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Where Do You See Scouting Membership In The Next 5 Years? What Can We Do To Grow The Program?

I HATE the popcorn. I know we get a huge cut, but $20 for a $3 bag of popcorn is a hard sell, even with it being a fundraiser. And I cannot freaking stand the preachy kernels and TE reps that talk down to everyone that isn’t selling $40k each year.

I’d rather sell anything else, even knowing I’ll get a smaller take for the unit and the council.


Tell us how you really feel! Ha Ha. I’m with you. In my Scouting Wire email I received I had a link to a beef stick product that is made for fundraising like Scouting. It looks like you can just order how ever many cases of 144 you want and set up a table for cash and carry. They will provide banners and product containers if you wish. Has anyone ever tried this? These things are supposed to sell for 1 dollar each and It appears to be a good impulse item that you can sell and store for future events on unsold items.

I would love to hear ideas. With the price hike in membership I think good fundraising is going to be essential.


That’s what the popcorn sale is missing, and the pushback against it from TE and from the Council Kernels is ridiculous. I don’t know anyone that considers $20 bucks or more for popcorn to be an impulse buy… and this year, they’re reducing the number of $10 items, making for an even tougher pitch.

I could sell smaller bags at $5 all day long, and would come out ahead, even if the split was reduced…


I have argued this with council folks for years, with no change. Those of you who purchase Girl Scout cookies know that you walk away with an armful of boxes. Heck, we ordered 15 boxes from a friend’s daughter. So for $75 I get 6 or 7 different flavors of cookies to enjoy several times. Even if I don’t plan to buy some from a friend, it’s easy to spend $5-10 when leaving the grocery store. And each of these girls sell hundreds of boxes every year, some selling thousands of boxes!

I have suggested offering all of the popcorn flavors in smaller bags, similar in size to the larger impulse chip bags at convenience stores. Sell these bags of popcorn for $5 each. Put the microwave popcorn in smaller boxes and reduce the price accordingly, keeping it under $10 per box. A customer who wants to spend $20-30 will walk away with 4-6 bags of popcorn, rather than just 1 bag. The popcorn will be easier to sell since it’s closer to being an impulse purchase. Even though people will recognize that it is still expensive for popcorn, they won’t feel like they are being gouged just because they like sea salt caramel. (Yes, I’ve actually been told that.) I recognize that for $5 I can buy a lot more cookies inside a grocery store, but I’m ok spending $5 for 15 cookies for a good cause.

Will the general public purchase less product per order? Probably. But I believe that you will sell to more people, which will more than make up for the per-order decline. I also believe the repeat sales will increase with friends, family, and the general public. How many times have you been in front of a store and the customer says, “I bought some 3 weeks ago”? It’s happened to me a lot, and that’s practically impossible to overcome with larger, more expensive bags. Smaller bags will increase repeat purchase, making people more willing to buy again if the product quality was high (which has been an issue). I see Facebook posts in community groups every year along the lines of “who still has Girl Scout cookies available? I want to buy more!” I’ve never seen a comparable popcorn post.

Maybe one day. I can keep hoping…


If the company was Country Meats, they make a good product. My sons sold them a couple years ago and they sell very well. A couple points about them:

  1. The math on their web site is wrong. Divide your actual expenses by the sale price and determine your own profit. We calculated we made $0.42 per meat stick when we sold them. Still a good profit margin!
  2. Their meat sticks are pork based, so this could be an issue in areas with large populations that do not eat pork.
  3. You need a good variety of flavors for best sales results. Some sell better than others.

If I run into a scout selling Country Meats, I usually purchase at least $20 worth and enjoy them!

It was Country Meats. At 1.00 per stick I could easily see a person drop $5-$10 on average if you have a good mix of flavors as you said. People like to sample! It looks like they have 14 flavors which is impressive.

Popcorn simply doesn’t sell in our rural low income community for the reasons previously stated. Our pack has been successful with doing an annual mega yard sale & selling refreshments at local concerts & kids’ soccer games. These take more work, but we’ve made good money for the unit. Not sure how/if that will work during COVID though.

A girl who sells 100 boxes of cookies gets $55 for her troop (as of a couple years ago). To earn $55 for a BSA unit, you have to sell about $165 of popcorn. That’s roughly 8 items. IMO, ours is the better fundraiser. Yes, our scouts get told no a lot, but each sale actually is worthwhile for them.

TE has a higher margin, but much lower unit sales. It’s a constant uphill battle, too. I think every single person that we talked to commented on how crazy-expensive the Trails End stuff is — even the people that bought popcorn complained.


We don’t have TE. We have Pecatonia. I assume the prices are similar, but maybe ours are a little lower. I think we have two $10 items, a bunch of $20 items, and a few higher. I’ve helped my kids with both GS cookies and BSA popcorn, and we get more benefit to the unit per hour with popcorn. I’m sure that’s not true in some parts of the country or even some parts of my council.

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Trails End revamps their line up every year, and offers fewer and fewer $10 items each year. This year we only get one product at $10, and one at $15. Everything else is $20 or higher ( I think there’s only one $20 product, too).

I just received our Council’s requirements for in-person popcorn sales… I’m canning the fundraiser; what we actually earned last year will barely cover the cost of the additional requirements for this year.

When you compare Girl Scout Cookies to BSA Popcorn, it’s my belief that getting repeat sales is far more easier with cookies than popcorn. Heck, people look forward to the cookies arrival. You don’t see a lot of people asking when the popcorn drive is beginning, In fact, I think they run for the hills! Going back to the same well to get people to buy grossly overpriced popcorn is much harder than cookies.


If the question is about what policies will actually increase membership we need to roll back policies and failed marketing decisions starting at the beginning:

  • Rescind the ageist policy on rank advancement imposed in the late 60s. Allow adults to continue to earn rank advancement so long as they are registered leaders in a troop.
  • Acknowledge that leaders and youth who may be atheists can also be showing reverence by supporting the religious freedom of their fellow scouts.
  • Remove all professional programs that incentivize membership numbers. A scout is trustworthy, but an executive whose paycheck is on the line may not be.
  • Promote the aspirational concept of being a 1st Class Scout. Declare: First Class, first year is a lie. The skills therein are difficult to master.
  • Get beyond the loggerheads of Seaton and Lowe and publicly invite members of GS/USA to national and world Jamborees.
  • Peg registration fees to the cost of a large pizza and beverage. If it costs a venturer more than that, they will consider using their dimes on hiking and camping independently with their mates.
  • Independent patrol overnights. ‘Nuff said.
  • Report the empirical evidence undergirding each safety rule. The long term risk of cardiovascular disease due to inactivity should also be reported.
  • Drop Scouts BSA, and restore the Boy Scout program. Add a parallel program called BSA for Girls. Treat them as parallel programs until American girls and boys are welcome to be in the same patrol camp under the same tent (personally, I’m fine if that’s a long way off … but that may be my Arab heritage talking).
  • All councils should be named after the largest city in their boundaries. Communities that would rather be named after a nearer, smaller city may assemble the funds and recruit the COs to start their own council.
  • Plain old ascii project workbook book. MB pamphlet covers in two color with minimum cost. Rescind instapalms. And generally be plain spoken. Especially in these 21st century surveys that are intended to promote certain initiatives rather than decide on policy.
  • Finally get us green shirts off our high horses regarding “venturer” and “venture scouts”. The former was born out of some bizarre passion to be different, the latter makes more sense and is a whole lot easier to market.

That’s my short list. Work it from top to bottom. See growth. Otherwise, expect our numbers to halve again in five years.

@Qwazse - I am in agreement most especially on point #2 but on the fence with point #9. But a scout is Brave and you have posted some great things to consider.

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@Stephen_Hornak, I did put the “Scouts BSA” item far down on the list because I’m a fan of substance first, nomenclature second. If the first few items might lead to membership increases of tens of percents, the ones further down might provide increases of fractions of percents.

I know that the aspiration of “Scouts BSA” is hard to set aside. But it’s less deceptive. Objectively, the scouting organizations with the fastest growing market share of youth (e.g., Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi, Afghanistan) segregate programs by sex. Scouts UK is a unique exception and it took decades to arrive at the current number of boys in the program. But we aren’t them, not by a long shot. There is no shame in saying that we’re imitating models of traditionally conservative oriental countries to a degree. I believe a trademark that is brutally honest will convey clearly what we are offering to young American women.

Maybe it’s my experience, I’ve gotten my price when selling my old cars. And I believe that was partly because I spelled out every dent, scratch, and leak before they even considered driving it. We need to purge any and all marketing doublespeak if we want our brand to ring true.

@Qwazse - thank you for the clarification. I do think though that there are some that may not realize that scouting is a movement not a fixed point in time and that said movement is a world organization. They get seemingly stuck on thinking that it exists here only and/or that ours is the only way to operate. Again I agree with your points.

@SteveCagigas Question what are their requirements? Also which council?

Michigan Crossroads Council.
New requirements (in general):

  • Unit returns restricted to 10% of order
  • Product mix reshuffled with fewer lower-priced items

COVID-specific new requirements:

  • Pictures or posters of the product, or one bag separately wrapped/bagged to show the stock.
  • Face masks and face shields for everyone working at the storefront
  • Additional tables to enforce the 6-ft social distancing
  • Scouts/Scouters cannot touch any product; only customers can pull product after paying

Of course, all irrelevant for storefronts, since here in Michigan pretty much everyone is prohibiting on-stie sellers. WalMart and Sam’s Club have said no, and Kroger will not respond to the question, according to our popcorn kernel’s latest update.

Fellow Rush fan?
Obligatory twenty character padding…