There's A Lot of Dough in Cookies ๐Ÿช๐Ÿช

Feb 23, 2022

I’ve seen them, have you? There are funny signs people place on their front porches that say, “No soliciting. We are too broke to buy anything. We know who we are voting for. We have found Jesus. Seriously, unless you are selling Girl Scout Cookies, please go away!

The annual Girl Scout Cookie fundraiser is seriously no joke. My colleague Meagan used to be a Girl Scout Leader and she literally had to rent a 15-passenger van once just to pick up the order from her Troop. 

The whole idea came about 100 years ago in 1922 when Girl Scout’s magazine, The American Girl, penned an article suggesting that cookies could be an excellent fundraiser. Heck, they even provided recipes. By 1936, the idea was going so well that they had to begin licensing recipes out so that companies could mass produce the cookies for them. Did you know that for every dollar spent on a box of cookies the Girl Scouts receive up to 80¢ to run their adventure programs, camps, and prize packages for top sellers? Make no mistake, there’s a lot of dough in cookies! Girl Scouts earn over $800,000,000 annually through cookie sales—not too shabby for a nonprofit organization. I guess that’s why they call their Girl Scouts entrepreneurs during selling season.

Clearly, as a nonprofit marketing mavens and fundraiser in your own right, there’s a lot that you can learn with both sides of your brain from the Girl Scouts.

It’s cookie time…let’s go!

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  The Girl Scouts have this ROI thing down pat! They know that Thin Mints are the fan fave and represent 25% of their overall sales—so they leverage that. They also know how much they need to spend in order to raise that $800M annually. Do you? Proving to your Board that you need a marketing budget can be difficult at times. But if you collect the data needed to prove that your marketing dollars are working for you, that becomes a welcome discussion.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  Drafting off the popularity of Girl Scout Cookies is really no different than planning your strategy for year-end giving—it happens every year and you can plan for it. People even call it, ‘Girl Scout Cookie Season,’ for goodness sakes. It’s the 5th season! When you know that the entire county is going to be reading about cookies, talking about cookies, passing cookie tables at every major grocery store, and buying cookies at their doorsteps, why shouldn’t you ride that wave a bit? It’s part of pop culture and it’s oh-so hard to pass up an cute, convincing female entrepreneur.

Come to the dark side, we have cookies!

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  Last week I blogged about knowing your actual costs. How much does a color copy cost you? What about the Give Where You Live window cling that you enclosed in your last mailing? Or the price of a basic stamp? You can even go as far as knowing what a piece of paper or an envelope costs, if it’s part of your marketing budget. The bottom line here is literally the bottom line—costs!

I’ve been in those Board Meetings when a Board Member prudently asks if the Marketing line item in the budget really pays off. What’s your answer if you get that question? Do you know? Can you prove it?

When it comes to left brain marketing methods, I recommend not only knowing how much you spend on each mailing, but also how much you make as well. The Girl Scouts do big business, so they have advisors who ensure they are making far more than they spend each year. That’s how they know they make up to 80¢ per dollar spent. If you plan well, you can use your database to give you similar information.

Since I follow the Seth Godin minimum viable audience principal, we don’t market to everyone in our database. We specifically segment our donor audiences into small, manageable groups that all have two things in common: an affinity for what we do and the capacity to support our mission. So, we tag the donors in our database that we know we are marketing to each year. Most databases have some way to affiliate a donor into a donor group. Say, for example, that you communicate specific marketing messages to your Top 50 donors. At the end of each year, you can do two calculations based on your Top 50 donor segment:

  1. Calculate how much you spent to mail each Top 50 Donor campaign for the full year.
  2. Calculate how much your Top 50 Donors generously contributed to your organization that year.

This information helps you make crucial decisions for your next marketing year. Of course, the whole idea is to be sure that you’re communicating to the right donors. As Ted Lasso said to Roy, It’s just a group of people who care, Roy. Not unlike folks at a hip-hop concert whose hands are not in the air.  Those are your people! Each year you can review the data and be 100% certain that the cost/benefit ratio leans your way. And, of course, if it doesn’t that’s telling, too. The decisions you make about how to market and who to market to next year can all be made using these left brain marketing methods.

The Girl Scouts have this ROI thing down pat! They know that Thin Mints are the fan fave and represent 25% of their overall sales—so they leverage that. They also know how much they need to spend in order to raise that $800M annually. Do you? Proving to your Board that you need a marketing budget can be tough. But if you collect the data needed to prove that your marketing dollars are working for you, you'll be one smart cookie!


Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  So, last week we talked about mining your own marketing business. Just like digging up the earth for the purpose of extracting elements that are valuable or useful, your marketing campaigns can be reduced, reused, or recycled. Below are three ways we’ve used Girl Scout Cookies to add some marketing moxie to grab our donor’s attention, so they’ll open our mail and learn about our story.

Knowing that it is Girl Scout Season, you can’t go anywhere without seeing those colorful boxes of deliciousness sold by those fabulous female entrepreneurs—and for charity, no less. It’s frosted philanthropy!

Our donor segments are parceled off into smaller groups that we can manage well internally—no bigger than 50. So, when we send a ‘thank you’ to our donors, sometimes called a ‘surprise them with gratitude’ mailing, we can do something more special that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

In 2014 we chose a couple of our donor segments and surprised them with a Cork and Cookie mailing. We made one Girl Scout incredibly happy with a large order of cookies and sent some of our special donors a box of cookies with their very own wine pairing list to go with it. It was well received and easy to do.

Shortly after we mailed these packages, we reformatted the idea as a fun, social media post—no cookies required, but a great idea just the same.

Then, four years later in 2018, we recycled the idea to a different donor audience and it a different delivery format. We opted to host a LNO—Ladies Night Out. The invite was sent to a small group of female donors. We set it up like basic kindergarten stations around our office and did a simple wine tasting with each cookie type. What a fun night and a wonderful way to get to know this segment of donors better. Since they came to our office, they got to know us better, too. A follow-up mailing to ask these donors for a gift after the event proved to be successful as well. Making this LNO far better than any chicken marsala/Avery name tag event from days gone by.

Paying attention to what is going on in popular culture is a terrific way to get a donor’s attention. And if you get their attention, you can tell your story. Once they know your story, they can respond accordingly by sharing their time, talent, treasure, knowledge, or network with your organization. These donors are the ones who give out of love, grace, gratitude, compassion, passion, and overflow…and they have friends. As Godin says,The single biggest marketing bargain remains a customer who chooses to recruit new customers.” Maybe the next time you have an LNO event, you can ask these donors to bring a friend!

Philanthropy can be fun. Using both sides of your brain to make sure you are spending your resources wisely makes it lucrative, too. And proving to your Board that your ROI is exactly where you need it to be, well, that just might be priceless.

All My Best,

dawn ๐Ÿช
[email protected] 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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