Top 10 Things Units Should Never Do When Selling Popcorn

Not Top 10We all know Popcorn Sales help provide funds for Scouts to help them with their program, but there are many things Unit Kernels should never do when it comes to their Popcorn Sale.

1.  Skip Training

The majority of councils around the country ‘tweak’ their sale in some manner. Examples of changes can include product line, pricing, prizes, commission structure, return policy, delivery locations or a number of other items. Sometimes councils even change popcorn companies. Council/District Kickoffs are the most efficient way to disseminate this information in a consistent message to the masses. In addition, many councils have a portion of the commission tied to attending training. So, do not skip training.

2.  Fail to conduct a formal Unit Kickoff

Just like the Council/District holds a Kickoff to disseminate information to the masses, Units should do the same thing. It is the most efficient way to ensure everyone receives the new information. If your Unit cannot do a separate meeting for a Unit Kickoff, at least set aside 20 minutes at a meeting in which parents are attending to present the material.

3.  Neglect to have Scouts set goals

All Salespeople need to have a target at which to aim. We know from research that 78% of Scouts who set a written goal meet or exceed that goal. Go through the prize program and find out what each Scout want to obtain. Write it down and give the Scout a copy for them to view on a regular basis.

4.  Forget to copy every Scout’s order form

There are two main reasons to make copies of every Scout’s order form. First, the Unit Kernel has a copy of the Scout’s Order to verify when placing the Unit’s order. Second, Scouts should receive a copy of their order forms from the previous year so they have a place to start selling popcorn the next year. Last year I just took pictures of every Scout’s order form with my smartphone. It was the fastest way to gather all of the information needed.

5.  Break open pre-packaged items

I see this most prevalent when selling microwave popcorn. Units will break open a large package of microwave popcorn and sell them individually for $1 apiece. Impulse buyers, especially at a store front, will support Scouting at the lowest level possible. If you sell an item for $1, customers will gravitate to that item when would have spent $10. In addition, the individual microwave packets do not have the required FDA product information to be sold as a standalone item.

6.  Displaying a Donation Bucket

The Donation Bucket implies the same lower dollar level as selling an individual microwave packet. It allows the customer to ‘opt-out’ of a $10 or higher item and give a donation of $1-2 dollars. This does not mean you should not accept donations and convert them to Military Orders. My son’s unit one year had over $13,000 in donations. However, we asked people to ‘purchase’ an item for the military by making a donation in the amount of the cost of the product.

7.  Allow checks to be written out to ‘Parents’ of the Scout

Understand, when a person purchases popcorn from a Scout, a portion of the sale is tax-deductible. Most times a copy of the check is used as proof of the donation. If the check is made out to the parent, it is considered a gift to the parent thus not deductible. The second reason is if the check bounces, the parent may have to pay any bounced check fees out of their personal account. This only has to happen once for parents to no longer want to accept checks or worse not have their son participate in the popcorn sale. Finally, allowing customers to write checks to parents help facilitate the rare instance of a parent not paying the Unit for popcorn delivered. If checks are written to the Unit or BSA, non-payment from parents is far less likely.

8.  Wait until the end of the sale to gather payment from Scouts

Payment for product sales should be collected on a weekly basis. At each den or troop meeting, have a person collect any money received from popcorn sales. This is especially important when the payment is by check. Most people write a check knowing they have the money in their account on the day the check was written. If you wait until the end of the sale to collect the checks, it may be 4-8 weeks after the check is written. The longer a Unit waits to deposit all checks, the greater the odds the check will bounce.

9.  Delay in getting your Show and Sell locations

If your council relies on the Unit to get their own locations, the time is now to set them up. Typically, store schedule these dates 3-4 months out. Some larger chains require District or Area approval for use of their site which extends the time period. Send out a letter with the formal request to the store manager and follow-up with a personal visit. If your Council/District coordinates Show and Sell location sites, contact the person in charge before the Council/District Kickoff to share the needs of your Unit. As an example, my son’s Boy Scout Troop has over 50 Scouts. I will need 5 different weekends or locations for everyone to have a 2-hour shift, not just one.

10.  Think you can do it all yourself

The Unit Popcorn Kernel is a big job, especially if you decide to do everything yourself. There are some who are able to keep everything humming along. Most of this select group have been the Unit Popcorn Kernel for several years. However, 2/3 of all Unit Kernels have been in the role less than 2 years. Divide the job between several other people on your Unit Committee. Recruit separate people to handle distribution, Show and Sell locations, prizes and the Unit Kickoff. As they say, many hands make light work. For a list of Unit Popcorn Job Descriptions, click here.


2 thoughts on “Top 10 Things Units Should Never Do When Selling Popcorn

  1. Hi Popcorn Guy,
    I have a question regarding donations. If the scouts do not solicit donations and a customer gives a 2 dollar bill or whatever amount where can that money go. Can it go towards the pack or does all money have to go towards military orders. Also can you send me the actual link to where Boy Scouts of America clearly explains this. The reason I ask is I am a popcorn Kernel and want to convert this money to military orders and the pack does not! I need you help please. Also if you can tell me what happens if they put it towards their pack. I heard they could lose some ribbon status. Thank you for your help and all you do for Scouting!

    1. This can be found right on the back of the Unit Money Earning application. Number 7 states in Bold Letters, “At no time are units permitted to solicit contributions for unit programs.”

      Remember, who actually owns the Unit? The Chartered Organization. If a Unit solicites money and keeps it, they are really collecting money for their chartered organization. This may violate their tax-exempt status. Talk to your Chartered Organization.

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