Seven Reasons People Hate to Sell Popcorn

leading_group_clip_5629This time of year, Councils are looking for commitment from Units to sell popcorn in the fall. Units oftentimes get pushback from parents on whether their Unit should participate in the popcorn sale. Below are a list of objections from parents and how Unit Leaders can overcome these objections:

1.  The popcorn costs too much.

Parents must understand popcorn is a fundraiser. Just like any other product being sold as a fundraiser, the price on the product is increased to enhance the profit margin for the Unit. Remember, you are not selling popcorn, you are selling Scouting. In addition, the price of microwave popcorn per pouch is comparable to those in the store. Many Councils sell the 18-pack or 20-pack for $20. This is slightly over $1 per pouch. Try to purchase a 3-pack in a store and the price is usually $3-4 or about the same price.

2.  It is easier to sell a $1-2 item instead of a $10 or higher item.

Yes. It is easier to sell a $1 item then a $10 item. However, the question really is time. A Scout has to sell a $1 item to 10 different customers to equate to selling a $10 item just once. This is compounded if you look at a $20 item. Now people will say a Scout has to ask more people to get the $20 item. This may be true, but as long as it is less than 20 people, the time spent selling is far less.

3.  We get a higher percentage selling something on our own then selling popcorn.

Parents must realize 70% or more actually goes back to Scouting. On average, Units usually split this with the Council or getting about 35% of the gross sales of the profit in commissions. The Council does two things with their portion of the sale: Cover Expenses and Supplement the operating Budget. The Council Expenses can include prizes, delivery costs, order forms, kickoff materials, sample product, and product storage. In addition, the Council takes on the risk of the sale. Those who sold Trail’s End Sour Cream and Onion last year experienced sales less than anticipated. The vast majority of Councils allowed Units to return unsold product and were stuck with this product. This is an expense. The balance remaining of the sale goes into the Operating Budget to cover other expenses like camp, salaries, utilities, and program materials. The American Camping Association state the average cost of a weeklong camp in 2014 is $600 nationwide. The average Boy Scout Camp is only half that amount. Parents need to understand Scout camps are subsidized through Friends of Scouting and Popcorn Sales. By participating in the popcorn sale, they are also helping lower the cost of Scouting for everyone.

4.  The popcorn sale is too hard to manage.

The main reason for the popcorn sale being hard to manage is because Units make the mistake of putting all of the responsibility on one person, the Popcorn Kernel. There are several ways to divide the duties among several people and lessen the work for everyone. For example, have one person responsible for managing just the Show and Sell locations and have a different person handle distribution of popcorn to Scouts. You could also assign a person in each den or patrol to help with the popcorn sale. Click here for a list of job descriptions on various popcorn positions for your Unit.

5.  It is easier to just pay for Scouting items out of my pocket than go around with my son and sell popcorn.

Part of the Purpose of Boy Scouts is to “instill within youth desirable qualities of character, [and] to train them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship…” If parents pay for everything, the Scout never understands the value of a dollar, how to overcome an objection, and a sense of accomplishing a goal. Click here for a list of reasons of why Scouts should sell popcorn other than money.

6.  We can only ask our family and friends so many times to help our son.

I agree with this statement. This is the reason Units need to put as much effort in to as few (or one) fundraisers as possible. The average family of four has the opportunity to participate in just over 13 fundraisers a year. Between the PTA asking 4 or 5 times, Baseball, Soccer, and Church, then multiply this by two children, there is little room for Scout fundraisers. Families have to pick and choose which fundraisers in which they want to participate. This is why Units need to get the biggest bang for their buck. I know of many Units which have netted over $5000 from popcorn sales. This would be a lot of $1 candy bars.

7.  The Cub Scouts sell popcorn, we do not sell popcorn.

First, it costs a lot more for a Boy Scout to fully participate in the Scouting program than a Cub Scout. Because of this, Boy Scouts need to take advantage of every opportunity to raise money. In addition, there is the Salesmanship Merit Badge which can be completed entirely using the popcorn sale. Finally, most of the nation’s top selling youth were all Boy Scouts. They have developed a client list and have gone to the same houses for the last several years. It usually takes less time to raise a lot of money because of this client list.

Parents can get burned out on popcorn. Please use the statements above as a reference when communicating the reasons your Unit should sell popcorn. I hope the responses above help convince every Scout in your Unit to sell popcorn.


4 thoughts on “Seven Reasons People Hate to Sell Popcorn

  1. Two comments on this. One it’s no longer a $10 item, it’s a $20 item and we could easily sell 4 $5 items in the time it takes us to sell 1 $20 item because we’d get more yesses than nos. Two, a scout is supposed to be thrifty, but not ask their customers to be the same.
    No matter how you break it down, BSA needs to find a fundraiser that doesn’t gouge the customer, but gives them a pretty fair deal while still supporting scouting.
    Sometimes selling more in quantity at less profit is smarter than less quantity for higher profit. It’s supply and demand. There is not the demand for the popcorn at the current prices.
    Yes, some scouts do exceedingly well, but many scouts especially disadvantaged scouts do not. This makes it hard for them to raise money for their troops or their councils.
    I get that the council needs their share, and I’m ok with that. I’m not ok with scouts looking like they are trying to gouge people by selling product that is way overpriced for what you get. Basically, we’re asking scouts to ask for donations which isn’t actually allowed in scouting.

  2. My Cub Scout participated in the sale in October. He sold the most in his unit! It has been three months and we are just now finding out what percentage of sales each scout will receive in their individual scouting accounts and I am blown away! The council takes 60%, donated some to the troops overseas (which we fought over because they didn’t want to give any even after
    telling the boys to ask for donations for it!), the pack took their percentage and that left my son with only 10%! I have run a lot of fundraisers over the years. This is the most ridiculous share I have ever experienced! Was supposed to help the scouts earn money so they can help fund the activities for the year. Lol yeah right! Sold the most and barely covers the cost of two camping trips and dues! Council took so much money and left nothing for the kids! This is a scam and should be down right criminal! They want to teach our boys to be honest, but instead are teaching them to sell $25 bags of popcorn, and then stealing any chance these under privileged children have if continuing scouts. Is this percentage normal?

    1. Thank you for your comments about the percentage of money received from the popcorn sale. Every council is a bit different in their commission structure. Let me explain how the average commissions typically break out.

      30% Cost of Product
      30-40% Unit Commission
      30-40% Council Commission

      From your comments, it looks like your Unit received a fairly high commission rate when you look at it nationwide. Congratulations. It may appear the council takes a larger portion (in your case 60%) but they still have to pay for the cost of the popcorn (30%) and any prizes Scouts or Units have earned (4-5%). Typically, a council’s net commission is 24-27% after paying for the Cost of Product, delivery, prizes, promotional materials and training. Remember, most product fundraisers (candy, lightbulb, batteries, meat sticks, etc) are 50% for the cost of the product before factoring in other costs.

      There are vast differences across the country on how Units use the commissions from popcorn. This may be due to tax implications with your chartered organization or state. Some Units keep the entire amount and pay for all Unit activities including camp. Others allocate the entire amount to Scouts to pay for activities such as camp because their Unit do other fundraisers or have other funds coming in. From your comments, it appears 30% goes to the Unit and 10% is allocated to the individual Scout. Do understand the Unit needs some funds to pay for things for which parents do not pay out of their pockets like awards, registration fees, location rental fees, adult training, Pinewood Derby Cars, camping location fees, fuel, etc. As I stated earlier, ever Unit in the country operates differently based on the needs of their Unit. I believe you should talk to your Unit leaders to get a copy of your Unit Budget. This should answer your questions about where the funds go and/or provide a conversation piece around how the funds are divided in the future.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions. I would be happy to discuss them with you.

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