It's that time of year again — Girl Scout cookie time — but I'm sure you already knew that. If you haven't seen an order form in the lunchroom at your office, you've likely been accosted online by an email or Facebook post from your favorite Girl Scout, letting you know that the sale has begun.
Well, let me clarify that: That email or Facebook message probably didn't come from a Girl Scout; it came from her parents. And it's sparking a debate about who should really be pedaling those cookies.
According to the Girl Scouts website, the whole point of the annual cookie sale is to "help girls learn five skills that are essential to leadership, to success, and to life." Those five skills are goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. Those skills are lost when it's the parent, not the Scout, who makes the sales.
The problem is that there's so much pressure to sell, and making the sale becomes the focus over helping the girls learn and practice new skills. Scout troops set their budgets and make plans for future projects and trips based on predicted sales. So troop councils put pressure on leaders who in turn put pressure on Scouts to get out there and make those sales.
Girls who sell lots of cookies are rewarded with pins, badges, stuffed animals and other fundraising paraphernalia. Some troops even base participation in future programs on the number of boxes sold. So a Scout who doesn't sell, say, 50 boxes of cookies may not be able to go along with her troop on the next field trip or adventure.
With all of that pressure to sell cookies, it's no wonder parents step in and "help out" when they can. By bringing order forms into work or posting a request on social media, parents are helping kids "achieve their goals." Unfortunately, those Scouts are completely missing out on the opportunity to learn life skills that can help them in the future.
David Andreatta recently wrote about his frustration with parents who continually ask him to buy cookies for the Democrat & Chronicle, "Don't bother putting me on your email list gently reminding me that your daughter is selling cookies. Don't expect me to acknowledge your Facebook post about how many boxes your daughter wants to sell. Don't bank on me filling out the order form you left in the lunchroom at work." Andreatta says he will buy cookies, but only from an actual Scout.
Which of course brings up my next question: where are all of the Scouts selling cookies? It used to be that you couldn't walk into a grocery store or hardware store during cookie season without coming across a table stacked high with cookies staffed by the most adorable little ladies proudly sporting their vests and sashes. But I haven't seen a single booth yet. I hadn't even thought about it until Andreatta mentioned that he hadn't seen one either.
As a mom, I can't blame parents and Scouts from moving away from the freeze-your-butt off cookie stand to their digital platform of emails and social media posts, especially now that the entire transaction can be completed online. But I still think that leaving the girls out of the selling process is selling them short on the experience.
The Girl Scouts can embrace the 2.0 world of online cookie sales without putting the onus of sales onto the parents. Scouts could make a video for their parents to post on Facebook describing the cookies. The video could about conducting a fun taste test with friends or it could simply be a sales pitch. Or they could personally text or email friends and family to ask if anyone is interested in cookies. Or what about making a simple website (website design is another patch to be earned) that the girls could build with a link to their online sales platform?
There are a lot of ways the Girl Scouts can bring the cookie fundraiser into the 21st century without squeezing the girls out of the sales and denying them the opportunity to learn skills. But it might take some creative thinking that's outside the (cookie) box. Fortunately, they have a few million young minds ready to tackle the challenge — if only their parents would let them.