While scouting units believe that doing a good turn or service to others should be one of the primary components of scouting, the fact is that it takes money to run the units and pay for the different programs they offer. There are different ways to come up with the funds to run a unit, put on a program or go to an event. The vast majority of those ways involve scout fundraising.
Many different scouting organizations realize this and many put in their oath or law something that can relate back to fundraising and putting the ownership upon the boys and girls.
Starting in the United Kingdom, the birthplace of the the world scouting movement, the sixth point of the Scout Law is “A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.”
While most units in the UK are registered as public charities, they use a system called Gift Aid Scheme which allows people within the UK to deduct gifts from their taxes. They have one national fundraising event in which the scouting units split the proceeds with the World Wildlife Fund. In 2012, The Scout Association of the UK added a second national fundraiser where scouts go out and do jobs around the neighborhood. All the proceeds of second fundraiser go directly to the individual scouting units.
Here in the United States, the Girl Scouts promote “Use Resources Wisely” and sell Girl Scout cookies (very successfully I might add.. at least in our experience). The American Heritage Girls talk about being “Resourceful - Wisely use my time, materials and talents.”
For those who call the Boy Scouts of America their home in scouting, part of the Boy Scout Law is “A Scout is Thrifty.” So it could be Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venture Scouts, Sea Scouts etc. where they sell items like Boy Scout popcorn or perhaps holiday wreaths or Camp coupon cards.
Selling tangible items can be completed through a variety of methods including but not limited to family sales, door to door sales, store front sales and online sales, a method which has become more popular in recent years due to the use of social media. Each of these methods poses challenges that can be stressful for any child (and parent) but when you add Autism / Asperger’s to the mix, it can lead to a whole host of different challenges that one needs to be prepared for.
Of course, that’s not to say that those on the spectrum can’t be good salespeople. Quite the contrary. I know of some who are on the Autism Spectrum that have done a great job of selling and three are right here in our own home. When my wife, who has Aspergers was in Girl Scouts, she sold tons of cookies (all door-to-door). My oldest son (Aspergers) has done extremely well over the years selling popcorn and wreaths. Even my youngest son (Autism) is now a selling machine and keeps trying to get me out to go sell wreaths. (Our local fundraiser just started a couple days ago.) So for some, it may not be too much of an issue but having them be prepared and having their parents feel comfortable about it and prepared is key. So is having a plan ahead of time.
So how can we support our scouts when they are faced with having to be asked to sell or fundraise for their scouting unit? We can break it down into four areas.
1. Family Sales
2. Door to Door Sales
3. Store front sales
4. Online sales (for some fundraisers)
Some ideas that can be used no matter what type of sale for all scouts that will help in the selling process.
1. Don’t Marginalize your Scout. This is the biggest mistake that parents and caregivers can make. There is a tendency by many to say “my scout can not do that” or “my scout can not handle rejection”, or “they can’t do that, it’s too stressful.”
Now it is understandable that some of that may come from a place of good intentions in wanting to protect the scout. Some of it may also come from fear. It’s important to remember though that part of the wonderful experience of scouting is allowing your son or daughter to stretch and try things outside one’s comfort zone in a controlled atmosphere.
Putting a scout in a bubble and not allowing them to try to do their best or being prepared, is setting them up for failure in the future. The scout will have to deal with things outside of their comfort zone all of their lives and this gives them practice in a safe place with people behind them who love and support them. With the correct tools in place, scouts will experience success. That “success” may look different from person to person. Just “asking” for the sale can be a HUGE success and a stepping stone to further communication.. Selling also allows the scout to practice communication skills, social skills and good manners.
2. The Scout should look like a Scout. Before beginning fundraising, make sure the scout is put together in uniform with a tucked in shirt. If the scout has clothing issues (such as not wanting to wear a hat), then have them dress in the clothing that is close to the scouting group they are part of and shows their scout pride.
3. Have a script. If the scout is verbal, write out a script. If he / she is non-verbal, you can write a script on flashcards that you can teach him/her to share or if he / she has an augmentative device, incorporate that as well.
The scout does not need to be perfect, if they are too perfect then the sales pitch may come across as not realistic. However if you do have a perfectionist that needs things perfect, got with it but be prepared in the event the pitch does not go as planned as this could cause an emotional issue.
It can be very simple:
4. Practice the pitch. It is necessary to practice in advance what the scout wants to convey and the easiest way to do that is with someone they feel comfortable with and trust. This might be very hard for some of the scouts and frustrating for them at first, but this is a great area where they can practice social skills, eye contact and other people skills.
Make sure the person they are doing the practicing with gives a “yes” the first few times. Also, practice the “no’s” as well but make sure you tell the scout ahead of time that it is going to be a no. Then mix it up with “yes’s” and “no’s”. For more communicative scouts, you can also practice handling objections.
5. Make sure to Thank the customer. If you have the product in hand as you are selling, make sure the scout uses good manners and says “Thank You”. Write down the address and have the scout come back as some later point and drop off a Thank you card. You could also have the thank you cards pre-made ahead of time with the scout’s first name and a parent’s e-mail address and perhaps offer a way for the person to order online in case they would like to purchase more of what your scout is offering.
If you have to come back later with the merchandise, then make sure you have a Thank You card for the person with the product. There is a good chance your scout will have to do a fundraiser in the future for the scouting group and these people will remember you and be much more likely to purchase from you again. By knowing your friendly houses in advance, this will add a positive start to the sale.
If a person says, “No Thank You” or “No”, still thank them. There may be many reasons a person does not purchase. The scout is a representative of the scouting unit they are a part of. You want the person going away to think highly of that type of unit. It may turn out to be a sale in the future.
6. Explain Why. For most on the Autism Spectrum, telling them “just because all scouts do this” as an answer to “why fundraise?” rarely works. Give scouts (whether on the spectrum or not) a tangible reason and a visual picture why he/she should want to do fundraising and that will go a long way to having them more engaged and take part in selling.
For example, ask them which badge they like the best or what function they like. In Cub Scouts it might be the Pinewood Derby or Rocket Derby. Fundraising helps pay for the cars or the rockets or that neat segment or badge you have.
Find their favorite scouting activity. If they like the idea of camping or horses or archery or BB gun shooting, let them know that fundraising helps pay for these experiences.
Have it relate back to the scout. In sales an old adage is “WIIFM” What is it in for me. What is is in for the scout or how does it relate to the scout?
7. Have a personalized Reward / Incentive System. Many times fundraising campaigns have prizes that the scouts can earn for sales. Oftentimes these items may have little to no interest for some of the scouts. So, you can personalize the reward system.
First have a reward for having the scout get in his full uniform and practice the pitch. This could be as simple as star stickers, dinosaur stickers or something simple the scout likes. Bigger rewards can be a special snack or bonus time spent doing a project with the parent and a scout leader. Be creative. Be inspiring.
Second, reward the scout for each presentation the scout makes where he or she asks for the sale. (Give positive reinforcement for the ask. You can control the asks a lot more than you can control the actual sales.)
One of the KEY goals for selling for scouts on the spectrum is to help with social skills and interacting with others. Building and reinforcing self-esteem and self-reliance is much more important long-term than the dollar amount sold in the short-term. You’ll find that when you focus on that positive reinforcement, the sales naturally follow and the scout learns self-reliance, responsibility and philanthropy as well.
Family sales is a wonderful way to start and we would hope would be the least non-threatening area of sales. A number of fundraisers include parent participation through networking, something which may or may not be feasible or comfortable for the parents involved. Remember that autism families have a lot of extra expenses and challenges in their home lives. Although you want to encourage their participation and accept them completely, be mindful of the fact that some of the parents as well may be on the autism spectrum and have anxiety about this. Use your best judgement and show kindness.
Having a parent take whatever is being sold into the parents or caregivers work can work out well for sales as long as the employer allows for such sales and you as the parent or caregiver feel comfortable doing this.
Contacting grandparents, brothers, sisters and other close relatives that the family has a relationship with can also be a very good source of sales. Also, if a holiday is coming up, consider the purchase of extra items for the holiday times. Many times these can make nice gifts for a mail person, UPS person, teacher, co-worker or any other person where a small gift would be appreciated.
The use of family sales can also be helpful in another way. The scout can practice the pitch on somebody that they know so the scout still feels safe.
For some on the Autism Spectrum, Door to Door sales are a real challenge. It does not mean that they can not do it, or should not try, just that some challenges may be needed to be overcome. For others on the spectrum, this can be no challenge at all. My youngest (who has Autism and is in Cub Scouts) asks all the time to go out to sell and has a great time.
A point of caution. Some families whose children are autistic are very concerned about wandering / elopement and having their children become too friendly with strangers. The parents know their child best and if door-to-door is a definite no-no rule, respect it. (As an alternative, you might consider asking if the parent would be comfortable having the child go door-to-door with a small group of scouts in a safe area. Don’t push but encourage the stretch.)
As mentioned earlier, please don’t assume that because they are on the autism spectrum and/or may be non-verbal that they can’t sell. Here are some tips to help you out. (Many are similar to above in the general thoughts section.)
1. Practice the sale beforehand. Include a positive sale and negative sale (see practice pitch above in general tips section).
2. Explain to your scout that not everybody will say “yes”. In fact the large amount of the sales, the end result will not be with a sale. A “No” is not a rejection of the scout, just that the person you are trying to sell to does not have a need or a want for the product that is being sold.
If it appears that the scout may take things personally, something that those of us on the spectrum do have a tendency to do, one fun way to work through this is for the scout to play a game. This is actually a good thing to do with your group too.
The scout comes up with a list of all of the reasons why the person may say no. They can be funny and really strange reasons as well. For example, the person said no, because … They already have one. They have too many. They are too expensive. They are too inexpensive. The person is allergic to the item. They are afraid of the item. It was the wrong color. It’s too big, it’s too small. It smells funny, etc.
This will help the scout not to take the “no” personally. In fact, we like to tell each scout that each no is one step closer to the next YES. You have to get the no’s in order to get to the next YES.
3. If needed, use a social story before to show your scout what you will be doing. It is best if you can draw this out in real-time in front of them, explaining what you are doing along the way. If you don’t have this option, having a handout prepared and reading it to them is useful as well.
example 1 Box 1 - You are walking with them down the street
Box 2 - Walking up to the door.
Box 3 - Knocking or ringing the doorbell (scout smiling)
Box 4 - Scout showing what they are selling
Box 5 - Customer purchasing the item and paying
Box 6 - Scout giving product and saying Thank you with smile
example 2 Box 1 - You are walking with them down the street
Box 2 - Walking up to the door.
Box 3 - Knocking or ringing the doorbell (scout smiling)
Box 4 - Scout showing what they are selling
Box 5 - The person saying “no”
Box 6 - Scout saying Thank you with smile (bubble thinking it is ok)
Box 3 - Knocking or ringing the doorbell (scout smiling)
Box 4 - Nobody coming to the door
Box 5 - Scout and parent leaving
(not scout ringing doorbell over and over until person answers)
4. Follow all of your local scouting guidelines as far as safe selling. Most groups have guidelines when doing Door to Door sales. Most include never going alone, going with an adult, never going out after dark, and never going into a person’s home. Check with your scouting group for what they recommend. Also, be mindful that scouts on the autism spectrum may tend to get excited and bolt so make sure that when crossing streets, they follow safety rules. Think Safety!
5. Start with your neighbors who might know your scout and that you think would be receptive to a visit. They might be more likely to say “yes”.
6. If the scout is new to selling, start out small and build up.
7. Set a time or area for your scout to be out, so they have an idea of what to expect as far as time and then stick with it. For example you could say “we will be out for 30 minutes” (and have a watch or timer clock with you) or “we will do two blocks on both sides of the street”. Try not to base selling time on the number of sales as that is something that is unpredictable and an abstract concept to grasp that could easily turn into a negative situation.
8. Definitely include those that are non-verbal or have physical or other developmental challenges. Parents may have hesitancy that their child is being taken advantage of or is being used for sympathy but when you explain that your intentions in encouraging the fundraising are honorable and you impress upon the parent that fundraising is a skill that teaches responsibility, self-reliance, volunteering and philanthropy, that parent should hopefully be more receptive.
My Name is __________ . I am with _______________ I am earning my way to go to camp with my friend and would like your help.
9. Bring things along with you that can give your scout a break in case they need one. A calming fidget is often useful. Make sure to also have a snack and water.
10. Have your scout go with a buddy or a group. This might make things feel less overwhelming and less of a personal rejection when the scout gets a no.
11. Don’t forget the incentives. Remember the scout’s special interests and individual fundraising plan and provide lots of genuine positive reinforcement and encouragement. Don’t focus so much on the money raised as much as the effort exerted. Each attempt is a success. Building and reinforcing self-esteem and self-reliance is much more important long-term than the dollar amount sold in the short-term.
Just like Door to Door sales, Storefront Sales can offer challenges to some scouts on the Autism Spectrum but again not all.
One of the biggest issues is that at store front sales, they typically happen at a small table in front of grocery style stores (or similar) because the goal is to get in front of the largest amount of people. So by nature, this type of sale often has many other potential sensory triggers including noise, lights, smells and crowds. The ratio of “no’s” to “yes” also come faster and people have a tendency to be a bit less polite (often ignoring or deliberately avoiding you), thus there is much more rejection in a shorter period of time. Here are some tips to help you out.
1. Go to the store in advance when there are no sales going on and with your scout go to the entrance and exit areas. If the store has a bathroom, be sure to locate this in advance. If they don’t, figure out a place for the nearest potty break. By familiarizing yourself and your scout with the location, it will give them a visual and time to prepare.
2. If you’ve never sold before, don’t pick the first shift. It is helpful to arrive about 10 minutes in advance and let your scout watch what is happening.
3. Plan ahead and find a place the scout can go to take a sensory break if needed. It may be to your auto or around the to the side of building (if safe). If your scout uses a small fidget for sensory calming or security, bring it along. If he / she wears a weighted or compression vest for calming, bring that along too.
4. You will be more than likely required to stay and also help “man” the store front. If you are not required to stay, stay anyway. You being around can help take care a situation if something come up and also provides the scout a safe and smiling face that accepts him/her..
5. Like the door to door sales, practice your pitch in advance.
6. You can use a Social Story here as well.
example 1 Box 1 - Scouts standing in front of store.
Box 2 - People coming out of the store
Box 3 - Scouts offering their items
Box 4 - Customer saying yes and making the purchase.
example 2 Box 1 - 3 the same
Box 4 - Customer saying no
Box 5 - Scouts still smiling and saying “Thank You”
7. If the scout is non verbal, having something the scout can show people coming out of the store would be a great tool.
8. If there is other scouts trying to sell from that entrance, the use of a buddy would be a great tool.
9. Although standing and selling is often recommended in sales, store front sales can have peaks and valleys of traffic, so make sure you have chairs available to rest and take a break.
10. Remember to have incentives for the “asks” as well as the sales. Keep a tally of the “asks” and have special-interest related incentives to hand out for achieving different goals.
Online sales has becoming more and more popular over the year in order to capture sales of family members that are not located directly in the same geographic area as the scout. This allows a scout to sell to anybody who has access to a computer within their country. You will have to check with the group doing the sales if they will ship outside the nation you are in. This kind of sale does not require face to face contact but it does require that the scout and adult help craft an appeal letter and email it to a list of friends and family.
Although encouraged for its convenience and potentially a moneymaker, it does require adult involvement and does not give the scout as much of an opportunity to “ask” for the sale. Here are some tips.
1. Work with the scout to customize an e-mail or basic form letter that will be sent out to the people that the family knows personally. Make sure that the parent or caregiver is not the only one working on it. This is a great learning tool to show them how to put a request for funding together. (Some fundraising programs have template letters for you to customize.)
2. If your scout is really wanting to go all out and they are old enough, they may want to put together a facebook page or website. This again would take planning, but for some older scouts who have a special interest in computers, this is a great way to harness their passion. It may get them excited and then want to try other types of sales.
3. If you are on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google + or other social networking sites, this is a possible market for your scout’s fundraising although it should be done from an adult’s account as you don’t want to give out your child’s first and last name to strangers.
4. Many scouting groups now have Apps for Apple Products or smart phones. This is a great tool, if you have this available. Make sure the scout has parental approval and guidance when working with these tools.
We wish you the best of luck in your scouts selling and working with them to work on their social skills as well as learn to pay their own way.
Remember, each attempt at a sale is a success. Fundraising teaches self-reliance, responsibility, volunteering and philanthropy. Building and reinforcing self-esteem and self-reliance is much more important long-term than the dollar amount sold in the short-term. You’ll find that when you focus on that positive reinforcement, the sales naturally follow.