Your Girl Scouts may be cookie bosses, but they still need the support of adult volunteers to have a successful cookie season. From providing goal-setting guidance to helping your girls with booth logistics, cookie season can initially sound daunting to new troop leaders.
But you don’t have to do it alone! Just as your girls turn to their troop for support, you can (and should!) draw on your broader troop network for help. Some troop leaders enlist the aid of a cookie manager to serve as point person during cookie season, while others will build a cookie support team with several volunteers who can play off one another’s strengths.
“Running a successful cookie program takes a mixture of enthusiasm, customer savvy, attention to detail, and comfort with computer data programs,” says Nancy Fink, a troop leader from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “One volunteer may possess all those skills, or it may take three, or maybe you’re good at one skill and you simply need help with the others. Either way, the cookie team needs to cover all those bases.”
Cookie managers play an invaluable role assisting girls as they achieve their year-end goals—like a camping trip or a service project at their local animal shelter. So how do our volunteer experts meet their cookie squad goals? And which skills should you seek in your manager or team?
Look to the parents in your troop.
You probably discussed the Girl Scout Cookie Program during your first parent meeting, but you’ll want to let parents and caregivers know of your specific volunteer needs ahead of cookie season.
“Having a parent involved is especially beneficial because they get a glimpse at what it's like to be on the leadership side of Girl Scouting,” explains Kat Schukneckt, a troop leader from Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Badgerland. “Our troops encourage parents to volunteer in a way that embraces their interests and talents. Someone may not want to handle the financial side of cookies, but they may be perfect for bringing our troop's booth vision together. Our parents understand that the cookie program is a lot of work, and I've made it clear that it just can't happen without additional support. Making sure parents understand what the girls get out of the program and that it's not just about the money puts everything into perspective for them.”
Ask your co-leader(s).
If you have a co-leader (or several), consider splitting the cookie duties or recruiting a volunteer for a specific area in which you’ll need extra help. “With my first troop, my co-leader and I split the duties, and we handled the program quite well,” says Nancy. “She’s a great motivator and was terrific at our cookie booths and during our lead-up troop meetings. I love spreadsheets and math, so tracking and sorting became my jobs. The longer we worked together, the smoother our cookie seasons became—an intangible benefit to picking up the job as leaders.”
Talk to your co-leaders about who will handle which aspects of the cookie program; don’t assume that the most outgoing person, for instance, will want to be on-site for every cookie booth.
Explore outside your troop.
One of the best resources for cookie newbies? Experienced troop leaders! If you’re a fresh face, try teaming up with these seasoned pros or asking them for their best cookie season tips. “I usually take care of the all the cookie stuff, but I do get help from other Girl Scout leaders in my area,” says Laura Flanagan, a troop leader from Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. “We share ideas for booths and transfer cookies to each other's troops as they or we need them. I have about four other leaders who help me and vice versa. It’s nice to work with leaders who know what’s going on.”
Check-in with your service unit cookie manager at the start of the season; they’ll answer all your cookie queries and can connect you with fellow troop leaders in your area.
Find the right cookie manager.
Although you’ll want to get the word out about needing extra help during cookie season, consider your troop’s needs before committing volunteers. Make a list of the most important skills a cookie manager or team members should have—Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets for managing inventory, for example—and be sure to talk through those requirements with potential volunteers. “When I picked up another troop, I didn’t want cookies from the two troops getting mixed up, so I looked for a troop cookie manager and happily accepted the first volunteer,” says Nancy. “The volunteer was enthusiastic about selling and more than happy to stand in the cold with the girls, but the tracking and inventory were a mess. I spent more time fixing data and explaining what I’d done than if I’d done it myself. Looking back on it, I should have asked for a specific kind of volunteer or assigned tasks that were in her bailiwick.”
Nancy also advises new troop leaders to consider their own strengths when managing volunteers. “Think about what kind of manager you are,” she advises. “If you’re not good at delegating or kindly delivering criticism, be careful about how many volunteers you select. The more you pick, the more likely it is you’ll have someone on the team who isn’t doing the job well or someone who makes troop decisions without consulting you. If managing people isn’t one of your strengths, a smaller team might serve you and the troop better.”
And remember: “No matter if you do the job yourself, work with a single troop cookie manager, or recruit a team of volunteers, you’ll still find yourself involved in the job,” says Nancy. “You’ll have to make decisions about goals and rewards, you’re ultimately responsible for the girls’ safety at cookie booths, and you must correctly report expenses and profits.”
Let cookie season begin!
Set the tone—and your expectations—for how parents participate in the troop.