Your group has cooked up a winning recipe to raise cash for your school: a bake sale! Generations of parent groups have fit this time-honored tradition into their fundraising calendars.
A bake sale can be as simple as a few plates of cookies and a cash box or as elaborate as an auction featuring celebrity bakers. However you choose to conduct your bake sale, this guide will give you step-by-step instructions, checklists, and creative ideas to make it your most successful one yet.
Why Have a Bake Sale?
A bake sale is a relatively low-cost way to bring in money. Your group can hold a bake sale with little cash outlay. Chances are good the products will sell. Homemade goodies are hard to pass up, especially when they’re reasonably priced and profits are going to a good cause.
But bake sales do more for a parent group than bring in funds. They heighten your group’s presence in the community. A well-advertised bake sale reminds parents of your existence and the work you do on behalf of their children’s school. A bake sale fundraiser also allows many people to contribute.
A successful sale requires an organizer, bakers, workers, and, of course, customers. Time-strapped parents who are too busy to volunteer for school activities are often able to bake a batch of cookies or donate store-bought goods. Those with more availability can get involved organizing and staffing the sale. Volunteering on a low level reinforces the ties among families and the parent group, making your group—and your kids’ school—that much stronger.
Step 1: Pre-Event Planning
First, appoint a chairperson. Your bake sale chairperson will coordinate the entire effort. Depending on the scope of your sale, your chairperson may choose to assemble a planning team to help with the following roles:
- Volunteer coordinator: Recruits bakers and workers
- Equipment coordinator: Secures supplies and equipment, such as tables, coolers, paper plates, cups, and napkins
- Publicity coordinator: Publicizes bake sale through media, flyers, and signs
Step 2: Set a Date
Few people can walk past a table full of freshly baked goods without stopping, so plan to situate yours where a lot of people will see it. A good way to ensure a stream of customers is to hold your sale in conjunction with another event. Ideas to consider:
- Elections: Town, state, or national elections offer a steady pool of potential customers. Set up a bake sale table outside a polling precinct. Decorate with bunting and American flags. Offer patriotic treats, such as an apple pie or red-, white-, and blue-frosted cupcakes. Be sure to get permission from your town or city clerk to hold your bake sale at the polling place.
- Community events: A community festival, arts fair, parade, or similar event will give you exposure to customers of all ages. A rental fee may be required to set up a table, but school groups may qualify for a discount. Negotiate for a high-traffic spot. If it’s an outdoor event, find out the procedure if it rains. Many events go on regardless of weather, so you’ll need a plan to keep your baked goods from getting soggy.
- School events: Check the school schedule for events that will attract a lot of families, such as back-to-school night, a band concert, or a sporting event. Get permission from the principal to hold your bale sale in conjunction with school activities.
- PTO or PTA events: What about your parent group’s own fall festival? It might seem complicated to schedule two events on top of one another, but if each event has its own chairperson and volunteers, it could be a simpler approach—you won’t need to deal with as many outside organizers and sponsors.
Step 3: Map Out the Logistics
Line up your volunteers.
- Avoid duplication by asking volunteers ahead of time what they plan to bake. Aim for a wide variety.
- Tell each baker how to package goods. Some states have health codes requiring everything to be wrapped individually.
- Ask bakers to include an index card with the name of their treat and whether the recipe contains nuts. Some baked treats may be highly allergic.
- One week before your bake sale, call volunteers to confirm their participation. Give them the time and location to drop off their donations.
- Enlist volunteers for setup and cleanup on the day of the sale.
- Create a schedule of volunteers to work during the sale.
Find a home for leftovers.
- Contact your local food pantry, shelter, or nursing home to see whether they would like the unsold goodies.
- Ask one of your volunteers to deliver leftovers as soon as the bake sale ends to ensure they arrive fresh.
- Decide what to do about trash. Will you be able to pack it up and leave it at the site, or will you have to dispose of it yourself?
Promote your bake sale.
- Post flyers and signs in high-traffic areas around town.
- Submit a news brief to the local newspaper specifying the date, time, location, and purpose of the bake sale. This should be done at least a few weeks before the bake sale.
- If your event is tied to another function, ask its organizers to include your bake sale in their publicity materials.
- Send flyers home in children’s backpacks.
- Post flyers around the school. Include information in your parent group newsletter and website.
- In all publicity, mention the name of your organization and how the funds will be used.
Run through last-minute details.
- Bring extra poster board and markers to make signs pointing the way to the bake sale, especially if you are not in a highly visible spot.
- Bring tape and extra index cards in case some bakers forget to label their goods.
- Bring rags, paper towels, and other supplies to keep your table clean.
Step 4: During the Bake Sale
- Categorize your baked goods, grouping brownies, cookies, pies, and so forth together so patrons can find what they’re looking for. Make sure your display remains attractive, clean, and organized.
- Prominently display your group’s name and how the proceeds will be used.
- Thank customers for supporting your parent group.
- Place a jar for donations from patrons who support your cause but don’t want to expand their waistlines.
- Jot down the most popular treats and note any problems encountered. This information will come in handy for your next bake sale.
Step 5: After the Bake Sale
- Send handwritten thank-you notes to bakers, volunteers, donors, and any sponsors involved with the event.
- Place a notice in school and parent group newsletters and websites and in local papers announcing the amount of money raised and how the money will be used.
- Type up your notes on what went right, what went wrong, and what you would do differently next time. This will be invaluable to the chairperson for the next bake sale.
A bake sale probably won’t be your parent group’s marquee fundraiser. But it can bring in enough profits to pay for a specific need, such as new banners for your school, updated gym equipment, or even a reading program. A bake sale can also help you in the home stretch of raising money toward a particular goal. One brownie at a time, a bake sale can bring in those last few hundred dollars.
And don’t discount the value of being out in the community. Selling muffins at your town’s fall festival sends a powerful message about your parent group, as well as your commitment to your children and the school.