The professional football season may have come to an end for Pacific Northwest fans, but the Girl Scout cookie season is just kicking off.
A gathering of about 100 Girl Scout members, leaders, volunteers and parents turned out Saturday morning at Peninsula Lutheran Church in Gig Harbor for a Girl Scout Cookie Rally in preparation for one of the organization’s major fundraisers for local units.
Members of the Girls Scouts of the USA have been selling cookies since 1917 to raise funds.
Beyond merely bringing in money for the Girl Scouts of Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula, the rally — complete with cookie samples and tips on selling techniques — emphasized that selling cookies affords its young members a chance to interact directly with customers and gives them a taste of running their own cookie business, as well as the social skills needed to work with others.
“The event prepares girls to safely sell cookies in the community,” said Stephenie Burbach, community development manger for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. “Each girl and troop sets goals for profits from the cookies. They know the number of cookies and the amount of money they need to sell to do what they want to do.”
This being the age of social media, Girl Scouts are encouraged to use modern technology to turn up sales. For example, girls can use cookie artwork found at www.littlebrownie.com to decorate their Facebook pages. Social media also can be used to announce cookie booth times and locations, to create YouTube videos or Flickr photo albums about cookies and goals, to post goals and provide regular updates on progress, as well as the use of email and texting.
Then there’s Internet marketing in the form of a password-protected website by which girls can send eCards to family and friends. Customers can return an online order form, and the order automatically appears on the Girl Scout’s Cookie Club account page.
Girls Scouts earn recognition and rewards based on the amount of cookies they sell.
“They’re incentivized to sell to get goodies,” Burbach said.
Girls can earn individual and group patches for sales, as well as Cookie Dough, which can be applied to everything from minor prizes, such as stuffed animals, carrying cases, uniforms and books all the way up to helping to pay for Girl Scout camp, events or travel.
“A lot of the girls are shooting high this time,” said Bev White, product sales manager. “There’s lots of chances for the girls to pick what they’d like to earn.”
It’s not about mere profit, however, as the Girl Scout cookie program helps girls develop five key business and leadership skills that last a lifetime: goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
Troop Director Nancy Hatch believes good salesmanship can have a positive impact on girls, and she’s serious about making sure they get it right.
If a Girl Scout selling cookies won’t look her in the eye or tries to have a parent do the selling instead, Hatch said she turns around and walks away.
That didn’t seem to be a problem for most of the girls at the rally. They’re the real stars of the cookie-selling business.
Payton Fabian, 9, was busy making a poster for booth sales of Girl Scout cookies, as her mom, Tiffany, watched over her shoulder.
In her third year of selling cookies, Fabian said she planned to sell 200 boxes of cookies this year.
Madysen Peterson, also 9, is a veteran of the cookie-selling business. This will be her fifth year selling the tasty treats, and she’s a force to be reckoned with. She sold 1,100 boxes of cookies last year, making her the top-selling member of her Girl Scout unit and helping to pay for her to attend horse camp last year.
Truly exemplifying the giving nature of the Girl Scouts organization, Peterson said she enjoys using what she earns to cheer up U.S. soldiers overseas with cookies.
“The thing that I like best is when we donate to the troops,” she said.
Taking cookie orders started on Jan. 10, and all orders are due to be turned in by Jan. 31, White said. Between Feb. 16-20, the girls will receive their cookies and distribute them to their customers.
The Girl Scout Cookie Rally also served as a recruitment event for those who wish to join or become much-needed volunteers for the organization.
“Our dilemma in this area is that we can’t spread the word,” Burbach said. “Any way we can get the word out is a benefit.”
A recruitment event is set for 6:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Gig Harbor YMCA, 10550 Harbor Hill Drive.
For more information visit www.GirlScoutsWW.org.
Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gateway_brett.