September 4, 2009

New GSUSA guidelines will help girls use latest tools safely

Tripping through the Internet has uncovered more evidence that some Girl Scouts are serious about moving faster.

Girl Scouts of the USA just sent out updated guidelines on the Internet, recognizing that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can help with product sales. That's a great follow to the launch of the and the reaction to one girl's cookie website.

A woman whose daughter is involved with Girl Scouts gives a good example of why youth groups try different ways to raise funds. We're all different. The Evil Eye Cafe: A subscription in begging post explains why the annual magazine drive is a favorite of hers:
"Come to find out that I personally love the magazine sale because a giant pile of product doesn't end up stacked my dining room waiting to be delivered.

"If I have to be stuck in the non-stop world of fundraising (which I am), then at the very least I would like to support the one product that inconveniences me the least."
It's true that fund-raisers for organizations like Girl Scouts do take a lot of time and space for the adults involved. I do not miss the days of figuring out how many boxes of cookies will fit into what vehicle or whose garage.

Done right, though, the sales efforts are a big plus for girls. They can help the girls gain financial literacy as they learn the reality of the cost of manufacturing goods, how to set individual and group goals and conduct sales campaigns. The product sales through Girl Scouts also give girls practice in running a business, a good skill set to develop as more people are seeing their own business the best way to stay employed.

The new Girl Scout how-to manual, Volunteer Essentials, also pulls the sales efforts into its keys to leadership programming theme. These sales let the girls:
  • Discover a strong sense of self and her values as she makes decisions about money-earning, customer-management, and so on.
  • Connect with their group members as they set goals. Then, the girls can meet families, mentors and business owners who have worked as accounting managers, event planners, public relations specialists, and graphic designers to learn more about the roles and how those roles can lead to a successful group sale.
  • Take action as they learn to map neighborhood business and other resources that can help them consider community service needs. Girls use product sale money to make a difference in their communities, whether through a take-action project or a philanthropic donation.
I think it well help volunteers learn the sales are more then a fund-raiser. Yet, I recently was surprised how important product sales are to my local council. (Councils are charted to run the national program in specific areas. The annual membership fee - now $12 - goes directly to the national organization, leaving the local council to raise funds through product sales, grants, and other means.)

I've been away from the nuts and bolts of my local Girl Scout organization for awhile but recently volunteered to help produce an introduction event for new troop leaders. I was surprised when I thought product sale profits funded about 30 percent of my local council. I was shocked to learn it actually is 61 percent.

Fortunately, it looks like girls and adults working with them will be able to use social media tools to improve the efficiency of sales. At least that's my reading of a document just released by the Girl Scouts of USA.

The latest update to Safety-Wise, the guide to keeping all girls involved in Girl Scouts safe, carefully outlines what girls and adults can do on the Internet as far as product sales or money-earning activities. The revision says:
"Girls can use e‐mail and age‐appropriate Internet functions as online marketing tools to let family, friends, and former customers know about the sale and collect indications of interest."
The new guidelines also allow adult-supervised e‐mail and texting as a marketing tool, and/or use of a customer commitment tool (such as an e‐card or blind e‐mail provided by product vendors) to communicate with family, friends, and former customers.

There are, of course, restrictions including:
  • No broadcast e‐mails to parental membership lists or place‐of employment e‐mail directories.
  • Only the magazine vendors can accept online payments.
  • Girls are not to use their personal e-mail address or post their address or phone number.
  • Sales need to be limited to the ZIP codes of the girl's council (relatives are an exception.)
The online site will direct potential customers to the closest council which must have a way for girls to benefit from the sale.

There's also detailed advice on using Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and Myspace, with a reminder to check out for its social network safety ideas.

The 11-page update
includes an updated GSUSA Online Safety Pledge for girls to sign, plus new guidelines for creating content online whether its on an independent site or Facebook or a similar site.


It's a love-hate relationship (both ways) so I often write about Girl Scouts. A few recent posts are how some councils are on Facebook and some on Twitter.


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