More Than Cookies: Evidence about Team and Turnover from Girl Scouts Cookie Program

Publication Date



Problem definition: We collaborate with the Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA), one of the most popular charity and nonprofit organizations in the United States to examine team-based factors of Girl Scouts’ voluntary turnover.

Methodology/results: We collect scouts’ cookie sales performance and troop membership information from 2016 to 2018 from a local Girl Scout council consisting of approximately 30,000 members. We first theoretically predict the effects of team relational dynamics, a group of six troop-based factors, on a Girl Scout’s decision to stay with the organization and return to selling cookies the subsequent year. We then use the data to test these predictions. We find that a small troop size and more evenly distributed sales performance within the troop are positively associated with the propensity to stay. In addition, a troop having a high adult-to-girl ratio and a significant scout level (i.e., an age measure) heterogeneity are conducive to scout retention. However, we find that the racial diversity has no significant effect on turnover. Finally, conducting troop-based booth sales is related to scouts’ deciding to stay.

Managerial implications: Our study carries implications for developing more innovative and cost-effective approaches to retaining a non-profit organizations (NPO) workforce, an understudied area. Our empirical results suggest that NPOs consider interventions in team composition and relationship-building to encourage continued participation. The team-based factors that we identify can bridge the gap between turnover and OM’s active research on workforce management models. Not until organizations understand the team factors behind engagement and turnover will they be able to unleash the full potential of their members.

Document Type



NPO workforce management, voluntary turnover, Girl Scouts, team-building, contextual factors


Business Administration, Management, and Operations




SMU Cox: IT & Operations Management (Topic)