While these digital tools are optional for Scouts, the Girl Scouts organization believes they help develop essential skills for today’s entrepreneurs. While some scouts seized on these new digital opportunities after launch, others were slower to seize. But with the pandemic reducing in-person sales, digital cookie sales have skyrocketed: they now represent 10% of overall cookie sales for the organization.

“That’s really the direction our world is going,” Olson said. “[The digital cookie platform] provides this hybrid model for those who choose to engage in digital. »

A Brief History of Selling Cookies Door-to-Door

With this shift to online sales, some parents and caregivers worry that a new generation of Scouts will be deprived of opportunities to hone their speaking skills, boost their self-confidence and learn more about their community.

For generations, Girl Scouts have crisscrossed their neighborhoods. It all started in 1917, when a troupe from Muskogee, Oklahoma baked batches of homemade sugar cookies. By the 1960s, selling cookies door-to-door was entrenched in American culture.

First Lady Elizabeth Truman, wife of President Harry Truman, opens the 1951 Girl Scout Cookie Sale by accepting the first box of cookies from three Girl Scouts. (Getty Images)

“We went door-to-door in our neighborhood and always went with a partner,” recalls Laura Harvey, a retired teacher from Sacramento who spent her entire childhood in the 1960s and 1970s as a Boy Scout. “It was just really sweet to go around with a cart and deliver all the cookies. [Neighbors] would be so excited to have them.

Harvey remembers being a shy and clumsy child, but door-to-door sales helped her feel more comfortable and confident talking to people, especially adults.

“You wear your uniform and it was so special. You present yourself as a Girl Scout and people react very positively to that.

The Girl Scouts cookie program was created to teach Scouts five essential life skills: goal setting, decision making, interpersonal skills, money management and business ethics. Olson points out that girls always learn these skills whether the sales are done in person or online. She argues that in today’s connected world, a Scout’s online community is just as important as their physical community.

Finding a Digital/In-Person Balance

Despite the ease and convenience of online sales, many scouts like 9-year-old Gianna Salcedo – daughter of journalist Ana Tintocalis Salcedo – continue to follow the tried-and-true methods of selling cookies door-to-door.

Salcedo joined the Girl Scouts just before the start of cookie season in January and practiced her “cookie sales pitch” a few nights a week.

“I like going door to door because you meet the people in your neighborhood who want the cookies,” Salcedo said. “I like being able to tell them about the cookies and it feels good when they buy from me.”

young girl, her back and long hair showing as well as her scout vest, holds a clipboard as she stands in front of a neighbor's door
Girl Scout Gianna Salcedo waits for a potential cookie customer to answer the door in her neighborhood of River Park, Sacramento. Door-to-door cookie sales remain a core tactic of the Girl Scouts organization, but online cookie sales are growing rapidly due to the pandemic. (Ana Tintocalis/KQED)

Salcedo also explored some of the new tech tools available to scouts. Many Girl Scout families see the value in online sales, but are trying to find the right balance.

Experts believe the key is for parents or guardians to set boundaries, while finding opportunities for young girls to engage with technology in meaningful and safe ways.

“The best thing we can do for our children is teach them how to digitally engage appropriately in society,” said Dorian Traube, co-director of the Center for the Changing Family at the University of Southern California. “Probably the worst thing we can do is not prepare our children and then send them off to this Old West world.”

Traube speaks from experience.

In addition to being an associate professor of social work at USC, she is also a Boy Scout mom and troop leader. She thinks Girl Scouts does a phenomenal job teaching Scouts the importance of digital citizenship, offering programs, workshops and activities on a wide variety of topics, from social media safety to cyberbullying.