Profiting from a Non-Profit. Ethical or Rotten?

February 18, 2007

Is it wrong to make a profit off of the Girl Scouts? I don’t think so. Read on before you disagree with me.

We Are Suckers
My wife and I don’t eat Girl Scout cookies but we buy them from the neighbor girls when they come knocking on our door. I think I inherited this trait from my mother. She’ll buy anything kids sell door to door just because they’re making the effort. So we spend money on the cookies to support the girls but they sit in our cupboard uneaten.

Cookies for the Highest Bidder
When I first started selling on eBay, I sold anything I could get my hands on. I ran across several boxes of Thin Mints sitting on the shelf and quickly put them up for auction. It was off-season for Girl Scout cookies so the law of demand had pushed their price on eBay over what we had paid for them.

Cookie Police
My excitement over watching the bid price climb was suddenly dashed one day when I received an email from a Girl Scout mother, chewing me up one side and down the other. I was an awful person from profiting off the Girl Scout organization and the hard work of those little girls. I responded to the scathing email in a courteous fashion but defending my actions.

After several such exchanges I realized I wasn’t going to get a pardon from the cookie police and left it at that. Of course I left the auction running and profited from shipping the cookies to a satisfied cookie fanatic somewhere on the East Coast.

Taking the Stand
I saw this season’s batch of Thin Mints on the shelf today and decided I needed to try my case in front of the world.

We help these girls out every year by spending money on something we don’t want. Is it wrong to resell them later on for a profit? It wasn’t Girl Scout cookie season when I sold them so I wasn’t stealing any business from the little girls. It seems like a win/win/win to me. The Girls Scouts sold a few boxes, I made a little money, and I delivered the cookies to a cookie junkie, craving a fix during the off season. I rest my case.

What do you, the jury, think?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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11 Responses to Profiting from a Non-Profit. Ethical or Rotten?

  • Bobby Kittel

    It’s unethical for somebody to waste your time with her self-righteous lack of understanding

  • Linda

    It’s not like you were plotting this from the very beginning (to make a profit), so it’s perfectly fine. This isn’t a bad idea either…HMMM… (j/k)

  • moneysmartz

    Thanks everyone for your feedback, I feel vindicated! If the cookie Nazi ever comes back around I’ll point her to your comments. Thanks!

  • jim

    No one is hurt in your situation and it’s not like you’re buying pallets full such that you can corner the market. Would I stockpile the cookies and sell them in the off season? I wouldn’t but it’s hardly unethical.

  • Blaine Moore (First Time Home Owner)

    You’ll keep getting complaints, but now you have a link that you can email back to these people in response and not bother trying to defend yourself.

  • Michael Chantrel

    I’m with the majority: where’s the harm? In fact, you have highlighted a selling opportunity for the Girl Scout organization — selling all year long! Now, I wonder if any plucky Girl Scout mom will start the push to a website to sell and generate money to the operation on a constant basis, or if you’ll just get more complaints.

  • Anonymous

    I see no problem either. If the Girl Scouts would even let you order cookies online, when the little scouts aren’t selling them I’d buy them. But I often long for the cookies when I can’t find them. Let alone having to hunt down a girl scout these days. (They don’t sell door to door anymore, and finding the dates they are selling in front of stores is impossible.)

  • Ellen

    As a former Girl Scout, I’m totally on your side on this one. If people are willing to pay for out-of-season cookies, and you don’t want to eat them, there’s no problem. If the GSA wanted to capture 100% of the potential profits, they’d sell year-round, and at a higher price. Instead, they sell only once a year, and at a decent but not obscene mark-up. They make money, you make money, some guy who likes cookies has cookies. I see no problem here.

  • Flexo

    It seems like your sale was innocent and not unethical. The real crime is that Girl Scout troops get very little of that $3.50 the boxes sell for around here. If I remember right, they only get something like $0.25 a box. You’re better off making a donation to your local troop and getting cookies elswhere. But they are quite tasty.

  • MoneyDummy

    I’m with you on this one, for all of the reasons you stated. You’re not hurting the Girl Scouts’ profits, and you’re helping them out by buying their products while they ARE selling them.

    As for the mother . . . she was just suffering from MamaBear syndrome. I’d be very surprised if she were able to articulate how you were actually HURTING the poor little munchkins.


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