Why should we sell popcorn when its difficult to sell and overpriced?
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law. In other words, raising young people to become participating members of society who make good decisions. There are many ways to go about this and the BSA uses a wide variety of methods.
Fundraising teaches several things. One is responsibility. If the Scouts are responsible for funding their own activities they’re more likely to care about the program. Budgeting and handling money also teaches responsibility.
Another lesson is the art of selling. Scouts can earn merit badges for Salesmanship and Entrepreneurship, and learning how to sell something is, in itself, a useful skill. Learning to present oneself, and dealing with people who say “no” is also useful.
So, why popcorn? The Trails End popcorn sale provides over 70% of the sale price back to Scouting. Half of that goes to the unit that sells it, and the other half to the council. The Council in turn uses half of its profits to provide prizes to the youth selling. This is a very significant source of funding for the council, which in turn helps provide our safe program for youth.
Having sold popcorn since I was eight years old, I don’t think it’s that difficult to sell. I know one unit in our council that funds their entire program through popcorn sales. They don’t collect dues, Scouts and families don’t have to pay for camping trips or summer camp, the unit doesn’t have to worry about annual registration fees, awards, equipment or the like. Sure, they’re the exception, but there are 140 other units in our council all selling popcorn at the same time as them.
My son sold popcorn from the time he was six until he was 18. At six, his sales tactic was that he was a cute little guy in uniform. He kept track of everyone he sold popcorn to (door-to-door) and sent thank you cards. Prior to every sale thereafter he knew what people had ordered so he was prepared to offer it again and to suggest any new flavors.
And he didn’t approach people asking, “Do you want to buy popcorn?” Instead, he asked, “Will you support Scouting today?” People may or may not want popcorn. The price is not a bargain compared to what they can find elsewhere. Lots of people, however, want to support Scouting. Even if they don’t want the popcorn themselves, they can feel good about supporting an organization that does so much good.
Our #1 complaint ever year – “Nobody came to my door!”
Amid this pandemic, negative publicity and all the struggles that we have going on, there are way more people willing to support our organization than not. In particular, they believe in what your son or daughter is learning and doing. Let’s make this one of our strongest years yet.
We are better at selling popcorn than nearly every other council in the nation. Once again, let’s show the world what Scouting in Montana can do!
Deputy Scout Executive