How to support Girl Scouts without buying cookies

It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!  I was a Girl Scout from second grade all the way through high school, I am a Lifetime Member, and I was a leader from 2002 to 2010.  I’ve sold a few thousand boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.

Girl Scouting is an important program that had a huge influence on me and many other women.  I very strongly support Girl Scouts, and I understand that their activities cost money.  Product sales give girls arithmetic practice and confidence handling money, build team spirit, and can help a shy girl learn to surviveI want everyone to contribute toward helping other girls have the great experiences I did!

But there are many reasons why people might not want to buy Girl Scout Cookies:

  • They’re cookies.  For heaven’s sake, we just finished the holiday season when most of us ate too many sweets.  We don’t need another few boxes of cookies around the house!
  • They’re made with palm oil, preservatives, corn syrup, and as much as half a gram of trans fat per serving.  Consumer pressures have led Girl Scouts to make efforts to improve the healthfulness and environmental sustainability of Girl Scout Cookies, but they’re still more unhealthy than many homemade cookies.
  • They’re packaged in a lot of plastic, which is made from irreplaceable petroleum, is not recyclable, and is likely leaching endocrine disruptors into the cookies.  Most varieties also have an outer box of glossy paperboard, which is recyclable but takes a lot of energy to produce.  Again, there’s been some effort by Girl Scouts to reduce and improve packaging, but Girl Scout Cookies are inevitably a packaged product.
  • A packet of about 20 cookies costs $4 to $5.  Any supermarket has cookies of similar quality and packaging for half the price.
  • Some people can’t eat sugar or choose to avoid refined sugar.  (There have been artificially sweetened varieties of Girl Scout Cookies, and even an unsweetened cracker, but they didn’t sell well.  This year’s lineup includes gluten-free and vegan cookies but not sugar-free.)

You might wonder why Girl Scout troops continue to market the cookies so avidly even in health-conscious, eco-conscious areas.  The answer is simple: Although any individual girl’s participation in the cookie sale is voluntary, troops are not allowed to raise funds in any other way unless they participate in the cookie sale–no yard sales, car washes, etc.  (In case this policy had changed since I stopped leading, I looked into it online: Most public statements on the subject are vague, but this 2018 FAQ from Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles makes it very clear that 50% of troop members must participate in both the cookie sale and the Fall Product Sale if they want to hold any other fundraisers.  Specific details may vary by local council.)

So, please don’t bash Girl Scout leaders for contributing to the obesity epidemic and the trashing of the planet!  They are doing their best to keep their troops going by meeting the participation requirement–and there’s a simple way you can help to make Girl Scouts less dependent on cookie profits!

If you don’t want to buy Girl Scout Cookies, simply make a cash contribution to your local troop.  Hand the money to the Girl Scout who comes to your door or the girls selling cookies outside the supermarket.  Every cent of your donation will go to that Girl Scout troop.  It’s tax-deductible–which a cookie purchase isn’t.

Here’s what Girl Scouts USA says about what happens to the money you spend on Girl Scout Cookies:

Each council determines its own revenue structure depending on its cookie cost, local retail price, and the amount that is shared with participating troops. On average, Girl Scout council net revenue is approximately 65–75 percent of the local retail price; the amount shared with participating Girl Scout troops, referred to as troop proceeds, is approximately 10–20 percent of the local retail price.

In other words, 15-25% of the purchase price pays the cookie manufacturer for the actual cookies, a big chunk goes to the council (the regional chapter of Girl Scouts), and less than $1 goes to the troop that sold you the cookies.

To cite actual numbers: In my last year as a leader, we sold cookies for $3.50 per box and kept 85c per box.  So, if you bought 3 boxes of cookies, we got $2.55; if you just donated the cash, we got $10.50.  Big difference!

Is it bad to give money to the Girl Scout council?  No!  Councils provide many resources to their Girl Scouts by maintaining camps, offering special programs for troops to attend, recruiting and training leaders, matching girls with troops, and arranging community donations to support the program.  I served on my council’s board of directors when I was a Senior Girl Scout, and the council did a lot!  You can donate here to your local council or to the national organization of Girl Scouts.

If you want to eat Girl Scout Cookies, by all means, buy Girl Scout Cookies!  I’m not opposing that once-a-year treat if you choose to incorporate it into your diet.  Another option is to buy cookies that will be sent to US military serving overseas; just tell your local troop, and they’ll arrange it and still get their cut.  Go ahead and support the Girl Scouts by buying cookies–but if you have some extra cash, consider making a donation as well.  It isn’t easy standing outside the supermarket for 4 hours in winter weather; give those girls a tip!

Whichever way you donate, please chip in to help Girl Scouts build more girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place!

Visit To Grandma’s House We Go! for more tips on healthy eating and using resources wisely.

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6 thoughts on “How to support Girl Scouts without buying cookies

  1. This is our first year in Girl Scouts, and while there are plenty of great things that have come out of it, I’m particularly appalled at what I’m learning about cookie selling and fundraising. I don’t fault the leaders, and I’m on board with the reported good things that come out of it for girls in the act of selling, but I was told at the informational cookie meeting that each box purchased for $4.50 (what they cost now) only brings in $0.65 for the troop. That seems awfully near abuse of the girls actually participating in Girls Scouts, with a whole lotta money going elsewhere.

    • Well, don’t just lump “elsewhere” all together: A lot of that money goes to the council, and a lot of what the council does directly benefits the girls. For example, running camps is very expensive, but the attendance fees need to be kept low so all girls can attend. In the council where I was on the board of directors as a Senior Scout, what a tent unit of 24 girls paid for a week of summer camp was enough to pay their counselors’ salaries, groceries for the week, and the patch for each girl—but you also had to pay the camp director, ranger, cooks, nurse, and lifeguards; utility bills; maintenance; art supplies…. Cookie money pays for a lot of that and partially supports the scholarships for girls who can’t afford even low fees for camp, annual Girl Scout registration, badge vests, etc.

      I recommend that you participate in the cookie sale but not push it hard; keep it fun. Then you’re allowed to do another fundraiser and keep all the money from that. Rummage sale was the best one we did—most money raised but also most feasible and fun and really involving the girls.

      • Thank you- you’re right, the cost of the camps are pretty minimal and do a lot. And I’m not against a lot of what the cookie sales are trying to teach, it just feels like cheap labor to sell the product. I’m planning to encourage our family members to donate, since they don’t want the cookies anyway, and then the troop will get more direct funds. There are many ways to be supportive of good organizations.

        • They still make a ton during cookies even with the low amount they get and when the get older and get those cool incentives its pretty awesome. My daughter sold 1200 boxes of cookies and she got $900 to spend on camp, that paid for her 1 week session and then some! We get $50 of cookie dough for every 100 boxes starting at 400 and if you sell more than 1000 and pay for camp the council matches it. Another girl in my troop got an American doll experience for selling 800 boxes, she got a doll, a doll carrier some other swag and a 2 hour private party at the store with demos on doll care and hair styles and a bunch of crafts. Another got a Lego experience for selling 600, she got to do a build of a raccoon and “her favorite badge she earned” and $120 to spend on the lego sets of her choice. As I said in another comment our council maintains some incredible camp properties that we can rent really cheaply.

          But ultimately the best was the girl who last year barely squeaked out “would you like to buy some girl scout cookies at the beginning of the season but by the end was confident asking everyone who came out of the store and would tell them about her favorite, it was pretty awesome.

  2. In our council all donations have to be turned into “boxes of cookies” for operation cookie drop, otherwise council doesn’t get their cut. That was cynical, I love council we just took our girls to a girl scout property and it was 35 a girl for the whole weekend including half their weekends and that was because of council’s subsidy, but we can’t just take the donation for the troop during cookie season. We did have one mom “lose” a $50 donation until after cookies. Also for us it’s not taxable unless donated to council…

    • That’s unfortunate in a way, but you’re right that council is a good cause, too. Thanks for sharing this information. What council are you in?

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