Talk show host buys 1,000 boxes from an Ashtabula, Ohio troop. Cookie season runs through April, supporting the only major charity that supports itself primarily through sale of a non-donated product.
Also: see the related article "Girl Scouts Fib about Trans Fats (Legally)."
The Warren (Ohio) Tribune Chronicle (Angelique McKowan) reports that a fourth-grade junior girl scout from Troop 892 of the Girl Scouts Lake To River Council (EIN 34-0949451 Form 990) will receive a $3,500 check from Ellen Degeneres on her talk show on Tuesday, January 16 (between Paula Abdul and Taylor Hicks).
While it's big exposure for a little girl, the check is just a thin mint for the Lake to River Council. This girl scout council, which covers four counties in northeastern Ohio, including Ashtabula, reported total sales of $1.9 million last year (gross revenue including contributions and other income of $2.2 million). But that's not all cookie sales. The council operates a shop. There is an executive director with a salary of $76,457 and a staff of fourteen.
The Girl Scouts are the oldest and largest charity to pursue a social enterprise model: running a business in order to fund its charitable activities with the profits (I'm not counting organizations like Goodwill that depend on in-kind donations). The Girl Scouts of the USA headquarters (EIN 13-1624016 Form 990) takes pains to explain that the cookie program is directly related to their purpose of helping girls to realize their full potential, teaching skills like goal setting, money management, and teamwork. Consequently, the cookie sales by the Girl Scout troops are not subject to IRS taxation as unrelated business (UBIT).
Currently, the cookies are manfuactured by two licensed bakeries: ABC Cookie Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers. Both are required to make a thin mint, peanut butter sandwich, and shortbread cookie. The Girl Scouts web page is careful to point out that both firm employ union labor and use American agricultural products and packaging. Here is a list of their current cookie offerings for 2007:
ABC Cookie Bakers: the three classics plus caramel delights (chocolate-caramel-coconut, same as Samoas), peanut butter patties, Lemonades (shortbread with lemon icing), Thanks-a-Lot (shortbread with chocolate on the bottom), and Cartwheels (cinnamon-oatmeal reduced fat).
Little Brownie Bakers: three classics plus Samoas (chocolate-caramel-coconut), Tagalongs (peanut butter patties), All Abouts (shortbread with chocolate, similar to Thanks-a-Lot), Cafe Cookies (cinnamon-brown sugar), and Sugar Free Little Brownies.
According to the ABC Cookie web site, less than a third of the retail price goes to the baker, far less than typical retail food sales. But of course this makes sense, since the Girl Scouts provide the brand name recognition and the sales force.