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Boulder County Girl Scouts innovate to reach customers safely and support Hometown Heroes

Submitted by Jamie Buck

Northern & Northeastern CO

Boulder County

This year, Junior Troop 76907 decided not to do in-person cookie sales.  We really love selling cookies, though, so we asked ourselves two questions:

  1. How can we show our support and provide encouragement to people who have been hit especially hard by the pandemic?

  2. How can we safely get cookies to traditional booth customers, who may not know a Girl Scout, while earning money to support our troop goals and activities?

As we answered these questions, we created Project EncourageMINT, a Girl Scout cookie team that welcomes help from any troop in Boulder or surrounding towns.  We set two distinct goals for Project EncourageMINT to:

  1. Collect 1,000 packages of donated cookies for healthcare workers, food banks, and others especially impacted by the pandemic

  2. Offer contactless home delivery to customers who order Girl Scout Cookies online

Collecting 1,000 packages of Girl Scout Cookies for our Hometown Heroes is certainly an ambitious goal, but we felt that making the effort is a good way for us to offer “encourageMINT” where we can.  Donating cookies let’s us say “Thank You!” to healthcare workers who are putting themselves at risk, working extra long hours, and for some, being the only in-person support for patients who are scared, lonely, and struggling to survive.  And donating cookies let’s us say “Hang in there” to the families facing food insecurity.  It’s heartbreaking to hear that one in six Americans is facing food insecurity, now that pandemic closures and changes in how business is done have caused so many to lose income.  We’ve also chosen some other organizations as Hometown Heroes, to represent groups that are also heavily impacted, but receive less attention and support.

Last year, our troop collected 150 packages of donated cookies for our Hometown Heroes.  This year, we’ve already collected 331 donated packages, and we’re just getting started with our public outreach, so we’re feeling like our 1,000 package goal is achievable.  We’d like to thank all of our customers who donate cookies to support our Hometown Heroes, either in addition to buying cookies for themselves, or instead.

We built the Project EncourageMINT website from scratch using Google Sites. Customers can then click the “Order or Donate” button to be sent to our Digital Cookie site (which is provided by Girl Scouts of the USA and customized by our troop), enter a number of packages of cookies that they’d like to donate in the “Donate” box near the bottom of the screen, and pay for them with a credit or debit card.  At the end of cookie season, we will choose a variety of cookies for our Hometown Heroes and deliver them.  We’ve chosen several Hometown Hero organizations, and we offer a survey on our Project EncourageMINT website so customers can let us know which organization they’d like to receive their donation.

Of course, lots of people look forward to eating Girl Scout Cookies themselves!  Whether people are motivated to buy by the delicious cookies, available only for about a month each year, or by knowing that they’re supporting girls as they learn, have fun, and help others, we wanted to make sure they’d still have the opportunity to buy cookies this year, even if they couldn’t find cookie booths where they normally do.  Girl Scouts of Colorado added the option in the Digital Cookie platform for customers to order cookies online, and have girls deliver the cookies to them later.  That’s great for people who know a Girl Scout, and get her invitation to order.  But, what about booth customers?  We decided that we could ask businesses to put up signs, sending customers to our website, so they could order cookies and pay online, and we would deliver.

But, our troop only has six active girls, and hopefully our signs would be seen by customers all over the Boulder and Flatiron Crossing Mall area.  Would we really be able to deliver to everyone who orders?  We decided to have a “delivery day” every three days.  This way, we could group orders by location, instead of running out to the same neighborhood for one order at a time, day after day, saving time and gas, and minimizing our environmental impact.  We found software we could use to import all of our order addresses, map them, and divide them into manageable delivery routes.  Each route would be assigned to a girl-parent delivery team, who would pick up the cookies (unless they already have enough in their own inventory), deliver them, and receive credit for selling those cookies.  Customers can expect to have their cookies dropped off by their door two to five days after they place their order, which gives us time to get the cookies to delivery teams.  The more we get the word out about Project EncourageMINT, through signs at businesses or through other means, the more sales we’ll have, and the more delivery teams we’ll need.  So the more the merrier; we invited all the troops in Boulder, Superior, Louisville, Erie & Lafayette to join us, and included an open invitation on our website for other Girl Scouts in the area to join us too.

We know that many customers buy cookies because they want to support the Girl Scout that they meet face to face, but we hope customers will buy cookies online this year, because we’re still doing Girl Scouts, just virtually.  When schools shut down last March, our troop started meeting every week on Zoom instead of every other week in-person, giving the girls a way to stay connected and have something fun and productive to do.  To finish our Agent of Change Journey, we organized and ran a food drive for Sister Carmen, which took place in early August.  We created a video to promote the food drive and educate people about the demand for food for special dietary needs at food banks.  We also earned the Gardener badge for fun.  At the end of summer, we earned most of the EcoCamper badge at an outdoor, in-person, masked, and socially-distanced badge workshop run by troop parents, the only in-person meeting or event we’ve had since March 2020.  In the fall, we started the aMUSE Journey, which is about roles girls and women play, and about stereotypes.  For our Bronze Award project, we created a video for our town’s Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability (ACES), advocating for the creation of pollinator gardens in town parks and open spaces.  We look forward to working with ACES this spring to help get the gardens established.  And that brings us to cookie season…

Although we haven’t been selling cookies in-person this year, we’re still learning new things, building skills we’ll use throughout our lives, and earning money to have fun and help others.  We invited a marketing director, who is also a troop leader and troop cookie manager for another troop, to one of our Zoom troop meetings, and learned key ideas to keep in mind when creating promotional materials.  The girls in the troop used Google Slides, clip art from Little Brownie Baker, and Creative Commons licensed images to create the Project EncourageMINT promotional materials.  They customized their own Google Sites web pages, adding text, images, and links.  They created QR codes that point to their web pages, and put those on their personal door hangers.  After printing door hangers to invite our neighbors to buy cookies, we looked at the costs of the door hangers and sales they generated, and decided that we’d be better off using other strategies to reach additional customers.  How’s that for graphic design and business experience for fifth graders?

Each year, we decide how we’ll spend the cookie money we earn, always choosing something to do for fun and something to do to help others. This year, we’re hoping to be able to go cabin camping late in the summer, with ziplining, horseback riding, crafts, swimming, and more. If it’s still not safe to stay together this summer, we’ll try for a winter trip and adjust our activities.

To help others with our cookie money, we’d like to buy a laptop for learning for a student living at a shelter in Denver.  Doing school from home is hard, no matter what. Without the right device, it can be nearly impossible to keep up. Even after everyone is back in school in-person, laptops will still help kids be able to do research and homework, and be better prepared for life in this digital age. We’ll set aside 20% of our cookie proceeds, after expenses, towards laptops for learning, which we’ll donate through Bridging Tech in March.

As you can see, Girl Scout Cookies fund amazing experiences, and provide great opportunities for learning.  Girl Scouts are encouraged to innovate, as we have this year, to support our community and help keep everyone safe.

We want to hear how your girl is using her Girl Scout skills by taking initiative, caring for the community, and Girl Scouting at home. She can send in her story here.

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