Sales and nonprofits can mix

Shannon Evers, Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma

You know the Girl Scouts have cookie sales under control, but that’s not the type of sales that we recently added to our strategic plan at the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.

About three and a half years ago, we went through a thorough strategic planning process that involved about 30 people—staff members, volunteers, board members, and community leaders. We identified several areas where we could grow, and when I looked at our reports, I realized that the areas where we needed to grow all had one thing in common: sales.

Everything from fundraising to recruiting and retaining Girl Scouts involves some aspect of sales.

What we’ve done

After we finished completing our strategic plan and began to operationalize it, we hired one internal and one external salesperson. At first, I was worried about what our volunteers would think—this was a departure from the way we’ve always done things, and it’s certainly not the way other Girl Scout chapters function.

But typically cookie sales fund a huge portion of Girl Scout chapters’ budgets. And after identifying the places we needed to grow, we were just not comfortable putting the burden of fundraising on a bunch of eight-year-old girls, no matter how good they were at it!

Our salespeople are compensated with a base pay and a bonus for excellent work, and even that was something I was nervous about. Nonprofits don’t typically have salespeople, let alone give them a bonus not available to anyone else. But it’s fair for our salespeople, and we’ve seen great results since we’ve added them to our team.

Changes we’ve seen

Because of our salespeople and the changes we’ve made according to our strategic plan, we’ve seen an improvement in our recruitment, retention, and in sales in general.

We have a higher level of volunteer retention now because they feel more supported, and we’re able to connect them and reconnect them with the original reasons they started volunteering with us. We’ve begun communicating with them in the way they want to be communicated with, not just assuming how we should get in touch with them.

Because of that, we’re seeing higher retention of our Girl Scouts as well! And while we aren’t recruiting as many new Girl Scouts as we’d like, we’ve certainly made improvements compared to where we used to be.

As far as sales go, we’ve seen a lot of growth in that area. We are now third in the nation out of 112!

Hiring salespeople might seem like an unorthodox move for a nonprofit, but it has been a huge benefit to our organization. We’re able to accomplish our mission even more effectively, and it has certainly been worth challenging the norm to reach those results.

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