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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