The great thing about a bake sale is its simplicity; a card table piled high with brownies and chocolate chip cookies will sell, even if they’re made from a mix. But infusing your bake sale with energy and creativity can make your sale more fun, more memorable, and more profitable. The possibilities are endless—here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Reflect the event or the occasion. For example, if you’re holding your sale at a football game, decorate your tables in the school’s colors. Add helmets, pennants, and cheerleaders’ pompons. Frost cupcakes in school colors. Make football-shaped brownies. At back-to-school night, sell apple cobbler and cookies in the shape of school buses or the alphabet.

  • Make it a complete-it-yourself sale. For an arts fair or event attended by lots of children, sell unfrosted cupcakes or cookies. Then set up a table with bowls of frosting and sprinkles so children can make their own masterpieces. Be sure to have ample supervision for this project!

  • Tie in with a holiday. Is Thanksgiving right around the corner? Turkey-shaped cookies will help get families in the holiday spirit. Sell whole pies that can be frozen and served on Thanksgiving or Christmas. For Valentine’s Day, include heart-shaped cookies and brownies. And for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, offer wrapped treats kids can give to their parents.

  • Feature celebrity bakers. Enlist your principal, librarian, school nurse, custodian, cafeteria manager, police chief, fire marshal, or mayor to contribute to your sale. Advertise them as “Mrs. Hart’s Tarts” or “Custodian Carl’s Cupcakes.” Ask a professional baker to donate some of her specialties, and attach her business card.

  • Sell large batches of powdered mixes or pie kits so families can bake their treats when they’re ready to eat them. Include instructions.

  • Instead of pricing items individually, give customers the opportunity to name their price. Many parent groups have found that patrons will pay more voluntarily than what groups typically charged. A patron will often pay $5 for a cupcake and consider it a donation.

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  • Include nontraditional treats such as a coconut layer cake or maple fudge.

  • Include sugar-free treats for diabetics and gluten-free treats for children and adults with celiac disease. Maybe even throw in a vegan treat or two.

  • Add a few items with a health kick—for example, applesauce cookies, pumpkin muffins, or carrot cake squares. Make a note of healthy ingredients on the sign.

  • Be creative with containers. Cupcakes are fun, but cupcakes baked in ice-cream cones are even more fun.

  • Encourage bakers to share their recipe along with their treat.

  • Really sell your treats by using creative names and detailed descriptions. For example, instead of offering brownies, sell “Nancy’s Absolute Best Gooey Fudge Brownies” or “Elaine’s Brownies for Cake Lovers.” Note whether chocolate chip cookies are “crisp” or “gloriously underbaked” to appeal to particular consumers.

  • If you have a willing baker, consider selling a “brownies of the month” package deal, where the buyer gets a batch of brownies (or a cake or pie) 12 times a year.

  • Emphasize where the profits are going—if you’re raising money for new band uniforms, set up band instruments around your table or display a tattered old uniform with a sign that says “We need new duds.”

  • Make a giant thermometer with sweet treats around it and post your progress throughout the day as you work toward your fundraising goal.

  • Have a taste-off: Ask bakers to submit their best cookie or brownie recipe, then cut a variety of the treats into single-bite pieces and encourage customers to sample them. Ask for a nominal donation to cast their vote, or suggest they buy some of their favorite to share at home. Announce the winner in your post-event publicity.