Bake Sale Basics
Choosing a Charity
Most bake sales are planned for a specific reason. But if you’re thinking of a sale as a fun community event with your kids, find a worthy beneficiary at JustGive.org, a database of 1 million charities covering such causes as animal welfare and disaster relief.
- Two to three weeks before the event, post sign-up sheets at your school, church, synagogue, or community center, and e-mail or call around to request contributions. (Have people commit to making a specific item so you’re sure to have a wide variety.)
- Ask nonbakers if they’ll work at the sale or drop off leftovers at a soup kitchen.
- Try soliciting a bakery for donations, says Debi Lilly, a Chicago event planner and a mother of two: “Explain the sale’s purpose and note that you’re offering a chance to introduce their bakery to 200 potential new customers.”
Involving Your Kids
“Holding a bake sale is a way to pass down your values. You’re sharing something sweet and giving back to the community,” says Pam Abrams, a mother of two and a coauthor of The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll Ever Need (William Morrow, $15, amazon.com). The most obvious way to include kids is to let them help in the kitchen. “Children learn math, manners, and safety while cooking,” says Barbara Grunes, author of The Best Bake Sale Ever Cookbook (Chronicle Books, $20, amazon.com). “Plus, I don’t know a child who doesn’t want to decorate a cupcake.”
Spreading the Word
- Buy colored poster board and let kids create the signs, recommends Joan Monastero, a mother of three and a Girl Scout troop leader in Nassau County, New York, for 11 years. “The brighter the colors, the better,” she says.
- Want to get creative? Los Angeles event planner Mindy Weiss, a mother of three and a veteran of bake sales, suggests making signs with letters formed from chocolate chips, Hershey’s Kisses, colorful sprinkles, or Froot Loops.
- If possible, get the sale in the church bulletin or on the school calendar; ask the principal to mention it over the PA system the morning of.
- Put volunteers on shifts so you have help setting up, working at the sale, and cleaning up. (Call the day before to remind them.)
- Let your bakers know when and where you’d like them to drop off their treats. “I have people bring food to the site the day of so I don’t have to do much transporting,” says author Pam Abrams.
- Create protective containers by lining boxes or cookie sheets with foil, or invest in a cupcake carrier ($25, containerstore.com). Abrams recommends sticking toothpicks into cakes and cupcakes before wrapping them in foil to prevent the icing from smearing.
Baking to Sell
Bake-sale veterans agree that chocolate-chip cookies and Rice Krispies Treats are the best sellers, followed by brownies, blondies, cupcakes, and breads. Cookies can be sold three to a bag or by the dozen, breads by the slice or the loaf. Cakes and pies are most profitable when sold whole. (Steer clear of pies that can spoil if they sit out, like lemon meringue.)
If the sale is before a holiday, decorate goods with a theme. At Christmas, offer gingerbread houses (prebaked kits, $14 each, joann.com) and peppermint bark, both of which will be snatched up by those in need of hostess gifts.
At the Bake-Sale
Pricing and Labeling
Research bakeries to see what prices are considered acceptable in your area. Be sure to identify key ingredients for people with food allergies. “People are grateful if you offer a plate of nut-free, gluten-free, or vegan treats,” says Abrams. “If I‘m soliciting something for a bake sale, I’ll ask a family with food allergies for a donation. Then we’ll put up a sign that reads, home-baked in a peanut-free household.”
After the Event
Once the leftovers are delivered and the money is donated, thank your volunteers and let them know how much money you raised.
- Stock up: Rather than setting everything out at the beginning, restock the trays throughout the sale so they’ll always look full.
- Present well: Form a packaging committee to wrap goods in clear cellophane or plastic bags the night before. Once they’re covered, tie each with a ribbon.
- Price it right: Make it easy for buyers to see what you’re selling and what items cost by placing signs on the table or tying on tags.