Role of the CFO

Girl Scouts CFO says the business isn’t all cookies

Membership, labor, and philanthropic support are among the challenges for the 111-year-old organization in 2023.
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Mariah Tauger/Getty Images

· 4 min read

Girl Scouts CFO Angela Olden is tired of talking about cookies.

The national membership organization is facing a shortage of cookies for its annual fundraiser as supply-chain challenges slow production by its baking partner, Little Brownie Bakers (LBB), which is owned by Italian confection giant Ferrero.

Girl Scouts USA, meanwhile, is trying to boost membership numbers, to tackle a shortage of staffers ahead of camping season this summer, and facing concerns about a possible shrinkage in philanthropic funding due to wider macroeconomic factors, Olden told CFO Brew.

“Last year was tough, but this year is tougher,” Olden told CFO Brew. “That’s just the end game.” The organization saw a decline in sales during the pandemic, and this year is off to a bumpy start. LBB, which produces 75% of the country’s Girl Scout cookies, said in addition to supply-chain issues, it’s dealing with labor shortages. And a storm earlier this month caused power outages at its facility in Louisville, Kentucky.

And while the Girl Scouts spokesperson told CNBC it was “extremely disappointed” that LBB was once again having challenges with managing its production, demand for Girl Scouts remains high, especially for the new online-exclusive Raspberry Rally flavor, which has hit the resale market for up to $35 a box. That’s about five times the original price, according to the New York Times.

Cookie sales generate around $800 million per year for the Girl Scouts, with most of the revenue going to local councils after materials cost and a royalty on the box is paid to the national organization, according to Olden.

Membership movement. Girl Scouts USA has about 2 million members, both children and adults, generating around $37 million per year in revenue from dues, per the latest financial statement.

“For us, membership is definitely a revenue source, but, more importantly…we exist to deliver programs to girls. Girl membership is our mission,” Olden told CFO Brew. “When you lose a couple years of that pipeline, you have to really work hard to make it up and get those back.”

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Like many organizations, the Girl Scouts faced membership challenges during the start of the pandemic, when it established virtual programming. Olden told CFO Brew the organization is focused on retention, as well.

“We need to make sure that the volunteers have what they need and the tools that they need in an easy way to access and that they’re trained appropriately so that they can deliver a quality Girl Scouts experience and fulfill what our brand promise is to the girls,” she said.

And ahead of this year’s summer camp season, which begins shortly after schools close for summer break, Girl Scouts USA is facing staffing challenges, Olden said.

“Our biggest labor issues [have] been around camp and hiring camp counselors,” she said. “We’ve put some processes in place to really recruit and councils are leaning on each other to do that.”

Camp counselors are employed seasonally, to manage and provide programming for scouts at nearly 1,000 camps across the country, Olden told CFO Brew.

Beyond membership, Girl Scouts also runs a merchandising business—which sells uniforms, program materials, and jewelry—and a licensing business, which manages the organization’s brand and partnerships with companies like Dunkin’ and Dairy Queen.

Girl Scouts councils, in addition to helping scouts sell cookies, run stores which sell uniforms and other merchandising, which were closed during the pandemic. Stores have resumed operations, Olden said, but continue to face supply-chain issues and rising costs due to inflation.

Ahead of greater economic uncertainty, Olden said philanthropic support remains critical for both the national organization and individual Girl Scouts councils.

But she isn’t worried about the Girl Scouts’ outlook for 2023: “We always meet our financial goals.”—LR

News built for finance pros

The latest news and insights corporate finance professionals need to know to keep up with their constantly evolving industry.