Donna Ceravolo, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Nassau County,...

Donna Ceravolo, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Nassau County, in the organization's Garden City office. (Jan. 18, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

When Girl Scouts sell cookies, they're not only fundraising, but also participating in a financial literacy program, says Donna Ceravolo, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Nassau County.

Last year, Nassau troops sold 1.2 million boxes of cookies; the sales accounted for 65 percent of the organization's budget and funded camping trips and other programs. It's that time again: Cookies are sold January through March, and Friday is National Girl Scout Cookie Day.

Ceravolo, 61, was born and reared within sight of the steel mills of Birmingham, Ala. She earned a master's degree in public administration from Auburn University in Alabama,  worked as a children's advocate in Illinois, and became chief executive of Brooklyn's YWCA. Now, she says, "I have the best job in the world."

Her duties include managing 7,000 volunteers and directing and developing programs for 23,000 girls.

How do cookie sales teach financial literacy to girls?

It teaches five basic skills that every functioning adult needs: How to set goals, make decisions, manage money, deal with other people and practice business ethics.

And girls can earn their way?

If you have your child enrolled in soccer or music or dance classes . . . money is going to change hands from the parent. There's no way that the child, unless she or he gets a scholarship, can participate in those activities unless someone pays for them to do that. That is not the case in Girl Scouting, simply because of the Girl Scout Cookie Program. No girl is ever turned away from Girl Scouting because of an inability to pay.

How do you do reach out to Spanish-speaking households?

Many immigrant families don't have a strong relationship with Girl Scouts. Sometimes, immigrant families aren't very keen on organizations that have uniforms for various reasons, and they're very protective of their children. For the past 10 years, we have had our Hispanic/Latino Task Force for Girl Scouts of Nassau County that includes a wide array of business and community leaders, as well as parents and older girls from across Nassau County who are strong spokespeople and advocates for Girl Scouts of Nassau County.

How much do you make from each box of cookies?

About $1 a box pays for the flour and the sugar and the transportation to get them here from the baker; $3 a box stays right here in Nassau County.

In this economy how are you innovative?

In our council, we are fortunate that we have a large supply of earned income that comes from our program revenue through the Girl Scout Cookie Program. We also sold property a few years back, and we have a nice nest egg that helps to support ongoing programs for girls, but we do all the things that other not-for-profit organizations do to raise money. We have a strong family campaign that's our largest single bucket of donor support . . . and we write grants, and we go after corporate dollars.


NAME: Donna Ceravolo, CEO, Girl Scouts of Nassau County Inc. in Garden City

WHAT IT DOES: “We turn today’s girls into tomorrow’s leaders.”

EMPLOYEES: 47 full time; 13 part time

ROLES THEY PLAY: Recruiting girls and volunteers; developing and delivering programs; training volunteers; providing management and fiscal oversight.

REVENUE: $5.1 million a year

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