How a Major Mistake led to $90,000 in Popcorn Sales

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Most Units do not believe popcorn sales alUSS Arizonaone will fund their entire Scouting year. However, Troop 214 in Anchorage, AK was able to accomplish this feat. They are the only Unit to sell over $90,000 in popcorn for three years in a row. Now this did not come easy or was even intentional at the start. This is the story of Troop 214.

Like many Units, Troop 214 sold around $10,000 in popcorn several years in a row. With a 40 Scout Unit, they felt this was good accomplishment. They sold about half door-to-door and half was in front of the local Carrs grocery store. The boys normally used these funds to go to Gorsuch Scout Camp about 45 minutes north of Anchorage. Several years ago, the Unit wanted to sell a little more popcorn in order to buy a trailer for their camping supplies. They thought that if they had two Show and Sell location sites, they could raise enough to pay for more camping equipment. They placed their order with the Council for nearly $10,000 in popcorn. The Council agreed because they believed whatever the Unit did not sell they could use for their Take Order. However, when Troop arrived to pick up their order, they were in shock. There was over $30,000 in popcorn. After looking through their records they realized cases of popcorn were ordered instead of containers. Ouch!

Troop 214 had two options: return the product they did not need to the Council and let them deal with it or try to sell the popcorn themselves. The adult and youth leadership did not want to burden the Council with the error. They told the Council they would ‘do their best’ and try to sell as much as they can. Troop 214 created a plan. They normally had only half the Scouts in the Troop participate in the popcorn sale. They knew they had to get everyone involved and everyone stepped up. The leaders created their own Unit incentives for Scouts who sold over $1000. They also realized they needed more Show and Sell location sites. They increased the number of locations throughout the city to five sites. With the plan in place, Troop 214 went to work. They sold all $30,000 in three weekends.

Everyone was amazed they were able to do something which had never been done in the Council. As a reward, instead of going where the Unit normally went to camp, Troop 214 decided to go to Eagle River Scout Camp about 25 north of Juneau, AK. To get to this location one must fly in to Juneau. This was the first time many of these Scouts had been on a plane so it was quite an adventure. Eagle River Scout Camp is located right on the coastline of the Inside Passage of Southwest Alaska. Now what do Scouts do when they first get to camp? You guessed it…swim test. For those of you who do not know, the Mendenhall Glacier feeds through a lake and into the ocean about 15 miles south of camp.  The current takes the water north toward camp. The average water temperature is 40 degrees. After the Scouts and adults finished their swim test, many wished the water was warmer. However, a couple of older Scouts and a couple of adults said, “Next year, why don’t we go where the water is warmer.”

After they got back from camp, Troop 214 started to think about where they wanted to go to camp the next year. With the idea of going somewhere where the water was warmer, what do you think the Scouts said? You guessed it…Hawaii! To the credit of the adult leadership, they did not tell them no. They said if you can raise the money, Troop 214 can go anywhere they want. They calculated it would take $90,000 in popcorn for the Scouts to go to Hawaii. The Scouts put together a plan. The biggest addition to their plan was going to 10 different Show and Sell locations.  They had signs saying, “Help Send Your Boy Scout Unit To Hawaii”. The Scouts also had a laminated page with this same sign they would take with them when they went door-to-door.

In 2008, Troop 214 sold $90,285 and they went to Camp Pupukea on the North Shore of Oahu. It is amazing how many adult volunteers want to help when the carrot is Hawaii. Since selling this amount in 2008, Troop 214 sold over $90,000 for three year in a row. Last year, Troop 214 had 15 Scouts turn 18 and only sold $67,000, but the plan is to be the first Unit to sell $100,000 this year.

There are several things Units can learn from Troop 214:

  1. Have a big enough “Why” – Hawaii was a big reason the Unit sold this amount of popcorn.
  2. Do not limit yourself – Would you want to go to Hawaii for camp? There is no reason you can’t.
  3. Have a plan – Troop 214 figured out how much they needed and how it could be done.
  4. Get everyone involved – They had every Scout average over $1000 in sales.
  5. Have rewards – Troop 214 created their own incentive program based on the amount they sold.
  6. Believe it can be done – The famous quote “If you think you can or you think you cannot, you are right” is very evident with Troop 214.


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