Cookie and Fall Product Programs

Through the Girl Scout Product Programs girls gain a tremendous amount of confidence. It’s not easy to ask people to buy something—you have to speak up, look them in the eye, and believe in what you’re  doing—all skills that help a girl succeed now and throughout the rest of her life.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in the country, with sales of more than $700 million per year for girls and their communities nationwide. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the leading entrepreneurial program for girls: no university has produced as many female business owners as the Girl Scout Cookie Program.

If you have a moment, watch the latest Girl Scout What Can a Cookie Do? video for an inspiring look into just how powerful those treats—and the girls who sell them—can be.

Council-sponsored product programs are really the best way for girls to earn money to pursue their goals: the programs are beloved by the community and come with program, sales, and marketing materials and support that help girls run a great business. They are an integral part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. With every season of cookies, another generation of girls learns five important skills:

  • Goal setting
  • Decision making
  • Money management
  • People skills
  • Business ethics

Before beginning any cookie or other product program with your group, refer to the cookies section of Girl Scout of Western Ohio’s website.

Product Program Resources
A Sweet Tradition

It has been a century since Girl Scouts began selling home-baked cookies to raise money. The idea was so popular that in 1936 Girl Scouts enlisted bakers to handle the growing demand—and the rest is history. Explore Girl Scout Cookie History  to find out how cookies have helped build generations of female entrepreneurs and leaders who make the world a better place.

Two commercial bakers are currently licensed by Girl Scouts of the USA to produce Girl Scout Cookies—Little Brownie Bakers and ABC/Interbake Foods—and each council selects the baker of its choice. Each baker gets to name its own cookies (which is why some cookies have two names) and gets to decide which flavors it will offer in a given year, in addition to the three mandatory flavors (Thin Mints, Do-Si-Dos®/Peanut Butter Sandwich, and Trefoils/Shortbread). For additional information on cookie varieties, including nutritional details, visit girlscoutcookies.org. 

Where Cookie Proceeds Go

After paying for the cost of cookies and materials, Girl Scout Cookie proceeds stay local and help Girl Scouts of Western Ohio provide Girl Scout programs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), the outdoors, life skills, entrepreneurship, and more—in camps, through leadership training, and multiple other ways. A portion of the proceeds is directly managed by girls, and it’s up to them to decide how to invest their troop’s share of the earnings.

Girl Scouts of Western Ohio provides a breakdown of How the Cookie Crumbles (where the cookie proceeds go). We invite you to share this information with customers, girls and their caregivers so everyone’s clear on how revenue raised through Product Programs makes it possible for your Girl Scout council to serve girls. Proceeds resulting from Product Programs support program activities—in fact, council-sponsored Product Programs are a primary way in which the council raises funds to support Girl Scouting. The percentage of money to be allocated to participating groups (like yours) is determined by the council and explained to girls and adults as part of the Product Program activity orientation.

The income from Product Programs does not become the property of individual girl members. Girls, however, may be eligible for incentives and credits that they put toward council-sponsored camps, programs and programmatic materials.

Girls may earn official Girl Scout grade-appropriate rewards related to product program activities, and each council may choose to provide items such as participation patches, rewards, and council credit for event fees, camp fees, grants for travel and Take Action projects, as well as materials and supplies for program activities. The council plan for rewards applies equally to all girls participating in the product program activity.

One critical task for each troop is to keep excellent records and establish a clear accounting system for all money earned and spent. As the group’s volunteer, you’re in charge of making sure money is spent wisely, excellent records are kept (keeping copies of all receipts in a binder or folder), and all income is tracked. For older girls, your job is to oversee their work, as they learn to keep impeccable records.

Recognizing Cookie Sellers in the Media

The Girl Scout Cookie Program has always been about and focused on the program outcomes through which girls learn important entrepreneurial and life skills and invest their earnings to positively affect their local communities. The Cookie Product Program has never been about and does not focus on individual girls’ sales results. 

  • There are many impressive cookie bosses throughout the United States, and the Girl Scout organization will continue to recognize dynamic cookie sellers for various achievements tied to the Girl Scout Cookie Program.  
  • Girl Scouts of the USA does not currently track the top seller(s) of Girl Scout Cookies on a national level and does not identify a specific Girl Scout as the number one or “record-breaking” national cookie seller. 
  • Girl Scout councils should not reference such girls as “top sellers” in the media. Doing so detracts from the essence of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, which is based on offering girls important experiences in entrepreneurship, business, and finance from a young age as well as providing girls and local Girl Scout councils with the funds necessary to power amazing experiences and opportunities for Girl Scouts year-round. 
Council’s Role

Each year, Girl Scouts of Western Ohio provides learning opportunities on the procedures to follow during each program. Girl Scouts of Western Ohio also establishes guidelines and procedures for conducting the program and determines how the proceeds and girl reward system will be managed. Our goal is to support girls and troops to meet their financial goals so they can accomplish awesome things in Girl Scouts.

Troop's Role

While the council will put into place the best practices and guidelines for the Product Programs, it’s important to be ready as a troop. Your most important role is to be a guide for your girls helping them navigate skill building while cheering them on to reach their goals. While we encourage all adults within the troop to support the girls’ success, each troop should identify a Troop Product Manager that will be the troop expert on the Fall Product Program and/or the Cookie Program. This position is vital to the troop’s program, and due to the level of involvement required we highly recommend that this volunteer is not also a troop leader. Finding a volunteer who has strong organization, and communication skills to be your Troop Product Manager will make it easier for your troop to navigate the Product Program’s without devoting all your troop time in order to make it a success.

The Girl-Adult Partnership

Underlying all the lessons that girls can learn from their participation in the Girl Scout Cookie Program is the girl-adult partnership. Ideally, this is a partnership between the girl and her leader and between the girl and her caregivers. Adult members do not sell cookies, they participate only in supporting the direct involvement of girls.

During the Girl Scout Cookie Program, the girl/adult partnership may look like this:

  • An adult and girl working together to make plans and set goals
  • An adult assisting a girl by giving her access to the information and training she needs, but letting the girl do the selling and delivering of cookies
  • An adult guiding a girl in understanding the finances and letting her practice the skills
  • An adult advising a girl on how to market her cookies, but allowing her to make her own decisions
  • An adult helping a girl understand her responsibility to support her local council, but ensuring that her participation is voluntary
  • An adult supports the girls through the various methods of selling cookies, but the girls are actually doing the selling
Using Online Resources and Social Media to Market Cookies and Products

Girls may use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text messages, IMs, and emails as online marketing tools to let family, friends, and former customers know about the program and collect indications of interest. All are effective ways that girls 13 and older can promote Girl Scout Product Programs. Girls under 13 cannot independently set up online marketing sites. Girls under 13 can use their caregivers online sites with their approval and supervision.

Girls are only to use the Internet to market the Girl Scout Cookie Program and Fall Product Program to friends and family (for clarity, “friends and family” are people whom the girl or her family personally know).

  • The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a girl-led program and online marketing and sales efforts should always be led by a girl while also being supervised by her caregivers.
  • Friends and family of a girl participating in the Cookie Program must not market or share a girl’s contact information, sales links, or sales information on public-facing online sites. They also should not share their sales link with any news outlets (this includes online and traditional news media, such as radio, television, or magazines).
  • For safety purposes and other reasons, online marketing activities, especially those conducted through social media platforms, should always be done through accounts set to “private.”
  • Should any online marketing activities be identified as in violation of guidance, GSUSA or the council reserves the right to intervene and request removal or remove the post.
  • Caregivers, girls, and volunteers should contact and collaborate with their council and GSUSA in advance on any national news media opportunities.

The following sections detail how girls can use electronic marketing, social media, and group websites to gather sale commitments from family, friends, and previous customers. But first, please keep in mind that girls:

  • Can market to and collect indications of interest from customers within their councils’ zip codes. Refer prospects that come from outside council jurisdiction to the council finder at girlscoutcookies.org. Family members and Digital Cookie sales are the exception to this rule.
  • Digital Cookie is the only approved online sales tool available for girls to use when selling cookies. Outside of Digital Cookie, girls cannot set up online sites where cookies are sold and money is exchanged via the Internet.
  • Must sign the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge before doing any online activities, and all online activities must be under the supervision of adults.
  • Cannot expose their own or any other girl’s email address, physical address, or phone number to the public. When writing e-mail messages or online announcements, girls should sign with their first name only, along with their group number or name and their council name.

See the Safety section of Volunteer Essentials for additional information and guidance regarding online product marketing and sales.

Cookie Donation Programs

Girl Scouts of Western Ohio may have a cookie donation program established where customers may purchase cookies for the sole purpose of having them donated to an organization coordinated by the council. This a great talking point for girls to share with their customers and a great way to help teach girls that the Cookie Program can make a big impact in their community and to others. 

Here are some things to remember about cookie donations:

  • All cookie donation programs must be approved by your council. 
  • Donated cookies must stay within the council jurisdiction unless your council has the approval from other council jurisdictions.  
  • Donated products cannot be resold and must be used in a responsible and ethical way. 
  • Donated products are used in a way that does not undermine the work of councils or jeopardize the integrity of the Girl Scout brand.  
Handling Product Complaints

It has always been the practice of Girl Scout councils and the bakers to guarantee customer satisfaction with their cookies. If a customer for some reason is not satisfied with the quality of their cookies, they can contact the baker via the number printed on the side of the box of cookies. Troops/groups should notify their council if they are aware of any customer dissatisfaction.

Product Program Safety

Safety is the top priority while selling Girl Scout Cookies and other products. Volunteers, caregivers and girls should be familiar with and practice the following:

Girl Scout council-sponsored Product Programs, which include magazines, candy, and nuts, as well as cookies, give girls proven opportunities to earn money and/or credits for their Girl Scout program activities. These programs also contribute significantly to the girls’ local councils and communities through take action projects. In order to ensure the emotional and physical safety and well-being of girls, which is always a top priority in any activity, read and understand the following guidelines.

Communicate with Caregivers
Ensure that the caregivers of all girls participating in Product Programs are fully informed about the activity including the:

  • Safety precautions in place
  • Need for appropriate clothing and/or supplies
  • Need for advance arrangements for all transportation and confirmation of these plans
  • Need for written permission from them in order for their girl to participate
  • Location of designated sale areas, which are also communicated to the Council

Arrange for Volunteer Supervision
Approved Girl Scout volunteers provide supervision and guidance for all grade levels, and must accompany Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors when they are selling, taking orders for or delivering products. Volunteers must be present at booth activities, regardless of the age of the girls (see also the section “Knowing How Many Volunteers You Need”). Adults who oversee Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors must:

  • Be aware of how, when and where the girls are selling products.
  • Be on call when girls are participating in product programs.
  • Be readily available to them should they need assistance.
  • Help girls understand how to be safe in their surroundings, and always enforce the use of the buddy system.

Volunteer supervision for all Girl Scouts extends to any online activity. Consult the “Computer/Online Use” Safety Activity Checkpoints for specific information about safe online practices for all activities, and to obtain a copy of the Girl Scout Internet Safety Pledge. If someone takes money or cookies from your booth, do not attempt to physically recover the stolen items and do not allow the girls to do so. Instead, get a good description of the offender(s), call 911, and alert local security (if applicable). Make sure girls know what to do in case of theft. Report any incidents to your local council according to its guidelines.

Plan for Safeguarding Money
Girls should always have a plan for safeguarding money, which includes such things as:

  • Don’t walk around with large amounts of money.
  • Keep the cash box against a wall or behind a barrier of cookie boxes.
  • Don’t keep money at home or school.
  • Give cookie money to supervising volunteers, who will deposit the money as soon as possible.
  • Have an adult volunteer keep the money secure, for example in a front-facing pouch tied around their waist.

Use the Buddy System
Girls are divided into teams of two, with each girl choosing a buddy. Girls are responsible for staying with their buddy at all times and:

  • Warning her buddy of danger
  • Giving her buddy immediate assistance if safe to do so
  • Seeking help when the situation warrants it

Be Streetwise and Follow Your Instincts
In order to ensure the safety of girls while selling door-to-door, you and the girls should become familiar with the areas and neighborhoods in which girls would like to sell. In addition, girls should:

  • Participate in door-to-door sales only during daylight hours.
  • Wear a membership pin, uniform, or Girl Scout clothing (e.g., Girl Scout T-shirt) to clearly identify themselves as Girl Scouts.
  • Avoid a house or person that makes them uncomfortable. They should walk away and find the next person/place that does not make them uncomfortable.
  • Call 9-1-1 if they see someone that seems to be acting in a way that makes them feel unsafe. This could include, but is not limited to, any person who is staring at them for long periods, seems to be following them for no apparent reason or takes pictures of them.
  • Use safe pedestrian practices, such as crossing at corners and obeying walk signals.
  • Do not enter the home or vehicle of a stranger.
  • Avoid selling to people in vehicles (except at drive-thru cookie booths) or going into alleys.
  • No one should carry large amounts of money, see “Plan for Safeguarding Money” above.
Preparing for Your Girl Scout Cookie Booth

Cookie booths are a traditional and fun way of selling Girl Scout Cookies. Booth locations are approved by councils, facilitated within council jurisdiction and you must follow all council guidelines with regard to setting up, manning and taking down a booth. . Girl Scouts of Western Ohio have established cookie booth locations (council sponsored locations); refer to your Cookie Book before planning a cookie booth of your own (non-council sponsored location).

Here are some notes about locations for a cookie booth:

  • We encourage volunteers to use their best judgement in setting up cookie booths in locations that will be open, accessible, and safe for all girls and potential customers.
  • Certain locations may be inappropriate for young girls based on the standards of your local community, may negatively impact the cookie program experience for girls, and/or may negatively impact our brand in your community.
  • For additional clarity, girls should not sell in or in front of establishments that they themselves cannot legally patronize.
  • Additionally, with respect to marijuana dispensaries, we have been steadfastly combating the unauthorized uses of the Girl Scout trademark by the cannabis community, which has been marketing—without our authorization—certain cannabis products under our youth-appealing brand. We are continuing to aggressively fight these unauthorized uses of the Girl Scout brand and hope that our councils and volunteers will join Girl Scouts of the USA’s efforts by discouraging cookie booths at such locations.

Once you’ve gotten council approval, check out the booth site before the day of the sale. Talk to business owners in the area so they’ll know what to expect. Find out what security measures are in place—these may include lights for evening sales and whether a security camera watches the booth area—and where the nearest bathrooms are located. In addition, review the Girl Scout Cookie/ Council-Sponsored Product Program Safety Activity Checkpoints, as well as the Safety section of Volunteer Essentials to make sure you and the girls are as prepared as possible.

When setting up Cookie Booths, it’s important that:

  • Two registered, and background approved volunteers are to be present at all times during a Cookie Booth.
  • Two to four girls are allowed at a booth during a given shift. Be mindful that too many girls may block pedestrians.
  • There is adequate space at the booth for table, products and girls and to allow safe passage by pedestrians, bikes and cars.
  • Girls are a safe distance from cars. If possible, set up a safety barrier between cars and the booth—perhaps a few volunteers could park their cars in spaces near the booth location.
  • Respect the surrounding businesses by making sure your booth isn’t blocking a store entrance or exit.
  • Girls and adults do not confront or engage an irate or suspicious customer, call local authorities for assistance.
  • Girls are not allowed to sell in or in front of businesses where they cannot be patrons like liquor stores, bars, or other adult establishments.
  • Girls and troops are not allowed to solicit donations which includes having donation jars on their tables during Cookie Booths. If a customer offers a donation, the troop may accept the donation, but cannot solicit.
  • Attract customers with colorful signs. Remind girls to be polite and to have their sales pitch ready for interested shoppers.
  • Follow guidelines in the Troop Cookie Book.

While girls can receive cash from buyers and make change, they should hand the money to a volunteer for safekeeping. It is important that cash is kept safe and out of sight. This can be accomplished by:

  • Keeping the cash box against a wall or behind a barrier of cookie boxes
  • Having an adult volunteer keep the money by securing it in a front facing pouch tied around their waist.
  • Reduce cash transactions by offering credit card payment options per your council guidelines.