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Monday, Feb. 15, 2016

Digital Sweets

Girl Scouts’ focus on technology expands to cookie sales

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Girl Scouts’ focus on technology expands to cookie sales

Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas and Do-Si-Dos – the sale of ever-popular Girl Scout cookies excites and invades communities each spring, a tradition that has been ongoing since even before women could legally vote in the United States.

Organized in 1912, the female-empowering Girl Scouts began selling cookies as a way to raise funds for their troop activities in 1917. Today, the cookie sales are a multi-million industry, said Erin Turner, communications/ PR director with Girl Scouts of Louisiana – Pines to the Gulf.

And as time has marched on, the Girl Scouts have expanded its reach of cookie sales digitally as it teaches girls business philosophies and provides each participant an opportunity to run her own e-commerce store.

“Last year we introduced Digital Cookie, which is our online cookie,” Turner said. “It’s an extra piece of the campaign.”

According to the national Girl Scouts website, aspects of this online program for girls include setting cookie goals, tracking progress, managing orders and inventory, learning Internet safety skills, budgeting and more.

Girls are not required to participate in the digital platform, but those who do will send out email invitations to family and friends they know, offering them the opportunity to purchase cookies online at the girl’s store.

“There is a series of marketing emails she can send,” Turner said. “It’s kind of teaching her the email marketing processes.”

While potential buyers will need to know a Girl Scout personally in order to receive access to her online store, those who don’t have that connection can still buy cookies the traditional way through booth sales.

“We do have the cookie locater app, which is free for anybody to download, and it uses GPS,” Turner said. “Type in your zip code to tell you where the closest cookie sale is to you.”

Turner said the invite-only aspect of the Digital Cookie program is due to safety reasons.

“They have the option to deliver the cookies in hand, or the customer can choose to have it shipped to them for an additional fee,” Turner said.

Direct sales and booth sales will take place from Feb. 26-March 13. Those craving cookies can find where local booth sales will take place by either downloading the Cookie Finder app on an iPhone or Android phone, or by visiting www.girlscouts.org. Select “Cookies,” and then enter the zip code in the “Find Cookies!” box.

Girl Scouts set individual goals for how many boxes each girl wants to sell, and each troop will also set a cumulative goal.

“The troop can choose to do what they want with their money,” Turner said. “So each girl sets a goal, and each troop sets a goal. They are doing teamwork with their troop to decide how they’re going to spend their proceeds.”

The Shreveport area is included in the Pines to the Gulf council, which “supports nearly 8,000 girls in partnership with close to 3,000 volunteers in 42 parishes in Louisiana west of the Mississippi River,” according to www.girlscoutspinestogulf.org.

“Whatever money we make here in cookie sales stays here in our council, and every year our parents get a breakdown of how the money splits up,” Turner said. “So they can let their daughters know; the whole point is how girls learn financial literacy and business practices.”

Turner said the local council placed in the Top 5 in digital cookie sales last year.

In addition to expanding girls’ knowledge of Internet sales with the Digital Cookie program, the Girl Scouts in recent years have integrated a focus on science, technology, engineering and math, Turner said, getting girls involved in robotics, nature and technology camps at places such as the University of Louisiana at Monroe, the Red River Wildlife National Refuge in Bossier City and McNeese State University in Lake Charles.

Girls have also taken field trips to Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center through these programs, Turner said.

Nationally, the Girl Scouts have also joined with Google to promote the “Made with Code” program, which is designed to inspire in girls an interest in coding and show participants the many different ways their futures can be shaped by coding.

Through games, videos and an introductory party kit, Girl Scout troops can explore coding in a relevant and easy-to-understand way.

“The Digital Cookie is just one aspect of that, bringing technology to get girls involved,” Turner said.

“That’s the world they live in now, that’s normal for them.

“The traditional way [of cookie sales] is not gone – it’s just a new aspect helping them succeed in the world they live in today.”

–Sarah Crawford

More information:

For more information about the local Girl Scouts, go to www.girlscoutspinestogulf.org.

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