When Peyton Eley started selling Girl Scout cookies last month, she knew she’d need to operate a little differently because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The high school junior stood at fewer in-person booths, ramped up digital marketing on mobile apps, and sent emails to “practically everyone” she knows.
By her third week, Eley, a 12-year scout veteran, had sold 1,300 boxes, reaching 66% of her goal.
Eley is likely to meet her sales target — 2,021 boxes. But with coronavirus concerns causing fewer girls to participate in this year’s cookie sales, results for the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta are less certain. Sales are down, and at the same time, the financial need is as great as ever.
“One-third of families told us they need financial help to be a part of girl scouting this year,” said Amy Dosik, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, adding that cookies are the group’s largest source of revenue. “So we really do need our community to step up and support us.”
That is beginning to happen.
For the first time, companies are buying cookies in bulk. The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta says these local business “buy outs” typically result in cookies being given to employees as small gestures of thanks as they work through the pandemic.
The proceeds from the corporate sales will serve non-traditional troops, such as those in homeless and domestic violence shelters. Those programs are funded directly by the council since participation in those settings can fluctuate.
Troops across the 34-county Atlanta region typically sell four million boxes of cookies annually, generating $15 million for troop operations, scholarships and training, according to Girl Scouts data.
Most of those activities are still happening despite the pandemic.
The Girl Scouts three camp sites in Gordon, Cobb and Meriwether counties are open with Covid-19 protocols in place. Dosik says the wide-open facilities allow for social distancing.
Cookie sales and marketing are leaning heavily on technology. That includes using a designated portal: ShowMetheCookies.com. Scouts are also using navigation apps, such as Gubhub and WAZE, to direct customers to the nearest cookie booth and to facilitate deliveries. The Girl Scouts are also extending cookie sales through the end of March — which they are calling Hero’s month — so that customers can purchase cookies for first responders, teachers and other front-line workers.
In-person troop meetings and annual leadership events for its 55,000 members and volunteers have been replaced with virtual ones on Zoom.
Samyukta Iyer, who has spent 10 years with the scouts, said she was skeptical when programs like Camp CEO went fully virtual, fearing it would diminish the sisterhood that she loves about the organization. She left the week-long leadership event pleasantly surprised.
“The fact that we were still able to connect, and goof around and form really strong relationships despite what was going on in the world was really a turning point for me,” she said.
Iyler, a junior in high school, was an active cookie seller in 2018 and 2019 before starting her company, IuvaTech, which teaches computer science skills to middle school students.
The company’s launch was part of the Girls Scouts Gold Award program, which encourages girls to come up with a solution to solve a societal challenge. Iyer focused on the digital divide.
“The Girl Scout cookie program is not just a fundraiser,” Dosik said. “It is also the largest entrepreneurship training program for girls in the world.”