Trial by Fire: Reflections of a First-time Guider. Part III

A couple of months ago I put a post on my personal blog about becoming a Guider. The GirlGuidesCAN blog picked it up and after a short series of emails back and forth, I was asked to be a guest blogger, blogging about being a first-time Guider.  This is the third in a series of posts about my first year in Guiding. Don’t forget to read my earlier posts: First Impressions, and My First Unit Meeting.
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Girl Guides Classic Cookies

Girl Guides Classic Cookies

Girl Guide Cookies

As a never-been Girl Guide, I knew three things for sure about Girl Guides: they camp, they do crafts, they sell cookies.

I looked forward to that knock on the door every year when my mother would bring those lovely chocolate and vanilla cookies into the house. My sister and I would devour the chocolate row first and the vanilla would be left to languish in the box until my dad would sacrifice himself and finish them off.

I also knew, being a parent to a Spark for the last two years, that cookies are now sold in fall and spring and there are two kinds (mint rules!).  I also knew that they cost $4 per box.

And that completes what I knew about Girl Guide Cookie sales.  Until this year.

Ordering

We’re a brand new Brownie Unit so no cookies had been ordered for us in the spring so I conservatively asked that 10 cases be set aside for our fledging Unit of four girls (we’re up to eight now!).  It turns out that we could have sold four or five times that amount.  Easily.

Ontario had a thing for mint cookies this year because we couldn’t beg, borrow or steal our way to more cookies after we initially got more from surplus (we ended up selling 35 cases).  Which is a great thing for Ontario Units.  We plan to order 50 cases for the spring, even with the price increase.

Administration

Can I plead the fifth here (even though “the fifth” has no bearing in Canada?)?!  I’m new!  I didn’t know!  I’m slightly disorganized!  I was very enthusiastic but maybe not so great about paperwork!

So, while all the money went into our account and we have more than enough to cover the invoice for cookies, I was not good (at all) about keeping track of a few things.  First, let’s focus on what I was good at: who had cookies.  I was good at that.  And also, who helped sell cookies at group events.  My girls will all get their Cookie All Stars badge.

After that, it all falls apart.

So, here is what I’m not good at (it’s a lengthy list but the first step is recognizing that you have a problem!):

  • Noting how much came in as donations
  • Noting how many cookies we sold during one event
  • Noting if there is money in the cookie deposit from parents to cover uniforms etc. (Eep!  Sorry Central Banking people!  Remember… new at this! Have pity on me!)

For example, right now, I owe $10 to the bank account for cookie sales but tomorrow I’m making a deposit for much more than that as the last cookie sale deposit.  Oops.  Better than not having enough I guess.

As I said, the first step is recognizing you have a problem and so here is what I will do for the spring campaign as a way to learn from my mistakes: always have pen and paper to note down the amount of donations that came in and the number of boxes sold at any event and keep track of how many boxes were “tested” by the Unit.

36th Ottawa Brownies & 1 Spark at first Cookie Blitz.

36th Ottawa Brownies & 1 Spark at first Cookie Blitz.

Group vs. individual selling

We did two group-selling events and had a third booked but no cookies left to sell.  I would say that from a fun factor, group-selling events are off the charts, whether it is door-to-door sales or a cookie blitz.  The girls LOVE it.  In fact, we had two girls start Brownies on the night we were doing our door-to-door sales.  I thought they wouldn’t have a very good time but they were crazy with excitement at the thought of selling cookies door-to-door.  And this is why we decided to do (and keep doing) door-to-door sales.  We don’t sell a lot of cookies compared to a cookie blitz event but the girls have such a great time and learn so many skills that they can practise at each door that it is really worthwhile.  And the cookie blitzes are great to build confidence, teamwork and sell a heck of a lot of cookies.

We had a few families take cases of cookies to sell as well.  I know some Units insist that each family take a certain number of cases.  We don’t.  We can easily sell our cases at our cookie blitzes.  If families want to take them (and if their co-workers demand that they bring them to the office), I’m happy to send cases home with the girls but our experience has been that it isn’t necessary (nor is it as fun for the girls).  At least, it isn’t necessary so far.  Who knows what the spring will bring?

Releasing the Hounds on an Unsuspecting Public (i.e. taking the girls cookie selling)

Chaos. Anarchy. Bathroom breaks.

That kind of describes what it’s like to take the girls cookie selling.

Fun. Confidence-building. Conflict resolution. Pride.

That also describes taking the girls cookie selling.

Taking girls door-to-door (at least at the Brownie level) requires more adults and more supervision than a cookie blitz.  You have to be at the door with each pair of them at every house, you have to manage the money (while walking in the rain… those cookie envelopes do not hold up to rain!) and carry cases of cookies.  It’s a slog for sure, but as I said, worth doing.

Cookies blitzes have a whole different set of challenges: making sure there are enough but not too many girls selling at one time, making sure the money is kept secure, having extra adults on hand to take girls to the bathroom (finding a bathroom!), refereeing arguments about who gets to sell cookies to the guy who just walked by (I SAW HIM FIRST! BUT YOU SOLD TO THE LAST PERSON!).  Inquiring where one can get a post-cookie-selling drink.

But, wow… seeing a shy girl come out of her shell by the end of her “shift”, seeing the cookies fly out of the girls’ hands and the joy that comes with that, makes it totally worth it for us and them.

There’s a lot to keep track of (and learn) about Girl Guide Cookie sales.  I think I’m getting a handle on it.  But I’m also thankful that March is still a few months away!  (Post-traumatic stress and all that…. )

Guest Blogger and Guider Karen

Guest Blogger and Guider Karen

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By guest blogger and Guider Karen. Karen will be offering her thoughts on being a new Guider with Girl Guides over the next few months. Read more from Karen on her personal blog Virtually There.

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Did Karen’s post inspire you? Our best blog posts come from girl and adult Members, volunteers and parents just like you! Pitch us your idea. Writing a short blog is easy and fun! Email us at marketing1@girlguides.ca for guidelines.

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3 Responses to Trial by Fire: Reflections of a First-time Guider. Part III

  1. Bailey says:

    I came into my Spark Unit as a veteran Girl Member, 15 years, and the one thing no one ever prepares you for is handling and tracking down all that cookie money. Even in my now second year, I tried to be more organized, it’s just not easy – I dread selling them with the incoming price hike

    • Suzanne Anderson says:

      Hi Ladies, although we all dread selling cookies, I also love it, door to door selling can be a bit daunting and if you are prepared it can go smoothly we can sell 1 case per girl per hour that being said here are a few simple rules to get you organized. Girls need to be in uniform clean face and hair. I keep track of how many cases I start with and count the money when I come back whatever is left is donations keep it simple.
      1. You need 1 adult per 2 brownies if you have to put more in a group they have to stay together. and take turns talking selling carrying the case etc.
      2. Prepare a baggie with 3 x $5. bills and and 6 x $1. or more if you have it for each group
      3. All girls are reminded to stay in their groups , they only work one side of the road. Work as a team!
      4. Girls go to the door together and hold out 1 box of cookies each.
      5. Girls have practiced their best cookie selling line and Best Brownie smiles: Hi! we are the 323rd Brownies and we are selling Girl Guide cookies…these are the world famous Chocolaty Mint ones….. would you like to buy a few boxes and support us?
      6. Once the girls have made the transaction they give all the money to the adult team member.
      7.We always make a plan for what we are going to do with the money from the sales ; Ie camp, zoo, sleepover, etc.
      8. We prepare the girls as well for those that do not buy…no problem just say thank you or if they say they already have purchase some…that’s great say THANK YOu that means they have supported Girl Guides of Canada… If the girls get tired we take a break or stop if it is not fun it is not Guiding!

      Guider Suz

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m a biochem major. I take math at a university level and I hate doing banking for Girl Guides. I totally agree with you Karen my girls are awesome at selling them (I think it’s the cuteness factor) but it never quite, exactly addes up. Though I’ve never been short!

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