Last week, I was at my favorite beach spot taking in this view:
Just before the big orange ball dropped into the deep blue sea, a cute little Girl Scout approached me with a wagon full of cookies for sale. I was so impressed with her strategy of approaching a captive audience: we weren’t rushing anywhere, in fact, we were standing still waiting for the sun to set and we were probably starting to get hungry and think about dinner. Unfortunately, I only had my house keys on me otherwise I would have bought the entire wagon of cookies 2 boxes.
It got me thinking about the phenomenon of Girl Scout cookies. In these economic times, we are seeing cuts in funding to nonprofits. Boards across the US are responding with a demand for sustainable fundraising. Sustainable fundraising? Does anyone have this in his or her organization? If so, I know a lot of nonprofits who will pay good money for your sustainable fundraising model.
Nonprofits are also trying to find new sources of revenue like business ventures that generate income on an ongoing basis so they are not as reliant on the sometimes-fickle lady fundraising.
Girl Scouts has been so far ahead of the curve on generating revenue through a business venture. In 1922 – just five years after the organization was founded – Girl Scouts started selling cookies as a fundraiser and generating a healthy profit. With ingredients costing approximately 4 cents to make a dozen cookies and a sale price of 25 cents, a dozen cookies was generating a 21 cents profit – 84% profit!
The Girl Scouts were savvy enough to adjust their business venture with the economic times. When World War II broke out in the 1940’s, Girl Scouts began selling calendars to raise money for activities when there became a shortage on sugar, flour, and butter.
Today, approximately 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies are sold around the country each year at $4 each, generating a profit of $800,000,000. 70% of the proceeds remain in the local Girl Scout council with the balance going to the baker to pay for the cookies. That means $560 million goes to support local Girl Scouts across America!
I think that the Girl Scout Cookie business venture is highly successful because it raises funds through the sale of a popular product that has a cult following and is only available once a year for short period of time (6-8 weeks). What other nonprofit – or for profit – can you think of that successfully goes door-to-door selling a product? Those Girl Scouts may look sweet and innocent with their sashes and badges, but underneath their smiles are savvy businesswomen.
It is also not surprising that Girl Scouts has turned out successful business women like Cathy Coughlin, a former Girl Scout and now Senior Executive Vice President and Global Marketing Officer at AT&T. This Huffington Post article is written by a current Girl Scout who speaks to the business acumen she is gaining while selling cookies.
So, go out and buy a dozen or more cookies – knowing you are supporting one of the best revenue generators in nonprofit history!