Here in the US, it's Girl Scout cookie season. This is when you get to spend a few bucks on cookies, break your New Year's resolution about losing weight ... and feel good about it, because the money's going to a good cause. Or is it? - Let's break down the numbers and see!
Before we get started, here's a fun photo from my friend Matt. He posted this on Facebook, and it's how I knew the cookie season was upon us (note that these are cases of cookies, and each case contains several boxes!) I'm not sure whether he's planning to eat them, or sell them - knowing Matt, I'm going to assume a little bit of both. :)
In a previous blog, you might recall that I combined analytics and Girl Scout cookies by creating a SAS map showing which of the two bakers made the cookies sold in each county in the US.
In this blog post, let's get down to dollars and cents. Being a middle-aged guy and working a desk job, I try to not eat sweets & snacks, because I don't want to become one of the almost 50% of Americans who are considered obese. So, when my local Girl Scout troop sends representatives to sell me some cookies, I'm thinking about just donating some money instead. But how much money should I donate, to compensate for the cookies I didn't buy?
My first guess was that on a $4 box of cookies, the Girl Scouts probably makes $1 profit. But after I checked into it, I found out I was wrong ... way wrong. According to the Girl Scouts FAQ page, they actually make 65-75% profit, which means that about $3 from each $4 box goes to the Girl Scouts.
Here is it, laid out in graphical form (hmm ... maybe I should have used a pie chart? ... I wonder if there's such a thing as a cookie chart?)
And the FAQ on their web page says most of the profit goes to the local council (which is typically a group of counties within your state), and a smaller amount (10-20% of the profit) goes to the troop (that's the local club in your city/area). I was curious exactly which council our local Wake county NC Girl Scout troops were in, so I did some Google searches looking for council maps. I found some maps for other states, but none for NC. I found a Wikipedia page with lists of counties in each council, but text lists of the 100 counties just didn't form a good mental picture for me. So I put together some SAS code to plot the data on a map. Now I can quickly see that Wake county is in the Coastal Pines council (the light yellow color in the map below).
But perhaps all this data visualization is just my attempt to go on a tangent, instead of answering the real question. How much money should I donate, instead of buying cookies? Well, if you were going to buy 4 boxes of cookies for a total of $16, I guess if they make 75% profit then $12 would be a fair donation, right? But what about the intangible factors (ones that can't really be graphed)? Here are some other factors to consider, based on info from their FAQ page:
When you buy Girl Scout Cookies, you power amazing adventures and life-changing opportunities for girls—from trips to our nation's capital to community projects, from summer camp to charitable donations. The more cookies you buy, the more you help today’s girls transform into tomorrow’s G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)™. And it's about the skills a girl gains from interacting directly with you, the cookie customer! It's about the experience of running her very own cookie business, working with others—and building a lifetime of confidence as she learns five skills (goals setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics) essential to leadership, success, and life. Girl Scouts also earn badges (such as Cookie Business and the Financial Literacy) and program credits for selling cookies.
I don't think donating money will accomplish many of those things in the same way that buying the cookies would. And then there's the sense of accomplishment - if you were a Girl Scout selling cookies, would you rather tell your friends "I sold 20 boxes of cookies" or "I got a $60 donation"?Still Hungry? Where Are Your Girl Scout Cookies Made?
When I started this blog post, my goal was to show that it would be better to donate money than buy cookies. But after studying the data & details, I've convinced myself of the exact opposite - I recommend that you buy the cookies! If you don't want to eat them, I'm sure your co-workers will be happy to help you with that! :-)
While we're on this topic - what's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? (now, or in the past)