Make Scout Popcorn about the mission… the money will follow

Scout Popcorn has always been among my favourite parts of the Scouting program. It’s been our National Fundraiser since 1995 and in that time, over 100 million dollars of popcorn has been sold. Think about that number for a minute. With over half staying with Scouting, that’s over $50 million to fund Scouting adventures across Canada. On top of that, nearly half a million dollars has gone into the Scholarship program for over 2,000 youth, me included. With far better dollar margins than just about all other fundraisers and the ability to scale it nationally, it’s one of the best fundraisers available.

I’ve had the privilege of talking popcorn to the six areas of my Council and talk directly with Group Commissioners, Popcorn Coordinators, Scouters and youth about popcorn. I’ve heard the good, the bad and the ugly! But from all of those conversations, those who have been successful with popcorn share one common secret: They think mission over money.

My appreciation for Scout Popcorn goes back to my first year selling it as a Cub Scout, 8 years ago. At the time, I was incredibly shy; I was the quietest kid in the room. But Scouting meant the world to me and I wanted to do my part to help. I saw the scholarship program as the top prize when you hit $2,500 in sales, so I set that as my goal.

After deciding on the goal, I was faced with the inevitable knocking on doors. Remember, shy kid here! I stayed focused on my goal and the pride I felt wearing my uniform. With a bit of practice beforehand, I set out and did my first night of knocking on doors and selling popcorn. After 2 hours, I came home with orders…a couple hundred dollars! I was hooked. I went from just knocking to perfecting my pitch. Each night, I’d try different pitches, practice my delivery until it was just right, and even learned how to tell which houses were most likely to have someone home by which side of the drive-way cars were parked on. I knew the faster I got to someone who might say yes, the higher my sales would be for the night. I was learning the language of fundraising.

I stayed focused on my goal and the pride I felt wearing my uniform.

Soon, I got used to knocking on strangers’ doors and asking them to support Scouting. With each door, my shyness faded.

Before long, I got to the advanced stuff like dealing with objections:

  • “I don’t have cash on me” – “I take cheques”,
  • “I don’t like popcorn” – “It makes a great gift for friends and family this holiday”,
  • “Now’s not a good time” – “When should I come back?”

At this point, I was getting the hang of it, and was having so much fun that I even leveraged the rain for pity sales: “Hey mom, it’s raining tonight, let’s go sell popcorn…it’s great weather for pity sales!”

Popcorn gave me the opportunity to break free of my shyness unlike anything else could. I always felt braver with my Cub Scout uniform on and with the participation of my Mom, I had a safe avenue to stretch myself.

That’s my story. But it’s not unique. I’ve seen and heard this story unfold in the lives of other Scouts from within my own Pack to the six Areas of my Council. It’s not a stretch to say selling Scout Popcorn changed the trajectory of my life and has done the same for countless other youth. (Just ask my Mom!)

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